We need to take a minute to talk about spoilers. On a somewhat frequent basis, someone will complain via social media that MCUExchange has “spoiled” a film or TV show. First of all, it is important to us that you all know we care greatly about the fan experience. No one likes a spoiler. And all of us who write for the site are first and foremost fans as well. We write for the site because we love the MCU and like sharing that with others. We hate spoilers too (and suffer them a lot because we write for the site, frankly).
The flip side of that coin, however, is that we do want to be your one stop shop for Marvel Cinematic Universe news. And the news is necessarily adjacent to spoilers. If our only aim was to never spoil anything, we’d only do reviews and pieces looking back at a show. No news=no spoilers. But we are confident that most readers to our site actually want to know the latest things going on at Marvel in film and TV. So we necessarily have to share something about a film in order to keep our readers up to date.
The tension here can be difficult and we don’t always know how to handle it. Sometimes, honestly, we’ve made mistakes. From time to time we share something that doesn’t feel like a spoiler to us but you all feel differently. More often, we write a headline that is so obscure it just doesn’t get read. It helps to notice the relationship between spoilers and “clickbait.” Back in the spring, we ran an article entitled “Ghost Rider Set for Major ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Return.” The original title was “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Character Returning for End of Season.” We debated the title internally. Some felt that naming Ghost Rider was a spoiler. Others, however, felt like his return was obvious. It was heavily foreshadowed earlier in the season and Gabriel Luna had been hinting at it on Twitter for months. More importantly, the more vague headline was kind of clickbait-y. “A Thing You Already Expect is Happening, but You Have to Click to Find Out.” Ultimately we decided to run the title we did, and people slammed us for spoilers. Had we run the other title there would have been an avalanche of “No duh!” and “Clickbait!” and “Fake News!” posts.
So we wanted to give you all a bit of a rundown on our approach to spoilers. None of this involves iron clad rules. These are the (previously) unwritten rules we generally live by, though the editor on duty at the time ultimately always decides these things.
Official Promotional Material From the Studios is NOT a Spoiler
The major item in this category is a trailer. Trailers, by definition, are showing the viewer part of the movie ahead of time. They are so a part of the experience of promoting a film that most agree trailers are not spoliers, even if they might spoil something in the movie. So, when Sony chose to show footage of Iron Man saving the Staten Island Ferry in the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer, then we as a site will now talk about that publically. The studio wants viewers to know this information ahead of time and are literally broadcasting that information via TV and the internet and theater previews. Sometimes we dream of what it might be like to watch a movie with ZERO awareness of what happens, but that just isn’t the world we live in. If a reader is that sensitive to a trailer, then it is probably best for them not to read MCU Exchange, or for that matter any news site referring to the MCU. This category also includes press releases, convention presentations (like SDCC), and press tour interviews. All of these things are tightly controlled by the entities making the show or film, and they chose what to share and what not to share.
TV Spots Are An Exception to the Above Rule
We define “trailers” as the major, minute plus run time videos that studios release for movie theaters. (In reality, these are more for YouTube these days, but they still go through a process of being approved by the MPAA for showing in public.) Typically there are about three of them released for each film. Within the few weeks before release, Marvel will also typically release 30 second TV spots. We almost never cover TV spots for three reasons. One, there are a bunch of them (10 or so per movie) and keeping up with them is nearly impossible for our writing team. Two, most of the material is just rehashed bits from the trailers. And three, the bits that aren’t rehashed have a tendency to overshare and get into some more spoilery territory. Often runtime is the easiest way to distinguish between the two of these.
Casting Announcements Are NOT Spoilers
Strictly speaking, casting announcements are spoilers in a way. When Chris Hemsworth was confirmed for Avengers: Infinity War it set in stone that Thor isn’t dying in Thor: Ragnarok. That does reveal a major plot point in a way. But asking a news site to not cover casting news is to majorly hamstring the site. Again, the studio wants viewers to know this. The advertising, the posters, the trailers, the social media campaigns, etc. will all feature the actors in the show. If someone is paying any attention they will know that Hemsworth is on board for the third Avengers movie. Not reporting this is just untenable. Also, if there is a casting that is truly meant to be a surprise, it can be! Few knew that Falcon would appear in Ant-Man until viewing or a day or two before (another example of why we don’t do TV spots here). Matt Damon was famously part of Interstellar without most the world knowing. Also, most of this kind of news is broken by the major trades, because it was given to them by Marvel. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter and publications of that sort often are fed casting news via official sources to reveal it to the world. For an example of just how coordinated this is, just look back to the Inhumans casting news. All the major trades got one of the announcements and they all posted at almost the exact same time, Monday-Thursday of that week. The final few casting announcments came all at the exact same time Friday, on all the sites who had “exclusives” earlier in the week. Casting reveals are part of the process and we have to report on them.
Set Visits Are NOT Spoilers
Again, this all comes down to control by Marvel. In order to go on a set visit an organization must be approved, agree to an embargo (i.e. you will share nothing from the visit until a day and time we give you), and still are limited by other directives. The studios will literally send out notices saying, “We know you saw X on set, but you can’t write about that part.” Any violation would lead to never getting another set visit. So these articles are fair game as far as spoilers. They are like trailers in that they are officially regulated by the studio in question.
Social Media Posts are NOT Spoilers
When an actor appears on a set and shares that image via social media, it is not a spoiler that they are in that property. The major reasons why is because often what appears to be happening isn’t happening. Many complained that we ran pictures of Nick Blood on the set of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4. “Spoiler! Now I know that Hunter is returning.” Except he didn’t return, he was just paling around with his friends. And then there was the time Michael Rooker was “confirmed” to be in Avengers: Infinity War because he was in Atlanta with a production cap on. Except he was planted there by James Gunn to hide Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 spoilers! And then there was the time Gunn was carrying around Mjolnir and everyone thought he’d be in Vol. 2, but then we found out Gunn just likes playing with props on set. Social Media posts just aren’t reliable enough to prove anyone is officially in any thing. We will write about them to raise the possibility and to report on the behind-the-scenes camaraderie that happens, but they just can’t be trusted enough to spoil anything.
Speculation Pieces are NOT Spoilers
We like to speculate from time to time. Our writers will say, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” Even though we occasionally get the exclusive scoop, most of us have no access to people feeding us details. So when we speculate, we are doing the same thing our readers do with their friends. If we happen to speculate and nail it, awesome! We called it. But that’s coincidental. We can’t “spoil” something if we don’t know what is going to happen.
Any Property More than a Month Past Release CANNOT Be “Spoiled”
This is a more delicate one and one we try to be compassionate about. Not everyone can rush out and see a movie the week it is released. But eventually, we drop the concern that something could be spoiled because everyone had a chance to see it. If a reader has still put off watching Captain America: The First Avenger then they have taken an inordinate risk of it being spoiled. We don’t have an official “fresh until” date for properties, but generally, we try to be thoughtful for about a month. The opening weekend we are very careful and usually sprinkle warnings in for a few weeks. Also, this is based on USA release dates. Most things now days release around the same week or two across the world, but for readers in a place like Japan, for example, with notoriously delayed premiere dates, we just can’t wait to write about stuff. Most of our writers and readers are in the USA, so that is our general standard. It’s also the reason we release our reviews the weekend of a film release in the US, even if it has been out elsewhere for 7-10 days.
Well Then What is a Spoiler?!
A few things we would count as spoilers:
- If we see an advanced screening of something. Note our recent review of The Defenders Episode 1 from SDCC, where we tried to share general info but nothing plot specific. As of yet we don’t get advanced screenings of much (Hey Netflix! Hook a fellow up will you?) but when it does happen we won’t spoil the plot.
Toy Releases can be spoilers. Lego is particularly bad about this. Notice that we will write about it, but are careful to tag it as a spoiler, like the recent Thor: Ragnarok toys. Two caveats to this are important. Sometimes the toys are wrong (see Doctor Strange and the tentacle monster that never appeared) and other times they are misleading (the Ragnarok spoiler isn’t making much sense with the trailer that debuted a day or two later).
Novelizations also can reveal spoilers. Recently Spider-Man: Homecoming a sort of half-spoiler that spread through the internet, but we never reported on it because it seemed fishy and we don’t like spoilers!
Paparazzi photos can have spoilers. This has happened a lot with Avengers: Infinity War and we have generally tried to warn people of the spoiler nature.
Here at MCU Exchange, we work hard to enhance your experience as a fan. The daily drip of news and speculation is fun for us and hopefully for you. We also know that spoilers can really ruin something. (Don’t get me started on what happened to me watching Luke Cage.) Balancing news, spoilers, headlines, clickbait, and the general need to generate traffic is something we try to do as responsibly and kindly as we can. We are human, so occasionally we will mess up, or we will disagree about the application of our principles. In those moments we just ask kindness and respect for our writers who are doing their best. Thank you for reading the site and we hope we do well by you.