Spoiling things for others

Although I have never banned anyone, I have had the occasion to delete one comment. This was in response to the post about spoiling film endings. In the discussion, commenters referred to various films that had surprise endings and discussed them without giving them away. Then someone came along and posted a comment that listed all the endings to every film that had been discussed. I deleted it so quickly that I suspect that most readers never saw it.

I recall a case when the sixth volume of the Harry Potter series was released that had a dramatic and surprise development that aficionados will know. Another blogger on the network that I was blogging on at that time, immediately put up had a post in which the headline itself revealed what the surprise was and on which page.

Such behavior is truly churlish. I am at a loss to understand the mentality of such people. They seem to me to be similar in attitude to vandals who destroy public property.

Why would anyone do such a thing? It does not benefit in any way the person doing the spoiling but simply ruins things for others. It reminds me of Iago’s lament in Othello: that “he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.”


  1. NitricAcid says

    I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of making jokes like that. Whenever I saw someone reading the seventh HP book, I could not resist saying something along the lines of, “That’s such a great book- I couldn’t believe Hermione died so close to the beginning!”

  2. kyoseki says

    I am, quite frankly, astonished that the entire Internet managed to avoid spoiling the Red Wedding for people who hadn’t read the books.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    I am at a loss to understand the mentality of such people.

    For some, negative attention is better then none.

  4. says

    It’s a power trip. They enjoy the feeling of power that they get from being able to mess up something for other people, and those people being able to do nothing about it. Why they each individually like and want to do such is another matter that probably ranges to all sorts of reasons from not having a lot of personal power in real life, to growing up in a family that did not do much to suppress that sort of primitive dominance display.

    I have been a lurker of some of the more unseemly parts of the internet like 4chan’s /b/ board for quite a while (it’s like needing to watch when a car crashes, also I find human behavior generally fascinating) and ruining that part of the Harry Potter book was a big deal for a while. People trading videos of them driving past people waiting in line and screaming out spoilers, posting links to them ruining it for others in various parts of the internet.

  5. mnb0 says

    “It does not benefit in any way the person doing the spoiling but simply ruins things for others.”
    Ruining things for others is the big benefit.

  6. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Many years ago there was a “Peanuts” cartoon where Lucy ruining Citizen Kane for a first-time viewer by revealing Rosebud’s identity.
    I wonder, if a surprise ending- or even a surprise twist- is that important, is a book or film worth bothering with in the first place? I relish films and stories where I know the twist even more- the skill with which Saki or Hitchcock mislead people- or let people mislead themselves without lying- is much more entertaining and interesting than the actual twist.

  7. Mano Singham says

    I think they both have their place. For example, in the Columbo detective series, we always knew the guilty party from the get-go but it was fascinating to watch the detective close in on the culprit. But some stories are designed with the unexpected end as a central feature and spoiling those is to upend the whole premise. Knowing who or what Rosebud is would partially spoil the experience the first time, though when one watches it again, one does it with a different perspective.

  8. estraven says

    I’ve been guilty of this. I was in a graduate-level class and it did not occur to me that some people in the class didn’t know the ending of Madame Bovary. I just assumed that everyone already knew it. I felt bad when one young woman gasped and said “Why did you tell me the ending?” I felt like we were all conversant with most of the famous novels we were analyzing, but I was wrong. Then again, it doesn’t really matter to me to know the ending–for me the getting there is the thing. So I was probably not as sensitive as someone else would have been. Not an excuse, though.

  9. says

    While I don’t post and haven’t posted spoilers, I stand by what I said in the earlier topic. There has to be a reasonable time limit to avoiding spoilers. Some stories and films have been around long enough or in popular discussion enough that mentioning the ending does no harm.

    Spoiler sites exist and I read them regularly. Reading the plot and ending sometimes makes me see movies I wouldn’t have watched otherwise (e.g. “The Slaughter Rule”). Go ahead, give into temptation and read a few.



    As for spoilers in general, UCSD is right. You enjoy the journey more if you know the destination.


    Spoiler Alert: Stories Are Not Spoiled by ‘Spoilers’

    Many of us go to extraordinary lengths to avoid learning the endings of stories we have yet to read or see – plugging our ears, for example, and loudly repeating “la-la-la-la,” when discussion threatens to reveal the outcome. […] But we’re wrong and wasting our time, suggests a new experimental study from the University of California, San Diego. People who flip to the last page of a book before starting it have the better intuition. Spoilers don’t spoil stories. Contrary to popular wisdom, they actually seem to enhance enjoyment.


    “So it could be,” said [Jonathan] Leavitt, a psychology doctoral student at UC San Diego, “that once you know how it turns out, it’s cognitively easier – you’re more comfortable processing the information – and can focus on a deeper understanding of the story.”

    Spoilers of sports on tape delay are (IMHO) the greater offense because sporting events are seen once and very soon in the future (see: the 1980s and “Monday Night Football”). Sports don’t have value in repeated watching unless it’s a championship or a major record was set – the first you know, but the second can’t be predicted. Movies can be enjoyed multiple times, even if the spoilers are known before first viewing.

    In the 1990s, I read the rec.autos.sport.f1 newsgroup on usenet when online news sites were less developed than now. Most races were from Europe and ran at 1PM GMT (5AM PST, 8PM EST), North and South American fans would record them on VCR and watch later on Sunday morning.

    People read the newsgroup pre-race because they hadn’t seen the qualifying session (i.e. only the race was televised). Group etiquette was to put “SPOILER – Today’s race” in the header of any discussion, but one troll regularly posted the driver finishing order in the title, making himself the enemy of all. A second group rec.autos.sport.f1.moderated was created just because of one jerk. He stopped posting results because the moderated group meant he couldn’t spoil it for those who hadn’t seen it yet.

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