The Internet is a place full of spoilers, and I have spent a lot of time online doing my utmost to avoid them in any show/book/movie that I am involved with. But some wonderful people online have been persuading me to jump camps recently and I think I’m ready to make the switch. I will not go quietly (or screaming, as the case may be) away from spoilers into the night, TODAY IS OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY etc etc
Rethinking our hate spoilers means we need to figure out just what it is about them that bothers us so much. In personal experience, I have usually avoided spoilers in order to preserve plot points and narrative twists that would be way more impactful in their original context. Thinking back, my paranoia began after I had the major turning point of *Bioshock* revealed to me in a preview piece about *Bioshock 2*. It seemed as though I had missed out on an emotional connection with that particular scene that other players had formed. As my friends can attest, my fear of spoilers in A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones has been vocal, violent, and zealous.
Aside from the exposure to the plot rollercoaster, there aren’t too many reasons to stay away from spoilers – and, as a growing number of media theorists are finding, there might be some compelling reasons to actually embrace spoilers. PBS Idea Channel’s special on spoilers, for instance, breaks down an intriguing new theory that suggests that having knowledge about elements of a work before viewing/playing/reading it can actually aid in understanding and analysis of that work. My *Bioshock* playthrough, though lacking in the blindsiding plot twist department, probably ended up feeling more coherent and well-developed than a lot of people’s first runs.
Prior knowledge of something that goes on in a text results in more attenuated readings of that text and the particular elements that you know about. For instance <SPOILERS> knowing that Atlas was actually Fontaine the whole time and being aware of the whole “would you kindly” business helped me find all the cool foreshadowing and layered narrative elements that stack up to the eventual reveals </SPOILERS>. After all, a plot twist only works once, and the real thrill of a text is how you get from point A to point B, even if you’re fully aware of both points. How else would historical dramas and/or biopics work? We all know the story of Lincoln’s life, but we went to see the film because of Daniel Day-Lewis and Spielburg and everything else that made it a good experience.
Todd VanDerWerff over at A.V. Club wrote a fantastic piece on spoilers (SPOILERS FOR BREAKING BAD IN THE FIRST SENTENCE OF THAT ARTICLE BTW), noting some of the things I’ve outlined above while attacking more directly the problems with making plot twists the most valuable parts of a work. He makes a great point in that most people wouldn’t complain, for instance, about having a particularly good tracking shot in a film “spoiled” for them, even though they might sprint out of the room at the mention of a small plot point. Arguably, the film’s cinematography and other aesthetic elements are just as, if not more, important than preserving the first experience of a twist, but spoiler culture says the opposite.
Doesn’t that seem a little ridiculous? Just because we all know who Luke’s father is and whether or not Luke finds that to be impossible and oops where did his hand go doesn’t mean that we can’t revel in those beautifully crafted moments in *The Empire Strikes Back*. Spoilers in the internet age are more omnipresent than ever, and it would be a tragedy to stifle discussion about media texts in an effort to save people’s first viewing experiences. We should definitely respect the wishes of those who would prefer uninfluenced first readings/viewings/playthroughs, but maybe we could all do with a little more lightness on the matter. Who knows, maybe the spoiler will make you enjoy the experience that much more.
What do you think? Do you hate me forever for putting spoilers in this article? Are people who fear spoilers ridiculous? Drop us a comment below.