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Marvel fans are melting down over this ‘Eternals’ spoiler leak

A film critic leaked a major reveal from the 'Eternals' post-credits scene. But does it actually count as a spoiler?

 

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Published Oct 20, 2021   Updated Oct 21, 2021, 9:27 am CDT

Shortly after the premiere of Marvel‘s Eternals this weekend, Variety reporter Matt Donnelly shocked MCU fans by tweeting out a spoiler for the film’s post-credits scene. On the one hand, he revealed something that should’ve been a big surprise. On the other hand, the spoiler isn’t relevant to the plot, so he arguably didn’t “spoil” the film at all.

With that in mind, stop reading now if you don’t want to know the spoiler!

Rather than being a story detail, this was more of a casting announcement: Harry Styles is joining the MCU as Eros/Starfox, brother of Thanos. It’s a great role for him; a sexy, morally ambiguous space hero. And while it’s only his second acting gig after 2017’s Dunkirk, Styles is already a huge star who brings a very specific energy to the franchise. (We don’t know what happens in that post-credits scene, but it presumably ties into an upcoming MCU movie.)

This juicy revelation also kickstarted a wave of spoiler discourse on Twitter, with moviegoers debating what kind of material is appropriate to spoil in advance.

Some MCU fans were very pissed off about critics sharing pre-release spoilers, including one film pundit who went to the absurd extreme of suggesting that preview audiences sign NDAs with a $1 million penalty to protect a studio’s intellectual property. Others were more critical of the backlash, pointing out that this was just a casting announcement. It’s not like someone in 1980 revealing that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s dad.

The spoiler culture around the MCU is arguably a marketing ploy encouraged by Disney, motivating people to buy tickets on opening weekend so they don’t get spoiled on social media. The films’ preview screenings are so heavily embargoed that audiences can only share vague, content-free reactions like “Wow, what an epic experience!” And since the people invited to these screenings are a mix of Marvel fans and critics who can’t actually share their criticisms, this creates a wave of nonspecific yet positive buzz. Meaningful critique is discouraged until after a film comes out, further protecting the box office results for opening weekend. So when fans obsessively police spoilers online, they’re doing free work for Disney’s PR department.

In the case of this Eternals “spoiler,” it feels instinctively shocking for someone to reveal the post-credits scene for a Marvel movie. But if this casting announcement had been published a few days earlier in Entertainment Weekly, people wouldn’t have seen it as a spoiler at all.

Spoiler-avoidance is a matter of personal taste. However, MCU spoiler culture is unusually extreme, and it wasn’t created in a vacuum. It’s directly influenced by Disney promoting these movies as top-secret experiences, expanding the definition of “spoiler” to include virtually any information about an upcoming film.

By any normal standards, most MCU movies only include a couple of genuinely spoilable moments: character deaths, emotional revelations in the final act, etc. These films don’t rely on narrative twists like Memento or The Sixth Sense, and even if they did, everyone (particularly film critics) understands that we shouldn’t reveal that kind of big surprise. The pre-release “spoilers” policed by Disney—and by certain MCU fans—tend to be much more banal, as proven by the backlash against this Harry Styles casting revelation. In reality, all we know is that Harry Styles is in the movie, and he’s playing a character who was likely to appear in the MCU anyway. That really isn’t a big deal.

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*First Published: Oct 20, 2021, 7:13 am CDT