Earlier on Tuesday, the Internet went a bit abuzz with what was presumed to be a huge spoiler attributed to the soundtrack for April’s big theatrical release of “Captain America: The Winter Solider.”
Now (most likely fake spoiler alert), the particular track in question is titled, “Alexander Pierce is the Red Skull.” And, yes, if the rest of the titles weren’t so obviously fake, the reveal that Robert Redford’s character is the Red Skull would have been a big spoiler. Oh, for the record, four other titles include “Mission to Moscow,” City Under Siege,” “Back in Training” and “Assignment Miami Beach” –- you may recognize those as titles of “Police Academy” movies. (Though, part of me wants to live in world in which the composers of a “Captain America” soundtrack were deeply influenced by the antics of Carey Mahoney.)
(Also, I did reach out to Disney for conformation that this is not real, but at this time have not heard back.)
Though, I found the (fake) release of these titles interesting in the fact that Marvel would never in a million years actually title a track “Alexander Pierce is the Red Skull,” or, for that matter, “Quill’s S.O.S,” referring to a surprise cameo by Chris Pratt’s character from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
A quick glance at the titles of the tracks from the soundtrack for “The Avengers” gives us gems like, “Don’t Take My Stuff,” “They Called It” and “A Little Help” -– basically nothing that could give anything away in the actual movie.
This is a big change in the age of spoiler culture.
Back in August, Noel Murray at The Dissolve wrote an excellent essay on the trading cards from the original release of “The Empire Strikes Back” and how the cards pretty much give every detail of the film away (well, except for one big detail). This was very common for that era. I was 8 years old when “Return of the Jedi” was released. I had never anticipated a movie more in my life than “Return of the Jedi.” I knew pretty much every detail about Jedi thanks to the storybook before I saw the movie. This did not lesson my enjoyment of seeing “Jedi” on opening day.
Spoiler culture has gotten so intense that, last year, I wrote a piece about the nut job ending of “Safe Haven.” In this post, I made a joke that Ben Affleck’s character was secretly a ghost throughout “Argo.” A man on Twitter publicly called for me to be fired from Huffington Post for spoiling “Argo” –- a true story that occurred in 1979 that did not involve any ghosts -- an incident that has been forever enshrined over at the A.V. Club. (For the record: the man on Twitter did send a heartfelt apology and we still occasionally converse on Twitter. He’s still never seen “Argo.”)
The reason that today’s most likely fake “Captain America” triggered a reaction in me is that a similar, yet true, incident occurred in 1999 before the release of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.”
Look, we all make fun of “The Phantom Menace” today, but in 1999, it was a huge deal. In my lifetime, there has never been a more anticipated movie than “The Phantom Menace.” Today, I don’t particularly like “The Phantom Menace,” but I actually have fond memories of the hype.
The soundtrack was released two weeks before the film was released. I purchased it. Now, in the lead-up to the film’s release, the public had heard many things about Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn. We had heard that he was a brave, intelligent Jedi warrior and that he was the man who trained Obi-Wan Kenobi. “Star Wars” fans were looking forward to this new character!
Well, then I bought the soundtrack, which included track 15, “Qui-Gon’s Nobel End.” Okay, maybe he just retires?, I tried to convince myself. Then I read the title for track 17, “The High Council Meeting and Qui-Gon's Funeral.” Well, I guess not, I sighed.
Look, these are sloppy titles, but knowing this detail before I saw the movie didn’t really affect my feelings toward it one way or another. On the original release of the soundtrack for “The Empire Strikes Back,” titles are descriptive, but benign, like, “The Heroics of Luke and Han” -- that’s a much better title for a musical track than “Don’t Take My Stuff.’
But, yet, people today were mad because they thought the new “Captain America” movie had been ruined. I think the lesson from today is (A) let’s all take a deep breath and calm down and (B) if this were true, so what? Keeping every detail a secret in a movie wasn’t always a thing. And (C) it’s upsetting that someone thought “Citizens on Patrol” wouldn’t be a good title for a superhero musical track.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.