Angela A Thomas

Harry Potter and the Spoiling Phenomenon

July 20, 2007 · 2 Comments

By 9:01 am tomorrow Australian time we’ll all know the answers to the following:

- Did Harry’s scar really contain a Horcrux that carried a bit of Voldemort and ultimately mean Harry has to kill himself to kill Voldemort?

- Does Hermione sacrifice herself to save Ron?

- Does Harry sacrifice his wizardry skills and become a Muggle?

- Is Dumbledore really dead?

- Which half a dozen or more people die?

The latest lot of spoilers about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - some fake and some real - to be unleashed on the internet have caused an uproar with fans, and a media splash which is almost suspicious because of the additional hype it is creating 24 hours before the books release.

I’ve blogged about this before but its worth mentioning because once again it highlights the phenomenon of spoiling and the difference between “acceptable” fan culture of spoiling and the “unacceptable” act of hacks or media unfairly spoiling.

In Harry Potter fan forums everywhere, fans have spent countless hours debating the possible outcomes for the final HP book.  They have dissected plotlines from every book to date, and analysed transcripts of every single interview ever done with JK Rowling.  They have examined JK Rowling’s literary devices to explore any foreshadowing she might have done (i.e. Ron sacrifices himself for Harry in the Chess game in an earlier book, therefore….), to explore every nuance of every character (Professor McGonnigal came close to sacrificing herself for Hagrid, therefore…), and are studying Greek mythology (What parallels might exist between the Greek Hermione and the HP Hermione?) to find out clues.  They’ve compared UK editions with US editions and found that some edits weren’t included in one but were in the other. They’ve analysed patterns across books to make new predictions.  They have explored every spell ever used to predict how it could make a come-back in the final battle scene (the time turner is a popular theory). They have analysed the cover art of all editions and all countries where the cover is known for cover spoliers.

So when somebody comes along and just tells them the answers - whether true or false - it makes fans angry for two main reasons:

1) it spoils the pleasure of the reading experience, and this is the one most people can relate to - we enjoy the pleasure of predicting, picking up the clues as we read, and either having our ideas confirmed or being shocked and surprised by clever plot twists

2) the person doing the telling didn’t do any of the hard work to piece together the puzzle, and it feels like they cheated.

Some forums (like Chamber of Secrets) are so concerned about the possibility of unsanctioned spoiling, that they have closed now until AFTER the book has been released, to prevent it!

The only trouble with all of this predicting and piecing together of clues is that some fans will be disappointed if their predictions don’t come to pass.  Of course, that is why I predict that HP fan fiction will live on for some years to come.

Categories: Uncategorized
Tagged: children's literature, fanfiction, popular culture, semiotics, visual literacy

2 responses so far ↓

  • andyp // July 20, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    Agreed. I was hugely disappointed that one of the free London evening newspapers reprinted the essence of the NYT review yesterday, thus spoiling much of the ending for those without the willpower *not* to read it. It’s a shame.

  • DrJoolz // July 26, 2007 at 7:48 am

    …. although the other way to look at it, is that the hype and discussion around the books is what draws some readers in. I think that many would not read it at all if it weren’t for all the razzmatazz - including the ’spoilers’ which for some are tantalising clues.

Leave a Comment