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March 05, 2009

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It burns me up that publishers and producers seem to want to give away the ending or significant twists before the consumer even has a chance to turn away. One of our Nero Wolfe books has black magic marker over some of the inside-front blurb, because it was more of a blurt. Back when TV GUIDE used to give synopses and cast lists, they managed to give it away more than once (it was almost as bad as saying "SURPRISE MURDERER ... Jack Albertson.")

Add to that the number of movie reviewers who know only how to present a plot outline, and who seem determined to comment on how clever the final twist was, and the sheer number of folks at online forums who believe that "if it's been out there for a couple of weeks, there's nothing wrong with giving away the ending." (I've had this view expressed to me.)

Put me down as one who doesn't want spoilers for Shakespeare, operas, Beowulf, the Bible, or "Gilligan's Island." If the writer went to the trouble of arranging a surprise, let it be so.

I did, however, laugh immoderately at a review in one of the "Psychotronic" books that said something like: "It is always wrong to give away the ending of a quality motion picture. The kid's uncle did it! He wasn't dead after all! He wanted revenge because his mother ruined his birthday party!")

Pssttt! Wanna know who Rosebud was?

Kip,
I like "blurt" as a name for this kind of misguided spoiler-filled blurb. I will steal this.

I actually pre-read some classical plays before seeing them, since it frees me from concentrating so hard on the language that I miss bits of plot. This isn't particularly relevant for Shakespeare any more, since I've seen pretty much all of his plays, most multiple times. But I often get more out of a performance and can savor the details better when it's a show I already know. I may start doing this for Marlowe, though so far all the Marlowe I've managed is three productions of Edward II.

I never thought of it this way, but displaying a cross is kind of a spoiler for the New Testament, isn't it?

Serge,
That's already been spoiled for me, thanks, and I've never bothered to see the movie partly as a result.

Susan... Citizen Kane is an excellent movie, even if you already know who Rosebud was. Watching it again, it gives everything a tint of sadness.

The TV series Dead Zone once advertised next week's episode with a warning that only one of the two main characters would walk out alive, but that turned out to be quite a clever bit.

I try really hard to avoid spoilers when I talk about books here, or at least to warn people about them.

(Note that the Rosebud spoiler was in the Julie Brown song "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun.")

Put me down as one who doesn't want spoilers for Shakespeare, operas, Beowulf, the Bible, or "Gilligan's Island."

I've been known to say that anything in the Bible is not a spoiler. On the other hand I always state that before discussing anything that uses biblical themes, so anyone sufficently averse can leave at that point. It's rarely a problem; I think I last said it in a review of horror film The Reaping, which is loosely based on the 10 plagues of Egypt.

I've never seen "The Reaping", but didn't "The Abominable Doctor Phibes" also have Vincent Price use the plagues as the inspiration for wreaking vengeance against his enemies? He used Shakespeare to kill his critics, in Theater of Blood.

I didn't see The Reaping (what a shock) but I did see the trailer, which looked interesting enough for me to remember it.

I am quite fond of the animated Moses film Prince of Egypt and thought it did a nice job with the plagues.

I agree that the Bible, or at least the Old Testament and probably some of the major points of the New, is sufficiently spoiled for anyone growing up in Western culture that citing it shouldn't require spoiler warnings.

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