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Marvel’s ‘Eternals’ Spoilergate Proves How Insane Spoiler Culture Has Become

·7 min read

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

This week:

  • Loving the new season of Insecure.

  • Having enough of spoilerphobes.

  • Being scarred by Nicole Kidman.

  • Getting burned by NPR.

  • Feeling seen by Adele.

Spoiler Alert: This Is About Spoilers

Someone tweeted something about a Marvel movie this week, and the internet lost its mind.

I could probably copy and paste that statement into an article that publishes every week, but the truth is I rarely bother to care about why people are losing their minds over a Marvel movie. But this week, the hysteria was particularly irritating. And this is Marvel and its fans we are talking about, so that is a high bar to meet.

Critics who have seen the upcoming movie Eternals, which is out Nov. 5, have started posting their reactions. Directed by Chloé Zhao, who won Best Picture and Best Director last year for Nomadland, it’s apparently much different visually from other Marvel films. There’s a sex scene! And a gay superhero! And, surprisingly, those are not the things that people are freaking out about! (You know what that is? Growth.)

Apparently, someone spoiled a small part of the movie on Twitter.

I won’t link to the spoiler, because I value my safety and mental health and don’t need Marvel fans armed with pitchforks in my life. But I have seen it, and really, truly can’t imagine anyone caring about it.

It is a casting reveal that apparently was being kept a surprise. It’s a fun name. An exciting celebrity. Maybe the information was secret for a reason, with the idea that a fan’s experience discovering the casting while watching the movie in real time would be more meaningful if they weren’t expecting it.

Sure, I buy that. I also think that unless a person goes to the very first screening in the world of Eternals, there is no way that secret would last two seconds after the credits begin. And while I certainly don’t understand a journalist’s impulse to tweet something that might be construed as a spoiler immediately after seeing a movie, I also do understand it. Like I said, that news isn’t being kept secret long. And it is news. Why not report it?

Media has evolved in a way that is absolutely obnoxious about spoilers. There’s no winning.

There’s a race among outlets to publish post-mortem coverage of TV series and movies to the point that they go online immediately. A series goes live on Netflix at midnight, the deep-dive into the episode 13 finale goes live at 12:01.

That’s a bummer to anyone who, you know, has a life and doesn’t binge all 13 episodes before they wake up in the morning. But also, an outlet looks negligent if it waits a reasonable time to publish those pieces, because everywhere else has. It’s in service to superfans. Yet the people who are spoiled because they accidentally clicked on it are outraged. And rightfully so! There’s no good answer!

But also what is considered a spoiler has gotten completely out of hand. That’s on the fan side; I’ve been yelled at for summarizing a basic plot of a movie that is in the actual trailer because someone considered it a “spoiler.” But it’s gotten even worse on the studio and network side.

Some people annoyed over this Marvel thing have suggested that journalists and critics be required to sign NDAs before screenings to prevent this. The thing is: We already do! It’s ridiculous. One streaming service used to not allow critics to see one frame of footage without returning NDAs first. But even when they are not legally binding, “letters” sent to critics along with episodes will often include an outline of what they are not allowed to mention in their coverage. (You know, spoiling things for us before we can even watch.)

Quite often, though, they are insane.

I am not kidding when I say that, for season two of The Morning Show, there was not one plot point that was allowed to be discussed in reviews. That’s not an exaggeration. Sure, I’m glad that Reese Witherspoon kissing Julianna Margulies out of goddamn nowhere was something we could all experience collectively without having known it was coming. But so much else was forbidden from being mentioned.

I could write endlessly about plot points that were on spoiler lists sent to critics. One recent one was for Midnight Mass. We were not allowed to mention that there were demon vampires. In other words, in reviews of that series, you were not allowed to talk about what the series was about.

There’s no good answer to this problem, which has gotten so out of hand we are left with no resort but to go for the easy answer: Spoil everything.

There has never been a movie or TV show that I found out a “spoiler” for beforehand and felt like it was ruined for me when I actually watched. It’s less of a thing than we build it up to be. Sure, I’m glad that when I was 12 I didn’t know Bruce Willis was dead the whole time in The Sixth Sense. But I also think if I did know, I wouldn’t have given a shit. Plus, if Twitter was around then, there’s not a human in the world who would have seen the movie unspoiled. Twists are fun, but they’re not the only reason why something is worth watching.

Luuuucy, I Have a Bad Feeling About This!

It is not fair to judge an entire movie based on its trailer. It is fair, however, to say that after the world let out a rousing “WTF” mixed with some booming “huhs?!” when Nicole Kidman was confusingly cast to play Lucille Ball in Being in the Ricardos, it is a confusing move to release a teaser trailer that does not show her, like a monster movie hiding what its creature looks like in promo materials.

Is it to stave off judgment of her performance as long as possible? Is it because people are unable to accept an actor’s performance as a real person unless they look exactly alike? (And the blink-and-miss-it look at Kidman in the trailer shows that they certainly do not.) Is it because, in Being the Ricardos, Lucille Ball is actually a ghost haunting Desi Arnaz, and so a disembodied voice is all we’re going to get?

Anyway here’s the teaser, which seemed to think the part of a Nicole Kidman performance we should all focus the most on is her, um, accent work.

‘Sorry Not Sorry’ Is Having a Moment

It was a big week for major media entities serving “I said what I said” energy.

In an interview for Variety, Meghan McCain revealed that one of the reasons why she left The View is that Joy Behar responded to her joke about missing her while she was on maternity leave with a curt and jarring insistence that she did not. McCain apparently asked for an apology, but a producer told her Behar wouldn’t do it.

Also doubling down this week was classic rabble-rousing media shit-stirrer, uh… NPR? Tweeting out an article criticizing former Fifth Harmony member Jesy Nelson’s new single, the site posted that her vocals were “reminiscent of a bad Camila Cabello impression.” The account eventually took down the tweet and apologized… for originally spelling Cabello’s name wrong. Translation: Sorry for the misspelling, but the girl still can’t sing.

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Finally, Someone Said It

Asked whether she preferred Spice Girls or The Beatles, Adele said:

Points were made.

What to watch this week:

Insecure: One of the best shows on TV, back in fine form. (Sun. on HBO)

Curb Your Enthusiasm: What better time than now to complain about things? (Sun. on HBO)

The French Dispatch: The most Wes Anderson-y Wes Anderson film yet. (Fri. in theaters)

Dune: The way that I could not tell you what this film is about, not even a little bit. But it’s pretty! (Thurs. in theaters and on HBO Max)

What to skip this week:

Love Life: I despised the first season of this show, yet also watched every episode. Do with that what you will. (Thurs. on HBO Max)

‘Insecure’s’ Final Season Proves It’s One of TV’s Best Shows

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