SixthOn a recent episode of Graham Norton’s chat show M. Night Shyamalan said there is no expiration date for spoilers.

I agree.

Just because a movie or a book is three months or three years or a hundred years old, if it’s any good, there will always be new readers or viewers waiting to be surprised by that unexpected twist that may come at the denouement or halfway point, or by the series of twists that the author has carefully mapped out for the first time viewer.

Some time back on an episode of the Scriptnotes podcast Craig Mazin blurted out the solution to a famous Agatha Christie whodunit and then added, “It’s a hundred years old.”

Well, so what?

As it happens that particular Christie novel was spoiled for me the first time I read it over 50 years ago because I had had the misfortune to read an article that gave away the ending to that plot. I’ve been smarting about that ever since as I’ll never know whether I might have figured out the solution (highly doubtful) or if I would have experienced a wonderful thrill up and down my spine at the moment when Poirot revealed the killer to be the least likely suspect. I feel I’ve been robbed of something that I can never have back.

(Just adding that yes, I often enjoy reading or viewing works a second or third time even when I remember the twists, but that’s because I like to see how the author engineered those twists; I don’t like to have someone else deny me the first encounter with them.)

So, yes, I believe that if you must indulge in spoilers, and sometimes in order to truly discuss a work spoilers are required, just put up a simple SPOILER ALERT! If you’re on a podcast, just indicate that a spoiler is coming and let the listener fast forward over it. Simple.

Of course, spoilers can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

I remember seeing an ad for the movie The Usual Suspects which quoted a review to the effect that it had a completely unexpected ending.

So I went to see it, expecting to be surprised by a completely unexpected ending.

Except, of course, I kept wondering what that completely unexpected ending could be.

And by halfway through, I had figured it out.

So when the ending came and Kevin Spacey’s character walked out of that police station, I didn’t experience a thrill at all. Just a bit of a disappointment that I had read that ad for the movie.

My preference whenever reading a new book or seeing a new movie is to know as little about the plot as possible.



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