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the take

Spoilers: The Official Vulture Statutes of Limitations

Out partying instead?

So let's say that tonight on Lost, Claire, Desmond, and Juliet all get conked on the head by coconuts and die. Or Jack and Kate finally Do It. Or Locke and Ben finally Do It. If something unbelievably exciting happens, what do we do the next day? Can we write about it? Can we post a picture? Or need we steer clear, employing such reader-unfriendly headlines as "Writing the Obit for the Character Who Died Last Night on 'The Wire,'" in order to avoid spoiling those who haven't gotten around to watching the show yet?

We refuse to believe that we have to wait until the series or the movie is out on DVD; that's crazy. If you care enough about a show to be upset at being spoiled, you should not be waiting a year to watch it. We're sorry. But how soon is too soon? How do writers know when we can talk about stuff, and how do readers know they should frigging hurry up and watch the damn thing? Surely the duration of spoiler protection should be different for a reality show, which is traditionally treated like a sporting event, than for a narrative TV show, where plot matters. And surely the rules should differ for a one-hour TV show you can watch at home, rather than a movie at the theater, or a Broadway play, or a book. And surely the rules are different for running a spoiler in headline, where anyone's RSS feed can find it, and running it in the body of an article, where anyone who's spoiler-nervous shouldn't be poking around anyway.

That's why it's time to create:

The Official Vulture Statutes of Limitations on Pop-Culture Spoilers

After all, someone needs to step up and answer these crucially important questions. Why not us? Let's hope these will be ratified by the United Nations and adopted by media worldwide.

Unmarked spoilers allowed in text of article Spoilers allowed in article headlines or in non-show-specific articles
Reality-TV shows As soon as the episode is over. As soon as the episode is over.
Narrative TV shows The day after the show runs in its normal time slot. Three days after the show runs in its normal time slot.
Movies The Monday after the movie opens. One month after the movie opens.
Plays One month after the play opens. Three months after the play opens, or when it closes, whichever comes first.
Books Three months after the book is published. Six months after the book is published.
Operas 100 years after opera's premiere. Never.

Learn it. Know it. Live it. And hurry up and watch the damn Wire!

Are our numbers way off? Did we miss something? When do you think it's okay to talk about spoilers? Let us know in the comments!

Related: Spoilers: In Defense of the American Watercooler

Follow-up: Academic Blogger Takes Vulture's Spoiler Policy to Task, Condemns Us to Hell