SPOILER ALERT: Spoiler Alerts Make Us All Fools

Roger Ebert is a penis. Oh, in death, another dick. Back in 1989, he reviewed, among other things, Dead Poets Society. He gave two stars—But that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is this: “The father is a strict, uncompromising steward of the task, and the son, having no desire to oppose him, kills himself.” Killed himself? When I read that as a kid, excited for a school screening the next day, I assured myself that suicide would happen at the beginning of the movie. Wrong. Said the son, Neil, killed himself almost to the end. That’s why I spent most of the class knowing it was — waiting for it to happen — to happen. I have never forgiven Ebert the unforgiving unforgiving, as we call it today, spoiler.

I, like everyone, hate spoilers. They are a special kind of soul crushing. You do everything to avoid them, only to fall prey to a misguided tweet, a full headline, an overly desired Wikipedia editor. Or, sometimes, a devilish prank. The day the last Harry Potter book came out — July 21, 2007 — someone called my cell phone at 3 o’clock in the morning. For whatever reason, I replied. There was heavy breathing, and then two painful voices twisted words: “Hermione is dead.” Clicking. Psychologists call it as form of trauma. To this day I still don’t know who it is.

Hermione will not, of course, die. He was very much alive, and continued to snog Ron until some unwritten, more likely death would separate them. But how do I know that? I read it all Die Hallows convinced that it — no, it—Wait, here it is — for sure it is! —That’s the part where Hermione will finally kill it. Such is the proleptic pain of the damaged condition. Spoilers are like shadows of a story, extinguishing the light of possibility, constantly announcing, like Thanos, their inevitable horror.

There is only one tool in the fight against darkness, and you know it very well: the SPOILER ALERT! The phrase dates back to the ’80s, when the first computer geeks went online and realized that some of their newly found peers had seen more Star Trek and read more comics. than them. To protect themselves from unwanted knowledge — like how inevitable Thanos is — they ask spoilers to be formally alerted. Nearly half a century ago, the practice became very common in almost all writing about film, books, and TV. coded references to possible The main points of the plot are to push the social internet into attack mode. We all live, in other words, in the shadow of some nerd angry teenager.

Well, now I think I don’t like spoiler alerts.

The obvious question raised by spoiler alerts is this: What’s so scary about knowing what’s going to happen? About knowing, in the end, how it will end? No one was scared about the beginning. In fact, that’s not true. Beginnings can scare people for a variety of reasons. Think artists, always unsure of how to start their sure good work. The intro to a song, the opening shot of a movie, the leader of a journalist — you can see the blood running down their temples as they struggle to commit one way or another. Fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss went through something like 40 drafts on the first page of his book The Name of the Wind. Janet Malcolm did a version of the same thing when she profiled actor David Salle. In the end, he was alone PUBLISHED on The New Yorker: “Forty-One False Beginnings.” We are a society that is fascinated by origin stories, with origins.

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