Let's Talk About Criticizing a Movie in Spoiler Culture

On Monday, Marvel Studios hosted the worldwide premiere for the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Eternals. When these premieres happen, that is often when the social embargo for a film comes down and people attending are able to post their general thoughts to social media. A social embargo and a review embargo are not the same thing; the review embargo for Eternals comes down this weekend where critics who attended early screenings will be able to post an in-depth analysis of what they thought of the movie. Fans were surprised when not one but two critics from Variety who attended the premiere for Eternals got on Twitter and posted spoilers for one of the post-credits scenes for all to see. Since then, there has been a debate among the public and the entertainment press about those actions and what we should learn from it.

Let's Talk About Criticizing a Movie in Spoiler Culture
A view of the carpet at the Premiere of Marvel Studios' Eternals in Hollywood, CA, on Monday, October 18, 2021. (Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

Here at Bleeding Cool, in the film section, we try not to post any significant spoilers until the Saturday after the movie comes out at the earliest. Even then, the spoilers will be clearly marked and not something that will take you by surprise in a headline. Talking about the story of a movie is part of the review process, and if there is a spoiler that truly breaks a film for someone, should that spoiler be discussed in a review that runs before the movie comes out? Does a social embargo mean that people who attend those early screenings have the right to talk about spoilers on social media? These are the questions that people are asking, and, unfortunately, there isn't an easy way to talk about any of this. What it really comes down to is not being a jerk to everyone around you.

Marvel fans are infamous about dropping off social media weeks before the movies come out to avoid any spoilers that might come across their feed without them knowing. Some people are going to post spoilers right there, for everyone to see, just because they want to ruin the experience for everyone. That is being a jerk, full stop. A critic doing it is something we haven't seen happen in a long time. There were many people who weren't happy when the implication came down that Disney might not invite the critics that spoiled things on social media to any more premieres. That is an entirely reasonable thing to happen. There is nothing that says you, as a critic, have a right to attend a premiere. A premiere is a privilege that so few in this industry get the chance to experience, and there isn't anything that says a studio has to invite you to one. There are plenty of press screenings that happen that a critic not invited to a premiere can attend. Will Disney blacklist these two critics from Variety? Probably not; that wouldn't be a good look. Will those critics get an invite to the Spider-Man: No Way Home premiere next month? Probably not, and that would be a consequence of those actions.

Then there is the idea of a social embargo versus a review embargo. Having read plenty of social embargos from Disney and other studios myself, they have always emphasized that these are general reactions posted to social media. A lot of those embargos also ask you not to spoil things for fans in your early coverage. That is in no way dictating what a critic can or cannot write about; that is just asking for you to be a decent person and not ruin the experience for anyone who didn't get to see the movie early. This has been in all of the invites to Marvel screenings for years and is not something that was just invented five minutes ago.Let's Talk About Criticizing a Movie in Spoiler Culture

What about reviews? Certain outlets will post reviews of movies that have unmarked spoilers in them, and that is also being a bit of a jerk. If you want to discuss material that you know will be considered spoilers and how it affected your opinion of the movie, then just say that at the beginning of your review. When you post a spoiler on social media, it can spread like wildfire and end up being seen by people who weren't even looking for the spoiler in question. It's unlabeled, it's hard to avoid, and the reader doesn't have a choice about whether to encounter the spoiler. The same goes for unmarked spoilers in reviews. If you want to talk about a spoiler in a review, then just mark it as a spoiler.  Then the reader can decide whether or not they personally want to interact with said spoiler. Posting it to public social media or unmarked in a review takes away the reader's choice as to whether or not they want to interact with the spoiler.

Do some people take their reaction to spoiler culture too far? Absolutely, to the point that just a mention of slight plot points will set some people off. There won't be pleasing some people when it comes to spoilers. However, we media and critics giving the reader a choice to interact with the spoiler is just common decency. There is nothing wrong with covering spoilers in your articles and even your pre-release coverage if it is marked as such. If not, you're just not thinking about how your post might affect someone else's experience. We all love media; we wouldn't be in this job if we didn't, but to take away the choice from the reader as to how much they want to know going into a movie is not a nice thing to do.

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About Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. She loves movies, television, and comics. She's a member of the UFCA and the GALECA. Feminist. Writer. Nerd. Follow her on Twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on Instagram.
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