This is something I wonder about sometimes, which a certain Tweet caused me to reflect on again:
People have different degrees of tolerance when it comes to spoilers. For me, as I’m sure it is for most people, my avoidance of spoilers is dependent on how much I care about continuing a show. I’ve been avoiding Land of the Lustrous spoilers like the plague, but I actively looked up the grand finale of Demon Slayer.
But the issue at hand: what makes a spoiler a spoiler? I like lists, so let’s make one and see if it helps!
1. Time Elapsed
According to Kiri’s Tweet, it would have something to do with time. That’s an aspect I haven’t thought so much about, but it seems true that people police spoilers from the current season more carefully than something from the 2010s. Like, it’s okay to post this Naruto meme, but not okay to post something that shows who dies in Tower of God (does anyone die, btw? Ep. 1 suggested it was going to be an edgy seinen, but now nobody’s dying anymore. N-not that I’m waiting for someone to die!).
This is pretty reasonable: the more time the general audience has to catch up on something, the more justified it is to post about it on the Internet. As for new audiences to older classics, the same plot points would still be spoilers, but they are the only ones responsible for avoiding them.
How long to wait before posting a spoiler, if you’re trying to follow spoiler etiquette, is still a tricky problem that I don’t really have an answer for.
2. Shock Factor
Let’s delve into this a bit more and try to define spoiler. I might say that it’s anything that reveals an important event that takes place later in a series, and by doing so, deprives the event of its shock factor. Here’s a short and general list of shocking things I’ve thought of:
- Character death
- Romantic relationship becoming canon
- Revelation of a character’s past
- Revelation of how the world works
Spoiler etiquette isn’t that difficult to follow if you steer clear of these, I think. But then also, which characters are important enough for their deaths to matter? What sort of revelations are shocking enough that they might be ruined by anticipation?
3. Importance of Character(s) Involved
It really doesn’t matter that some cute grey-haired dude got gobbled up in the first season of Attack on Titan, because I don’t remember his name (still don’t). How do you judge a character’s importance? By their screen-time? By their popularity in the fandom? I think both are valid, and the first really affects the latter. I would also say that their ability to impact the plot with their decisions, or the amount of influence they have on the protagonist(s), are pretty central to their importance.
4. Relevance to the Central Quest
Besides the fact that Boruto already exists, it’s not such a big deal if you tell new Naruto fans that Naruto ends up with Hinata, not Sakura. That’s because Naruto is about a kid trying to become Hokage. I remember reading somewhere that Kishimoto only created Sakura because his editor complained that there were no girls. Sakura’s role was literally just “girl” for a good part of the early arcs. Meanwhile, if you tell a new Nisekoi watcher which girl owns the “real” key, or who the protagonist ends up with at the end…I think you might lose a friend.
5. Whereabouts in the Series
It’s interesting how we generally don’t seem to consider something a spoiler if it happens in Episode 1. Like, cool, we all know that kids don’t really get adopted in Promised Neverland, and that Eren’s mom dies in Attack on Titan. If you didn’t, you would have found out soon enough. Most of the time, the first episode spoiler is already in the synopsis. But it’s iffy if you talk about a death in Season 3 without a spoiler warning. We all know that lips should be sealed when it comes to final episodes, but how many episodes into a series does it take before it stops being “early on,” especially in a 12-episode anime?
6. Predictability of the Event
This point seems to just echo “shock factor,” but I put it here to elaborate on more things. It’s okay to talk openly about Ryuji and Taiga from Toradora! being a couple, even if the series hadn’t finished airing. That’s because the title literally translates to “Tiger and Dragon,” and with how the OP is framed or which characters Episode 1 chose to focus on, how can anyone not see that? It’s also okay to announce that Naruto becomes the Hokage (I keep coming back to Naruto in this post, because it’s that default long-running shounen to me). If he didn’t after all those episodes, I think there would have been a riot.
7. Popularity of the Spoiler
This is a very interesting one. It’s okay to say that Romeo and Juliet died at the end of their play, not just because it’s an old play, but because it’s a classic. You wouldn’t want to give away the ending of something like Titus Andronicus. Both are old plays by the same author, but one’s ending is so widely known that the phrases “Romeo and Juliet” and “star-crossed lovers” are frowned upon as cheesy cliches.
But perhaps that’s a poor example, because Shakespeare kind of spoiled Romeo and Juliet in the opening chorus himself. Spoilers can take on lives of their own. Think of something like the role of Kyubey in Madoka Magica, or what’s up with the girls in Doki Doki Literature Club. If something is memed enough, it’s now a safe spoiler!
That’s all I have for now, but I can’t help but feel like there’s so much more to this topic. Honestly, any minor surprise is a spoiler to me if it’s a series I care about, and that’s why I don’t tend to read episode reviews for series that I’m interested in. If you think about it, even a harmless joke can get “spoiled” if you knew about it beforehand.
But of course, sometimes knowing major plot twists can motivate you to start a series that wasn’t originally on your radar or continue a series you were planning to drop. I wrote a post about this much earlier.
Are there other factors that make something a spoiler? What do you think about spoilers, and how conscious are you about putting up spoiler warnings?