Last night I decided to annoy some geeks, so I wrote on Twitter: “Note to Watchmen fans: THERE IS NO CONSPIRACY. THE COMEDIAN JUMPED.” Which immediately returned a series of death threats and furious rebukes, so, you know, mission accomplished (note: no, I don’t think any of those people were actually upset). But along with those were a couple of people who twittered back, “Uh, dude? Did you just, like, do a spoiler? ‘Cause that’s not cool.”
It’s not a spoiler, since, among other things, within the first three pages of the comic it becomes evident that jumping is not precisely what the Comedian did (see above comic panel). Also, given the placement of the Comedian’s death in the novel (i.e., right at the beginning), and its being highlighted in the various movie trailers, discussing it is no more spoiling Watchmen than noting that, say, Marley was dead, to begin with — or, alternately saying that Marley wasn’t dead to begin with, he just moved to Jamaica and picked up the guitar.
That said, even if it were a spoiler, the thing is: Look, Watchmen is twenty three years old. Surely the statute of limitations on spoiling the book has run out by now. SPOILER ALERTS should not be in effect forever. Yes, they have their place: If I had run out of The Crying Game screaming “The chick’s a dude!” as people were waiting to see it for the first time, it would be a case of justifiable homicide. But now, in 2009? Sorry, man. You missed your window to be outraged.
(Funny story about that particular movie is that I actually first saw it at home: I was a movie critic and Miramax sent me a screener on tape. I remember getting to that part and going “wait, what?” and actually rewinding. And then I remember writing a very careful review.)
If there is, in fact, a spoiler statute of limitations, the question then becomes, well, how long is it? I throw that question open to the crowd, but here are my suggestions:
Television: One week (because it’s generally episodic, and that’s how long you have until the next episode)
Movies: One year (time enough for everyone to see it in the theaters, on DVD and on cable)
Books: Five years (because books don’t reach nearly as many people at one time)
So, for example, the big spoiler in Old Man’s War (gung Wnar Fntna vf Wbua Creel’f qrnq jvsr’f pybar!) should probably remain a spoiler until next January, the five year anniversary of OMW. But the big spoiler of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (Oehpr Jvyyvf vf gbgnyyl qrnq!) expired on August 6, 2000, and the big spoiler of the same director’s The Happening (Z. Avtug Fulnznyna’f fugvpx unf orra fhpxrq qevre guna n urzbcuvyvnp ng n inzcver pbairagvba!) runs out next June 13, although in that case, it won’t be that much of a surprise to anyone.
Your thoughts on the spoiler statute of limitations? I crave your input.