Spoiler tags please October 29, 2007 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Suggestion: <spoiler> (this text is unreadable unless some action is taken) </spoiler> tags.

Sometimes we have discussions in which it would be beneficial, I think, to be able to discuss the ending or "surprising" plot details of books, movies, TV series etc. Currently we have a NO SPOILERS! policy, and I think that's good as a fallback position, but there are at least three mechanisms that would allow people's enjoyment not to be spoiled, but also allow such discussions. Firstly, an "invisible text" tag, where the font and background of the tagged text are set to the same color, and thus aren't visible unless highlighted with the mouse; secondly, a dropdown box, like the post-flag category box, which contains the tagged text; thirdly, a "popup-link" (a positive use for popups?) where clicking on it pops up a small box containing the tagged text.
posted by aeschenkarnos to Feature Requests at 2:57 PM (123 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

We don't have a no spoilers policy we have a "don't be a jackass by putting the spoiler in the main body of your post, and mention if there are likely going to be spoilers inside" I think your ideas are decent and I've seen people use this to godd ends on other sites, but it's not like people talk about spoilers much.

Maybe when mathowie rolls out custom stylesheets this could be one workable option -- a selectable option like b/i/link -- but anything that requires users to tag their own spoilers is likely going to be as effective as our current "please be cool and include spoiler warnings" which is to say it's okay but not great. Some people just don't comply, or have different idea of what constitutes a spoiler.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:01 PM on October 29, 2007


Currently we have a NO SPOILERS! policy

Really, what we currently have is a "please don't be a big jerk about spoilers" policy. While folks are kind enough to offer spoiler warnings most of the time when it's appropriate, and we'll occasionally take some ad hoc action if there's a big lapse (or a malicious thumb-biting, as it were), it's more of a loose compromise than a hard policy. It compares pretty well with the [nsfw] situation, in many ways.

Metafilter is not a dedicated narrative-fiction discussion site. Introducing special tagging/functionality to the site specifically for the odd case of unwarnable spoilers on top of the general Buyer Beware sensibility we maintain around here strikes me as not a great idea.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:07 PM on October 29, 2007


<this text is unreadable until you blow me>ffklg gltplre7gh mumfin ackle #4rgkwlk6</ahhh>
posted by quonsar at 3:12 PM on October 29, 2007 [12 favorites]


but it's not like people talk about spoilers much.

Well yes, but to what extent is that due to the policy?

Specifically, the China Mieville vs Freedom Ships discussion is the one that prompted me to make this suggestion - there's a point about Iron Council that I'd like to have made because I think it is highly relevant to the discussion at hand, but it can't be made without giving the ending away.

This is something I think may come up a lot, for various people in various discussions, but being unable to hide the spoiler, and unwilling to risk being a jackass (well, that kind of a jackass, I'm perfectly willing to risk being other kinds), we just don't post it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:15 PM on October 29, 2007


rot13? Gung frrzf yvxr gur zbfg boivbhf fbyhgvba
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:17 PM on October 29, 2007


ffklg gltplre7gh mumfin ackle #4rgkwlk6

Don't forget to drink quonsar's Ovaltine.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:22 PM on October 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


Metafilter is not a dedicated narrative-fiction discussion site. Introducing special tagging/functionality to the site specifically for the odd case of unwarnable spoilers on top of the general Buyer Beware sensibility we maintain around here strikes me as not a great idea.

I think other uses for this kind of thing other than fiction discussion could be found, such as riddles or tricky questions or variations on that concept.

Actually, are text background/foreground coloration tags implemented already, and if so, (a) is there a way to do this with them; (b) do you want people to do or not do that?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:24 PM on October 29, 2007


rot13? That seems like the most obvious solution.

Aha! And to go with it, a decoder/encoder addon.

Mods, is using rot13 rarely, but for up to a paragraph or two, acceptable to you?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:28 PM on October 29, 2007


I hate this idea.

Mainly because I actively enjoy watching people squirm when the flimsy, cliched plot devices of their favored pabulum are torn asunder like so much insubstantial smoke.

But I'm probably an asshole, so whatever. I still argue that the best defense against this is taste - and strong writing.

Good stories aren't so easily destroyed by spoilers.
posted by loquacious at 3:32 PM on October 29, 2007 [5 favorites]


I still argue that the best defense against this is taste

Boy, does quonsar have a deal for you!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:33 PM on October 29, 2007 [4 favorites]


I think other uses for this kind of thing other than fiction discussion could be found, such as riddles or tricky questions or variations on that concept.

Yeah, but once we're hunting for secondary justifications for a niche feature, we're well on the way to Mt. Doom.

A little rot13 now and then is probably an ideal solution: those who know and care can bother to encode/decode, and that there's text being obscured is obvious even to people unfamiliar with the idea. Plus, if it gets out of hand, people will start hollering.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:45 PM on October 29, 2007


but to what extent is that due to the policy?

It's not due to any policy. There aren't many spoiler warnings/spoilers because this is a general weblog/forum about anything on earth. To make a whole feature dedicated to spoilers seems odd because maybe 1 in 100 posts might mention a book or movie, and much fewer talk about the plot.

People should continue to be cool when mentioning spoilers when necessary and warning people beforehand. It works fine enough as it is (except for the occasional asshole that wants to be an asshole and uses a spoiler as a way to cheese everyone off, but you can't code anything for those people).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:49 PM on October 29, 2007


To hide spoilers, just use a few <small> tags to make your text unreadable unless it's enlarged. Six looks like it will do nicely...

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi.
posted by kindall at 3:57 PM on October 29, 2007


aeschenkarnos: "Mods, is using rot13 rarely, but for up to a paragraph or two, acceptable to you?"

I am a mod, and find rot13, the Small Faces, and bashing rockers to be quite acceptable.
posted by koeselitz at 3:58 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


kindall, ftw, even though I still think it sort of means "fuck the world"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:00 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


ROT13 is better than small. It is dead easy to decypher and is obviously something that should require extra effort. Also people with vision impairments may be using screen readers or have their minimum text size set such that small isn't.
posted by Mitheral at 4:07 PM on October 29, 2007


But what about those who do not know what rot13 is?
posted by ooklala at 4:13 PM on October 29, 2007


for them, we will put something in the faq.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:16 PM on October 29, 2007


For that matter, IE doesn't (for me, at least) render <small> past two iterations out of the box, so it's not even that well hidden.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:20 PM on October 29, 2007


<small> text on some browsers only goes so small, as in not beyond legibility. For those interested in the rot13 technique without the hassle of an addon, there's always the awesoma powa! of rot13.com.
posted by carsonb at 4:26 PM on October 29, 2007


SPOILER ALERT: Agent Howie kills Operative R, Agent Cortex, takes over the world and made it a Brand New Day.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:30 PM on October 29, 2007


Requiring users to put spoilers in rot13 is like saying it's required that all members of MeFi must own 20-sided dice.

Translation: you will lose 90% of the audience that aren't total dorks.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:30 PM on October 29, 2007 [9 favorites]


(And you will probably also lose the people who are total dorks, but are kinda lazy, which is quite a few of them.)
posted by advil at 4:33 PM on October 29, 2007


Requiring users to put spoilers in rot13 is like saying it's required that all members of MeFi must own 20-sided dice.

*looks around*

You really think there are that many people here who don't have a D20?

Really?

We're a sad and dorky bunch.
posted by quin at 4:37 PM on October 29, 2007


What! The chick in the Crying Game was a MAN!?!

Fuck you Metafilter!
posted by tkchrist at 4:43 PM on October 29, 2007


This sentenced translated using rot26.
posted by ALongDecember at 4:43 PM on October 29, 2007


I'll see your rot26 and raise you a rot52.

It's twice as secure.
posted by quin at 4:46 PM on October 29, 2007


I own at least one D20, in what should be a complete set from D4 to D20. No, I don't have a D99, that's what two D10s are for, doofus. Anyway, none of them have been rolled in years and years.

I mainly keep them around to scare off non-nerdy girls, and to remind myself of my dork heritage.

By the way, do you know that "dork" means "whale penis"? How cool is that?*

*may or may not be true depending on the rigor of your personal etymological tastes.
posted by loquacious at 4:54 PM on October 29, 2007


"ffklg gltplre7gh mumfin ackle #4rgkwlk6"

There is a fish in my pants?

I mean, that's what I heard it says. From a chick. Yeah. A chick told me that.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:54 PM on October 29, 2007


Coding potential spoilers in rot13 would be dire. There's already "More Inside", tags, and spoiler warnings, all to alert the wary when spoilers could potentially be present in a thread. No-one ever died from spoilers, and encouraging any use of rot13 will unacceptably disrupt readability. If people care deeply about the risk of spoilers, they just need to stay out of such threads, and leave them to the rest of us who have some kind of perspective on our popular culture consumption.
posted by roofus at 4:58 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Do these count?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:00 PM on October 29, 2007


jr ant vend
jr vex vend
jr gel gag
green self
green abjurer
posted by Armitage Shanks at 5:10 PM on October 29, 2007


Warn people that if they don't want it spoiled, they should start blinking every other second, then:

THE NARRATOR IS THE ONCE-LER!!!
posted by Challahtronix at 5:33 PM on October 29, 2007


I still argue that the best defense against this is taste - and strong writing. Good stories aren't so easily destroyed by spoilers.

I rarely talk about my reading choices, because when I do, people tell me I'm a snob. But I'll admit here that 90% of what I read is generally considered tasteful and well written. My favorite authors are Shakespeare, Chekhov, Conrad, Fitzgerald, etc. Yet I care DEEPLY about spoilers when I read books by those authors.

It irritates me when someone assumes that the only people who dislike spoilers are people who only read -- what? -- pulp fiction? (And -- please -- I'm not claiming superiority to genre lovers. I'm just refuting an earlier comment.)

I don't care if you tell me what happens at the end of "King Lear," because I've already read it. But there is one Shakespeare play that I've never read (I won't say which one), and I'd be REALLY pissed off if you told me what happens in the end of it. Yes, I care as much about plot points when I read Shakespeare as I do when I watch "24" or whatever.

People with an academic way of reading are taught that plot is the least important part. I guess, by that logic, if you're upset about someone revealing a plot point, you're upset about something trivial. Literature (according to the professors) isn't supposed to be about "Wow! I'm I'm the edge of my seat? What happens NEXT?!?!" It's supposed to be about theme, social import, etc.

But I don't care about that stuff. I care -- EQUALLY -- about language, character and plot. If you spoil the plot, you spoil one-third of my pleasure.

Some of my most cherished reading memories including wondering whether Hamlet was going to choose to live or die, whether Winston Smith and Julia would find happiness, whether Yelena would run off with Astrov...

I don't think my way of reading is superior (or inferior) to anyone else's. If you like an academic approach -- if it makes you happy -- that's great. But allow me to like what I like without implying that I must be that way because I only read crap. (And -- by the way -- allow people to read what you think of as crap* without judging their way of reading. I feel more affinity with plot lovers who read Harlequin Romances than I do with people like Harold Bloom, even though he and I read the same sorts of books).

* When say things like, "how can you care about the ending of THAT? It's so cliched! Surely, you know how it's going to end!", they're usually talking about melodrama.

True, if you pause and think, you know how it's going to end. You KNOW whether or not Dorothy is going to get back to Kansas IF you're approaching narrative in an intellectual way. IF you've lost the ability to read and watch as a child does. I'm so glad I can flip into a mode when I can be a "naive" viewer.

It's true that I can't do this if the story is poorly wrought. If the storytelling is bad, I'm too distracted by the clumsiness to let the tale affect my reptilian brain. But "bad" in this case means clunky dialog or exposition, improbably psychology and plot holes. A story isn't bad -- in terms of being able to keep me on the edge of my seat -- just because it follows certain formal rules, such as those of melodrama. A good melodrama will wrap me up into it to the point where I forget that, of course, the hero is going to win in the end.

So though it may seem stupid, I'm going to yell at you if you tell me he saves the girl and lives happily ever after.
posted by grumblebee at 6:16 PM on October 29, 2007 [12 favorites]


Total dork!? Total dork!!?

TAKE THAT BACK OR i'M CUTTING OFF MY KITTEH'S RIGHT PAW RIGHT NOW.
posted by carsonb at 6:37 PM on October 29, 2007


Jess said it best in the first comment. It's all about respect and courtesy. How you do it doesn't matter so much as that you do. Spoilers, though, are not such a big deal here.
posted by caddis at 7:00 PM on October 29, 2007


The monster at the end of the book is Grover.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:23 PM on October 29, 2007 [6 favorites]


.-. --- - .---- ...-- .. ... - --- --- -.. --- .-. -.- -.-- ..--.. .... --- .-- .- -... --- ..- - .- . ... . -. -.-. .-. -.-- .--. - .. --- -. ..--..

ITMzITrK7hUBITAhITAhLXpQxE+kzG9Q8LJob7FPPIott8vTFKgPm2cx02DkITE2MCHeFF0tgoY=
posted by knave at 7:42 PM on October 29, 2007


The Roman Empire declines and falls.
The Third Reich rises and falls.
The salesman dies.
The shrew is tamed.
Jesse James is assassinated by the Coward Robert Ford.

It will always wendell.
posted by wendell at 8:02 PM on October 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


mathowie writes "you will lose 90% of the audience that aren't total dorks."

Sure, but gubfr crbcyr pbzcbfr gur onq cneg bs gur vagrearg naljnlf.

Seriously though, ROT13 has never seemed like a huge impediment to me on all the mailing lists (or UseNet for that matter) that I've ever encountered it on.

Maybe misuse of the ABBR tag marking up the word SPOILER would be better here if this is a desired feature. It's easy to use yet one would have to hover over to see the offending text. And it wouldn't require any coding, just social pressure.

knave .-- .... .- - .. ... -.-- --- ..- .-. .- . ... -.- . -.-- ..--..
posted by Mitheral at 8:03 PM on October 29, 2007


The standand css tricks to hide spoiler mock-tagged text until moused-over are great until the 10,000th interation of the same tired HAHAIAMFUNNEY jokes that these things inspire.

I've killed too many times before. Please don't make me do it again.

ABBR tags are a reasonable idea, though, with low barrier to entry.

SPOILER
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:13 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Catherine did it!


if you get it, you're as old and as gay as I am
posted by serazin at 8:21 PM on October 29, 2007


Gubfr onfgneqf, gurl xvyyrq Xraal.
posted by juv3nal at 8:32 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


The LeetKey add-on broke my pgup/pgdn keys in the browser. I think. I uninstalled it.

Mitheral, consider it a puzzle.
posted by knave at 8:47 PM on October 29, 2007


By the way, stavros wins with his mouseover trickery. That is the most accessible spoiler mechanism presented.
posted by knave at 8:49 PM on October 29, 2007


Damn, that was Mitheral's idea. Oops.
posted by knave at 8:51 PM on October 29, 2007


(I won't say which one)

Dude, that one's easy! At the end of [Shakespearian tragedy], everybody dies.

Oopss.. Sorry :P
posted by Chuckles at 9:16 PM on October 29, 2007


knave, J0Yg7xUBITAhITAhLUc+h0tayXg=
posted by Mitheral at 9:17 PM on October 29, 2007


Spoiler alert.
posted by quin at 9:22 PM on October 29, 2007


Damn
posted by KokuRyu at 9:49 PM on October 29, 2007


This is a gratuitous, redundant use of the abbr tag.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:54 PM on October 29, 2007


As Regards Spoilification (King Kong Spoiler)
posted by ALongDecember at 10:21 PM on October 29, 2007


Weird, you can nest abbr tags.
posted by knave at 10:52 PM on October 29, 2007


Forget it, loquacious, it's spoiler town.

PS.
She's her sister!
Her daughter!
Her sister!
Her daughter!

And the sequel sucks!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:02 PM on October 29, 2007


grumblebee: "said everything worrth saying"
posted by team lowkey at 1:07 AM on October 30, 2007


quonsar: "<this text is unreadable until you blow me>ffklg gltplre7gh mumfin ackle #4rgkwlk6</ahhh>"

Hey, you tricked me!
posted by dg at 4:47 AM on October 30, 2007


So, grumblebee? What haven't you read?

*twiddles mustache*



Err, I mean, well said, bravo.

I've said this before here - usually in apology to something like I wrote above - but I don't personally disclose spoilers. I'm pretty careful about it. I'm not agnostic about it - I can understand why people value it.

But I'm one of those weirdos that have no problem flipping to the end of the book and reading it first. I guess it's just that any given plot becomes a whole model or shape in my mind, and it doesn't even have to be enjoyed sequentially - no matter the order I read it, it becomes this sort of abstracted object.
posted by loquacious at 5:37 AM on October 30, 2007


The monster at the end of the book is Grover.

You utter, utter bastard! I'd been working through that one for the past three months!
posted by Sparx at 5:54 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fascinating, loquacious. In another time and place, I'd love to discuss this with you.

Given a group of 100 people, a certain percentage of them read stories for very "grownup" reasons. They read so that they can Be Well Read or so that they can Impress Their Friends or so that they can Analyze Literature... I've even known people who read To Get The Point. I'm not sure what that means, but I hear people say it: "I only read the first half of 'War and Peace,' because I felt like by then I Got the Point." You got the point? You mean you somehow figured out who Natasha was going to marry in the end?

I'm not knocking those people, but they live on a different planet from me. I can't relate.

Once you factor them out of the group, there are -- what? -- five people left. I know people generally read for more than one reason. I'm sure there are people who read both for the pure, childlike pleasure AND because they want to be well read. But I'd like to narrow the group down to people whose MAIN reason for reading as adults is the same as what it was when they were children.

I bet when I talk to those five people, I'll find that they don't all like to experience stories the same way. Some will be like me, wanting to experience each plot-point in real time; some will be like you, wanting to engulf the whole plot at once. What fascinates me is "why?" What is it about me that makes me not what to know what's around the corner until I turn that corner myself? What is it about you that makes you want to look down at the whole maze from above?
posted by grumblebee at 6:05 AM on October 30, 2007


I also sometimes flip to the end. For me it's not so much the skybox view of the whole thing -- though that's an interesting way of looking at it that I hadn't though of before -- but more that I dislike tension as a plot device and I'm more interested in seeing how the author gets from Point A to Point B, I don't mind if I already know what point B is, and sometimes I peek.

Additionally, if "OMG what could Point B possibly be?!?!" tension is part of what drives the whole middle of the book and is the only main thing that drives the middle of the book, I find that a little thin in terms of "what I am looking for from a beefy book" I sort of feel that there are only a few real themes in literature and so for me the enjoyment of reading is watching different authors do excellent things given the constraints of text and attention.

This is also true in movies. Movies whose entire plot hinges on "oh I hope the injured hero eventually saves the girl and finds peace and can stop dragging his shattered leg around" or "oh I hope the brave man eventually rescues his terrified family who that other bad man is torturing" involve a lot of uncomfortable psychic waiting that makes it not enjoyable for me. That's not true in other types of movies for me ("will they hook up?" romances or "will they solve the problem?" mysteries or thrillers), but watching a character be in protracted, drawn-out pain and waiting for them not to be is really difficult for me. I can't usually watch movies with hurt animals in them for the same reason. I am a sap.

More to the point, I'm acutely aware that there are more books in the world that I would like to read than I will be able to read in my lifetime. I don't mind if a character dies or goes missing or the book ends with them unhappy and unfulfilled, but I'd like to weed out books that I have a suspicion will make me feel bad to no good end. I get really emotionally invested in what I'm reading, for better or worse. Sorry for the blah blah essay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:25 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Don't read this
posted by desjardins at 6:31 AM on October 30, 2007


Dumbledore is gay.
posted by inigo2 at 6:51 AM on October 30, 2007


What grumblebee said.

No-one ever died from spoilers

Yeah, it's funny how people who don't care seem to have so little ability to empathize with those who do. It's like those assholes who drive around blasting their music at top volume: "I like it, and if you don't, fuck you, loser!" I appreciate loquacious's attitude: he doesn't disclose spoilers even though they don't bother him. Kudos, you're a mensch.
posted by languagehat at 7:26 AM on October 30, 2007


I see a lot of forums that just use a simply button-based "spolier" button. You put it in the tag, when the button is clicked, the text pops in. It's like the DHTML rollover ALT text some people enabled. Can't imagine this is a very difficult pony to implement.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:48 AM on October 30, 2007


My feeling about the spoiler debate is that a lot of people who aren't very spoiler-conscious don't even realize that they're revealing anything. They assume that everyone has seen something or they don't think about it much. So, they talk about a book or movie they liked and the next thing they know, a bunch of people are yelling at them in a thread calling them an asshole, the they react "wtf?" I'm sure everyone draws the line at what they think a "true spoiler" is, but around here with our international community, there are a lot of what-ifs. So, a few examples

- during the Olympics, mentioning who won a match that may have been time-shifted to play in primetime someplace else
- during the Olympics, mentioning who won a match that someone videotaped to watch later that day/week.
- during the Olympics, mentioning who won a match that someone was on vacation and videotaped to watch next month.
- after the Olympics, talking about the winners and losers of various events.

Or, for recently, is it a spoiler if you talk about the Sox winning the World Series? What about the end of the Crying Game? What about the end of Citizen Kane? I think people draw the line in different places -- very few people are like "fuck you I spoil everything *I* am TEH SPOILER" -- and grumblebee is clearly out on one end and many people are on the other. The other metric is how bad people feel when people have something "spoiled" for them and this ranges from people who undergo total media blackouts to not learn the ending of the World Series (those people, I feel safe saying, maybe shouldn't read sites like MeFi until they watch the game) and get super pissed off at people who spoil something, accidentally or no, and people who basically don't care, but are respectful of others' caring.

So languagehat, I get your point, but there's a presumed normalcy to whatever behavior someone is exhibiting that gets them called assholes by others. If everyone in your neighborhood plays loud music, maybe the normative standard for asshole behavior shifts.

Again, sorry to blather, but working in publc institutions like the library we have to think about things like noise level and asshole behavior along normative lines. It was interesting to watch when many libraries shifted from not being total bastions of silence how many people still felt the noisy people were assholes. So it goes with spoilers and I think we have these discussions every now and again to sort of see how we feel, in some sort of normative way, about spoiler-type things.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:05 AM on October 30, 2007


Funny that aeschenkarnos mentions China Mieville, because his introduction to the Modern Library edition of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness actually includes a nice big: "(WARNING: THIS INTRODUCTION DISCUSSES KEY ELEMENTS OF THE NOVEL'S PLOT)" at the start. Not sure why that couldn't work for a comment here.

Nthing grumblebee, especially after learning the hard way that people who write introductions to great books routinely feel no shame about spoiling the plot of the great book in the freaking *introduction* to that great book. Fuckers.
posted by mediareport at 8:10 AM on October 30, 2007


Can't imagine this is a very difficult pony to implement.

It's not simply a matter of difficulty of implementation. It's reasonably easy to implement siglines and avatars, too.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:14 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's reasonably easy to implement siglines and avatars, too.

By which cortex and I mean that implementing a hide-spoilers mechanism, we would be explicity creating a bit of a shift in the current "be cool" policy to an implied "use this tool" policy. This means people would be on us to enforce people not using it, debating when the tool should be used etc. Anything that depends on the OP of the material in question using something specific to obscure spoilers still depends on a mutually agreed upon idea of spoilers and necessity of preventing same which we just don't have here. We'll remove or "more inside" or tag egregious spoilers on the front page of any of the parts of the site, but other than that I don't think any of us see a pressing need to go further.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:39 AM on October 30, 2007


So can we have that stuff too, then cortex? Can the avatars be animated gifs?
posted by Meatbomb at 8:40 AM on October 30, 2007


Using spoiler tags would imply that MeFites actually care about other peoples enjoyment of fictional works.

I could accept a short time limit on spoilers for mass-media items (eg: no movie plot revelations in the first week of a new release), but never, in no way, no how, will I support spoiler tags for real-life, current events. Whether it be sports events, politics, or new flavours of ice cream at Baskin Robbins.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:56 AM on October 30, 2007


Also, at some point in the future I will make another post. I've already planned out what I'm going to say, but I won't spoil it for you here. Stay tuned.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:57 AM on October 30, 2007


never, in no way, no how, will I support spoiler tags for real-life, current events. Whether it be sports events, politics, or new flavours of ice cream at Baskin Robbins.

I agree with this with the one caveat that sports events scores and results (if ever there's a reason to really FPP them) should be in the More Inside. My opinion, anyways.
posted by inigo2 at 9:11 AM on October 30, 2007


MetaFilter: I mainly keep them around to scare off non-nerdy girls.
posted by spinturtle at 9:17 AM on October 30, 2007


My opinion on being spoiled varies - sometimes I want to be spoiled and sometimes I don't. But, I view being spoiled as one of the many, many events that are intensely annoying in the moment, but, after the moment has passed, one puts it in perspective as the minor thing it is. Other examples include: the person on the bus who has their mp3 player so loud you can sing along from 20 feet away, or getting a flat tire, or stubbing your toe, or the person ahead of you in the checkout line who decides to count out 93 cents in change with only nickles and pennies, when you're in a hurry.

I think people who don't want to be spoiled, myself included, should be responsible for not being spoiled. If one really doesn't want to be spoiled, then they should make the time to see/read/hear it. If they don't, then it's on them to avoid spoilers. When I was avoiding spoilers for BSG season 3 and Dr. Who, I avoided any site and/or conversation that even looked like it might be scifi related. I really don't understand why grumblebee can't knock out the unnammed Shakespeare play this weekend. Why is the burden placed on everybody else on Metafilter (and I assume everywhere else on the internet)? Why should everybody else be inconvienced because people don't have enough self control to keep themselves off the internet and/or can't be bothered to read the book, see the movie, etc.?

The spoiler hata's answer that I've heard is that a spoiler warning is a minor inconvenience compared to the horrible angst of being spoiled. Well, I've been spoiled, and it sucked, but somehow I managed to solider on. And it's not a minor inconvience when it's required on every damn site on the internet that I go to. And when people have such crazy ass broad definitions of spoilers. For example, the list below is not something I would ever consider a spoiler and would never spoiler warn for but I know there are people out there who do consider them spoilers:

The Titanic sinks.
R&J is set in Verona.
Denzel Washington plays the Prince of Verona.
There is a character named Benvolio.
Mercutio and Tybalt get in a fight.

Also, I don't consider things one should have absorbed if you participate in mainstream american culture, e.g. Zelda is the Sheik Rosebud is a sled, to be spoilers.

The only thing I consider as spoilers is major plot points.

Also, I do spoiler warn for recent (the upper end on recent varies. Sometimes it's a month, sometimes it's a year.) works. But, I feel no need to spoiler warn for something that has been available from a library or bookstore for someone's entire life or has been off the air for several years.

I don't like being spoiled, but I value being able to discuss every aspect of a work and the ability to toss of casual comments about any aspect of a work, without worrying about spoiling people more than I value not being spoiled.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:28 AM on October 30, 2007


Though I'm "clearly out on one end," I'm not in favor of harsh, dictatorial measures. I agree that in casual conversation, spoilers -- to a certain degree -- are going to happen. Someone super-sensitive, like me, needs to realize that not every thinks about spoilers all the time. In fact, for someone who doesn't care about them, it's would probably ruin the conversation if he had to constantly think about "am I spoiling something"?

It's like any other piece of courtesy. If I'm carrying packages and you're in front of me, I expect you to hold the door open for me. On the other hand, if you're WAY in front of me, I don't expect you to wait by the door for ten minutes, while I catch up.

So since I am super-sensitive to spoilers -- and since I don't feel like I'm a special snowflake that everyone should coddle -- I feel like 90% of the spoiler-avoiding is my responsibility. And I'm actually pretty skilled at it. I know how to skim film reviews so that I only get whether the reviewer thinks it's worth seeing. I don't read the spoiler parts.

There are only two things I feel like I have the right to expect from others: (1) two seconds of thought and consideration before revealing a major spoiler, e.g. the end of a book. And (2) compassion for personal differences.

I don't get why -- other than a desire to be nasty and hurtful -- in threads like this, people go out of their way to post, "Ah, you don't like spoilers, eh? Well! I'm hear to tell you that Rosebud is _____ and Planet of the Apes is really ______! Hahahahahaha!"

I'm wondering if this is because these PURPOSEFUL spoilers have been mistreated, in the past, by people like me. Maybe they're sick of being yelled at for spoiling things and want some revenge. I can relate to that, but I'd like to remind these people that if they've been yelled at for people LIKE me, they haven't been yelled by by ME. Because I don't yell at people.

It's not fair to use me as a revenge proxy. In fact, doing just that is how all sorts of horrible things happen -- things way more serious that hurting people's enjoyment of stories. For instance, if I get mugged by three black guys, it's unfair for me to mistreat the next black guy I run into.

It's unfair for a couple of reasons: first, because he's not a mugger. Second, because I'm being racist and assuming that all black men are like the three bad ones I've met. So please note that not ALL anti-spoiler people are nasty to people who accidentally spoil things. I'm not. Don't paint me with the brush you use to paint nasty people.

In fact, even though I feel like it's your job to not divulge MAJOR spoilers (e.g. who killed the victim in a mystery novel), I DON'T feel like I have the right to chastise you for doing so, if you've done it via an honest mistake. The strongest reaction I'm allowed is to remind you to please try not to do that in the future. Here's the way things SHOULD go:

You: my favorite part was when I found out that the butler did it!

Me: oh, man! You just gave the ending away. I know you didn't mean to, but please don't do that. Okay?

You: oh, I forgot you don't like that. Sorry.

Me: no worries. Sorry I'm so quirky about it.

So I'm hoping that I'm right and that people purposefully spoil because they've been kicked by anti-spoilers in the past. I'm not responsible for those kickers, and I loath them, but I'll apologize for them anyway. I'm sorry that people (somewhat) like me kicked you. Now please don't lump me in with them. I will never kick you.

But I'm wondering if people purposefully spoil for another reason? Do they do it because they -- not minding spoilers -- honestly can't believe that I (and people like me) really care about them? When I get really upset by a spoiler, do you think, "That can't REALLY be what upsets him? Who would get so upset about something so trivial? I have a right to abuse him, because he's being dishonest!"

I'm not being dishonest. I don't have an agenda. I'm just different from you.

Or do you feel like, "Maybe he IS being honest, but there's something wrong with him. He's getting upset over something really petty. He needs to be taught a lesson so that he'll get over it. There are people dying in the world, and he's upset about me revealing the end of a TV show?!?"

Guilty, I guess. But I think most people take their pleasures pretty seriously. Maybe you don't care all that much about plots, but I bet there's something -- something that's not a life or death issue -- that gives your life meaning and that can be spoiled. Maybe you love really good wine, and it would suck for you if someone got cork in it. Maybe you love clothes and don't like you clothing ripped. You would be justifiably mad at me if I tore up your clothes and then told you to get over it.

I'm trying VERY hard to avoid feeling this explanation: people purposefully spoil because they're mean. They've figured out what makes me upset and they're enjoying pushing my buttons.

Please don't be a grownup version of the kid that likes pulling wings off bugs.
posted by grumblebee at 9:43 AM on October 30, 2007


What I really hate are the "comedians" who leap on every discussion about spoilers as an opportunity to list every spoiler they can think of.

It may have be mildly amusing the first couple of hundred times kids, but just tiresome now.
posted by timeistight at 9:45 AM on October 30, 2007


Maybe they're sick of being yelled at for spoiling things and want some revenge.

It isn't about revenge per se. It is about noticing and exploiting a power imbalance in order to trump the conversation before it begins - aka bullying. Unfortunately, so many people are being swayed by the PC side of the spoiler debate that this particular kind of bullying is shot down very quickly. Alas, the power balance has now swung the other way.

I'm warning you, spoiler or no spoiler, the pendulum is going to swing back!!
posted by Chuckles at 11:06 AM on October 30, 2007


I don't get why -- other than a desire to be nasty and hurtful -- in threads like this, people go out of their way to post, "Ah, you don't like spoilers, eh? Well! I'm hear to tell you that Rosebud is _____ and Planet of the Apes is really ______! Hahahahahaha!"

While I'm sure there are nasty, hurtful people who do this sort of thing, I don't think (esp. regarding the specific examples you name) that doing this necessarily suggests nastiness or hurtfulness.

There is a point in a conversation like this where the threshold of acceptability pushes beyond, say, minimal compromise and then again beyond reasonable expectations of past-freshness dates, and then yet again beyond even things which have become intractibly wound up in popular culture. That Rosebud was a sled, that The Planet of the Apes closes on Heston wailing in front of Lady Liberty, that Vader is Luke's father: these are cultural touchstones so well-established that expecting them to be kept hidden under any but the most aberrant circumstances is asking far too much from far too many. It's an expectation of courtesy that itself becomes discourteous.

Or at least, that's part of it. People can kind of be asshats, too, and practical instances fall along a continuum rather than at the end points most of the time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:10 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm really impressed that I haven't had the last Harry Potter book totally "spoiled" already. I'm reading it now. How do all those little kids keep their mouths shut? Will these books hold the same mystique for the next generation, or will spoilers circulate the schoolyard in advance of their interest in HP?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:13 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm operating at a very low level right now, but jessamyn, "Be Cool! Use This Tool!" really ought to be the tagline, or at least the motto for the FAQ.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 AM on October 30, 2007


That Rosebud was a sled, that The Planet of the Apes closes on Heston wailing in front of Lady Liberty, that Vader is Luke's father: these are cultural touchstones so well-established that expecting them to be kept hidden under any but the most aberrant circumstances is asking far too much from far too many.

What reason but asshattery is there to trot out that tired list every time this topic comes up?

I'm glad I didn't know about the sled the first time I saw Citizen Kane. I wish I could have heard The War of the Worlds the way it was heard 69 years ago tonight. While I can still enjoy these works knowing the spoilers, the tension created by holding back information was part of what Welles intended. Why rob anyone of a chance to experience that just for the chance to repeat an in joke?
posted by timeistight at 11:34 AM on October 30, 2007


"Be Cool! Use This Tool!" really ought to be the tagline, or at least the motto for the FAQ.

It's done wonders for my personal ad.

I'm glad I didn't know about the sled the first time I saw Citizen Kane. Why rob anyone of a chance to experience that just for the chance to repeat an in joke?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but your comment was the first in this MeTa to explicitly link the "Rosebud is the sled" references to Citizen Kane.
Thanks.
Thanks a lot.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:51 AM on October 30, 2007


What reason but asshattery is there to trot out that tired list every time this topic comes up?

To make a point? To inject some levity into a discussion taking itself too seriously? To produce a counterpoint to some argument or another?

It may be asshattery. It may not be asshattery. It may be just a touch thereof. I'm just saying that there's a lot of ground here occupied by reasonable people who disagree with some of the positions of spoiler/sacrosant folks, and that sometimes reasonable people will holler a little when the feel beset by the demands of other people (said other people likely even being reasonable themselves in most cases), and that said cry of frustration may well take the form of, for example, establishing as if it were in any way a transgression the famous fact that Rosebud was a bloody sled.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:53 AM on October 30, 2007


Typically, if the spoiler can be summed up in a single sentence like "Vader is Luke's father," there wasn't a very clever mystery in the first place. This goes for you too, The Usual Suspects.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:57 AM on October 30, 2007


On the other hand knowing the link between luke an leia puts a totally different slant on episode 4 & 5 yet is easily summed up.
posted by Mitheral at 12:31 PM on October 30, 2007


It was interesting to watch when many libraries shifted from not being total bastions of silence how many people still felt the noisy people were assholes.

And I'm one of those people (who feel the noisy people are assholes), so we'll just have to look askance at each other from opposite sides of this issue.

What reason but asshattery is there to trot out that tired list every time this topic comes up?


Gotta agree. The level of humor involved is about as low as you can get (sorry, cortex), and it does seem to be on the level of "Oh, you don't like being poked? *poke* Didja like that? How about this: *poke*? Nyuk nyuk!"
posted by languagehat at 12:41 PM on October 30, 2007


agreed lh
posted by caddis at 12:58 PM on October 30, 2007


No sorrys necessary. I'm mostly at peace with the fact that I'm kind of unsympathetic about spoilers, and that I'm at odds with a lot of people because of that.

On the other hand, I'd take the analogies being put forth and reframe 'em such that my arguments are aimed mostly at folks trying to shush people who are asking something of the reference librarians, or discussing their account at the front desk, or standing on the sidewalk outside. It goes both ways.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:14 PM on October 30, 2007


But I'm wondering if people purposefully spoil for another reason? Do they do it because they -- not minding spoilers -- honestly can't believe that I (and people like me) really care about them?

What do you mean by purposefully spoil? Is it posting Snape kills Dumbeldore as a FPP? Or is it if in the "Dumbledore is Gay" post people start discussing major plot points from the books and don't put spoiler warnings? I only think the first is purposefully spoiling. And I think people who do it are grade A assholes.

Or do you feel like, "Maybe he IS being honest, but there's something wrong with him. He's getting upset over something really petty. He needs to be taught a lesson so that he'll get over it. There are people dying in the world, and he's upset about me revealing the end of a TV show?!?"

That's not quite how I feel. Let's say you're in a bar someone spilled a drink on (generic you not grumblebee in particular) your shirt and it was ruined. And from then on you went around bars insisting that everyone had to put covers on their drinks, to keep your shirt from being ruined. I and other people would think that guy was kind of a jerk, even though we don't like having drinks spilled on us either. And if you hang around in bars and in other places were people drink, you have accept the fact that you may get drinks on your shirt.

Regarding the "OMG someone posted Rosebud is a sled. That bastard." I think posting spoilers in an "People who don't use spoiler warnings are teh suck" is a bit of non spoiler hater ingroup bonding. By teasing the people who don't like spoilers. But it's not an attempt to be a huge "You don't like spoilers? Well how do you like them, now?" If it was people would start off with spoilers from whatever was in the currently at the movies or what happend on Heroes last night. I did read one of those threads and I was spoiled and I was sorely pissed. I don't even remember what I was spoiled for now. For the record, I used Rosebud as an example not a joke.
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:42 PM on October 30, 2007


sometimes reasonable people will holler a little...

I'm trying to understand. Are you just explaining a law of nature? "Sometimes people get a little testy"?

Okay, I agree.

Do you have a further point? Do you feel like it's okay to be a little rude now and then, and as long as you don't do it too often or in too extreme a way, you shouldn't have to apologize? If so, I disagree. If I'm mildly rude to someone (say I'm a little short with them), it's not a federal crime, but I do own him an apology. I AM the one in the wrong.

Or are you just saying, whether it's right or wrong, people are going to be a little mean/rude now and then, and it's better to get over it than to expect better from them? I disagree. I think it's best to get over it AND to expect better of them.

I don't see how one can excuse rudeness. I can understand it. I understand (and sympathize) with people who are rude in extreme circumstances. Heck, I even understand (ad sympathize) with the woman who pushed me on the Subway. Clearly, she was having a hard day. But I don't excuse her behavior. She owes me an apology. I'm not going to get one, so it's best -- for me -- that I get over it. However, it's best for culture at large that we don't just let these little rudenesses go by without comment.

Bottom line: you know you're hurting me when you PURPOSEFULLY rub spoilers in my face. Why would you PURPOSEFULLY hurt me? Because I hurt you when I berate you for spoiling stuff? No! I don't. I don't berate people much. So I'm not the one who hurt you. Don't take out your frustration -- with other people -- on me.
posted by grumblebee at 1:48 PM on October 30, 2007


What do you mean by purposefully spoil?

I was talking about a very specific sort of behavior. If there's a thread about "Star Wars," and someone gives away then end, that's NOT a purposeful spoiler. I'm talking about the people who come into threads like this -- threads that are ABOUT spoilers (pro and con) -- and thumb their noses at people who like surprises by posting a long list of spoilers. That's the ONLY behavior I was referring to.


And from then on you went around bars insisting that everyone had to put covers on their drinks...


Bad analogy, because I don't go around threads insisting that people quit posting spoilers. I generally don't even bring it up. I'm hurt by it, but I respect other people's right to talk about stuff, so I just try to stay away from threads that look like they might contain spoilers.

You can argue that I'm not the sort of person you're complaining about, but I'm still affected, because people ASSUME that I around chastising spoilers. And they take revenge on whoever-does-that on me -- or in a way that affects me.


And if you hang around in bars and in other places were people drink, you have accept the fact that you may get drinks on your shirt.


Quite right. This doesn't bother me:

Me: Hi Fred. Look at my cool new shirt?
Fred: [Accidentally spills drink on my shirt.] Oops. sorry.

Well, of course it bothers me, but I recognize that the fact that it does is MY problem. Accidents happen, and I'm just as culpable as Fred because I'm hanging out in a bar.

What I don't accept is this:

Me: Hi. Can everyone be careful with their drinks. I'm wearing a new shirt. Thanks.

Several People: We're sick and tired of you new-shirt people. [All purposefully throw drinks on my shirt to "make a point."]

Those people are assholes. Not because they spilled a drink, but because they purposefully engaged in behaviors that they knew would hurt me.


I think posting spoilers in an "People who don't use spoiler warnings are teh suck" is a bit of non spoiler hater ingroup bonding. By teasing the people who don't like spoilers.


You're probably right. I'd suggest that such behavior is problematic, and I think that's obvious when we abstract it a little: group bonds by hazing outsiders in ways they know will upset those outsiders.
posted by grumblebee at 2:02 PM on October 30, 2007


Bottom line: you know you're hurting me when you PURPOSEFULLY rub spoilers in my face. Why would you PURPOSEFULLY hurt me?

Bottom line: you're being hurt by the violation of an unusually, arguably unreasonably strict code of behavior not held to in general by the people you're accusing of purposefully malicious behavior. It's kind of a weird little circular trap we find one another in, is what I'm saying: the only way to not be discourteous to you is to allow you to be discourteous in your unusually constricting expectations of others.

Spoilers are a strange and contentious niche issue in human behavior. People have strong feelings along more than one axis about the subject—I'm one of those weird people who mostly has strong feelings about other people's strong feelings here. Invested mostly in the meta-spoiler question, I guess: it bothers me a little when people assert an extreme position on the subject, in either direction, with the presumption that they are excused and righteous in their position by virtue of their position being correct, or something close to that.

So when someone posted a Harry Potter spoiler to the front page of mefi (and then went on to dance about it in the inevitable Metatalk thread), yeah, I thought that was pretty lousy, malicious bullshit.

On the flip side, when people take the "don't spoil" argument beyond the reasonable confines of unwarned spoilers in unexpected places and begin applying it to threads about spoilers and/or "spoilers" of decades old, pop-culture-infused bits of trivia, that bothers me too. It certainly doesn't seem as malicious (and I doubt folks think of themselves as being rude), but it is a willful assertion of their beliefs on the casual behavior of others in circumstances where it seems to me to be out of line.

But my take is colored in part by a dislike for extreme positions in general as far as social interaction goes. People being willing and able to meet in the middle on this stuff seems to work out best.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:07 PM on October 30, 2007


Bottom line:

1. If you hate spoilers, do what you can to avoid them. Recognize that in casual discussion, people are going to spoil stuff. If you're opting into a discussion, come to grips with this. You may NOT chastise someone for a casual spoiler.

2. If you hate spoilers, you can explain this to your FRIENDS (not Internet strangers) and expect them to take reasonable measures . Reasonable measures includes not purposefully spoiling stuff for you (e.g. as a joke) and refraining from continuing with a spoiler if you ask them to stop (and if the conversation only involves the two of you). Example: "The best part was the end when..." "Oh, sorry. I haven't seen it. Don't tell me what happens, okay?"

3. Given the example at then end of item 2, above, if there are three or more people involved, the spoiler-hater should either accept the spoil or excuse himself. He has no right to expect a group of people to pervert their conversation for him.

4. When discussing plots with a general audience, one should make a reasonable effort to avoid spoilers at the very beginning of the conversation. In other words, try not to BRING UP "Star Wars" in a way in which you spoil it in the first sentence. Give spoiler-haters a chance to opt out of the conversation. After that point, during a protracted discussion of a narrative, feel free to assume that remaining people are fine with spoilers.

5. If you are a spoiler-hater, DON'T stay involved in a protracted conversation about a plot you don't want spoiled -- or even a discussion about movies/books in general. If you do, then accept the blame for having-things-spoiled.

6. If you spoil a plot in a way in that makes it impossible to avoid your spoiler (e.g. in a front-page post), except a mild rebuke gracefully -- even if you did it by accident. Don't put up with a tirade. But recognize that -- inadvertently -- you did wrong. Apologize. One apology is enough, as-long-as it's sincere. If the spoiler-hater expects more, that's his problem.

7. Don't purposefully spoil things to make a point. That's just rude. Especially don't do it in general conversation with big groups of people. The people you hurt might not be the people you're angry at.

Bottom-bottom line (for spoilers and spoiler-haters): respect other people.
posted by grumblebee at 2:17 PM on October 30, 2007


Fuck the middle. I've seen the future, and spoilers have their own room in Hell. It's not really that bad, though. Nothing ever happens there. Ever. Never, ever. David Byrne, notwithstanding.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:19 PM on October 30, 2007


Bottom line: you're being hurt by the violation of an unusually, arguably unreasonably strict code of behavior not held to in general by the people you're accusing of purposefully malicious behavior. It's kind of a weird little circular trap we find one another in, is what I'm saying: the only way to not be discourteous to you is to allow you to be discourteous in your unusually constricting expectations of others.


Either I'm not expressing myself clearly, you think I'm lying, or you're misreading me.

What are my constricting expectations?

Do I think we should have a spoiler button? No. Other people might, but I don't.

Do I think people should post big spoiler warnings before giving away any plot point? No. Other people might, but I don't.

Do I think spoiler-haters are mostly responsible for protecting themselves (e.g. by opting out of certain conversations or finding ways to cope)? Yes.

Let me be really clear: in a thread about "Citizen Kane," I AM OUT OF LINE if I chastise people for posting spoilers about that movie. In a thread about movies in general, I'm out of line chastising people.

My ONLY concern is with people why seek out spoiler-haters and spoil things for them. I'm talking about, "You hate spoilers? Well, guess what: here's what happens at the end of X! Hahahahahaha" And that ALL that I'm talking about.

I see this behavior all the time, and it bothers me. And it would bother me just as much if I liked spoilers. It bothers me in the same way as this bothers me: "You don't like people saying mean things about your mother, huh? Well, she's an ugly cunt! Hahahahahahahaha."
posted by grumblebee at 2:25 PM on October 30, 2007


My ONLY concern is with people why seek out spoiler-haters and spoil things for them.

Okay, let's recalibrate. In the same sense that you replied to my "reasonable people will holler" line with a demonstrative 'you', I have responded to same with an equally general, rhetorical 'you'. The swampy bit comes when we take one another to be addressing one another instead of the broader target of the response.

Your seven points above are good, and I can't find much to disagree with, so let me be clear: from that, I don't think you, grumblebee, seem to be unreasonable in your expectations as I now understand them, and I regret any confusion on that front. I think that both the extreme caricatures we have addressed are problematic, and that we both think so, and that neither of us really thinks they actually capture the other's real position. So, rock and roll.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:33 PM on October 30, 2007


Thanks, cortex. Sorry if I mis categorized you. Rock on. Just don't tell me how the song ends!
posted by grumblebee at 2:39 PM on October 30, 2007


The song remains the same.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:39 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


grumblebee: "I bet when I talk to those five people, I'll find that they don't all like to experience stories the same way. Some will be like me, wanting to experience each plot-point in real time; some will be like you, wanting to engulf the whole plot at once. What fascinates me is "why?" What is it about me that makes me not what to know what's around the corner until I turn that corner myself? What is it about you that makes you want to look down at the whole maze from above?"

For what it's worth, I always read a book I like several times. The first time I read it, there is a certain amount of that child-like excitement of not knowing what is coming up and trying to guess coming events. Anyone who thinks any the less of me because I like that can go fuck themselves. If I enjoyed the book, I will continue to re-read it for years but, on these occasions, it is in more of an analytical frame of mind - I know what happens, but I want to figure out how all the events that are linked together develop. I need to know why.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that revealing the ending or major plot points of books and movies will piss people off, so doing it is just being an arsehole. If you don't want to be considered an arsehole by people, then don't act like one.

*pokes languagehat*
posted by dg at 3:30 PM on October 30, 2007


What I can't understand is why simple facts about a story seem so important to people. I mean.. Well, for example, I got really irritated by the marketing campaign behind the LotRs movies. Every little detail of the execution of those stories was laid bare in the TV adds (and addumentaries on Discovery Channel, and etc.). It really spoiled a lot of the movie for me.

Knowledge about the resolution of a cliffhanger though? Or which characters live or die? Small potatoes..
posted by Chuckles at 3:51 PM on October 30, 2007


Hey!
posted by languagehat at 3:52 PM on October 30, 2007


What I can't understand is why ... other people aren't exactly like me. Weird, isn't it?
posted by languagehat at 3:52 PM on October 30, 2007


Now we can turn the thread into a null-spoiler list if we want.

It's all apes there! The whole planet!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:04 PM on October 30, 2007


"Rosebud" was Agnes Moorehead's vag.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:11 PM on October 30, 2007


The chick from The Crying Game was one of the central characters.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:16 PM on October 30, 2007


What I can't understand is why simple facts about a story seem so important to people.

Languagehat was harsh, I think. But in the end, I agree with him. A story is a really complex "object." People are going to react to complex objects in many different ways -- which is one of the cool things about stories.

In a room full of people watching "Gone With The Wind," some are going to get caught up in the plot (it's plot is pretty complex and compelling); others are going to dig it (or not) as a history lesson; others mostly care about the acting; others care about the costumes. Many care about some combination of factors.

It seems odd -- to me -- to say that caring about one of these aspects is more sophisticated than caring about another. But ultimately, it doesn't matter. Sophisticated or not, we like what we like.

But I think I can explain love-of-plot twists better (or at least why I love them). Jessamyn said something really key upthread: the enjoyment of reading is watching different authors do excellent things given the constraints of text and attention. [emphasis added.]

I expect many people read for similar reasons, and I have the highest respect for this form of reading -- but I don't share it.

To be clear, many people feel that when they're reading, they're on the receiving end of a piece of communication (from the author). In fact, I'd bet many people, reading my last sentence, would say, "Of course! That's what a book IS! A piece of communication from an author!" And, of course, it is. But that doesn't mean it has to resonate in my brain as one. And, in fact, it doesn't.

With any piece of communication, there's an speaker and a message. Some people focus more on the speaker, some of a combination of the speaker and the message, and some -- like me -- on the message alone.

When you read "to be or not to be," are you more interested in (a) the person who wrote those words (his biography, motivations, and intent), (b) the words themselves, (c) or both? With me, it's b. I don't care who wrote them. I'm totally bored with Shakespeare authorship questions. If you proved to me that "Hamlet" was written by a computer or an infinite number of monkeys, that wouldn't change the work for me in any important way.

Please note that I'm not claiming my way of reading is superior. I'm just claiming that it is what it is.

You might say, surely option (c) is the best. It's interesting to think about BOTH "to be or not to be" AND William Shakespeare (and the interplay of the two). I'm not going to disagree with that. I'm not even going to belabor the point that
I can't help liking what I like. What I am going to do is to point out that there are plusses and minuses to each type of reading.

Yes, it's cool to read in a complex way where you think about both the medium and the message. But there's something that Jessanmyn's way of reading rules out. It rules out a certain level of immersion in the work -- a certain level of suspension of disbelief. I'm not saying Jessamyn's way of reading is bad. I'm not saying other ways are better. I'm just saying that opening one door closes another. That's just life.

If Jessamyn is thinking about the author while she reads, that means they at least some part of her brain is thinking of the story AS a story -- as something artificial, as something made up. She's thinking of interesting choices that the author made, etc. When something bad happens to Hamlet, she can think, "Why did Shakespeare make that bad thing happen to his main character?" Jessamyn may shed tears for Hamlet, but she's not going to cry for him the way she cries for her uncle, because part of her will always realize that while her uncle is real, Hamlet is fake.

I'm not saying Jessamyn isn't affected. I'm sure she's profoundly affected. And I'm sure I'm caricaturing her. In real life, she probably has moment when she gets so wrapped up in a story, she forgets it's made up. But since it's fundamental to the way she reads that a story is a made-up thing, she's less likely than I am to have as many immersive (by my definition) moments as I do. (Which is probably just fine by her. According to her post, she gets upset in a way she doesn't like if she's immersed to deeply -- at least in certain types of stories.)

When I read -- at least when I read the stuff I like -- I go through long periods when I forget the story is made up. I think of Hamlet as a real person. I live in-the-moment with him. And that's what I most enjoy about stories! Living in-the-moment with the characters!

Why do I like this when it so often causes me pain? I don't know. Why do people ride roller-coasters? (I bet there are two types of people who ride roller coasters. The type that likes to always remember that they're on a safe contraption and the type that likes to feel like they're really hurtling towards their death.)

I DO like to be reminded that what I'm reading is fake. But I like that to happen at the end. I like to wake up. I don't like to lucid dream.
posted by grumblebee at 4:22 PM on October 30, 2007


In The Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis turns out to be Jewish.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:22 PM on October 30, 2007


Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's dueling partner.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:30 PM on October 30, 2007


When Ralph sleeps, he dreams that he's from Minnesota.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:01 PM on October 30, 2007


The village is actually colonial style.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:09 PM on October 30, 2007


Soylent Green is Pepsi Blue!
posted by languagehat at 5:10 PM on October 30, 2007


If you don't want to be considered an arsehole by people, then don't act like one.

Thread spoiler
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:17 PM on October 30, 2007


Jesus has a lot of provocative things to say.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:23 PM on October 30, 2007


Wait, which one is Luke again?
posted by blue_beetle at 8:12 PM on October 30, 2007


According to her post, she gets upset in a way she doesn't like if she's immersed to deeply -- at least in certain types of stories.

What? I don't like pet torture and reading about someone being in pain for the bulk of a novel; it strikes me as a cheap device that substitutes for subtlety and nuance. This has nothing to do with "ZOMG I am GRINCH and someone touched my icy heart." On the other hand, I'm a big fan of lucid dreaming.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:24 PM on October 30, 2007


Metafilter: I am GRINCH and someone touched my icy heart.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:51 PM on October 30, 2007


it felt like an oily trailer hitch.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:57 PM on October 30, 2007


The wife - Gwyneth Paltrow's character - is actually pregnant!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:38 AM on October 31, 2007


They should have put the fetus in the box..
posted by Chuckles at 10:04 AM on October 31, 2007


I'm going to spoil your entire day.

At some point, you will fall asleep.
posted by desjardins at 10:27 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


You make her open that box.

Or PROFIT!!!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:09 AM on October 31, 2007


this is why we can't have nice things.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:07 PM on October 31, 2007


SOYLENT GREEN IS BROCCOLI
posted by tehloki at 6:50 AM on November 1, 2007


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