Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Defining Definitions: Spoilers

When I was in high school, a friend of mine took to carrying around The Complete Works of Shakespeare, proclaiming that he was going to read every single play the Bard had ever written.  He told me that he was really enjoying Othello, and, cue my foot-in-mouth syndrome, I said, "I can't believe that he kills Desdemona!"

My friend was a bit irritated.  Apparently he didn't know even the basic storyline of Othello and I had ruined the whole thing for him.  I, on the other hand, couldn't believe that he hadn't already known the basic premise of the play--Othello-the-Moor is tricked by Iago-the-Asshole into smothering Desdemona-the-Wronged-Innocent.  Who hasn't at least been exposed to that much of the play?

This brings me to the newest Defining Definitions.  Linda Holmes at NPR wrote a piece entitled, "The Spoiler Problem (Contains Spoilers)," and while Holmes focuses explicitly on the role television spoilers play in blogs and other publications, I think it fair to say that a similar argument exists in the world of literature.  Therefore, allow me to present my definition of spoilers:

An important and not generally well-known piece of information regarding plot that is revealed to someone who was not previously aware of it.  This does not include character names or general story details that are revealed early in the story.
Since that day in high school, I've taken to prefacing all possible spoilers with the giant label SPOILER ALERT to try to circumvent making an ass of myself ever again.

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