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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: How big a problem is the spoiler culture, should we fix it, and if so, how?

As a sort of followup on yesterday’s QOTD about fireable offenses for film critcs comes this tale from Down Under, sent in by Mel:

An Australian Film Critic spoilt the end of Scream 4 by publishing a review which revealed who the killer was (and it was autotweeted to his account). This review remained online for about 12 hours but was altered to the print verion (the spoiler free version) when the paper it is published came out the next day.

And then he posted an explanation about why he did that entitled “How I punk’d the Twitterverse,” which sounds like complete bullshit backpedaling to me:

[A]s I mused over the impending Scream 4 spoiler tsunami, I also figured that the denizens of the Twitterverse, when drawn to a topic they can all join in deriding, are probably easy to punk.

So, with the intent of exploring both issues – spoiler culture and online behaviour – I decided to create a online event. I wanted to become the scourge of the Twitterverse as I led the hordes down a merry trail of cryptic messages and misdirection.

I ignited the firestorm by writing two Scream 4 reviews, one with genuine spoiler, one without. The latter ran in print, filed on the morning of last Wednesday week. The one containing the spoiler went online in the afternoon, but only for a limited time. Once a critical mass of online outrage had been stirred that would sustain the Twitter storm independently, the online version was altered to correspond with the print version.

His readers got angry, naturally, and apparently failed to complain as vociferously once other fans started to post spoils, too. The critic, Jim Schembri, fails to explain how any of this constitutes “punking” the Twitterverse (as a false spoiler may have done). Maybe he punked Wes Craven, though:

The problem facing filmmakers such as Craven from the proliferation of spoiler culture, as was demonstrated in my prank, is chronic. His film trades on being savvy about social media, yet neither he nor his creative team were sufficiently savvy to lend truth to the Scream 4 tagline ”New Decade. New Rules”. For the New Rule of the New Decade is spoiler culture. Yet all Craven could do was pray that online spoilers wouldn’t hurt his opening weekend too much.

I’m still not sure that justifies spoiling the film for readers who have yet to decide about the value of the film.

What do you think? How big a problem is the spoiler culture, should we fix it, and if so, how? Are some films fair game to spoil, as Schembri suggests is the case with Scream 4? Who gets to decide that?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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