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January 30, 2015

What is the appropriate amount of time you should wait before talking about spoilers?

by Jay Black, posted Jun 12th 2008 3:24PM
I'm sorry if you haven't seen Citizen Kane yet. Not for spoiling it, just that, you know, you haven't seen it!There was some controversy today in our Top Chef winner's post. We revealed who the winner was before the jump (and without spoiler warnings). Our commenters -- usually shy and unwilling to criticize our site (ahem) -- let us know exactly what they thought of that decision (hint: they were not happy).

It occurred to me that the idea of television spoilers is a relatively new one. I mean, after all, it's only been about 20 years or so that the majority of us had the power to watch our shows whenever we wanted to. In our parents' day, you talked about what happened on TV the night before without fear -- if anyone at the office missed the show, well, there was nothing they could do about it anyway.

What we need is a new etiquette. So, I figured I'd throw a post up and ask you guys: how long should you wait before it's okay to talk about spoilers?

The answer isn't necessarily cut and dry, especially when you stop to consider that with some serialized shows, people have taken to waiting until each season is finished, then gorging themselves on the season box sets. To me, it's unreasonable to expect everyone around you to avoid talking about Lost ten months out of the year, but then, as Atticus Finch once said, you never really understand someone until you "climb into their skin and walk around in it." Maybe you season-watchers have a good justification for asking for that courtesy.

(As a side note: now that I think about it, maybe Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs wasn't that bad a guy -- maybe he was just a big fan of To Kill a Mockingbird.)

There is also the question of what, exactly, constitutes a "spoiler." There are some people who feel any information about a TV show or a movie prior to viewing it effectively "ruins" the experience for them. There was a mini-meltdown among my friends because one of them warned us to "make sure you stay till the end of the credits when you see Iron Man." I thought it was a good tip, but a few of my friends thought this was too much information to give away.

"Now I'm looking for the surprise and that makes it less special."

Yeah, a lot of my friends also take rule changes to the Dungeons and Dragons system personally.

So, to recap, here is my Emily Post question of the day: How long should a website wait to consider information about a show common knowledge (and therefore free to discuss)? How long should you do so in your personal encounters? And, finally, what is a reasonable definition of a spoiler?

Your input is always appreciated!

Even though I'd really like you to comment, here's a poll question for you lazy clickers out there: how long should a website wait to post a spoiler (without a warning)?
As soon as the show has aired94 (16.0%)
0-24 hours90 (15.4%)
1-3 days108 (18.4%)
3-7 days72 (12.3%)
7 days plus39 (6.7%)
They should _always_ put a warning (because you never know)183 (31.2%)

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