The NYTimes has an interesting piece up today about whether Wikipedia should contain movie spoilers in its articles. The Times holds up two exemplars of the trend: the Wikipedia articles for Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap and the recently-released documentary Catfish. Is the online encyclopedia justified in including every single plot detail of every movie its contributors care to write about?
The piece contains some interesting quotes from Andrew Jarecki, the producer of Catfish, who thinks that “[i]t’s hard to argue that there is an intellectual or academic reason for getting deeply into the secrets of a movie that the vast majority of the public has not had access to.” He also believes that Wikipedia should warn readers when “you are about to enter a section likely to harm the experience of the movie for you.”
For its part, Wikipedia doesn’t seem concerned about your ability to remain unspoiled. According to a spokesman:
Generally it appears most Wikipedians support the notion that encyclopedias are often exhaustive when it comes to facts, and someone searching for an article about a story should be prepared to encounter a summary of the plot.
Sure, a summary of the plot is definitely something you should expect. But a spoiler-filled one? It seems to me that it wouldn’t be that difficult to add in spoiler warnings, and in fact, I distinctly recall these existing at some point before. But sure enough, head on over to the Wikipedia pages of Catfish or The Mousetrap and you’ll see their plots laid out in their entirety, with no spoiler warning to speak of. IMDB seems to have mastered the art of avoiding spoilers whenever possible. Why can’t Wikipedia do the same?
My favorite quotes in the NYTimes piece come from mystery writer Rupert Holmes, who writes:
The rules of ‘full disclosure’ don’t apply to fictional creations…If you give away the secret of a masterful magic trick, it is not as if you are protecting naïve consumers from wasting their money on a con artist. We want, even hope to be tricked, surprised, stunned. An illusionist is not selling us swamp land, miracle cures, junk bonds or Ponzi schemes. He is selling us the childlike thrill of believing, for one moment, that there really could be magic in the world…
What do you guys think? Should Wikipedia articles contain movie spoilers?