The Search For the First Spoiler Alert

With spoilers littering the shoulders of the information superhighway, a helpful signpost—the spoiler alert—lets us know when to avert our eyes. The ever-resource folks at The Awl set out to find some of the earliest examples.

The Awl started their search in the wake of a particularly careless Mad Men spoiler by the Times' Alessandra Stanley, and they found a history that traces back nearly three decades.

In a December 1994 article on the weird world of the internet, a Washington Post reporter explained, "On movie buffs' discussion lists, for instance, there is wide use of the term 'spoiler alert,' which is a warning inserted before any comment that would give away a film's ending."

But even by 1994, the spoiler alert was commonplace to those accustomed to writing about films on a medium inherently prone to spoilage. The Awl traced one such usage to a Usenet post from June 8, 1982. The film being discussed: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

[SPOILER ALERT]

regarding Spock's parting gesture to McCoy, it wouldn't surprize me if
that's how they bring him back (if they do); but then, i have a low opinion
of ST's script(s). Spock's farewell to Kirk sounded pretty final to me.
wayne hamilton

So kudos to Wayne Hamilton, a Trekkie who was dutifully protecting plot lines long before I was even born. While the spoiler alert may be ubiquitous and obligatory today, we should be respectful of those trailblazers who, nearly 30 years ago, when the internet was just a swirling primordial goop of discussion, saw the importance of keeping a story's surprise intact. [The Awl]

Image credit Bthomso