28 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Suresh Menon: the spoiler awakens

Our columnist tries to wrap his head around the trauma of spoiled surprises

Suresh Menon
13 Jan 2016 | 02:56 pm

It’s been a week since Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released, but the number of people not reading about it, not discussing it, and not wanting to hear anything about it is huge. These are ardent fans, not indifferent people. And they want to have a baggage-free viewing of the movie, uncluttered by previous knowledge when they finally get around to watching it.

At parties, the ice-breaker is no longer the weather or the traffic situation. Identical questions clash in mid-air as Guest A asks Guest B just as Guest B is asking Guest A: ‘Have you seen the new Star Wars movie yet? Don’t tell me anything about it.’ And since neither hears the other, the question is repeated until one of them pauses to catch his breath and catches the topic of conversation.

Official emails are carefully scanned by secretaries to ensure that correspondents do not include spoilers in their messages. Such caution arose after a message was received some years ago that said, ‘We would like to place an order of your products for a hundred million dollars. Did you know that Dumbledore dies?’

In school, we had an anonymous spoiler who defaced Agatha Christie novels by writing the name of the murderer on the first page. Someone, doubtless in order to right that wrong, then went about writing: X is the murderer when X wasn’t the murderer. It neutralised the work of the spoiler.

But in today’s interconnected world, you would have to be a hermit not to receive news of anything you don’t want news of (the narrator is the murderer). It requires enormous discipline to go on a news fast (all the passengers of the train are murderers but they get away).

If it isn’t newspapers or television or social media that trips you up (the policeman is the murderer), then it’s sometimes advertisement hoardings. The connection between Star Wars and the latest model of cars, suits or toothpaste might not be obvious, but there is always a single clever line that connects them. And that could be a giveaway (the detective is the murderer).

There is only one way to avoid the trauma that comes from premature revelations, and that is to see the movie at a premiere or catch the first show in a theatre. Walking around with earplugs and eye masks isn’t practical, although I am sure some have tried it (that was suicide dressed up to look like murder).

Spoiler alert: Harrison Ford dies in the movie. Another spoiler alert: Harrison Ford does not die in the movie. The rest, as Shakespeare put it so eloquently, is silence.

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Suresh Menon

Suresh Menon

is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is.