Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Internet is a chamber of secrets for Potter fans

Several of my friends are under an “Internet blackout.” They won’t venture online until after they’ve finished reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final installment in the adventures of the famous Mr. Potter.

That’s probably a good idea, as apparently the entire book has leaked online, with every page photographed and available via various BitTorrent file-sharing sites. As I write, The Washington Post claims only the first 495 pages of “Deathly Hallows” are online, but disagrees and says it’s all there.

For Harry Potter fans, the entire World Wide Web is now a chamber of secrets: Enter at your own peril.

I haven’t read the whole thing. I’m not a rabid Potter fan and have no desire to download the book. But I have seen a few of the leaked pages (unless they are elaborate fakes) and a summary of all of the sorts of things you probably don’t want to know.

Not to worry. I’m not telling.

At any rate, Scholastic, J.K. Rowling’s U.S. publisher, is reportedly readying its legal team to sue the trousers off whoever leaked “Deathly Hallows” in the first place. So, my attorney advises me against saying anything.

It’s times like this when I’m glad the Internet wasn’t around when I was young. I didn’t have to go out of my way to avoid the great spoilers of my childhood, like Spock dying in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” or Darth Vader revealing that he is Luke Skywalker’s father in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Sorry if you didn’t know those plot twists already. I can’t be held responsible if you’ve been living in a cave. Besides, Spock got better.

Oh, and while I’m at it: Rosebud was Charles Foster Kane’s sled, Soylent Green is people, and “To Serve Man” is a cookbook.

I’d give away the ending to “Sleepaway Camp,” but you don’t care, anyway.

But don’t worry. I’m not going to spoil anything recent. The only time I’ve ever done that was when a friend and I saw “The Sixth Sense” and, five minutes into the movie, I leaned over and whispered the big twist. But I didn’t know. I was just guessing. It’s not my fault that it’s so obvious.

Wait. I did tell a few people the ending of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village,” but that was just to spare them the agony of sitting through the movie.

As important as spoilers for books, movies and TV shows have become, it’s amazing that the modern definition of the word “spoiler” isn’t yet in Webster’s or the Oxford English Dictionary. Clearly, English-speaking lexicographers are dropping the ball. Even Roger Ebert now sometimes warns of spoilers in his movie reviews.

(While I was writing that last paragraph, another friend went online and threatened bodily harm to anyone who spoils the final Harry Potter book for her. She is 34 years old.)

Unlike Scholastic, however, some publishers actually make a point of leaking spoilers to the media before readers have a chance to read for themselves. I’m speaking, of course, of Marvel Comics and DC Comics, which alert The New York Times and The New York Post every time something major happens to one of their characters. If Captain America dies or Spider-Man reveals his secret identity to the world, it’ll be on CNN before you have a chance to track down a copy of the comic book in question.

It just goes to show that Marvel and DC aren’t really in the storytelling business anymore. They’re in the business of promoting their trademarked characters, which they can then license for movies, toys and video games. This may be why I don’t read superhero comics anymore.

As for everyone who still does care about storytelling, remember: Think twice before you click on that link.

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