What secrets are left to us in an age of internet crowd-sourced sleuthing? We’ll find out where Luke Skywalker is in a few weeks, but the question of who is Peter Quill’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy remains a pleasant little mystery that should get a good reveal in Guardians 2. But the whole internet seems set on spoiling it well before then. Bradley Cooper, who played Rocket Raccoon, had a garbled answer to a red carpet question that some books as one answer. (I won’t say it here but you can read about it in the Daily Mail if that’s your thing.) Heroic Hollywood had a spoiler but buried in a video I’m too lacy to watch. And besides do I really want to know? Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn denied both spoilers (adding that he’s never knowingly lied to fans) and then wrote an impassioned FB post about why people would even want spoilers:

All right. From this moment on I’m going to stop commenting on any rumors surrounding Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,…

Posted by James Gunn on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

“Is this really what fandom wants to know?” Gunn palliatively asks, and if you’vebene on the internet for more than 30 seconds you know the answer is “Yes it is.” Jill Pantozzi has some comments on the whole matter from a journalist’s perspective:

There is obviously a point at which an entertainment writer has to weigh the value of what they’re putting in a headline or story. You need people to click on your stories. That’s a fact. I would say most writers are good about wording things so as to let people know what they’re getting without actually spoiling anything. But putting headlines themselves aside, as a writer or an outlet, why run a story that potentially spoils a major plot point of an upcoming film?

Being old and cranky, I can only suggest to everyone reading this how amazing it ws to go see The Empire Strikes Back and see, for the first time, unsuspecting, the moment when Darth Vader says “Luke, I AM your father!” The theater gasped. My mind was blown. I spent three years pondering the meaning of “There is another.”
Will my mind be blown by reading the same thing no an internet scoop site? 

I dunno. I guess that’s how we consume our culture now and no one knows the difference. The game of reading background details, speculating with pals and arguing over theories is part of the entire entertainment process these days. I’m sympathetic to Gunn. Finding out the backstory of Starlord’s parentage is doubtless a part of his film journey and given how the emotional arcs of the first Guardians of the Galaxy made it such a hit, I’d like to give Gunn the chance to let it all play out as he intended.

But that isn’t how things work any more. I can see why Gunn won’t be able to comment on spoilers any more: one of them is bound to be right and if he’s to keep his word, he won’t able to lie about it. Only JK Rowling has been able to keep her secrets more of less intact during the run of her story, and Harry Potter fandom didn’t suffer for not having things spoiled. But that’s a very rare exception these days.


  1. Your comment about the Star Wars spoiler kind of raises a side question about how we should handle spoilers, because there’s an entire generation (and a half?) who will never experience that same shock due to it being referenced in numerous TV shows and movies before they even get a chance.

    Should there really be an expiration date by which it’s okay to spoil a twist, or should we try a little harder to preserve it? Is our being able to make a joke or reference to a spoiler openly more important than allowing younger generations to experience it themselves?

    I maybe saw Empire Strikes Back too young (on VHS when I was 8 or 9) for any shock to register*, but I remember watching Planet Of The Apes in my teens and being SHOCKED at the end…at the realization that “it was Earth all along” was intended to be shocking twist, when I’d known about it for years thanks to The Simpsons. I was actually a little perturbed that they’d robbed me of that just to make a campy joke.

    People ask “how is it possible to spoil a movie x years old?,” but there are people born every day who weren’t around to see a film when it opened.

    Actually…what if this generation’s obsession with spoiling things for themselves is because so many big twists have been spoiled for them growing up that this creates a sense of nostalgia? Unlikely, but what if?

    *Or maybe it’d been spoiled for me already by The Simpsons episode where, in flashback, Homer ruins the twist for everyone waiting in line to see the next showing…a funny joke for adults that ironically really did ruin the twist for any kids watching who hadn’t seen it yet.

  2. Over time it becomes increasingly impractical to avoid spoilers, and we have to accept that. You can’t expect people to forever talk around the fact that Enkidu dies, Abraham doesn’t kill Isaac, Jesus gets better, and Guinevere hooks up with Lancelot. But I agree that we should put some effort into it, for the benefit of future audiences. After all, we do it for the secret identity of Santa Claus, which gives children the educational experience of figuring it out for themselves… or at least the experience of Not Knowing for a number of years, before someone spoils it for them.

  3. Didn’t Marvel’s Empire Strikes Back adaptation hit newsstands before the movie was released, spoiling the “big revelation”?

    I’m afraid that a lot of moviegoers (and TV watchers) today want to know as many details as possible before they invest their time. They pretty much know everything that happens before they watch.

  4. I don’t think it counts as a “spoiler” when someone deliberately reads/watches the story in another format first.

  5. That wasn’t how Lucasfilm saw it. As I recall, they were royally pissed at Marvel — mainly because Marvel jumped the gun. That magazine wasn’t supposed to come out until the same weekend the movie was released. But it came out at least a week earlier, IIRC.

  6. The paperback adaption of “Empire” was out before the movie too. I had gone to a big city to see the movie early, so I knew the plot’s surprises. I told a friend in my town to check out a certain page in the paperback and he did, spoiling it for himself. But what was really funny was we went to see “Empire” together and when Darth cuts off Luke’s arm, my friend gasped and loudly said, “How could he do that to his own son?” ruining the moment for everybody else!

  7. The first time I saw PSYCHO, in the early ’70s (more than 10 years after the film was released), I didn’t know the “secret” of Norman Bates and his mother. People didn’t blab as much about surprise endings, and of course there was no Internet. Today, I doubt anyone sees PSYCHO without already knowing the movie’s twists. Or sees CITIZEN KANE without knowing what “Rosebud” was.

    I did know in advance about Janet Leigh’s fate — that was too famous to remain a secret. But that was really all I knew in advance.

  8. Kate W. said: “I remember watching Planet Of The Apes in my teens and being SHOCKED at the end…at the realization that “it was Earth all along” was intended to be shocking twist, when I’d known about it for years thanks to The Simpsons.”

    I was lucky enough to see PLANET OF THE APES when it came out in 1968, so the ending was a shock to me.

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