The upcoming release of both the film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and the video games “Pokemon Scarlet” and “Violet” have me thinking more and more about what effect the culture of leaks has on entertainment.
Massive spoilers for centralizing media have been around for decades, like when David Prowse (the man inside Darth Vader’s suit) revealed the character’s identity as Luke’s father in 1978, two years before the release of “The Empire Strikes Back.” General audiences had no clue, only a select group of fans heard the revelation in an interview given at a small sci-fi convention, and those who heard had no avenue to share this groundbreaking piece of information.
Nowadays, finding spoiler content is as easy as Googling an online community dedicated to it. Some people have monetized sourcing information about upcoming projects through Patreon, and plenty of Twitter accounts exist that will then later relay this information to the public. But by far, the most popular, organized forums for reliable leaks exist on Reddit. r/MarvelStudiosSpoilers has 850,000 members actively browsing every piece of information, even somewhat relevant to the film studio.
The full plot leak for “Wakanda Forever” is already up, but what’s more interesting to me is the way people in the know about the leaks will perceive the film. Many notable figures in the Marvel leak community reported for almost a year that Doctor Doom, the infamous Fantastic Four villain, will have a notable presence in the film. This was widely accepted as fact until Ryan Coogler, the film’s director, announced that he had initially shown interest in including the character but decided against using him to further focus on Namor, the film’s major antagonist.
This statement from Coogler almost shatters the illusion that leakers have insider information the general public doesn’t have access to. If Doctor Doom never made it off the cutting room floor, how did no one find out until after Coogler announced this in an interview? A significant portion of the dedicated Marvel fan base was expecting Doctor Doom, and I’ve already seen comments that suggest they’ve lost a good chunk of interest in the film.
Don’t get me wrong – 850,000 by no means represents all of the Marvel fandom, and it doesn’t even represent all of the Marvel fans actively using Reddit. But Marvel’s fight to keep true secrecy in their products is an uphill battle against toy manufacturers, early press reviewers, actor slip-ups, etc. I almost wonder if there’s some merit in turning a blind eye and allowing dedicated members of the fandom to figure these answers out for themselves without changing footage for trailers or lying to toy companies.
Even in the age of the internet, intentional spoilers remain a newer concept. I remember frequenting Marvel Studios Spoilers in 2017-2018, preceding the release of “Avengers: Infinity War,” and the community was nowhere near as organized or profit-driven as it was then. The same goes for even a single year ago comparing PokeLeaks, which didn’t even have 10,000 members before the release of “Pokemon Brilliant Diamond” and “Shining Pearl,” as opposed to now when it approaches 90,000 subscribers.
However, these companies feel about spoilers’ impact on their bottom line and overall marketing strategy, the interest is only growing and I don’t think they’ve properly adapted to the interests of consumers. Of course, only time will tell, but the way little information like spotting actors in the local area of a film set can spread like wildfire with a single tweet. As the internet continues to connect us, these “secrets” won’t remain secrets, and entertainment media might have to find new strategies to entice consumers other than keeping information under lock and key.