Spoiler is any element of any summary or description of any piece of fiction that reveals any plot element which will give away the outcome of a dramatic episode within the work of fiction, or the conclusion of the entire work. It can also be used to refer to any piece of information regarding any part of a given media. Because enjoyment of fiction sometimes depends upon the dramatic tension and suspense which arises within it, the external revelation of such plot elements can ‘spoil’ the enjoyment that some consumers of the narrative would otherwise have experienced.

The term spoiler was introduced in the early days of the internet, and is often associated with specialist internet sites and in newsgroup postings. Early rules of netiquette insisted that spoilers could and should be normally avoided, but if the posting of “‘spoiling’ information was unavoidable, it be preceded by a warning (‘SPOILER!’), or the spoiler itself has to be masked so that it can not be visible to any but those keen for details and not fazed at the thought of such potentially plot-revealing information.

There is among internet users a socially unique but pointedly expressed insistence on being protected from material considered to include ‘spoiler’ information by website operators or forum moderators, even in the internet version of settings where such material has conventionally and historically appeared, such as discussion groups or literary reviews. As a result of this level of objection to spoilers, ‘trolls’ (instigators) may post them purely for their own pleasure – finding amusement in believing they are completely ruining a narrative experience for others. On reputable websites, these can be reported to moderators and such posts taken down, the posters blacklisted, but only after the fact. Conversely, many who wish to discuss a fictional work in depth, including the outcomes of events and the handling of the narrative resolution, feel compelled to avoid participating on public websites altogether, set up ‘closed’ websites to exclude those who are sensitive about spoilers, or unilaterally blog at the expense of public exchange. The appearance of spoilers on an internet website is not considered a violation of terms and conditions by any ISP.

Some producers actively seed bogus information in order to misdirect fans. The director of the film ‘Terminator Salvation’ orchestrated a ‘disinformation campaign’ where false spoilers were distributed about the film, in order to mask any true rumors about its plot.

‘Wikipedia’ discloses spoilers in its articles without giving advance warning of spoilers in advance. Matthew Prichard, the grandson of Agatha Christie, criticized ‘Wikipedia’ for giving away spoilers in the play ‘The Mousetrap.’ Andrew Jarecki, the producer of ‘Catfish,’ a documentary, argued that ‘Wikipedia’ should have spoiler alerts. The plot of ‘Catfish’ had been posted on ‘Wikipedia’ before its theatrical release, because the film had been aired at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Jay Walsh, a Wikimedia Foundation spokesperson, said that ‘Wikipedia’ is intended to be an exhaustive knowledge source, so it would have spoilers.

In an interview about his ‘Dark Tower’ series, Stephen King was asked if there are spoilers in the first few novels that would ruin someone’s experience of the comic. ‘There are no spoilers!,’ King replied, ‘You might as well say ‘I’m never gonna watch Wizard of Oz again because I know how it comes out.”

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