Friends, I support all lifestyles. Like to read Vampire Romances? Go with god. Prefer vodka to whiskey? You mystify and alarm me, but I’ll die defending your right to drink ghastly stuff. Think The Wire was impenetrable and dull? I will work tirelessly to restrain my urge to set your house on fire. Want to avoid even the barest hint of a spoiler for TV shows and movies? Fine by me. Within reason. There is, however, a limit on how long I am supposed to worry about spoiling something for you.
Recently, there’s been a kerfluffle because Wikipedia is now spoiling the endeding Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, a play that’s been running somewhere or other for about 50-60 years now. It’s a murder mystery with a twisty ending, and for decades now each show ends with the performers asking the audience to keep the secret to themselves and not spoil the ending. Now, of course, anyone who read the Wikipedia entry out of basic curiosity for the play can discover the ending, say “Meh,” and move on.
Let me repeat the most important part of that story: THE PLAY HAS BEEN PERFORMED CONTINUOUSLY FOR MORE THAN FIFTY YEARS.
I’m not sure anyone elected me to state when, exactly, the expiration date for spoilers occurs, but I am pretty damn sure it’s somewhere less than fifty goddamn years. Fifty years on, you are firmly on your own, and discussion of the “twist” in Mousetrap falls under the category of revealing to someone that Germany lost World War I in spoiler levels. Which is to say: It is no longer a goddamn spoiler.
Now, I’m notoriously spoiler-friendly. I don’t waste time avoiding twists, and I firmly believe that if I can’t enjoy a story even knowing the ending then it wasn’t very good to begin with. On the other hand, I understand perfectly the desire to enjoy newly released entertainments without the ruinous effect of spoilers – again, I support all lifestyles. but there are limits. Personally, I think that this limit should be pretty brief: Three months or so after initial release. However, I could be persuaded to support a spoiler-ban for up to a year, depending on the circumstances. But there is a point when a book or movie or TV show has been out there so long, if you still haven’t seen it and want to preserve the mystery, well, son, it’s on you to do the heavy lifting. That is to say, if you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense yet in 2010, and I happen to mention in casual conversation that the doctor is a frickin’ ghost, too bad. I will not cry for you, kid.
Because if you push Spoilerism too far, we’re gonna be protecting spoilers in Shakespeare, in the Bible, in Aesop’s Fables. We’re going to have to regard every twist ending in the history of the universe as a spoiler, and we’re going to have to start entering into contractual agreements when discussing anything. I end up having to pay out enough settlements after conversations with people – I don’t need to have something else to worry about.