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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

what is the statute of limitation on spoilers?


This week’s question is swiped from an article at WhatCulture last month:

What is the statute of limitation on spoilers?

WhatCulture’s James Garcia doesn’t offer a definitive answer: it might be somewhere between “five minutes after something awesome was on TV and it’s your own dumb fault if you missed it” and “no more than 15 years cuz if you haven’t seen it by then, it’s your own dumb fault.” (I’m paraphrasing; those aren’t direct quotes.) But the sweet spot in between is hard to find. And it all depends on context, too. A discussion at a pop culture Web site might have a less stringent statute than, say, a watercooler chat at the office. Or maybe it’s the reverse! Maybe we should be more attuned to possibly spoiling a film or TV season finale when we’re talking to others who are really really into film and TV, and less concerned when talking to a coworker who’s not that big a fan.

What do you think? Is it once a movie has come and gone from cinemas? Once a TV show or film has been out on DVD for a while? Is it reasonable to expect that those who don’t want to be spoiled will make an effort to catch whatever the spoilable thing is at an early stage of its availability? Just what is — or what should be — the etiquette of spoilers?

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

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