Pop Culture

Psst...shall we discuss the Star Wars spoiler?

The shocking twist in the new Star Wars film is largely absent from the Internet, but fans and media should not need to tiptoe around spoilers forever

Like many Star Wars fans, I'm dying to talk about the shocking twist in The Force Awakens that sticks a lightsaber in the guts of franchise devotees.

But hold the execution by Jar Jar Binks overdose, I won't be doing it here.

For one thing, I respect how Star Wars fans all over the world have generally managed to keep mum about it, even almost a week after its theatrical release. In this Internet age, that is quite a feat.

When Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) died on Grey's Anatomy and Glenn (Steven Yeun) looks to have died on The Walking Dead, netizens posted memes about them on Facebook within minutes after the episodes were broadcast in the United States - and certainly well before anyone in Singapore could watch them.

So it is a rather curious phenomenon that the biggest spoiler of the biggest event movie of the year, The Force Awakens, is largely absent from the social network.

Fans are admittedly shaken by it, but they have, in general, kept mum about the specifics online - even proudly using the hashtag #nospoilers along with their posts.

Yes, they have mulled over the plot twists, but mostly in niche online forums and private messages rather than more public domains.

In Los Angeles, Star Wars fans who queued outside Hollywood's iconic TCL Chinese Theater - where the movie's world premiere was held last week - wore colour- coded badges to show how much they knew about the movie.

A red badge indicated that the person had not watched the film and wanted no information at all. Blue badge-wearers were open to speculation on plot details, while green badges meant that they had already watched the movie and should probably be avoided if one were afraid of spoilers.

It seems that there is an unspoken code of honour among Star Wars fans not to ruin the movie experience for others, an extremely rare act of courtesy when pop culture consumers are always so keen to over-share, and quickly, too. This is admirable whether or not they are obeying Star Wars icon Harrison Ford's repeated plea to fans not to give away any details of the movie. (Film-maker Alfred Hitchcock did the same for his 1960 movie Psycho, pleading in a voice recording that played at the end of every screening of the now classic film.)

How long should movie and TV spoilers be kept secret, especially when people are consuming content faster than ever?

Mainstream media outlets are typically respectful of keeping spoilers to a minimum, at least at the beginning when a film or TV episode has just been released.

Reviews of these shows, which are usually published just before they air, describe general storylines but divulge little else.

Articles about these programmes also often come with spoiler alerts in the headings.

But it would be unfair to expect either fans or press to tiptoe around spoilers forever.

Movies and TV shows should be open to detailed analysis and discussion, and not only months, but even years later.

There should be a more reasonable statute of limitations imposed for spoilers for all movies and narrative TV series, where fans can have the chance to watch them without getting spoilered, while those who write about them can still be considered relevant and current.

What is a "reasonable" amount of time is obviously debatable, as proven by the rigorous discussion that took place after New York Magazine's entertainment news site Vulture released its official statute of limitations on spoilers in 2008. It suggested different time periods it believed were acceptable for its staff to write about spoilers across different content medium - for example, the Monday after a movie opens and the day after a

TV show airs in its regular time slot.

To keep things simpler, I think a standard two-week no-spoiler policy after a movie or TV show is released is fair.

Viewers are understandably not always free or able to catch a movie or TV episode as soon as it airs. Or maybe it is not available here yet.

But anyone who still gets upset over getting spoilered beyond two weeks is clearly not a big enough fan - he really should have made the effort to see the show by then.

So give it a fortnight, that is your right. After that, I say, spoiler away.

• Star Wars: The Force Awakens is showing in cinemas.

• Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2015, with the headline 'Spoiler away - but only after a fortnight, please'. Print Edition | Subscribe