Stealth spoilers and 8 unexpected places where they lurk
Just when you think you’ve made your life spoiler-free by avoiding the internet and muting social media, the irritating little blighters crop up in the most annoying places
Spoiler alert: some really ancient spoilers and one made-up one, lie ahead
For extreme spoilerphobes, social-network distancing is nothing new. For some people, watching a new film or TV episode with absolutely no idea of what’s about to unfold is the holy grail of entertainment. (Well, maybe not absolutely no idea; you’d like to think someone going to a Jurassic World film knows there might be some dinosaurs in it, but what exactly constitutes a spoiler is a discussion for another time.)
All spoilerphobes are well aware of the pitfalls of the internet, social media and going down the pub with mates who like to give their opinions on any film they’ve just seen, very loudly and with no consideration filters switched on. But some spoilers lurk in unexpected places, ready to pounce on the unwary. So we aim to make you way. Here are eight places where stealth spoilers may lurk and how to avoid them:
Who’d have thought shopping was a spoiler minefield, but if you stray into the toy section of a supermarket you could find out all sorts of things you didn’t want to know about upcoming films. Which is exactly what happened to movie fans in 2015 when a Lego version of Jurassic World’s big bad, the Indominus Rex, was released before the movie came out. Lego even issued a press release describing it as “genetically modified”! Other plot points revealed early in toy form include the look of Thor’s replacement hammer in Avengers: Infinity War (which gave very spoilery hints that Groot was somehow involved in its creation); that Rey would wield Luke’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens; and that Fiona was an ogre in Shrek (thanks Burger King).
2 Soundtrack listings
Before the first of George Lucas’s Star Wars prequels came out, über-fans who had snapped up John Williams’s The Phantom Menace soundtrack CD early were left in no doubt as to the fate of one major character, thanks to a track near the end that was not-so-mysteriously titled “Qui-Gon's Noble End”. Thirteen years later, it was spoilerphobic Alien fans who were unlucky when the official soundtrack for Prometheus boasted titles like, “Engineers”, “Space Jockey” and “Planting the Seed”, which gave a little too much insight into the film’s surprises.
3 Streaming service menu pages
It’s amazing how much unwanted foreknowledge you can unwittingly glean from the screenshots on a streaming service’s programme menu page. One particular bugbear is when a support character appears to have died in the cliffhanger of the latest episode you’ve watched, only to pop up in the preview image for an episode later in the season!
4 TV guest star credits
Sometimes the return of an old regular character who hasn’t been in a show for a while can be a pleasant surprise, but not if you’ve already spotted the actor’s name in the “GUEST STARRING” credits at the start of the episode. Unfortunately, crediting actors is a legal obligation. So kudos to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s season six penultimate instalment, “Two To Go”, for keeping Giles’s return a surprise by not crediting Anthony Stewart Head until the very end of the episode. Some spoilerphobes even claimed to have covered up the bottom of their TV screens with cardboard during the guest star listing sections, just in case. But that seems a tad extreme.
5 TV “Previously On” montages
Similarly, if you’re watching one of those “PREVIOUSLY ON” segments, and a character, or plot element, that hasn’t been seen much lately suddenly looms large the memory-prompting montage, you just know that person or plot element is going to have a major role to play in the coming episode. Which sometimes can be teasing, but other times leads you to leaps of logic you wish you hadn’t made.
6 Film posters
Oh hang on, can we assume from the Terminator Genisys poster that John Connor is some kind of Terminator then? This is far from the only culprit when it comes to film posters giving away plot points but it must be one of the least subtle and self-defeating, surely?
7 Online links in articles
Be wary of websites – especially news sites – that have (often automatically generated) links to other stories about the same show. The interview you’re reading may go to great lengths to avoid spoilers, only for a line in a break in the article to scream – in a much larger font size, usually – “Producers reveal why Agents Of SHIELD’s Lance Hunter had to die!” (He hasn’t died, by the way, we made that up – or did we?)
8 Stephen King novels
The King of Horror gets a special mention here as an author who loves spoiling himself. If you’ve read more than a handful of King’s novels you can’t failed to have noticed one of his most regularly re-occurring literary tricks; ending a chapter with a phrase something along the lines of, “…because in x amount of time y would be dead.” He loves doing it, and no doubt he thinks he’s adding tension, or making sure you read on to find out what entrail-ripping fate will befall the hapless character in question. But sometimes you wonder if you really need to carry on when you know what’s going to happen (though, of course, clearly most people do, looking at King’s book sales).