There’s an episode of “Magnum P.I.” in which Magnum (Tom Selleck), who played for Navy’s football team during his time at the academy, can’t watch that season’s Army-Navy game live on television. There’s a case or someone gets shot or something—you know how it goes with Magnum.
This is all from distant memory, but Magnum manages to avoid spoilers for the entire episode. He doesn’t read about the game and avoids talking about it with others who may have seen it. One of his friends graciously tapes the game for him.
Just as Magnum sits down to watch it, Higgins (John Hillerman) wanders in and reveals the outcome. If memory serves, the episode ends with a freeze-frame of Magnum throwing a bowl of popcorn in the air as he takes off to chase Higgins down.
That’s a long way of saying that if you’re going to avoid spoilers, that’s the way to do it. Avoid people. Avoid newspapers. In this day and age, avoid blogs, websites and Twitter.
That’s a longer way of saying I’m no longer trafficking in spoiler alerts. I doubt anyone will freak out over my decision to no longer play the spoiler card because I usually write around spoilers anyway. Just in case, here’s my reasoning:
Movies that are truly memorable don’t need spoiler alerts. Every time you watch The Godfather, don’t you shout for Fredo (John Cazale) to stop fumbling with his gun and shoot the guys trying to kill Don Corleone (Marlon Brando)?
When Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is speeding toward the clock tower so he can use the lighting to power the DeLorean in Back to the Future, don’t you think, “My God, he’s not going to make it this time”?
Same goes with Miracle, the movie about the 1980 American Olympic hockey team. I think, “There’s no way these guys are gong to win.” And then—spoiler alert!—they win. Miracle isn’t a great movie, but it gets one thing right: It tricks the audience into thinking there will be a different outcome from what happened historically.
I’m not sure when the desire to not hear or read spoilers gripped the zeitgeist. If “Magnum P.I.” is to be used as evidence, at least since the mid-1980s. But you know what’s more irritating than a spoiler? A spoiler alert.
I’m an adult. I may choose what I read. If I don’t want to know the outcome of this week’s episode of “Dancing with the Stars,” why the hell am I reading about it online?
It’s one thing for a jerk friend (Higgins) to ruin your experience. It’s another thing entirely to read about a movie and not expect plot points, some of them major, to be revealed.
If you don’t agree, take a look at this piece in Slate, “Save the Movie!” It’s a reasonable explanation for why so many big Hollywood blockbusters (and even smaller blockbusters) seem so similar these days. Short version: Someone figured out there are story beats that a screenplay needs to hit in order to generate the most money, and Hollywood took notice.
In other words, you don’t need to worry about spoilers anymore because most movies are the same. It’s depressing, and because I watch a lot of movies, I can also tell you it’s true.
And let’s be honest: Are you going to avoid a movie because a critic tells you how it ends? No! If the movie’s good enough, it won’t matter how much I reveal anyway.