There's a mild debate raging across Twitter today that involves a detailed description (with leaked, pirated pics) of the after-credit scene in Iron Man 2. A group of movie websites have posted the info with spoiler warnings (with the exception of Vulture blog, who wrote about the scene in question without a spoiler warning and pissed off their readers in the process), while others -- like the ever vocal Devin Faraci of CHUD -- have come out criticizing those sites for sharing the info (though most of his rant, I think, is aimed at Collider, who originally posted those pirated images of the final, final scene).
The problem -- and this has been pointed out to Faraci by members of the websites he's been criticizing -- is that he has done the same exact thing in the past, ruining the after-credit scene in Iron Man in the title of one post, and then posting detailed spoilers from The Incredible Hulk in another. Faraci, however, is using the Born Again Blogger defense -- admitting he made mistakes in the past, but is now the equivalent of a drug dealer-turned-narc -- on the prowl for websites who don't play by the rules he'd like to see enforced. All of it is rather humorous to watch unfold while you're scarfing down breakfast and scrolling through your Twitter feed, but it does bring up a semi-interesting question: How far should websites go when it comes to spoiling a movie?
Obviously there's a demand for fans to know this information, even if the majority of them will cover their eyes and skip to the next story. You can't really fault a website for giving its readers what they want; after all, Slashfilm's post on the spoilers has over 30 comments (as of now), most of which come from readers who are happy the scene was spoiled for them.
Still, others -- like Neil Miller from Film School Rejects -- are stepping up to argue against the posting of spoilers, claiming the various detailed posts found around the web today make him "sad". So, if we're not to report on this sort of stuff, where does that leave everything else? What should we be allowed to report on? Where do you draw the line? Obviously pirated material is a no-no, but that hasn't stopped websites from posting clips, posters, or trailers that have leaked online before they were supposed to officially arrive. And don't even get me started on script reviews -- those are all over the place as well. If it isn't a script review that spoils a film's plot, it's something else, like how Faraci presented detailed spoilers of the upcoming Planet of the Apes prequel in his post from this past March, titled EXCLUSIVE: HUGE PLANET OF THE APES PREQUEL STORY DETAILS!
(In his defense, he did give a "spoiler warning" inside the post.)
As someone who runs one of the most popular movie blogs online, I don't really know what the answer is except that it most certainly has to do with servicing our readers. And, aside from reporting on something that could lead to cops (ahem) raiding our houses, almost everything is fair game -- so long as our readers want that content and look to us to provide it to them. Of course we'll take the necessary steps to warn you beforehand if there are spoilers to be found, or if we're not sure of the source of a particular trailer, clip or poster, but we can't just throw tape over our mouths and dance around a news story because someone on Twitter might be offended. This is about you, not about us.
So, riddle me this: How far should websites go before completely spoiling a movie? Are you offended when a website posts plot spoilers or script reviews? Or do you like how that information is out there and readily available in case you do want to know this stuff beforehand? Definitely speak up, because your opinion is what's most important here.
UPDATED: Not long after this was published, Devin Faraci emailed me a rebuttal. I've published it below along with my response back to him (which I've added to since originally emailing him).
Faraci Rebuttal: Obviously there are spoilers. We have all reported them. We - and our readers - seek detailed information about movies way in advance. When web guys get together for drinks, they often talk spoilers they can't run on their sites. Part of being a film fan is an almost obsessive desire to know things about upcoming movies.
Part of writing about film online is learning. Few of us are trained journalists, and even then the rules for the web feel... looser. I've made mistakes and I own up to them.
But context is key, and your piece utterly lacks context. Spoilers aren't all equal. The spoilers I ran in that PLANET OF THE APES piece are general story points, all of which I think (based on a decade of doing this work) will be made clear to educated audiences in set visit reports, trailers and commercials. Also, movies are long term projects, and a script will be heavily developed as the movie goes through pre-production and even in shooting. I believe that many educated hardcore movie fans enjoy following that process and like being informed. But that also means it's hard to know during development and shooting what is a real spoiler and what's just cool info. I think I ran only cool info on the PLANET OF THE APES story. I will be sorry if it turns out I ran real spoilers.
The Nick Fury spoiler from IRON MAN is another matter. I believe the fact that a tag existed WAS news; I regret now running even the vaguest talk about the content of that tag. Simply: I was wrong in linking to Moviehole there. I think I, like many of my peers at the time, was swept up in the excitement of the emergence of a cohesive Marvel Universe; the Fury tag was unheard of and almost unbelievable (especially as it was hidden from the press).
So yeah, I wish I had handled it differently. And doesn't the fact that I made that mistake and own up to it put me in a specific position of experience to speak on the matter?
This little movie website industry has been happening for more than ten years. Lots of mistakes have been made and lots of lessons learned. Ain't It Cool certainly doesn't operate quite the same way they did in 1999, and that's a good thing. I have learned from my spoiler mistakes and I hope others who came after me would as well.
To me the IRON MAN 2 tag is just a fun bonus for the fans. What I learned on the first film is that it's great to let fans know there's a surprise waiting, but why tell them what it is? If people want to talk about it, let them. We don't have to report it; we make daily decisions like this (often gossip related) and this is no different.
That's not even taking into account that some sites published pirated images from the tag. That, to me, is way beyond the pale. Any site that supports movie theater piracy - large or small - should be ashamed.
So yeah, I've made mistakes. I've learned on the job. If people want say that I'm unable to discuss those lessons as they apply to current news, f**k em. It doesn't make me a hypocrite, it makes me a human who has grown and learned. Maybe if some of these folks took the time to grow and learn they might gain insight into film and/or learn how to write.
Davis Response: Just so you know, I really didn't mean this as an attack against you. I was just stating the facts from what I witnessed over Twitter this morning, and reporting on those. And I understand the Apes stuff might be different from the Iron Man stuff, but that's kind of the point of the post. What's okay to run, and what's not okay? Where do we draw the line? Is a spoiler always a spoiler, or are there good spoilers and bad spoilers?
Is there a difference, and is that difference always clear? Perhaps your Apes spoilers won't necessarily be spoilers 7 months from now, but are they spoilers right now? Some may also argue that after seeing Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk that an after-credit scene including a Marvel character in Iron Man 2 should've already been made clear to educated audiences, so where's the harm in discussing it while at the same time warning people that spoilers lay ahead, just as you did in your Apes post? Why is one a good spoiler and the other a bad spoiler?
It's a little confusing to me, and if it's confusing to me, it's probably confusing to our readers. That's the discussion I'm most interested in having.