Spoiler: The very word strikes mortal fear into fans of, well, pretty much anything.
The Internet is a haven for such unwanted revelations — a certain J.J. Abrams-directed movie had yours truly avoiding them like a bad guy would Chuck Norris.
Spoilers have unleashed their ungodly wrath upon many an unsuspecting victim. However, where did the word come from? Twist endings and unexpected plot turns are far from a new phenomenon. Back in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock famously pleaded with moviegoers to keep their gobs shut after watching Psycho. In his own words: "Please don't give away the ending, it's the only one we have."
However, it wasn’t until April of 1971 that the term “spoiler” first saw print. Doug Kenney — editor and co-founder of the National Lampoon magazine — produced an aptly-named feature, “Spoilers.”
Apparently, the 1970s’ Grand Wizard of Trolling, “Spoilers” straight up sabotages the viewing/reading of many a classic yarn. Casualties include (but are not restricted to): The Great Escape, The Birds, The Godfather, Great Expectations, Citizen Kane, a slew of Agatha Christie’s “whodunnit” mysteries … oh, and Psycho.
Kenney’s (sardonic) reasoning for this bonanza of spoilers?
“Spoilers! What are they? Simply the trick ending to every mystery novel and movie you’re ever liable to see. Saves time and money!”
Fast-forward to the late ‘70s, where the term's use was increasing rapidly in the world of pop culture. Not least in the science fiction community — “spoiler warnings” frequently featured in novel reviews, with Spider Robinson’s column in Destinies magazine among the best-known examples.
Around the same time, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory hosted the “SF-Lovers” mailing list, bearing many a similar alert. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was among the first topics of conversation, which leaves me scratching my head wondering what there is to actually spoil ...
The most antiquated incarnation of Internet forums were known as Usenet newsgroups, and in 1982, a fan used the words “spoiler alert” amidst discussion of the second, infinitely superior Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan.
So, there you have it: the Brief History of Spoilers (or at least this particular use/definition of the word).
Spoiler alert: You have now reached the end of this article.