I was only 11 years old when I first saw “The Empire Strikes Back,” and I had no idea what to expect. So when Darth Vader told Luke Skywalker about his paternity -- (SPOILER ALERT: Darth Vader is Luke’s father) -- I was floored. I didn’t believe it. That revelation packed a punch that hit me squarely between the eyes. Such a thing had never happened before. And today, the Internet has made sure that it will never happen again.
It’s my own fault, really. I can’t stay away from all the movie websites that offer advance reviews, set photos, and every conceivable rumor known to man. By the time a huge tentpole blockbuster hits the theaters, I’ve discovered all the twists and turns well in advance. You’d expect most people today who watch “Citizen Kane” for the first time to know its secrets -- (SPOILER ALERT: Rosebud is a sled) -- but I walked into “The Sixth Sense” knowing everything, too. (SPOILER ALERT: Bruce Willis’ character is really a woman.)
The “Sixth Sense” thing was actually the Deseret News’ fault, because I read an article in this paper that announced the truth, even though it was accompanied by one of those ubiquitous spoiler alerts that you know you should avoid, but you can’t help but read. (SPOILER ALERT: See? You’re reading this one right now!)
The spoiler alert doesn’t really protect you from anything, usually because the “spoiler alert text” is in such close proximity to the spoiler in question that you have to be wearing blinders or something to keep from reading the text that comes next. My sister found this out a few years back when she stumbled on my blog the night that David Cook won “American Idol,” thereby defeating David Archuleta. (SPOILER ALERT: Dag nab it! Everyone knows David Archuleta should have won that thing!) I had announced it on my blog with a big spoiler alert, but once you started reading the sentence, you’re committed. There’s no turning back. Here -- try it for yourself if you don’t believe me. (SPOILER ALERT: What are you doing?! You know you’re not supposed to be reading this!)
All that said, it’s hard for me to get emotionally worked up by those who whine that some article ruined a movie for them. Spoilers appear in online places you would expect them to appear in, and you wouldn’t have clicked if you weren’t curious. It’s not like you’re reading a front page story about the president’s address to the U.N. and the reporter casually segues from “the president called for an international coalition in the fight against ISIS” to “oh, and by the way, in the new ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ movie, Batman is really a horse.” (SPOILER ALERT: Batman isn’t really a horse. Yet.)
The sensible thing to do, then, is to steer clear of the websites that provide such information. You could hang out on political websites like NationalReview.com (SPOILER ALERT: It’s Obama’s fault) or sports websites like ESPN.com (SPOILER ALERT: Your fantasy football team stinks) or catty gossip sites like PerezHilton.com (KARDASHIAN ALERT: A spoiler alert would be redundant, because Kardashians spoil everything).
So resist the siren song of the spoiler if you will, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to join you.Truth is, I like knowing stuff in advance. And good movies are rewatchable even when you know their secrets.
So I’ll continue to comb the Web for every spoiler I can find. And who knows? Maybe I’ll pass a few on to you along the way.
(SPOILER ALERT: I made up the Bruce Willis thing. If you haven’t seen that one, go to it. That’s too good a spoiler to give up.)
(Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.)