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August 10, 2011 5:01 PM   Subscribe

A new study by UC San Diego claims that stories are not ruined by 'spoilers'. Warning: the article contains a spoiler for The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn (81 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
^L


spoiled;dr
posted by eriko at 5:04 PM on August 10, 2011


Spoiler: Owl Creek is actually a river.
posted by box at 5:05 PM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


This reminded me that I need to read some Chekhov one of these days, as he sounds like a writer I would enjoy.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:07 PM on August 10, 2011


Oh god.
posted by rtha at 5:07 PM on August 10, 2011


Two households, both alike in dignity
posted by Apropos of Something at 5:08 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Infinite Jest taught me this.
posted by mannequito at 5:10 PM on August 10, 2011


I wish you hadn't told us the study's results; I would have rather found out on my own.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:11 PM on August 10, 2011 [15 favorites]


The great thing about Bierce's story is the way it leaves you hanging.
posted by Flashman at 5:11 PM on August 10, 2011 [21 favorites]


I think the problem is that this measures short stories, which are more about the writing - and especially literary short stories. If they'd done TV, movies, or twist-heavy horror or sci-fi it would be different.

I sorta had the endings of Bastion (through a really complex process) and Red Dead Redemption spoiled, and I didn't mind as much since I enjoyed the gameplay. OTOH, I'm avoiding hearing about The Wire, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones because I care more about the plot.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:12 PM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


From Wikipedia: 'Ernest Hemingway, another writer influenced by Chekhov, was more grudging: "Chekhov wrote about 6 good stories. But he was an amateur writer."'

Punchy McShotgunface doesn't like him? That seals the deal, I'm getting me some Chekhov today!
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:12 PM on August 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think that depends on the story. Some stories hinge entirely on their "big twist."

I'm looking in your direction, Messrs. Brown and Shyamalan.
posted by chimaera at 5:12 PM on August 10, 2011


Spoiler: lots of people disagree about that.
posted by lilac girl at 5:15 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hell, I could have told them that.
posted by loquacious at 5:15 PM on August 10, 2011


I totally know how this thread ends.
posted by kmz at 5:17 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not with a bang but with a spoiler?
posted by Splunge at 5:20 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


engagement rings are better when not concealed in chocolate mousse.

This might depend on whether you were wearing it or not.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:20 PM on August 10, 2011


"But that's not why people watch TV read books. Clever things make people feel
stupid, and unexpected things make them feel scared."
posted by Cogito at 5:21 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not with a bang but with a spoiler?

Yeah, I'm going to bow out soon because I suspect that some people will try and apply this 'enlightened' view to all media.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:21 PM on August 10, 2011


Oh, shit, I'm already dreading the MeTa thread that this is likely to inspire. Can we skip it if I say "pretty please."
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:22 PM on August 10, 2011


Maybe stories should come with abstracts, then we could decide quickly whether the plot is worth our time, skim the charts, and read the conclusion. It would save so much time!
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:23 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe stories should come with abstracts, then we could decide quickly whether the plot is worth our time, skim the charts, and read the conclusion.

This has been available for generations! Have you never heard of Cliff Notes or Sparknotes?
posted by hippybear at 5:26 PM on August 10, 2011


Maybe stories should come with abstracts, then we could decide quickly whether the plot is worth our time, skim the charts, and read the conclusion. It would save so much time!

Didn't they already do that in one of those awful serial SF/Fantasy dirges? I seem to remember one that literally had accessories and visual aids to help decipher the whole thing and illustrate how clever and complicated it was.

If not, someone should do that. It'd sell like ice in Arizona.
posted by loquacious at 5:26 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is rather obvious on some level. Otherwise people would never re-read a book or re-watch a movie. And the full title of "Hamlet" is "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark." You know up front it's not going to end well.

But still, that doesn't mean stories aren't more enjoyable and fulfilling when you don't know the outcome.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:27 PM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I uh, may or may not have used the timeline at the end of Return of the King to find out all the main plot points of LOTR because I was getting super bored in middle of Two Towers.

Spoiler: I did.
posted by kmz at 5:27 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the problem is that this measures short stories, which are more about the writing - and especially literary short stories. If they'd done TV, movies, or twist-heavy horror or sci-fi it would be different.

I agree with this. I immediately thought of a few gimmicky/schlocky M Knight Shyamalan movies that are worth watching once for the twist and would suck altogether if you knew what was going to happen in advance.
posted by Hoopo at 5:27 PM on August 10, 2011


The first time I remember seeing spoiler warnings, back in Usenet days, it wasn't for stories, but for games. Old-school adventure games, where the whole pleasure of playing is in figuring stuff out, so learning the solutions before having that opportunity inarguably reduces the fun. That's always seemed to me the most natural and legitimate use of spoiler warnings. Spoiler warnings for plot seem iffier to me, except possibly in the context of whodunits, where the moment of revelation is of paramount importance.
posted by baf at 5:30 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe stories should come with abstracts, then we could decide quickly whether the plot is worth our time, skim the charts, and read the conclusion. It would save so much time!

There is that trope of having chapter headings which summarize what happens. e.g. "Chapter 3: in which a terrible calamity befalls our coterie of plucky protagonists"
posted by juv3nal at 5:34 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is rather obvious on some level. Otherwise people would never re-read a book or re-watch a movie. And the full title of "Hamlet" is "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark." You know up front it's not going to end well.

I've been watching Sons of Anarchy, which I'd heard described as 'Hamlet with bikies', so I assumed I knew what would happen. So far absolutely nothing has matched up.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:34 PM on August 10, 2011


Have you never heard of Cliff Notes or Sparknotes?

They don't have a "Methodology" section....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:36 PM on August 10, 2011


And the full title of "Hamlet" is "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark." You know up front it's not going to end well.

I'll raise you one: when the tragedies of Sophocles were being performed for the first time, the entire audience didn't just know they were going to end badly, they knew the entire story. The stories weren't exactly new ones, you know? This wasn't held to be a hindrance. In fact, according to Aristotle, knowing what's going to happen before the characters do is essential to how tragedy works.
posted by baf at 5:42 PM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just finally watched James Gunn's Super last week and completely, completely loved it (rent it!). And I am so glad that I hadn't read Roger Ebert's review beforehand which completely ruined one of the major reveals in an almost shockingly offhanded, careless way (and I'm a big Ebert lover). The movie would have been so much less, so much less moving and profound if I had known plot points going into it. I'm so glad that spoiler-warnings have become a widespread norm not just in reviews but in general discussions (when did that happen, anyway?).
posted by Auden at 5:43 PM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dude, it was totally the tiger.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:44 PM on August 10, 2011


(when did that happen, anyway?)

Probably sometime between The Empire Strikes Back and The Crying Game were released.
posted by hippybear at 5:49 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not just the writing. I read for the story, not just the punchline, but the growth of the characters, the evolution of the story, the sense of place, and the storytelling. If there's some interesting details, perhaps some history or some humor, I love it. Many Stephen King novels could be quite short; people love him because he's a fantastic (literally) storyteller. I mostly don't like short stories with a big puchline, but I generally prefer to discover it for myself.

Also, Punchy McShotgunface is making me laugh so much right now.
posted by theora55 at 5:49 PM on August 10, 2011


It really depends on the work you're talking about. Can we extend "spoilers" to include not just what happens, but how?

If it's, say, a great novel or film, I can get lost enough in the moment such that my brain is only concerned with and thinking about what's happening at that moment, and not what will happen, if I already know what's going to happen. If it's crap, I'll just feel like I'm wasting my time.

Take, for example, any bad action flick. I can watch it for the very first time and be content with it, not just or simply because I don't know what's going to happen, but also because I'm all "oooh, wow, look at the shiny colors and robots and BLAMMO! That explosion ROCKED! Boy, this Blu-Ray stuff really brings out the best in my high-fidelity audio and video equipment. I'm so glad that I spent three days in the five-thousand degree attic dropping cable behind the drywall and through the ceiling to get my surround sound system up, and thank god my friends helped me move this TV, but man, I wish I still had my friends but I think they're still mad at me for moving this TV and you know, etc., etc."

(There are some movies where even the sound and video quality will make them worth watching.)

If I were to watch it again, I not only know what's going to happen or how, but what it'll look like. There's a visceral enjoyment I get out of watching some bad movies.

Now, there are many movies I could watch again and again, and knowing everything about such films will not lessen my enjoyment of them. The writing, or acting, or cinematography, or any number of things, or all of them, make them worth my while and please me very much.

Anyway, whatever. You know what I'm talking about, right? I believe the authors of the study would've achieved different results if they included, amongst their classics, such works as "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: The Novel." It just so happens that I authored and co-authored a similar study, but with film, and reached significantly different results.
posted by herrdoktor at 6:02 PM on August 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


I meant to say: some movies where even the sound and video quality will NOT make them worth watching.
posted by herrdoktor at 6:04 PM on August 10, 2011


It really depends on the work you're talking about. Can we extend "spoilers" to include not just what happens, but how?

This might be an important point for videogames - I think there was a discussion recently about 'mechanical spoilers'. But you need to balance that with the responsibility to tell people enough about the mechanics to let them know if they want the game.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:16 PM on August 10, 2011


Well, you can't necessarily jump from "we re-read stories and re-watch movies" to "therefore we enjoy them just as much with and without the reveal". The reason is simple: we watch movies / read books / listen to music differently the first time around and subsequent times.

Perhaps the case is most obvious with music. But it's also true of literature and film. We watch/read/listen for different things and our enjoyment is of different elements.

One may as well ask: is the first stage of love better/worse than a more mature love? Is limerence inherently more enjoyable or "better" than the love that comes from knowing someone for years/decades?
posted by VikingSword at 6:23 PM on August 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


The reason that spoilers for films annoy me is that they tend to break my suspension of disbelief. Upon reaching the spoilered point in the film my inner monologue will kick in with something along the lines of "Oh, yeah, that's the thing that I knew was going to happen but not when it was going to happen. So it's happened now. Hmm. I was kind of expecting it to be a final reveal but we're not very far through the film so maybe there are more twists to come? Or maybe it's not really about the twist, maybe it's about the characters' reactions to the twist? Dammit, now I'm thinking about the film rather than experiencing it. Come on, me, knuckle down."
posted by MUD at 6:40 PM on August 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


I agree with this. I immediately thought of a few gimmicky/schlocky M Knight Shyamalan movies that are worth watching once for the twist and would suck altogether if you knew what was going to happen in advance.

Oh oh!

The other day I watched The Sixth Sense for the first time and I was so excited because it finally gave me scientific proof of whether or not spoilers for me ruined the experience. This is because everyone except me on earth including remote tribes in the Amazon had seen that movie, so I knew all about it. So I waited patiently until a post about spoilers appeared, because let's face it we all knew one would come around again soon.

Knowing what happened in the movie and the central point did not ruin the film for me. I was able to engage with it as an artistic product and evaluate not only the plot as it unfolded and the acting, but also the way in which the central twist of the movie was artfully concealed. It made me more engaged in the movie, because frankly if I had not known the twist I would not have continued to watch what appeared to be a heartwarming drama about a man struggling to cope with a failure at his job and a child who leads him to redemption. It actually is still that story, admittedly, but the story has several other facets that are only relevant to viewing once you know what is going to happen.

On preview of Mud's comment I think we watch movies in different ways. I like to think about the movie - I'm not much on suspension of disbelief.
posted by winna at 6:45 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have found stories ruined by their sequels and by finding out the author is a dingbat far more often than by learning about some plot development in advance. Once written, the words are fixed and unchanging. But good stories can be read anew every time.
posted by wobh at 6:49 PM on August 10, 2011


This reminded me that I need to read some Chekhov one of these days, as he sounds like a writer I would enjoy.

How could you spoil a Chekhov story?

SPOILER

" . . . In your life you haven’t known what joy was; but wait, Uncle Vanya, wait. . . . We shall rest.”
posted by KokuRyu at 7:15 PM on August 10, 2011



This might be an important point for videogames - I think there was a discussion recently about 'mechanical spoilers'. But you need to balance that with the responsibility to tell people enough about the mechanics to let them know if they want the game.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:16 PM on August 10 [+] [!]


I think immediately of The Stanley Parable, whose fun would be diminished, I think, if anything at all were known about the game.
posted by herrdoktor at 7:21 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, or even this post. Dunno how I missed it.
posted by herrdoktor at 7:22 PM on August 10, 2011


I will admit to a crime here. When I was a much younger Splunge and spent much of my time in a library, I borrowed a boook of stories that included the "The Lady or the Tiger." For some reason, that I can't recall, I cut out the last page of the story. So that future readers wouldthink that there was an answer. And they missed it.

I am so sorry about that now. But still. I actually didn't change the story at all.

Or did I?
posted by Splunge at 7:27 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Adachi eventually finds out that Kinbote was the real killer.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:37 PM on August 10, 2011


I will admit to a crime here.

... yeah, I did that at a hostel in Italy; someone in the bunk next to mine had left a copy of a Stephen King novel (for the life of me, I can't remember which one..., one of the big tomes like The Stand) on his bed, he'd bookmarked it about 30 pages from the end. I'd read it before and knew that the big reveal was in the last page or two, so I kindly removed those for him on my way to checking out and catching the train to the next town. I did it because - can you image how he would have felt? where was he going to get another copy in English? - and I did it because I was a total dick.
posted by Auden at 7:38 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Shade was merely the name of his sled)
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:39 PM on August 10, 2011


I never understand these types of studies. The mean American prefers X to Y, therefore X is better than Y. How does that follow? And how does it follow that I do, or should, prefer X to Y? And given that neither of these things follow, why do we care that 53 out of 100 people prefer spoiled plots to unspoiled plots? This type of research is parasitic on studies where the presumed mechanism is universal, and a difference in means indicates a difference in everyone or everything. But when it's just the variety of human preference, saying some prefer X, some prefer Y doesn't have any scientific import whatsoever.

That said, I wonder what results they would get with a hedonic comparison months or years after the fact. I for one remember plot twists vividly years later, when many more enjoyable, well-written stories dissolve into the sea of diffused memories.
posted by chortly at 7:43 PM on August 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


As a teenager, through the magic of mailing lists, I found myself getting literature from the Committee for Human Rights, a scientology front group. The pamphlets were exposing the agenda of psychiatry, especially forcing it on kids in school. They feature an anecdote about a kid being shown a movie in class "about life". Man about to be hung, rope breaks, etc etc. The kid is so disturbed by the ending, she skips school and does drugs instead.

This film wasn't mentioned by name, but it must have been An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge judging by the synopsis in the totally true story that was in no way pulled out of their asses.
posted by dr_dank at 7:59 PM on August 10, 2011


If we're confessing mean spoilers, I'd have to say it was when my little sister was on like chapter four of Little Women and she was all yay Beth! And so I told her Beth died. And then convinced her I was kidding. Wheels within wheels of being hateful is my whole bidness.
posted by winna at 8:02 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Auden,
I did read Ebert's review of Super before seeing it, but I didn't remember that I had read the spoiled part until I saw it happen in the movie, so I call that a wash.

Also, "The Lady or the Tiger" is pretty much what I thought the ending of the second "Matrix" movie was going to be, seeing as how there was another movie coming. I thought that having Neo standing there, having to pick a door, was a pretty nifty way to end the second movie, and then, it... kept... going.

I give filmmakers too much credit, is my problem.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 8:13 PM on August 10, 2011


Spoiler alert: This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments.
posted by kyleg at 8:36 PM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's an... interesting study. But a couple of psychologists analyzing the reactions of thirty people (who are probably all college students) is not enough to create a universal law of human nature. For one thing, the participants knew they were in a study, therefore they had reason to behave in ways that were different from normal life. Then there's generational differences, self selection effects, and so on.

All I can say is that, anecdotally, I don't like spoilers, and I almost never reread. There are some stories that are so complex you can't absorb the full effect from one reading or viewing, but they are extremely rare. Out of all the stories I read over the years I've gone back to less than a dozen, and in those cases mostly because of childhood nostalgia or plain forgetfulness. If you wait ten or twenty-five years, a favorite novel can seem quite different because you yourself are no longer the same person.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:41 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


In high school, I mentioned I was reading Ender's Game. Present tense. With an "ing" to indicate that the action of reading was ongoing. So dude I was talking with said, "Oh, Ender's Game? The one where MASSIVE SPOILER?"

And all I could say was, "Well, that hasn't been made explicit yet, but it makes a lot of sense given what's going on. Thanks a lot, dick!"

-------

Here's the nice thing about first experiencing a work without spoilers: you get to experience it again later, in a completely different way, because of the foreknowledge you have. So without spoilers, you can experience the work in two different entertaining ways, and with spoilers, you have no choice but to have foreknowledge. Why would people want to close off that first option? It's completely alien to me. You're cutting your entertainment options in half that way.
posted by Jpfed at 8:45 PM on August 10, 2011 [12 favorites]


Before I go back to World of Tanks, I have to tell you all... I reread books all the time. And i guess I have selective amnesia. Because I still enjoy them the second or third or nth time around. I'm reading Desolation Road again. And of course I spoiled it for myself by reading it a first damn time. But I still love it.

I spoil myself.
posted by Splunge at 9:15 PM on August 10, 2011


That's a good one, Splunge. (And it's back in print!) A prime example of Bantam Spectra's glory years. I remember feeling like parts of the book were familiar, even though they seemed original, because they were such well told folk tales.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:41 PM on August 10, 2011


It's probably one of my favorite books, and I only bought it because the title reminded me of a Dylan song.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:48 PM on August 10, 2011


They’re selling postcards of the hanging

They’re painting the passports brown

The beauty parlor is filled with sailors

The circus is in town...

posted by Kevin Street at 9:52 PM on August 10, 2011


Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.


Jesus Christ, Shakespeare! Spoiling asshole! (Also, that post-modern reference to "two hours' traffic" - could he be more pretentious!)
posted by crossoverman at 12:12 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, Shakespeare! Spoiling asshole! (Also, that post-modern reference to "two hours' traffic" - could he be more pretentious!)

Thing is, that's part of the work. If the intro told exactly how or when the characters died, that would be a spoiler.

To go back to the Sons of Anarchy example, knowing its based on Hamlet means I know the broad outlines of the plot. I didn't know the [BIG SEASON 1 CLIMAX] and when Jax finally makes a play on Hellboy I want to be surprised.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:59 AM on August 11, 2011


What a stupid, pointless "study." It's basically no better than an opinion poll (worse, given the tiny, unrepresentative sample size) and certainly no basis for making decisions about spoiler etiquette.

I could use the exact same methodology to "prove" that more people like chocolate ice cream than vanilla. Therefore, no one will mind and there is nothing wrong with going around and snatching people's vanilla ice cream and replacing it with chocolate. Because we just proved that people like chocolate better. So shut up about your stupid vanilla and eat that delicious chocolate I just gave you.

I don't give a damn whether 9 out of 10 people like "The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" better after having the ending spoiled. Lots of people liked Transformers 2. I don't like Michael Bay movies and I don't like spoilers and I'll thank you not to give me either of them.
posted by straight at 1:06 AM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sometime in the 90s, my family sat down to watch "The Sixth Sense" together.

"So what's this movie about?" asked my dad in the opening minutes.

"That kid sees dead people," said my brother.

"So what if HE'S dead?" asked my father, pointing to Bruce Willis.

We all pondered this for a moment, then we all yelled at him for ruining the movie. But we watched it anyway.
posted by Brodiggitty at 2:37 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


So apparently a book or movie is NOT ruined when my friend says something like this: "You should read or watch ___________. It was hilarious/awesome! There was this really funny part where he was like "blah blah blah" and the other guy was like "wha?" and then...."

Because I call bullshit.

Ruins it for me every time. I'd like to read a book or see a movie without someone else's recommendation preview. Obviously, I can't hide my mind from everything, but the reason I watch a new movie or read a new book is because it's a NEW story to my mind, thank you very much.

And on that note, stop telling me everything about a Youtube video, and then making me watch it or calling me a party poopin' bitch if I don't, because you just -told- me about it, so how can it be startling or funny to me anymore?

Sometimes I hate my generation.
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:54 AM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Spoilers don't ruin a story - if the story is very good, the twist ending can be appreciated even if known beforehand.

What they do is ruin the surprise, which is a cruel thing to do to both the storyteller as an artist who was depending on a sense of surprise to delight or shock their audience, and the audience, who enjoys being surprised.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:07 AM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I knew what Rosebud was before ever seeing Citizen Kane. That damned Lucy Van Pelt of Peanuts spoiled it for me. Enjoyed the movie but it feels like I missed out on something that would have entirely changed it. Impossible to know whether I'm right or not.
posted by rahnefan at 5:37 AM on August 11, 2011


I often read the end of a novel early, largely because I can't stand it when an author decides in the last chapter to go, "You thought this was a novel! Ha! It's the first part of an epic and I'm just going to leave this unfinished so you buy the next one!"

That said, I'm not certain this study (or the reporting of it) is that strong.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:01 AM on August 11, 2011


I get there are people who read the last page first, or love spoilers (I had to teach my ex to answer the question "what's this movie about" without describing the movie beginning to end, spoilers and all), but it doesn't work for me.

My job is fixing things, I'm paid to figure things out. I'm presented with a problem, I find the answer, problem solved. I get there's more to a story than "what happens at the end", but if you tell me "Oh Bruce Willis is a ghost the whole time", you've obviated any pressing urge I have to see the movie, because you've 'solved the problem' for me. I'm now no more enthusiastic about the journey to the big reveal anymore than I am interested in researching a particular mailserver settings issue after my boss shows me how to fix it.

This is also why prequels tend to annoy me; especially the Star Wars prequels (which sucked for so many other reasons, but I digress): Oh no, Young Obi Wan is in trouble? Good thing I know he remains in good health for the next 30 years in time to train Luke Skywalker. Whew! This scene was almost suspenseful!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:27 AM on August 11, 2011


I watched Shutter Island last night. I wish I'd read spoilers beforehand, as I usually do, because, man, the twist was stupid in the way it came together. I think watching it to see how they executed the twist would have been more interesting, but I have no desire to watch it a second time.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:41 AM on August 11, 2011


I'd like to take this opportunity to complain about movie reviews that are too worried about not giving anything away. It's one thing not to reveal the big twist, but far too many reviewers today act like it's verboten to describe any plot point that happens outside the first ten minutes of the movie.

Two recent examples were Super 8 and The Tree of Life. Based on the previews, I was intrigued enough to think I might like to see them, so I went scouring some movie reviews to learn more. But I read half a dozen reviews of each and didn't know any more about the plots than when I had started. I ended up having to go to the TV Tropes entry on each just to learn enough about the plot to know whether I'd like to see them or not.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:29 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


In high school, I mentioned I was reading Ender's Game. Present tense. With an "ing" to indicate that the action of reading was ongoing. So dude I was talking with said, "Oh, Ender's Game? The one where MASSIVE SPOILER?"

I'd argue that Ender's Game is one of those works where you're supposed to figure out what's going on before the big reveal, to engage tragic pity. There are certainly enough hints dropped.

See also: at least half of H. P. Lovecraft.
posted by baf at 10:31 AM on August 11, 2011


I knew what Rosebud was before ever seeing Citizen Kane. That damned Lucy Van Pelt of Peanuts spoiled it for me.

Charlie Brown's Lucy told Peanuts readers that Rosebud was Hearst's nickname for Marion Davies' clitoris? Good Grief!
posted by Auden at 10:39 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Screw that. I want the pleasure of not knowing time one (in part so I can feel clever if I figure it out on my own) , and of knowing time two.

If it's not worth reading a second time, well, to hell with it anyway.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:47 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.


crossoverman:

Jesus Christ, Shakespeare! Spoiling asshole! (Also, that post-modern reference to "two hours' traffic" - could he be more pretentious!)

No. No, no, no. This is a different construction altogether, this doesn't depend on any kind of reveal at all, in the sense "reveal" is used in this study.

But this brings up a nice distinction to the topic at hand - between the whodunit, and a howdunit.

Here's a comparison: Columbo. We are at no point confused as to who the bad guy is, or even how he did the crime. We are blatantly shown right from the very beginning who does it and how. Our enjoyment is from how Peter Falk goes about solving the crime.

So, Jesus Christ, Shakespeare was not a spoiling asshole!
posted by VikingSword at 4:14 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


A spoiling asshole sounds like a medical condition which requires immediate attention. Get thee to a nunnery hospital!
posted by hippybear at 4:53 PM on August 11, 2011


@DevilsAdvocate

We couldn’t disagree more. I’m always ranting about how people don’t seem to know the difference between synopsis and review. As far as I’m concerned a review doesn’t need any synopsis, but one line is fine, two if it’s especially complicated, but usually you’d be wrong about that. I don’t want to know the story, I want to know if it’s any good.

I don’t want to know the plot. I often will just skip a movie or book if someone has told me the plot. I don’t think that plot is everything, and people who skip through books or movies are totally baffling to me. It’s not that spoilers totally ruin it for me, it’s just that I’m usually not as interested anymore once I know the story.
posted by bongo_x at 5:03 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Spoiler: I was being sarcastic.

Do you know part of the reason Shakespeare gave away the endings of his plays at the start? Because not everyone stayed the entire length of the play! In his time, people traveled so far to see them, they often left early to get home!

But, of course, there's another reason for using that kind of construction - teasing the audience and keeping them on edge. But it does prove that a good story well told can withstand being "spoiled", since it's the how it happens and those details make the story what it is.
posted by crossoverman at 5:13 PM on August 11, 2011


With H.P. Lovecraft, you know the twist beforehand because you see the old groundskeeper hunched over the Husqvarna chainsaw, trying to pull it to life. What separates lesser writers from Howard Phillip is that their lunatic fires up a chainsaw to chase co-eds, where our lunatic activates a device that sunders reality from itself, so the dead gods dreaming will awake, and blot out our reality like a cur shaking muck from its fur...
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:53 PM on August 11, 2011


You might also say that a good writer needs no chainsaw or lunatic or cosmic horror, though-- that they can make you care about anything, even nothing at all (sup Beckett)

not to say I don't like cosmic horror stories
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:48 AM on August 12, 2011


baf writes "Spoiler warnings for plot seem iffier to me, except possibly in the context of whodunits, where the moment of revelation is of paramount importance."

A friend of mine reads the last few pages of every book they pick up before starting page one. They obviously enjoy mystery novels in a different way than I do because for me the whole point is to put myself in the detective's shoes and see if I can figure out the crime before it's revealed. A good mystery writer to me is one that provides the information without depending on esoteric knowledge of the protagonist in the last pages to solve the crime.

Or take the case of low gore slasher flicks. Much of the enjoyment, for me at least, is derived from the shock of having the killer jump out of the bushes unexpectedly. You don't get the same adrenalin rush when you are forewarned. I even try to avoid watching too many of these kinds of films back to back because it ratchets up my genre savviness which in turn results in anticipation of what should be surprises.

Jpfed writes "Here's the nice thing about first experiencing a work without spoilers: you get to experience it again later, in a completely different way, because of the foreknowledge you have. So without spoilers, you can experience the work in two different entertaining ways, and with spoilers, you have no choice but to have foreknowledge. Why would people want to close off that first option? It's completely alien to me. You're cutting your entertainment options in half that way."

I agree totally. Both Fight Club and The Sixth Sense for example can be enjoyed on second viewing but in a totally different way than than an unspoiled first viewing. I also love me (Time warning: TV Tropes link) Rashomon Style story telling.
posted by Mitheral at 2:18 AM on August 14, 2011


My enjoyment of a movie is often eclipsed by the feeling of dread and anxiety because I don't know what will happen next. That may be the point, but I may be too constitutionally sensitive to strike a proper balance.

One day, over ten years ago, one of my roommates (who LOVED movies) watched suspense/thriller and told me about it. I encouraged him to tell me the whole story. I then rented the movie and watched it unfold with much pleasure and no anxiety.

Now, when the husband pops in/streams a movie, I always read the plot on wikipedia. After reading the plot, I can relax and enjoy the execution of the cool story I just read.
posted by Jezebella at 8:51 PM on August 14, 2011


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