[Note: I guess there are some various spoilers in here, but not for Star Wars. Please do not send me hate mail if you, say, have not read the sixth Harry Potter book at this point.]
There is a gap of a couple of days in between “Star Wars: The Force Awakens’s” Los Angeles premiere (and media screenings!!) and the actual release of the film to the public on Friday. That gap exists as I type right now. Fans know about it, and have been preparing for days with the goal of avoiding any spoilers until it’s their turn to see the film.
Some, as The Washington Post noted, are turning to browser extensions that promise to shield you from possible spoilers – including at sites like this one that are covering the release. Others, anticipating a flood of spoilers pretty much everywhere, are turning it all the way up to 11:
Which, incidentally, is an approach that premiere attendee Patton Oswalt endorsed:
There are a couple of different ways that people tend to respond to spoilers for a piece of media they would like to consume in the future. Some say that a plot spoiler ruins the enjoyment of said thing, and online spoiler netiquitte has developed to protect fans who feel they cannot know a thing about an upcoming film or episode until they can view it – within a reasonable period of time after its release.
Others take them in stride. The Post’s Hank Stuever made the argument a couple of years ago that extreme spoiler policing can sometimes miss the point of how we’re supposed to enjoy culture:
To watch TV only for plot is to subsist only on the dots and to disregard the rather lovely lines connecting them; you never end up with a full picture. Our best conversations about this amazing and exasperating era of high-quality programming aren’t about which character died, and these conversations deserve and demand to begin the minute a show has aired.
And some people actually like spoilers.
So far, the spoiler front for “Star Wars” has been pretty quiet – a couple tweets and a sketchy Pastebin document containing a list of supposed spoilers notwithstanding. No matter how you feel about spoilers, though, it remains a fact that the internet, and particularly fandoms, are prepared at a level rivaling that of apocalypse preppers for the one universally reviled form of spoiling: the spoiler troll.
Spoiler trolls, as opposed to people who simply can’t contain themselves, intentionally drop major details in advance of a cultural object’s release, with the intention of getting as much visibility as possible. And our culture of protecting fans from spoilers so vigorously could only be encouraging even more trolling.
“Spoiler warning has been part of the netiquettes and internet common sense for a pretty long time, which probably serves as a huge draw for trolls that are trying to burst people’s bubbles,” said Brad Kim, editor of Know Your Meme, in an email.
But the idea of spoiler trolling has been around for awhile. The most famous one is definitely “SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE,” the big reveal from the 6th book in the Harry Potter series. That book came out about 10 years ago, but that phrase is still circulating around. At the time of the book’s release, it was everywhere online: there’s even a whole genre of videos of unverified origin showing jerks with cars yelling it as they drive by lines of waiting Harry Potter fans, just minutes away from getting a copy of the book, breaking their little hearts.
There are other movies and TV shows that have been the target of spoiler trolling, too, like “The Sixth Sense” (“Bruce Willis Is a Ghost”), a graffiti-covered poster for “Marley and Me,” and a viral series of screenshots that showed a man sending “Game of Thrones” spoilers to Tinder users, Kim noted.
Like most fandoms, “Star Wars” fans have implemented strict rules in most discussion boards in the lead-up to the film. On the “Star Wars” subreddit, there’s a lengthy “spoilers” policy, which includes a lifetime ban for anyone daring enough to put a spoiler in the title of a post.
On Tumblr, fans are a little more personal about spoilers, said Amanda Brennan, Tumblr’s “meme librarian,” in an email. “There’s a lot of personal posts from users meant specifically for their followers asking them to tag any “Star Wars” spoilers that they may post,” she said, along with parallel posts from users who are warning people that they’re going to be posting spoilers, with instructions on how to avoid them:
Tumblr users tend to use tags like this to avoid spoilers – you can just blacklist the tag the fandom uses to post them, should you know what it is (and many Tumblr fans do). For Supernatural, for instance, fans use “spn spoilers” to note when a post contains spoilers, and “got spoilers” is the same thing for Game of Thrones. Comics has a fandom-wide tag of “Wednesday spoilers,” because that’s when most issues come out, Brennan added.
Others, are going more extreme: “Many users have also made posts stating they are taking a break from Tumblr until they see the film in order to avoid spoiling the film,” Brennan said. “Other people still have mentioned that they will block anyone who doesn’t tag their spoilers in an extreme measure to avoid ruining it for themselves.”
Anyway, if you are a “Star Wars” fan who stumbles across a spoiler meme before you get to see the film, I guess you can hope that it’s another variation on the troll: a fake spoiler.