Did I spoil "Milk"?
December 9, 2008 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Question about the film Sean Penn film "Milk" for those that have seen it (may be spoilers)

In fact, spoilers are the topic of the question. Does the film "Milk" assume that you do not know he is assassinated? I accidentally told someone about his fate, and they felt I spoiled the film. Does the movie mention it early, or is it a major suspense point of the film that's meant to blindside the viewer, some who have never heard of Harvey Milk?

Obviously the film looks fantastic, and I am sure many viewers are aware of his demise. But I just wanted to know if any of the emotional punch was lost due to knowing about his fate.
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (18 answers total)
 
Odd. As a San Franciscan, I always thought Milk's name was synonymous with his tragic fate.
posted by johngoren at 12:47 PM on December 9, 2008


Every review I've read so far mentions his assassination in the first paragraph, so you're at least not alone.

Since it's a biography pic about a public figure, I don't think spoiler rules apply unless the potentially-spoiled media contains exclusive details not found in public reports.
posted by batmonkey at 12:49 PM on December 9, 2008


No, they show the actual footage of Dianne F. announcing that Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were both killed by Dan White within, I don't know, the first five or ten minutes.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:50 PM on December 9, 2008


Does the movie mention it early

The audience is told that Milk will be assassinated right away. But once the movie gets going, the viewer will probably get caught up in the progression of events and the lead-up to the assassination will still seem "suspenseful." But I think it's silly to say you spoiled the film.
posted by mullacc at 12:51 PM on December 9, 2008


No, you didn't. If a film contains a secret or a surprise that's only revealed to people who see the film, and you reveal that secret, that's a spoiler. Harvey Milk's assassination thirty years ago is a historical fact, not a secret.

Anyone who complains knowing Harvey Milk is assassinated spoils Milk would probably complain knowing the ship sinks spoils Titanic.
posted by mattdidthat at 12:59 PM on December 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


Since a person's enjoyment of a film is a subjective thing, the effect that knowing certain information in advance of the film will have on that enjoyment is also subjective. I.e., what is or is not a spoiler is subjective.

That said, I suspect you will find that very very few people would consider foreknowledge of Milk's assassination to spoil this particular film. A film which relied on ignorance of a widely reported (if not as widely known as it should be) historical event for dramatic impact would, I believe, not be considered a good film by most critics and would not be receiving the critical acclaim that Milk seems to be garnering.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:06 PM on December 9, 2008


It's actual history. It's only a spoiler of ignorance, not of plot. (I don't mean that in a bad way.)
posted by sageleaf at 1:13 PM on December 9, 2008


You did not spoil the movie. As others have said, the film basically OPENS with word of his and Moscone's assasination, just as Ghandi opens with his assassination. On top of that, this is not a work of fiction, but a biopic of a man about whom it can fairly be assumed that if you are interested in his life, you probably already know about his tragic death.

Some people go through life ignorant of well-known facts, and that's their right, but they have no reason to be angry at you if you mention that in the Ten Commandments Moses splits the Red Sea.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:15 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even if it wasn't "spoiled" so early in the actual film, I'd still think that because the film is about a historical event with a clear public record, you're under no obligation to assume people don't know what the deal is. M. Night Shyamalan this ain't. Knowing that no matter how wrapped up you get in the story, the end is inevitable is part of what makes these kinds of films work.

Of course, I say this as a person whose mother has never entirely forgiven her for "spoiling" what happened in The Perfect Storm, so perhaps I don't know what I'm talking about.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:15 PM on December 9, 2008


Just email them this... "statute of limitations" indeed.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:38 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


No, they show the actual footage of Dianne F. announcing that Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were both killed by Dan White within, I don't know, the first five or ten minutes.

Yep ... it frames the "flashback," as does the opening sequence of Harvey Milk speaking into a tape recorder anticipating that he might be assassinated.
posted by ericb at 1:56 PM on December 9, 2008


I never heard of Harvey Milk until this movie. I read a review or something (maybe the mefi post) that mentioned he was assassinated and thought that it sounded like a spoiler and would not make the movie as interesting. I was wrong, as it had no effect on my watching the movie.

The news footage in film was the first time that I learned the mayor was assassinated, just to show my ignorance of the facts. And they do mention it right at the beginning, so it really didn't seem to make any difference whether I knew who was getting assassinated or not.
posted by dogwalker at 2:08 PM on December 9, 2008


In your friend's defense (even if s/he is wrong) most people under 30 I've talked to about this film didn't know he was dead. I think someone young, not from the Bay Area, and/or straight, is unlikely to know who Harvey Milk was at all.
posted by serazin at 2:23 PM on December 9, 2008


First, you can't spoil history.

Second, as mentioned above you do find out that he was assassinated within the first few minutes of the movie.
posted by lemuria at 2:30 PM on December 9, 2008


I concur that it is not a spoiler for two reasons:

1) It is a historical fact, not a dramatic device; and
2) It is revealed within the first 10 minutes of the movie.
posted by muddgirl at 3:28 PM on December 9, 2008


I think someone young, not from the Bay Area, and/or straight, is unlikely to know who Harvey Milk was at all.

I'm all of those and I had never heard of him before. However, all the publicity for the film makes it very clear that he died. Every review mentions it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:23 PM on December 9, 2008


Roger Ebert's Answer Man column this week.

A reader accuses him of spoiling Milk in his review. Scroll down to the second question. I expected a much wittier reply, but all he said was
I thought that fact was pretty widely known, especially since the killer got such notoriety when his defense team argued that a junk-food binge was responsible. This became famous as the "Twinkie Defense."
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:24 PM on December 9, 2008


1) It is a historical fact, not a dramatic device; and
2) It is revealed within the first 10 minutes of the movie.


muddgirl nails it. Besides, your friend should know there's no sense crying over spoilt Milk.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:07 PM on December 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


« Older Tiny Toy Pocket Elctronic Keyboard of Magical...   |   Total employees at NPR? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.