What are spoilers, anyway? Their history in nerd chronology perhaps goes back to the premiere of RETURN OF THE JEDI, when the New York Post, I believe, revealed that LEIA WAS LUKE’S SISTER DAYS BEFORE THE MOVIE OPENED. The young Beat read that spoiler but still went to see the movie opening night, for the Post had not spoiled the magic nor the fact that the Empire would be defeated by weeping teddy bears. Actually The Post had mentioned the teddy bears, just not the weeping.
It was that wonderful surprise that enabled us to still enjoy ROTJ. Honestly, what is it with all the spoilers nowadays? We don’t mind a few hints and clues, but why do you think they call it SPOILers? They SPOIL things! We heard the secret of THE SIXTH SENSE before we saw it and instead of the delightful mind trip everyone else had we saw a dull, plodding movie.
We’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding spoilers since then, which is hard in a world where every movie trailer gives away absolutely EVERYTHING good in a movie. But then if its a movie we really want to see, no amount of spoilage will ruin it. But today’s tricksy tv shows and real life contests are not as simple. The only thing that’s really enjoyable about LOST is not knowing what the hell is going on. Come on now, admit it. We were shocked to find out that certain websites had laid out the entire plot of the third season finale in gruesome detail. Why would anyone look at such a thing? What is the fun of that? We went in not knowing much, and enjoyed a pleasant jolt halfway through when we figured out the twist. Now THAT was fun.
Comics have a big spoiler problem. Even well policed websites seem to revel in spoilers, leading companies to ever more desperate measures. (See out next post.) But spoilers are more complicated in other mediums, as this article at The Trades relates:
Highlighted by all this is that there seems to be a genuine appetite for detailed spoilers, something that other media have taken advantage of — with rare exceptions. Book publishers release advanced reader copies — ARCs — to reviewers sometimes months in advance of the title’s street date. But for every hundred or so titles that go out every season, there’s the inevitable Harry Potter novel, veiled in secrecy and hidden from everyone until the official date of publication. … Movie distributors release stills from the set — sometimes showing unannounced characters — or publish details of a plot, in order to keep the fan interest stirred up until the film hits theaters. They often put out previews open to the public to drum up word of mouth, exhibiting no spoiler control at all. Didn’t seem to hurt “Spider-Man 3″, even with the spate of negative reviews that circulated.
In point of fact, comic publishers do open themselves up for word of mouth spoilage. Many retailers participate in what is called a “Sneak Peek” program through Diamond Distributors, where they receive a sampling of comics a full week ahead of time, allowing them to judge whether or not they should ramp up their order numbers for some of the titles.
This “Sneak Peek” program seems to have led to a major problem in comics, when a message board poster known as MazingMan728 posted spoilers all over the place, until, according to Rich Johnston, DC got alarmed and found out the culprit’s shocking identity!
It appears that MazingMan728 was a prominent figure working at Diamond Comics, the sole direct market distribution agent for DC Comics. DC Comics were moved to track MazingMan728’s IP number and use further clues to identify him. It appears that DC were happy for MazingMan728 to post what he did regarding some books, and there is evidence that such posts increased interest and sales in the series. But when it came to major series, high profile built up event spoilers, it was a different story.
MazingMan728 pulled up stakes and disappeared from message boards. But he was only part of a system that the current comics market has created. The love of multi-part epics and crossovers has led to a reliance on Shocking Surprises! to sell comics. (Simple fun has been banished but that’s another story.) Not all stories are so vulnerable. It’s hard to imagine a spoiler warning for FUN HOME or AMERICAN BORN CHINESE, and NARUTO has already been published in Japan but people still seem to lap it up. (However catching up with Japan may be one of the reasons for Viz pumping out a ton of Naruto books this fall, so perhaps they are concerned about the spoilage.)
There are some things that aren’t worth spoiling, and some things that just shouldn’t be spoiled. Like Harry Potter. We have only a few weeks to go, and the minutes are counting down with a headlong finality. For this Harry Potter fan, at least, it’s a desperate bid NOT TO SEE ANYTHING SPOILERISH!!!! But we’re not alone, Time magazine reports.
The real product is something that Scholastic executives call, in hushed, reverential tones, “the magic moment.” This is the moment of ineffable, intangible ecstasy that occurs when a reader opens his or her brand-new $34.99 copy of Deathly Hallows for the first time. “All the way through the process, everybody who touches this [manuscript] has the same goal in mind,” says Arthur A. Levine, Rowling’s editor. “Midnight. Kids.” The magic moment is a rare and delicate thing: it occurs only when the reader comes to the book in a state of pure ignorance, with no advance knowledge of its contents. For the magic moment to happen, the theory goes, the reader’s mind must be preserved in a state of absolute innocence—it must be, in Internet parlance, spoiler-free. So to preserve the magic moment against informational contamination—via the Web or watercooler conversation or the Rita Skeeters of the global media—Scholastic has created an infrastructure around Deathly Hallows unlike anything the publishing world has ever seen.
Pleasant speculation is one thing — that’s part of the reason for enjoying this hot stove league of muggledom — but why let it ruin things? The NY Times reports that eternal vigilance is the price of innocence.
Hosts of MuggleNet.com, another of the biggest Potter fan sites, learned about the death of Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, a few weeks before “Order of the Phoenix” was published, when someone sent in some scanned pages pilfered from a manuscript. And before “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth book in the series, was published two years ago, someone reportedly working on a Malaysian military base e-mailed a summary, the first page of every chapter and the whole final chapter to The Leaky Cauldron, revealing that Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, the boarding school where Harry and his friends train in wizardry, dies at the end of the book. “There are usually a few people who get their hands on a book and get some rush in spoiling the details for us,” said Emerson Spartz, MuggleNet’s founder and Web master. “They get some sick satisfaction that they’re sticking it to the man.”
We feel that they are only sticking it to themselves, frankly. But even we couldn’t refrain from reading what Keith Olbermann has to say about DEATHLY HALLOWS and his logic seems sound.
Theoretically, Voldemort and Potter could kill one another, like those two boxers from the Golden Gloves 20 years ago, who connected simultaneously and knocked each other out. But this would be too cheesy to fool even the most devoted Potterians. And they would not like Harry’s death much either.
Consider it from the marketing standpoint. Book number seven, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows ,” reaches sweaty palms on July 21st. But the movie reaching theaters July 13th, “The Order of the Phoenix” is only the fifth film. What is the box office going be like for that one if eight days later Potter is killed off?
We don’t know. And that’s just how we like it. Or as Scholastic’s Arthur Levine puts it: “All of us are doing it for that intense moment when we see the realization of our whole lives right in front of us!”