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The secret allure of the spoiler. Think you don’t want to know the ending? Think again
August 29, 2012 11:08 AM   Subscribe

The secret allure of the spoiler. Think you don’t want to know the ending? Think again "Is there a greater cultural sin than a good story spoiled? The accepted modern posture is that knowing too much beforehand about the plot of a novel, a play, a movie, even a TV series, ruins the magic of experiencing it for the first time — renders it damaged goods, not worth one’s time or money.[..]

It’s a given: Everyone hates spoilers. Except when they don’t. Two researchers in the psychology department of the University of California at San Diego recently decided to test whether we really hate spoilers, or just like to say we do. What they found surprised them: The majority of people apparently like having a story spoiled for them. In fact, we may enjoy spoiled stories even more than the unspoiled versions. Is it true? Do we secretly crave predigested plots the way some foodies sneak Big Macs when no one’s looking?" Pdf link to study.

From the study's Conclusions:

"Writers use their artistry to make stories interesting, to engage readers, and to surprise them, but we found that giving away these surprises makes readers like stories better. This was true whether the spoiler revealed a twist at the end (e.g., that the condemned man’s daring escape is just a fantasy as the rope snaps taut around his neck) or solved the crime (e.g., Poirot discovers that the apparent target of attempted murder was in fact the perpetrator). It was also true when the spoiler was more poetic, as when frisky adolescents watching a couple struggle with a baby are revealed to be previewing their own futures, and the couple glimpsing their own pasts. In all these types of stories, spoilers may allow readers to organize developments, anticipate the implications of events, and resolve ambiguities that occur in the course of reading."
posted by nooneyouknow (171 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've learned to love spoilers, in doses. It can actually make something much more interesting, when you know what's going to happen, but you don't necessarily how or why it happens.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:16 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is why life is often unpleasant.
posted by srboisvert at 11:16 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


This whole subject exploded on boingboing recently when Cory Doctorow introduced it using some unnecessarily pretentious characterization addressing fans who prefer spoiler-avoidance. I think categorizing the issue as simply "pro" or "con" in a falsely simplified way is kind of useless though...unless of course your only purpose is to needle someone (or get yourself more clicks).

I can't speak for other cinephiles, but for me personally the degree to which I experience temptation or revulsion regarding spoilers for a given work seems to fall somewhere on a sliding scale. There are some films I want to go into "as cold as possible" and there are others that I'd actually prefer having spoiled for me before watching them (or even deciding whether to watch them). It doesn't really have to do with the overall quality of a film, it's just a case by case kind of thing.
posted by trackofalljades at 11:17 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I want to know the ending to make sure the investment of time and emotional energy will be worth it. For a single movie maybe it doesn't matter, it's only an hour or two. But if I'm going to get fulling invested in some epic series I want to know that the creator has an exit strategy.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's been documented before that movie trailers that reveal spoiler-y details test better than those that don't. I think people like to know what they're going into in advance.

Speaking anecdotally (spoilers ahead!), I'm in the process of reading A Game of Thrones (and the rest of ASOIAF). Knowing in advance that Ned Stark dies has actually made the book more exciting (especially the Ned chapters). There's this weird sense of suspense and anticipation that's created precisely because I know it's coming, but I don't know when/where/how it'll happen.
posted by asnider at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks for spoiling the study's conclusion for me, nooneyouknow.
posted by rouftop at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2012 [12 favorites]


AMC teased the premiere of season 5 of Breaking Bad by reminding viewers what happened to Gus Fring at the end of season 4 - and did so while I was in middle of catching up with season 4 on DVD.

Thus I can speak from experience that while the end of season 4 was not ruined for me by knowing what happened to Gus Fring, it was made less of everything that I'm sure the creators hoped to achieve.

So, really, fuck spoilers.
posted by Egg Shen at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


It always seemed to me as if there are two types of stories, those which improve if you know what is going to happen and those where the whole point is to find out what happened. Think about how more interesting Oedipus or Macbeth are because you know roughly what is going to happen. In a Tom Clancy novel, we are really reading it to find out what happens next.
posted by shothotbot at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


From the study's Conclusions:

Thanks, I enjoyed that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:22 AM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


AMC teased the premiere of season 5 of Breaking Bad by reminding viewers what happened to Gus Fring at the end of season 4 - and did so while I was in middle of catching up with season 4 on DVD.

Showtime did the same thing with season 6 of Weeds, right before I started watching season 5. So irritating!
posted by hermitosis at 11:24 AM on August 29, 2012


First of all, this study is a year old, so it's been extensively written about, if you want to Google it.

Second of all, while I agree the assumption that EVERYTHING IS RUINED if you know anything that's coming has gotten utterly out of hand, there are absolutely stories where being completely unspoiled has massively increased my enjoyment. I begged people to see The Cabin In The Woods without reading anything about it, and to read Gone Girl the same way.

Ultimately, it's a balancing act, and while there's a certain point where you can't protect people from finding out anything -- I personally believe that if you really don't want to know anything about a television show, you should watch it while it's on and/or refrain from reading about it, for the most part -- it's perilous to take it upon yourself to decide for other people where the line is based on the idea that it's for their own good.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:26 AM on August 29, 2012


I read a few pages at the beginning of a book, several pages here and there, a few pages at the end. Most times I start again from page one to the finish, but there have been many instances of not wanting to read a book at all after the sampling. I have yet to regret not reading certain books.

My kindle (a present) has made sampling a bit more difficult but not impossible.
posted by francesca too at 11:26 AM on August 29, 2012


Do we secretly crave predigested plots

There's a big difference between giving away plot points and predigesting the plot.

Tell you that Claudius did it and that Hamlet dies at the end does very little for you really.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:28 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of my friends ALWAYS tries to get me to spoil shit, particularly Game of Thrones, if I've seen the latest episode and she hasn't. She's just like "who dies???" then makes all these guesses that I refuse to answer. It drives her nuts. She'll plead "Teeeeeelllllllllll meeeeeeeee" even though she's on her way home to watch the episode when it airs again an hour later. I do not understand.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:28 AM on August 29, 2012


Er, "Telling".
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:29 AM on August 29, 2012


My high school Norwegian class analysed and thereby spoiled the hell out of Ibsen's The Wild Duck before we finally went to see the play. I enjoyed the play even though I knew everything that was going to happen.

Mainstream Hollywood is pretty much unspoilable anyway. The bad guys are defeated in the end, the guy gets the girl and everything is set up for a sequel...
posted by Harald74 at 11:29 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Datapoint: I watched The Wire with only one spoiler (the death of a major charachter, just the fact but not the episode or circumstances)

I also recently watched most of Breaking Bad in an effort to catch up, with a lot of the major deaths and plot points spoiled for me.

I would watch large swaths of both, but I found The Wire more gripping and I was much more invested. With Breaking Bad, it felt much more passive and less exciting. The new episodes I'm much more invested in, however.

To me, the emotions I felt watching the spoiled Breaking Bad were the same as I were watching The Wire, but it felt less so. If that makes any sense.
posted by hellojed at 11:29 AM on August 29, 2012


It always seemed to me as if there are two types of stories, those which improve if you know what is going to happen and those where the whole point is to find out what happened.

And this is exactly why people will still be reading Oedipus and Macbeth hundreds of years from now, but people often leave their Tom Clancy novels on the plane after they've finished reading them.

If a story is good -- well crafted, engaging, etc. -- then it doesn't necessarily matter if you know what's going to happen. There is still joy to be gained by experiencing the art (i.e., you're not just in it for the plot). If the story is more plot-driven than character-driven then, yeah, finding out the ending in advance might take away some of the pleasure because what you're enjoying is the "what's next?!" aspect more than the "wow, that's some damn fine writing/cinematography/whatever" aspect. Of course, the study seems to suggest that even in these cases, people enjoy the story more if they know the outcome in advance, which I find interesting.
posted by asnider at 11:31 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I never want Mad Men spoiled; I never wanted Buffy spoiled. But I have no problem reading Warehouse 13 spoilers and it doesn't impact my enjoyment of the show whether I see the spoilers or not. Other things I've actively sought out spoilers (Bunheads, recently, to find out if the husband was actually dead). Also the desire for non-linear narratives and super-extra-double-crossing stories carried over multiple seasons of TV makes me seek out spoilers because I don't have the kind of energy to devote to remembering it all anymore, so it helps to have a story map and know what's GOING to happen.

I often want movies spoiled if they're doing a legitimately good cliffhanger about whether some character is going to die, and I don't know if I want to emotionally invest in that character. (By contrast, I was already emotionally invested in Buffy so I didn't want to know in advance.) I ALWAYS want things spoiled if there is a baby, small child, or pet in danger. If they're going to die, I'm NOT GOING TO WATCH OR READ. If they're going to survive, I need to know, so I can relax and pay attention to the story, because otherwise I'm going to spend the whole time going "THIS BABY BETTER NOT DIE. Should I turn this off? I should turn this off. Oh, God, now I have to know what happens to the baby. Get off the screen, other characters, I need to know about the baby!"

I don't feel a need to know spoilers in incredibly well-made pieces of work, where the story carries me along even over my usual objections (baby in danger!). On the other hand, these works suffer the least from spoilers because you are carried into the narrative so well you forget the outside world. I managed not to read To Kill a Mockingbird until I was in my 20s, and knowing the entire story didn't matter at all; I was entirely swept up into the book. Similarly, Apollo 13 is about an ACTUAL THING THAT HAPPENED and I've seen it dozens of times and I still cry EVERY TIME they're waiting for the astronauts to come back into radio contact after re-entry because I'M AFRAID THEY'RE DEAD because I forget it's not going on in real time.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:32 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Totally depends.

Crying Game: I dunno; it was spoiled before I watched it, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Sixth Sense: I would have HATED if it had been spoiled for me.

Inception: Didn't bother watching it, because it was spoiled.

Million-Dollar Baby: Wish it had been spoiled. I was watching Movie A, which suddenly became Movie B. I realize life can be like this, too, but I want more continuity of plot; not an entirely new plot introduced 75% through the movie (which essentially turned the first 75% into little more than exposition).

--

So, I think this is a case of a non-gaussian outcome (like the upper-left chart) having its mean and standard deviation calculated: it may not really describe the function at all. Who cares what the average is, if the groupings aren't centered there?
posted by IAmBroom at 11:33 AM on August 29, 2012


I am certainly in the pro-spoiler camp, but have no problem warning others with a spoiler alert. I feel the same way about stage magic. I like to watch it and like it even more on those rare occasions when I am told how it is done. Even though I know that (to paraphrase a Penn Jillette quote I can't find) magic is nothing but gaffer tape and trap doors, the real artistry of the magician is to be able to hide all that and make it look like something completely natural. The same goes for spoilers; if I know something unexpected is coming I can better appreciate the way the writer builds up to it, as alluded to in the original paper. Trailers, on the other hand, I don't care for. Some give away the plot so completely that they are essentially the entire movie edited down to 2 minutes. Comedy trailers can be even worse; they show the funniest parts, and in some cases all the funny parts.

I did like this from the Globe article:

Consider the case of “Funny People,” the Adam Sandler comedy-drama about a movie star who is diagnosed with cancer and later goes into remission. The trailer had to reveal the latter development, says the executive, because who wants to pay for a movie where Adam Sandler dies of cancer? (Hold your comments, please.)

Hollywood executives are clearly missing out on a mojor demographic.
posted by TedW at 11:33 AM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Old short stories of less than 5,000 words are viewed as more enjoyable after being "spoiled". Fine. That doesn't mean that people will like new movies, books or TV series better if you spoil them, because those things require significantly more effort to see unspoiled, since everyone is talking about them.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:34 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let me die in peace.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:37 AM on August 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


Totally depends.

Crying Game: I dunno; it was spoiled before I watched it, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Sixth Sense: I would have HATED if it had been spoiled for me.


Heh, I'd say the flip. I liked Crying Game a lot, but mostly because I didn't know anything. (My favorite part is the beginning, though, with ghost dog, the frog, and the scorpion.)

Sixth Sense I guessed the ending after the first scene where he gets shot. The kid can see dead people. It's not exactly rocket science to take the next step, and all the scenes make it fairly obvious. But I still sorta liked it.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:38 AM on August 29, 2012


I had the same experience with Breaking Bad - saw the fate of Gus Fring before I got to watch all of season 4. Which certainly lessened the impact/drama of the season, but I still enjoyed the final twist.

In a Tom Clancy novel, we are really reading it to find out what happens next.

Spoilers: America, through the efforts of a group of noble, self-sacrificing (but usually very well-off) men, beats the bad guys who come from a different country. Rules of law and due process are secondary and unimportant in achieving that goal, if not outright impediments.
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:38 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love spoilers except when I don't. Sometimes, if I feel like my anxiety over what's going to happen to [character] is overwhelming my enjoyment of a book, I'll read ahead to see what happens, and then I can go back to see how exactly we're going to get there. It doesn't always work, of course - sometimes I find out I don't care how we get there now that I know what happens.

Of course, I'd never go out of my way to spoil something for someone if I know they don't want that thing spoiled, because that would be asshattery. But I know we've had some very...heated discussions here over how to handle spoilers, and when something should be considered "past date" and no bitching about being spoiled should be allowed. Good times.
posted by rtha at 11:38 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let me die in peace.

"STFU"?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:38 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]



Tell you that Claudius did it and that Hamlet dies at the end does very little for you really.

Shakespeare reveals the ending of Romeo and Juliet in the first six lines. No spoiler tags either!
posted by joechip at 11:38 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I likewise guessed how Shattered would end after the first few minutes, but hated it with a fury. So comme ci, comme ca, I guess.

And guessing the ending is a bit different than getting spoiled, I suppose. Carry on.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:40 AM on August 29, 2012


My girlfriend hates movies with sad endings. I made her sit through Pan's Labyrinth. Her reaction was, "So she dies in the end? Are you kidding me?" I tried pointing out she really dies in the beginning, but that didn't help my argument.

I could care less about spoilers. This works out well for us, since now I google the movie, find out if everyone lives happily ever after and if so we watch it.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:41 AM on August 29, 2012


I don't like spoilers, because that sort of reveal or the way something ends is my entire reason for being there. I look at it like I look at solving a computer issue: If someone tells me to update my driver to fix a sound issue, I'm not going to go trolling through forums and pages and dead links and the like to come to the same conclusion. There are movies and shows I'll re-watch, to better analyze and figure out how the conclusion was reached, or things I missed the first time, but it's that first time that's the most special.

I've noticed the people who aren't trolls who are so eager to spoil shit are doing so because they REALLY want me to be more interested in this thing they're talking about, as though revealing the big twist is going to be more interesting than watching the mystery unfold. They're usually crestfallen when I tell them they've obviated any need for me to check out what they're talking about.

Then again, I don't even like to know spoilers for things I may never actually watch, and I REALLY hate the new trend of trailers pretty much being "Here's the whole movie, want to see this again but longer? Come see it!" so maybe I'm on the outside of this study.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:42 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


The study itself, or at least this three-page summary, isn't all that interesting. First, the authors don't tell us anything about how subjects were selected except that women outnumbered men by more than three-to-one. Second, the authors don't tell us anything about how they created the spoiler paragraphs, and we don't have the stories and spoiler paragraphs themselves to examine. Both of those would seem to be key elements that could affect the results quite a bit.

I attended a screenwriting class briefly some years ago, and one lesson stuck with me. The professor explained her conception of the difference between surprise and suspense. Suspense, she said, is created when the characters are in the dark but the audience knows what's going on. Surprise, by contrast, is created when the audience doesn't know what is coming, regardless of what the characters know.

Maybe that's facile, but it seemed interesting to me at the time and I've always remembered it, and reading this study's conclusion I wondered if the authors had ever considered it. Maybe they have, because they do note that they intend their work only to be relevant to spoilers that are "external," but still it seems to me they conflate the two ideas.
posted by cribcage at 11:42 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


This again. sigh. I really hated this study when I saw it the first time.

Because man I hate spoilers. I carefully fast forward "Previously on" bits at the beginning of shows, because sometimes even that is too much of a spoiler for me. (if they say "previously on" and show a scene from last season with an infrequent character, then gee, I wonder who's going to show up and be important this episode...)

I like that feeling of delight when a writer surprises me. Remove those surprises and I might as well be watching a formulaic sitcom (which is possibly part of the point). I really, really wish I had been in that study so I could have bumped the curve.
posted by spinn at 11:42 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I will never understand the paroxysms of rage that spoilers induce in some people. "It ruins the entire experience!' they cry. If your entire perceived value of the media you are consuming lies in the author's ability to drop in a plot twist, you need to find better authors.
posted by Mayor West at 11:44 AM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


My seven-year-old son has, for the last few years, asked repeatedly "what's going to happen?" when we watch movies. I've told him that he shouldn't ask, because finding out what's going to happen ruins the surprise, and part of the filmmaker's art is making you feel like you really want to know. Looks like I need to revisit my advice to him.

Similarly, when Dale Earnhardt Sr. died during a NASCAR race, I was watching it on TiVo running about an hour behind, so I got the news before reaching that point in the race. It was so difficult watching the end of that race, knowing that I was about to watch a man die, but not knowing when or how. Every few laps I would pause it and take a break, because it was so stressful, but I made myself watch to the end because...well, because the idea of it was incredibly compelling. So yeah, I can see how knowing the ending without the details can actually make something more compelling to watch.
posted by davejay at 11:45 AM on August 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


The only type of spoiler that I really don't like are ones that give away plot twists where actually experiencing the surprise of the twist is an important part of the experience, like the one in the The Sixth Sense. I don't mind spoilers for normal plot points or deus ex machina stuff. A spoiler will sometimes help my overall enjoyment, since I won't build up my expectations to the point where I'll just be disappointed in the end.

I often want movies spoiled if they're doing a legitimately good cliffhanger about whether some character is going to die, and I don't know if I want to emotionally invest in that character....I ALWAYS want things spoiled if there is a baby, small child, or pet in danger...

This, too.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:48 AM on August 29, 2012


On the one hand, I really don't like having major plot twists spoiled for me. I had the same Breaking Bad Season 4 problem that a couple of people above mentioned.

But on the other hand, I wish to God that somebody would have spoiled some movies for me (Boxing Helena comes to mind immediately) because it would have saved me a couple of hours of my life...
posted by zoog at 11:49 AM on August 29, 2012


But on the other hand, I wish to God that somebody would have spoiled some movies for me (Boxing Helena comes to mind immediately) because it would have saved me a couple of hours of my life...

That's how I feel about the latest series of Dexter.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:51 AM on August 29, 2012


I always liked spoilers.

When Jane was introduced in Breaking Bad, I looked up on the wiki in what episode will she die.
posted by floatboth at 11:52 AM on August 29, 2012


I have mixed feelings about spoilers. On one hand I begged my boyfriend at the time to tell me if Game of Thrones (book) had a bad ending. Begged and pleaded with him to tell me if Ned was okay at the because I knew that the book would be less enjoyable if Ned died. He looked me right in the eye and told me that everything worked out fine. I threw the book at him after I finished it and will never read the rest of the series.

On the other hand, I diligently remained spoiler free the entire summer before the last season of Buffy. I wanted the whole last season to unfold episode by episode and to drag it out as long as possible. Two days before the season premiere, a friend's new girlfriend found out I was a Buffy fan and blurted out, "Aren't you so excited for the new season? Faith and Angel are coming back!!" While I refrained from punching her, I still don't like her. But that information really didn't impact my enjoyment of the show. I didn't get the details and honestly, the return of those characters was expected.

So, incorrect spoilers when I need to know = bad. Correct spoilers when I don't want to know = less bad.
posted by teleri025 at 11:53 AM on August 29, 2012


That's how I feel about the latest series of Dexter.

After a while I started wondering if the big twist was going to turn out to be that the guy was actually alive the whole time.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:54 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Was anybody else very surprised when that guy got banned from metafilter a few years ago for typing a spoiler to the new Harry Potter book? That isn't a franchise I care about but I thought that was really weird. (To be complete, he was not banned just for that; but the mod explicitly stated that it was a significant and outrageous last straw.)
posted by bukvich at 11:56 AM on August 29, 2012


Oh, and for the Serenity movie, I found out accidentally that there was a major character death. So when the first main character died, I thought I was safe and the rest of the gang would get out of the movie alive.

I was wrong. So very wrong, and the second character death still shocks me and hurts as if a family member had passed away.
posted by teleri025 at 11:57 AM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


In previous threads where someone would minimize others' dislike of spoilers I would trot out the old "wait till you see how McNulty dies" bit, but in actuality, if I told you what he gets up to in season 5 and you didn't already know, I'm not sure you would believe me.

I agree with others who say that the negative effect of spoilers varies according to the work -- the season 1 finale of Rome still made me say "holy fuck". That said, spoiler-vulnerable doesn't indicate to me a lesser work (necessarily), just a different kind of work.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2012


There's something really interesting happening with the "gold standard" TV lately -- my examples are The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Wire; I assume it would be true with Game of Thrones which I have not caught up with (though I felt this way reading it) -- where I'm enough of a pop culture person that I was aware of the major plot twists/surprises before they happen, but even when I eventually catch up with the show, they are solid enough that 'knowing the ending' doesn't really hurt the enjoyment as much as I would have thought. It's sort of like Mayor West says -- the work should be of high enough quality that it stands up to knowing the ending (which is why The Sixth Sense is the only M. Night Shyamalan movie worth seeing)

I wonder if the idea of "ruining the whole experience" came about because we are so used to a lot of TV and movies sucking.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2012


I don't mind spoilers. Sometimes I don't trust a creator not to let me down and I can seek out a spoiler to help me decide. "Is this going to be a Christopher Nolan movie like the ones he did that I liked, or a Christopher Nolan movie like the ones he did that I didn't like?"

I get really confused when people are upset when someone spoils a show that has been out for years. I think there ought to be a statute of limitations on spoilers, where it's considered unreasonable to be upset if someone accidentally spoils something long after it's released.
posted by Mad_Carew at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


me reading this thread:
OK, this is interesting... Oh, good point... Yeah-- I'll never watch 'Citizen Kane' for that reason, how true... (*while furiously scrolling down) GAH!!! BREAKING BAD! NO! AHH!!!! DIE, DEVIL, DIE!!@#$

We're watching the Season 4 finale tonight.
posted by herbplarfegan at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2012


Oh, I didn't mind that part so much - I just resolved to stop thinking about it after a while - but the thing with his sister is the kind of "twist" that would make me need a long, cleansing shower applied directly to my brain if it weren't so incredibly unbelievable.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2012


NO ONE DIES in Serenity. It's just short for a feature film, is all.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:59 AM on August 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


teleri025:
"I was wrong. So very wrong, and the second character death still shocks me and hurts as if a family member had passed away."
The "OMG all the people you love die" spoilers I've heard for Serenity have basically kept me from watching it. So that's bad, I guess?
posted by charred husk at 12:00 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


two types of stories, those which improve if you know what is going to happen and those where the whole point is to find out what happened.
What makes these sets disjoint? The best stories are those in which finding out what happens is an interesting surprise and in which each surprise improves the preceding fraction of the story upon re-examination.

That's the biggest flaw in Leavitt & Christenfeld's study, I think. Suppose they did prove that reading a "spoiled" story for the dramatic irony is more fun than reading it without spoilers for the mystery. That would still be irrelevant to someone who wants to read an unspoiled story once for the mystery and then again for the dramatic irony.
posted by roystgnr at 12:00 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]



Inception: Didn't bother watching it, because it was spoiled.


Huh, I think you may have made a mistake there. That movie is much more about pageantry than plot. And it is a remarkable pageant.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:02 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and for the Serenity movie, I found out accidentally that there was a major character death.

My wife asked me if Frodo died and I said yes so for the last hour of ROTK she was all like: this must be where Frodo gets it.
posted by shothotbot at 12:02 PM on August 29, 2012 [17 favorites]


It is great, though, when you or someone you know encounters a major twist without being spoiled. I worked my way through the Terminator series recently with a couple of friends who had just missed the whole thing. The GNR/crushed roses/come with me if you want to live reversal FLOORED THEM (which was awesome) but it's such a cultural touchstone now that I forgot it was a twist.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:03 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I take it you are writing from your hospital bed?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:03 PM on August 29, 2012


Charred Husk, I personally think the deaths make the story stronger, but, yeah, it's heartbreaking. I still get a little teary thinking about it. In fact, my ex-boyfriend was in the theater the night I saw Serenity and was about ten rows back. He said he heard me scream a bit when it happened and knew instantly it was me.

But yeah, I love the movie and I think both deaths were valid pieces of the story, but I still haven't been able to rewatch the scene even though I've watched the movie tons of times.
posted by teleri025 at 12:05 PM on August 29, 2012


I take it you are writing from your hospital bed?

That was meant for shothotbot, unless Durn has really really testy friends.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:06 PM on August 29, 2012


On one hand I begged my boyfriend at the time to tell me if Game of Thrones (book) had a bad ending.

I haven't read beyond the first book, but I've been watching the series. At one point I asked my husband, "Does Joffrey die? Please tell me he dies. Yes, I really seriously want to know whether he dies. He does die at some point, right?"

I also like spoilers when I have a guess about where the plot's going, and I can figure out if I'm right or not.

When I watched competitive reality TV, I loved spoilers. These are a different beast from spoilers in fictional narratives, mostly because there were few reliable sources, and because the ones who were reliable often had lots of behind-the-scenes gossip that you'd never know otherwise.

And this is weird, but I like fake spoilers. You get the finding-out thrill of real spoilers and the actual surprise twists!
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:08 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I was like all up in that business reading Book of the New Sun I and was like WHAT DOES IT ALL MEEEEAAANNN so I went to the internet for some of that introspection and whatnot and boy, let me tell you I was learning some mad shit and then alls of a sudden I read something that doesn't get revealed until much much later and I was all WELP NOW EVERYTHING IS BORING AND PREDICTABLE

except

except

It wasn't. I mean, on the one hand there is a certain pleasure in being surprised, it's this sort of uncomfortable sensation of new and unexpected information that tickles the brain, but unless the story is so shamefacedly bad to begin with this is merely a bonus and doesn't matter all that much when you take in the whole experience of the work. It's a nice-to-have, but it's not a requirement. So I guess I mostly agree with the findings, or at least with the idea that spoilers are often not as bad as we like to say they are.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:09 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The GNR/crushed roses/come with me if you want to live reversal FLOORED THEM (which was awesome) but it's such a cultural touchstone now that I forgot it was a twist.

Wow. That's practically up there with Vader/Luke at this point.

It is great, though, when you or someone you know encounters a major twist without being spoiled.

I think it was the second time that I watched Serenity that the second death really nailed me. The anticipation and the rawness made it just so much worse. But after a few more times, I started watching for other people's reactions. You knew those who were Serenity newbies by if they laughed at certain lines in the scene right before. As opposed to those in the know who might chuckle a bit but are bracing themselves inside.
posted by kmz at 12:10 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


BTW, I don't want to alarm y'all, but all of you are just figments of my imagination. Sorry to spoil that.
posted by kmz at 12:13 PM on August 29, 2012


Inception: Didn't bother watching it, because it was spoiled.

What? Spoiled what about it, exactly? There's no twist or anything. See the damn movie. You weren't spoiled.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:14 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Maybe the lack of the twist is the twist? It was kind of jarring to realize that Inception really does have a straightforward narrative – I was expecting to have to piece the plot together like it was Perfect Blue or something.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:16 PM on August 29, 2012


- shothotbot: Frodo does die, in a way. He never really makes it back.

- Whatever happened to watching or reading things twice? I like to enjoy things unspoiled the first time around and, if I liked them, I enjoy it even more to go back again (and again) to see how everything was set up & developed to reach its shocking but unavoidable conclusion.
posted by muckster at 12:16 PM on August 29, 2012


The GNR/crushed roses/come with me if you want to live reversal FLOORED THEM (which was awesome) but it's such a cultural touchstone now that I forgot it was a twist.

That's an interesting one, because at the time it wasn't (original trailer). The advertising for T2 when it first released was very heavy on the fact that Arnie was the good guy this time around. So I'm patiently waiting for my boys to be old enough to watch it so that I get the moment you just described.


What do you call it when the passage of time causes the plot twist to occur?
posted by never used baby shoes at 12:16 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem with spoilers is that you can't know whether or not the experience of the story would have been different had you been/not been spoiled. Once you know what happens, you know, and you'll never find out what it's like to go in not knowing. Ideally, you get to choose to take the gamble or not, and it's annoying when others decide for you. I get really emotionally invested in stories and suspenseful situations make me hyperventilate, so like rtha, I often end up spoiling myself. (I spent many an episode of The Wire googling character names on my phone.) But if somebody were to tell me a character's fate or a plot twist unprompted, I'd be really irritated, even if I would have ended up looking it up myself later.

But there are gray areas, obviously. I was one of those bandwagoners who watched The Wire on via bittorrent DVD, and I would read reviews after each episode that had been posted contemporaneously with its HBO run partly to avoid inadvertently being spoiled. There was one review that predicted the fate of a major character and how it exactly would happen. It wouldn't have occurred to me otherwise, but when I read it, I was like, "Damn. That's brilliant. He is totally right. That is 100% how it's going to go down." (People who've seen the show probably know what I'm referring to.) And indeed, the reviewer was right. So in a way, I was spoiled, because I was unsurprised when otherwise I would have been very surprised. But it wasn't a spoiler, it was a very astute prediction, and although a part of me wishes he'd take it down, I realize that's ridiculous.

Lastly, and this is directed specifically at my sister: when you are discussing something you've seen/read with someone who is not yet caught up, a question that starts with "Have you gotten to the part yet where" is a BADLY PHRASED QUESTION.
posted by granted at 12:20 PM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


After seeing Unbreakable, I told someone, "The twist ending is that it sucks."
posted by Egg Shen at 12:20 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that a great deal of the pleasure of the later Harry Potter books was being part of the fan community, which was so full of speculations and theories and detective-work (a lot of which was so well-thought-out that it winded up being quite close to the truth).

A 5000-word short story works very differently from a book series or a TV series where you might have to wait months or years to find out what happens next, and the pain and pleasure of waiting is deeply connected to the experience of reading/watching. (Not so, obviously, for people who come later and marathon the whole thing on Netflix.) In those cases, it seems like you lose out on something real when you get spoiled.
posted by Jeanne at 12:23 PM on August 29, 2012


I read a biography of Napoleon last year -two actually- and there were moments when I thought, "I hope he pulls off this epic comeback run here at Waterloo!"
posted by yeti at 12:25 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Was anybody else very surprised when that guy got banned from metafilter a few years ago for typing a spoiler to the new Harry Potter book? That isn't a franchise I care about but I thought that was really weird. (To be complete, he was not banned just for that; but the mod explicitly stated that it was a significant and outrageous last straw.)

I don't know the context, but I would guess it wasn't just that he spoiled a Harry Potter book, but rather that it would essentially be trolling.
posted by kmz at 12:25 PM on August 29, 2012


One of my favorite things about being a fillm critic was going to movies without having any idea what they were about. I first saw Memento without having heard anything about it -- wonderful.
posted by muckster at 12:27 PM on August 29, 2012


My wife asked me if Frodo died and I said yes so for the last hour of ROTK she was all like: this must be where Frodo gets it.

Oh that's the worst. Like when you come up the stairs in the dark and your foot reaches for one more step that isn't actually there.
posted by echo target at 12:33 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I happened across a midnight release party for the very last Harry Potter book when that came out in 2007 and, I'm not going to lie, it took willpower I didn't know I had not to hide in some nearby bushes and yell "SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE" at passing schoolchildren.
posted by Copronymus at 12:38 PM on August 29, 2012


At one point I asked my husband, "Does Joffrey die? Please tell me he dies. Yes, I really seriously want to know whether he dies. He does die at some point, right?"

When my dad and I were watching the last season of Deadwood my dad kept wanting someone to kill Hearst. When I told him that in real life, Hearst lived to a ripe old age and fathered William Randolph Hearst and was Patty Hearst's great-grandad, he was even more emphatic that Bullock or Swearengen should "kill that bastard Hearst for the good of the country."

Sometimes the spoiler that the really bad guy does get his comeuppance is all that gets you through the story.
posted by teleri025 at 12:40 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I enjoy it even more to go back again (and again) to see how everything was set up & developed to reach its shocking but unavoidable conclusion.

Pretty much the reason I watch Wrath of Khan at least once a year.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:44 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom: "Inception: Didn't bother watching it, because it was spoiled."

Others have said it, but yeah. There's not much in Inception to be spoiled. The ending is ambiguous, but that ambiguity is present throughout. In the meantime it's more of a straight-ahead heist flick that a complex story of twists and turns.
posted by brundlefly at 12:46 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I happened across a midnight release party for the very last Harry Potter book when that came out in 2007 and, I'm not going to lie, it took willpower I didn't know I had not to hide in some nearby bushes and yell "SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE" at passing schoolchildren.

I'm pretty sure the kind of people who showed up at the midnight release for the last book would have already known what happened in the previous one.
posted by kmz at 12:47 PM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Seems like some people are saying "you can still enjoy it if it's spoiled". As a really strong proponent of YES, SPOILERS MATTER, I wouldn't say that's not true. But the type of enjoyment is different, and that's what I don't want ruined.

If I knew what the deal was in Fight Club right up front, I'd watch the movie and say, "oh, I see how they get there, it's kinda neat." But I would completely has missed out on that HOLY SHIT moment, and that's what spoilers ruin for me. I'd still enjoy the movie without it, I guess, but man, that is a crazy high to miss out on.
posted by spinn at 12:50 PM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the kind of people who showed up at the midnight release for the last book would have already known what happened in the previous one.

Yeah, that's what would have made it funny and not asshole-y.
posted by Copronymus at 12:53 PM on August 29, 2012


The problem with spoilers is that you can't know whether or not the experience of the story would have been different had you been/not been spoiled. Once you know what happens, you know, and you'll never find out what it's like to go in not knowing.

I think this is the key issue, which why these kinds of comments are really shitty:

If your entire perceived value of the media you are consuming lies in the author's ability to drop in a plot twist, you need to find better authors.

As said spoilers do irreversibly alter your experience of the work. You can't unknow something and this will change how you perceive it. So while spoilers won't make a work completely worthless, I think it does remove something from the experience. You never have the option of seeing it "fresh", and that it a loss because seeing something unspoiled may indeed change your perceptions of it. The creator made the work in a certain way, and you now can't experience it in that way.

This is also why these lines from the article are odd:

Leavitt grants that almost everybody says they hate spoilers — himself included. “But then you ask them about their favorite movie and they’ve seen it 11 times. So they knew the ending the last 10 times.”

The article calls this a paradox, but there's no conflict at all here. Different viewings reward the viewer in different ways. The initial unspoiled viewing gives you the initial, unspoiled experience. Subsequent viewings can let you appreciate the details, the buildup, the craft, the structure, etc.

Again, you can always appreciate those, but spoiling robs you of that initial, fresh viewing which you can never reclaim.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:55 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


shothotbot: My wife asked me if Frodo died and I said yes so for the last hour of ROTK she was all like: this must be where Frodo gets it."

Apparently she's too young to remember the Frodo Lives! movement.

That always reminds me of a friend who, after hearing someone complaining about spoilers in line for Troy, exploded with "Frodo Lives! Charlotte Dies! Jesus Does Both! -- There, now I've spoiled three more movies for you."
posted by Karmakaze at 12:57 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also wanted to add that I think that's why spoiling is such a taboo: it shows a fundamental lack of respect for the other person's wishes. By revealing a spoiler without consent you've taken that ability to experience the work fresh from them.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:58 PM on August 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, that's what would have made it funny and not asshole-y.

I'm sure you know this, but just in case: it's never not asshole-y to hide in bushes and yell at kids. That's what they tell me, anyway.
posted by Soulfather at 1:01 PM on August 29, 2012


I count myself extremely lucky to have walked into a theater to see Memento knowing nothing but that Guy Pearce was in it. Fantastic.

Fight Club was a funny case, because before I knew anything about it I kept hearing people say things like "Second time I watched it, I noticed Brad Pitt even earlier in the movie" and I'd think yeah, good for you, buddy. The hell?

Hearst needed killin, and no mistake. Sure, he's an immovable object due to history, but the plot sets Swearengen up as an unstoppable force. You can't observe the first without woefully gutting the second. I would have applauded had the writers thrown a lampshade over it and had Farnum tell Swearengen that Hearst was making history and have Swearengen say "Fuck history", walk across the street, shoot Heast in the head, and skullfuck the brainhole.

But that's just me.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:01 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, if spoilers don't matter, I'll use a Sharpie to circle Waldo on all the pages, and you can appreciate how the artist got there.
posted by spinn at 1:02 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey, if spoilers don't matter, I'll use a Sharpie to circle Waldo on all the pages, and you can appreciate how the artist got there.

That's funny and all, but it's a completely ridiculous analogy. There is no narrative in a Where's Waldo? book.
posted by asnider at 1:05 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Durn, that makes me wonder: If I'd had Inglourious Basterds spoiled for me, would I have believed it?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:08 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I definitely think there's some media (movie, TV, book, what have you) where going into it as close to tabula rasa as you can definitely improves it. (Especially since you can always go back and re-digest it knowing what you know, but we can't yet erase memories like that)

Fight Club was definitely one of those, but I'd also nominate Cloverfield oddly enough. Mainly because of how I watched it: A couple friends & I were wandering the local mall (I can't remember why, as I don't generally do that), and we decided to watch a movie. Nothing we knew sounded good, so I (having vaguely heard of the name because of a piece of concept art) said "I heard Cloverfield is supposed to be good. It's also new. Let's check it out!" And so we did.

The key thing here, though, is that A. nobody knew anything about it beyond the name. Not even the genre. & B. it was before they started playing trailers which revealed the monster and everything else.

So we're sitting in a theater, watching what looks like an indie-type romance or something like that, and then everything just goes to hell, and we didn't expect any of it, and it was amazing. Rewatching it, not so much. Knowing it's a monster movie really drained it of the power it had for us, just watching a random movie and finding out what happens as we go.

Sometimes the power of media is in the story. Sometimes it's in the experience.
posted by CrystalDave at 1:13 PM on August 29, 2012


I'll never watch 'Citizen Kane' for that reason, how true...

Knowing it's the sled (even knowing what happens to it!) does not ruin the movie even the slightest bit.

It's a really good movie. You should see it.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:15 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sure, he's an immovable object due to history, but the plot sets Swearengen up as an unstoppable force.

What I always though was so fascinating about Swearengen as a character is that he starts off as the series heavy in season one. As Deadwood becomes more and more "civilized" (officially part of Dakota, the telegraph, etc), Swearengen becomes smaller and less of a force...the true heavies are the people like Hearst, who come along with the town's developing integration into America. The person who started off as the criminal baddy looks like nothing compared to what moves into town as Deadwood develops.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:15 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


The kindle largely broke me of the habit of reading the last page shortly after the first. It's usually the case that the last page is utterly incomprehensible without all the page in between, but it did provide a good indication that the author has delivered a badly structured mess with a cliffhanger to sell the next book.

Unfortunately, the last "novel" (if that term can apply to something with no coherent plot, characterization, or structure) I completed suggests that perhaps I should get back into the habit.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:18 PM on August 29, 2012


That's funny and all, but it's a completely ridiculous analogy. There is no narrative in a Where's Waldo? book.

Hey I beg to differ. The study wasn't about "we don't mind being told the narrative," it's "we actually prefer spoilers". And in a Where's Waldo book, there's definitely a puzzle to be solved, just like a murder mystery.

Really, the counter-argument I was expected was "even a Where's Waldo page has quite a lot of artwork on it that can be appreciated on its own right".

But I think the analogy is valid. Just as much as if I handed you a book of mystery short stories and wrote the solution to each of the mysteries on the first page of each.

I think really what's aggravating me more about this is -- I mean it's crazy to me that some people read books out of order, but that's how they do it, and fine. But if a study said "we all like to read books out of order" I'd have to take exception. Getting things spoiled is such a pet peeve for me, that I'm irritated some study says I secretly like spoilers anyway.
posted by spinn at 1:23 PM on August 29, 2012


People who are confused as to why others might want to avoid spoilers seem to be ignoring the fact that the information is different when it arrives at the end of a work or from someone blabbing while they exit the movie. This is why a synopsis of a book isn't that book. And why, if you enjoy the suspense of watching a movie, that suspense can be undermined if pivotal information is foisted on you.

I tend to go to extremes. If I know that I'm going to read a book, I won't even read the jacket blurb. I like my hermetically sealed narrative bubble.
posted by One Hand Slowclapping at 1:34 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I ALWAYS want things spoiled if there is a baby, small child, or pet in danger. If they're going to die, I'm NOT GOING TO WATCH OR READ. If they're going to survive, I need to know, so I can relax and pay attention to the story, because otherwise I'm going to spend the whole time going "THIS BABY BETTER NOT DIE. Should I turn this off? I should turn this off. Oh, God, now I have to know what happens to the baby. Get off the screen, other characters, I need to know about the baby!"

Yes. And there are so many movies that reach for the cheap CHILD/BABY/ADORABLE ANIMAL IN DANGER device that I have, more than once, gone and waited for my husband in the lobby because I'd rather check phone messages than sit there watching a fictional kid get possibly harmed. It puzzles him but he's gotten used to it, and now I just ask him what happened when he gets out so I can resolve it in my mind and move on.

For a while, it put a real damper on my social life because people would invite me to movies that were thrillers or violent and I knew I might cause confusion and offense. But now, thanks to the internet magic of spoilers, I can know ahead of time and look away/stop paying attention/make a grocery list until the scene ends.
posted by emjaybee at 1:39 PM on August 29, 2012


This is why sports fans love to watch games after someone tells them the result.

Oh, wait. No, we tend to kill people who mention it.
posted by jaduncan at 1:44 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hate spoilers, period. I hate movie trailers and previews that basically show me [or telegraph] how the movie will resolve itself and how it will end.

I think a good many people do not mind spoilers because a good number of people like formula and best sellers and crap like that. Most people do not like to be confused or challenged while reading or watching a movie. They want the stories fed to them like baby food fed to a baby. Even worse most people don't like precarious endings or endings that don't have closure.

In short, we go to movies with expectations not open minds. Spoilers don't bother most people because they know there will be spoilers.
posted by Rashomon at 1:48 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Getting things spoiled is such a pet peeve for me, that I'm irritated some study says I secretly like spoilers anyway.

No one is saying that. The study found that most people like spoilers, even when they claim they don't. No where does it say that everyone likes spoilers and that anyone who claims otherwise is a liar.

But I think the [Where's Waldo] analogy is valid. Just as much as if I handed you a book of mystery short stories and wrote the solution to each of the mysteries on the first page of each.

I still think they're two different animals, but I think I'm actually starting to lean toward your hypothetical counterargument. Waldo books do have a lot of good art that can be enjoyed even if you've already found Waldo. As a kid, finding Waldo was fun, but noticing all of the weird little details in the rest of the picture was actually more fun.

That said, very few people in this thread are saying that spoilers are 100% OK, 100% of the time. Most people are pretty clearly stating that the acceptability of spoilers depends upon the individual work in question.
posted by asnider at 1:48 PM on August 29, 2012


All of the people that hate spoilers, how do you ever watch movies made from books you've read? They're thoroughly spoiled at that point, so are you only there to see a director's vision and the actors' interpretations of the characters?

Myself, I'm rather split. I like spoilers when they help me avoid wasting time watching a shit movie. I dislike them when they reveal the whole story. A few plot points won't make me feel spoiled. I've only actively spoiled an entire movie (Mind Game) for myself, on the advice of a friend who told me that I'd be completely at sea without some sort of prep. And I'm glad I followed her advice, it turned out to be a completely fascinating film.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:50 PM on August 29, 2012


Count me as pro-spoiler, also anti-twist, generally, if the writer is relying on the twist for shock/conversation value. I used to read books out of order or skip parts that were boring just cause and I still think those are valid methods of reading. I don't like the anxiety of not know whats going to happen in certain situations (yes, to pets dying, etc.), but I've gotten a little bit better. My husband is rabidly anti-spoiler, watches everything in order and I guess I've tempered my "I wanna know what happens all the time" attitude.

When I was thirteen I dreamed about getting a spoiler warning sweatshirt, to warn people that I love spoilers, and I did a few years ago and it was awesome. The irony being now I've written a book and I have to keep the secrets in until people read it otherwise they might murder me or something, whether or not this study shows otherwise. People can be pretty opinionated about going in unspoiled.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:55 PM on August 29, 2012


how do you ever watch movies made from books you've read?

If I've read the book already, then I've already gotten to go through the journey of finding out the ending as the author intended. And at that point it's still my choice as to whether I think the movie is worth it or not, to go through the journey in another way.

If someone just spoils the ending then there was no journey involved, and (focusing on involuntary spoilers here) I didn't get a choice of how I wanted to find out.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:55 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I'd had Inglourious Basterds spoiled for me, would I have believed it?

My first thought was yes, why not, but then... I find myself using dangerous criminal or rabid dog language here... I think knowledge of the movie has changed what I think Tarantino is capable of. So maybe not.

there are so many movies that reach for the cheap CHILD/BABY/ADORABLE ANIMAL IN DANGER device

But Hollywood wouldn't dream of harming your darling child/baby/animal, which is why I always groan and roll my eyes when one turns up. Which is what makes AGOT, to me, the anti-traditional-fantasy. It's not the sexual violence. It's certainly not the non-sexual violence. It's not that bad things happen to good people. It's that few fantasy authors would think to dispense cutesy animal guardians to our family of protagonists and not have them flourish to a one and serve as lupus ex machina whenever required till the tale is done.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:56 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


But Hollywood wouldn't dream of harming your darling child/baby/animal

Children and babies and cats are usually safe, but it's always dangerous to start caring about the fate of the dog.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:04 PM on August 29, 2012


spoilers for shitty movies, books etc. Fire away. Spares me the trouble of having to see/read them. But it gets more complicated with stuff that's actually good.

SPOILER ALERT.

The end of the Lord of the Rings. The ring makes it Mordor, gets tossed into the fire, Middle Earth is saved. Hooray! Even as a kid, I could've pretty much guessed that, so big deal having it spoiled. But knowing that it was Gollum that actually sent the ring to its demise after Frodo had proven unable to do so ... well it would have sucked to have that spoiled.

So, as with so many other things in this complex culture, spoiling is all in the nuance. Do it right and you're damned good company. Do it wrong and you'll get smacked about the head -- deservedly so.
posted by philip-random at 2:07 PM on August 29, 2012


Farnum tell Swearengen that Hearst was making history and have Swearengen say "Fuck history", walk across the street, shoot Heast in the head, and skullfuck the brainhole.

But that's just me.


Dad? I didn't know you could use the computer. ;)

But seriously, I think the comparison to books based on movies is really, really accurate. Nine times out of ten, reading the book before the movie just allows me to judge the movie based on its faithfulness to the text and see if they can tell the same or similar story in an extremely different medium.

However, that tenth time is when the raging fangirl comes out and is appalled that they dared screw up my book so very much. Any recent Batman movie suffers this, because I know too much about the story, my enjoyment is completely destroyed when they deviate.

Then again, there's books like Hunger Games that did a good job of translating if you had read the book. But without the "spoilers" of knowing the book, many bits of the movie didn't make sense.
posted by teleri025 at 2:09 PM on August 29, 2012


I'd say that the type of spoiler matters. There's a big difference between:

1: A reviewer who sells the movie to me but perhaps reveals a bit too much of the plot.
2: Choosing myself to read a discussion where the work is being discussed.

and

3: Someone spitefully revealing details just to be mean.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:11 PM on August 29, 2012


Children and babies and cats are usually safe, but it's always dangerous to start caring about the fate of the dog.

But he's so cute! Why are the Norwegians shooting at him from that helicopter? Wait, don't tell me. I hope it works out ok for him.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:14 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I enjoy the thrill of watching or reading something when the risk of spoilers is omnipresent. Like watching Breaking Bad season 4 while Season 5 previews are being aired. Or reading/watching Game of Thrones while reading pretty much any MetaFilter thread.
posted by brain_drain at 2:17 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Any recent Batman movie suffers this, because I know too much about the story, my enjoyment is completely destroyed when they deviate.

But comic books get retconned so bloody often that there's practically no such thing as a canonical version. How can they ruin the story? They're just telling a new version of it.

In a way, I almost wonder if this means that superhero stories fall into the "having it spoiled doesn't ruin it" category. If you're a fan of comics, you already know the story. You've read the origin story in 50 different versions and seen multiple film attempts to tell the same story, too. In this case, it's not the story that matters so much as the way in which the story is told.
posted by asnider at 2:28 PM on August 29, 2012


I used to make up fake spoilers for movies back in the 90s, in order to get people to stop asking me for them. My best was about Harrison Ford's touching death scene in The Fugitive.
posted by ceribus peribus at 2:31 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I tend to get annoyed when the back cover/summary of a book spoils the book, but I have to admit, it's never especially ruined my enjoyment of the book in question. The Attolia series by Megan Whalen Turner has it especially bad when it comes to the summaries spoiling the books, since if you look at a summary for a later book, you've just been spoiled for the ones that came before it. This wouldn't be a problem if the books in the series were numbered or their position in the series clearly indicated, but the casual reader unknowingly pulling out King of Attolia before Queen of Attolia ends up getting spoiled. And that's not even mentioning the spoiler-tastic editorial reviews so prominently featured on the books' Amazon pages! I love these books and recommend them frequently, but I always try to convince people not to read the summaries or anything, and just go into them blind. Being spoiled didn't ruin the books for me, I just think the completely unspoiled experience would be better, especially since it will yield a far richer reread in addition to an unspoiled first read.

That said, I have specifically sought out spoiler-tastic back cover summaries of later books in a series so I could get an idea of what direction the plot was going and what would and wouldn't be resolved by the end of the book I'm currently reading. I mostly only do this with long series though, because the time investment is so much bigger.
posted by yasaman at 2:42 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


SPOILER ALERT: Every character in Game of Thrones is beheaded in every episode. You're welcome.
posted by LordSludge at 2:48 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember when The Crying Game was playing and after about 2 months - with all the critics trying to keep from revealing the secret - one of the critics decided if someone didn't know by that time then too bad and he wrote out the spoiler in large letters in the first paragraph of a review for a different movie. I thought that was actually pretty cool. The movie was better than its so called secret. And, by that point, the whole secret was absurd anyway.
posted by Rashomon at 3:06 PM on August 29, 2012


So I was like all up in that business reading Book of the New Sun

The Book of the New Sun is a bit of a special case. It completely spoils itself as it goes along, it just takes five readings to realize how completely the entire story is interwoven in time.

(disclaimer: as a lit geek I fully expect it to be studied in literature classes in a hundred years time)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:08 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


"But Hollywood wouldn't dream of harming your darling child/baby/animal"

Oh my God, they totally do, even in Law & Order: SVU episodes, 1 in every 10 times or so, just so Mariska Hargitay can learn something about how you can't win them all and SOMETIMES BABIES DIE IN HORRIBLE WAYS TO SERVE VIOLENCE PORN and they can fade out on her looking sad-but-determined. I had to quit watching police procedurals after I had kids because the device of "kids in danger!" to give you an emotional punch in the gut because it's easier than writing plot started pissing me off, and then when they actually went through with it I would be wrecked for days.

I am still fucking traumatized by "Eight Below" (I saw it was a modern Disney movie and I thought it was safe. Disney, what you gotta go re-traumatizing me after I finally got over Bambi?).

See also My Girl; here's TVTropes on "Death by Newberry Medal" and related.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:11 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is great, though, when you or someone you know encounters a major twist without being spoiled. I worked my way through the Terminator series recently with a couple of friends who had just missed the whole thing. The GNR/crushed roses/come with me if you want to live reversal FLOORED THEM (which was awesome) but it's such a cultural touchstone now that I forgot it was a twist.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:03 PM on August 29


Heh. I remember going to see T2 in the theater with a friend, who hadn't been watching much tv because of his work hours, so he'd missed all the commercials and other promotional efforts. He was knocked back on his heels by T2's reversal.

Back when Star Wars was re-released for 20th anniversary in 1997, a online buddy of mine decided to take the day of work a couple of weeks after it hit theaters to go see it. A gal-pal of his had never seen any of the Star Wars films and felt she was missing out on something, so they decided to go together to see Episode IV.

They have a grand ol' time, she really enjoyed it, so when Empire Strikes Back came out, they decided to do the same thing.

So they're sitting next to each other in the theater eating popcorn and enjoying the film. Eventually Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader start going at it with the light sabers. And then the big moment arrives:

Darth Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke Skywalker: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Darth Vader: No.
I am your father.

Next to him, my online buddy heard a shocked **GASP!!!**. His friend's eyes were huge, her mouth dropped open in shock.

They were sitting near the back of the theater, and my buddy saw people's heads swiveling as they looked around for the apparently-fainting-from-shock woman. "You mean, somebody didn't know?!" he heard someone whisper.

To this day my buddy considers this one of the his greatest movie-going experiences ever, and now refuses to spoil anyone about anything, even if they beg.
posted by magstheaxe at 3:30 PM on August 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


No, no, no, no, no.

I hate spoilers so much that I'll turn off the TV during previews/commercials. If I make a friend who happens to enjoy spoiling movies (and I have before), I will stop talking to them. Spoilers, for me personally, destroy the mystery of going into a movie and only knowing the very basic, one-sentence plot.
posted by Malice at 3:31 PM on August 29, 2012


If a story is good -- well crafted, engaging, etc. -- then it doesn't necessarily matter if you know what's going to happen.

This is such a huge load of horseshit and I wish people would stop parroting it in the course of trying to morally right their own actions.

Some people do not like to know what's going to happen. Seriously. Is that really hard to understand?

Outside of personal likes, you can only apply this idea sometimes anyway. A movie or book or whatever is NOT always just it's narrative, and if you think it is than you must have a very narrow ability to consume media.

To SPOIL(ERS) Citizen Kane you kind of have to enter into a conversation of what Rosebud really stands for, rather than what it literally is, to fully spoil why those are a man's dying words. So in that example, yeah, the narrative is the strong point, but when you look at The Crying Game as an example then you get into really ruining the whole point of the movie. The point isn't that the chick is a dude, rather that it's a very brilliant film that offers very stunning questions about sexuality and beauty. Questions that not only the main character ended up having to ask himself, but questions that you as the viewer should be asking. Afterall, you also thought the chick was also a dude, or at least you should have if you were left unspoiled. The androgynous Jaye Davidson is a fairly good looking person and personally as a young heterosexual male it made me qustion a few things and open my mind a bit more. I can't for a second believe that I as unspoiled beforehand was the only one. Most of the people that went or will go into knowing the reveal, lose that. They don't get to experience that. A grand possiblity is ultimately stolen from them and that's a damn shame.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 3:43 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sixth Sense: I would have HATED if it had been spoiled for me.

This one was spoiled for me before I saw it, and I felt it made the movie MUCH more interesting. Instead of going through a sub-par psychological thriller with a twist ending, I got to spend the entire time looking for clues, screw-ups, or things that just plain made no sense. ("How the hell did he manage to meet his wife for dinner after she hadn't spoken to him for literally days or weeks?" etc.)

Spending 90 minutes playing "armchair continuity police" was much more enjoyable than a quick reveal at the end of the film.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:58 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I can't wait to find out what happens at the end of this thread!
posted by brappi at 3:59 PM on August 29, 2012


Sixth Sense: I would have HATED if it had been spoiled for me.

It wasn't spoiled for me, but I figured out the plot within the first fifteen minutes because as a kid I'd read Goosebumps #10: The Ghost Next Door and it has the exact same twist.

Which I guess I just spoiled for you guys. Sorry.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:01 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


brappi: I skipped ahead to Rocket Surgeon's last comment, since that was the last one on the page when I loaded it. I couldn't bear reading the thread without knowing where it ended up...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:02 PM on August 29, 2012


Since this is essentially a double-post, I'll just repeat what I said last time:

That spoilers study is ridiculous. 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 people like chocolate ice cream better 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 stop whining about your stupid vanilla and eat that delicious chocolate I just gave you.

I don’t care 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’m grateful for warnings helping me avoid either one.
posted by straight at 4:08 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Darth Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke Skywalker: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Darth Vader: No. I am your father.

Next to him, my online buddy heard a shocked **GASP!!!**. His friend's eyes were huge, her mouth dropped open in shock.


This happened to a group of us a few years back with a Japanese woman who was our age but had never seen the movies. She made us stop the DVD so she could check with us that she had understood correctly.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:23 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm anti-spolier. My favorite recent spoiler movie memory is taking my then-girlfriend to see Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd. When that song started up, the whole theater just lost it. She was clutching my arm, outraged, saying "did you know about this!?" It was so awesome! Why would you ruin that experience for yourself or for someone else?
posted by chaff at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2012


Isn't wanting to avoid spoilers just impulse control? Of course we want to know the ending, that's why we're watching the film. I get two marshmallows if I don't eat the first one right now.
posted by lucidium at 4:59 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Shakespeare reveals the ending of Romeo and Juliet in the first six lines. No spoiler tags either!

To be fair, he was reworking a poem from about thirty years before, and the basic story itself shows up as early as the late 1470s.

Spoilers still suck if you don't already know the ending, though.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:25 PM on August 29, 2012


Darth Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke Skywalker: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Darth Vader: No. I am your father.


This happens in the third movie, right? (the latter three not really counting as movies) I remember a friend going to see it on opening night, then dropping by my place brimming over with enthusiasm, so desperate to tell me the three major revelations, but he bit his tongue.

"Lemme guess," I said, "Luke and Leia are brother and sister, Darth Vader is Luke's dad and ... " Can't remember what the third one was (maybe, just Luke's dad wasn't dead after all). Anyway, my point being, just laying it out sometimes that there are MAJOR surprises in something is akin to spoilering, because it gets you thinking that way.

A similar thing happened to me with the Crying Game. No one outright spoiled it for me, I was just set up to expect big surprises and thus kept looking for them, which sort of ruins things, certainly undermines the level of surprise when it finally does hit.
posted by philip-random at 5:35 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's funny to me how many people I know rage against, for instance, my TV's frame interpolation (additing extra frames to smooth motion) because it is some horrific violation of the intentions of the director that every pan be juttery -- but then those same people cite this study when I complain that they've spoiled some upcoming plot point. Spoilers are almost by definition a violation of the intentions of the author, and quite an extreme violation at that. Not that I myself care very much about the purity of the author's intentions, but it's a frustrating inconsistency.
posted by chortly at 5:41 PM on August 29, 2012


Coming to the party a little late here. The study has very limited generalizability to the types of spoilers that people usually care to avoid (or not to avoid). The subjects read stories that they presumably had about zero prior emotional investment in. If you dragged into a lab someone who has only finished the first two episodes of Season 5 of Breaking Bad, like me (and this person is very invested in watching BB in order), and gave away the ending of the Season 5 finale, I think the results would have been a lot different. Possibly violent.
posted by anaphoric at 6:23 PM on August 29, 2012


The only big movie that I've gone in cold to in living memory--big movies being those of the sort that you might have someone spoil for you accidentally or on purpose, as opposed to smaller "art house" releases--was The Cabin In The Woods, because the article summary when the A.V. Club reviewed it was something along the lines of "Gets better the less you know going in." I generally read reviews of the film the day it comes out, and I rarely go see movies opening night or even the opening week, so I'm used to having some element of the film spoiled.

Same with TV shows: I know how Lost ends (I'm still enjoying it, though I probably won't finish the series), and I've heard enough about what happens in Breaking Bad that it won't be a completely clean watch, even if I wait a few years to try to forget what happens.

Part of the reason it doesn't bother me is that someone managed to spoil Fight Club for me at 6:30 p.m. on opening night. Everyone in my high school film class got tickets to the movie, but some went right after school while others got tickets to an after-dinner showing. One of the early group swung by while us in the late group were eating dinner, and said "It's like the Sixth Sense, there's a twist," so all of us saw the flashes of Pitt in the first reel. And I still loved it, because we knew something about the construction of the movie that the other kids would have to wait to figure out.

But a lot of it depends on how integral to the movie the spoiler is. You don't really miss out on anything knowing that both Pitt and Norton are Tyler Durden; if anything the film becomes even more of an indictment of the effects modern society has on male psyches. It's a cheap trick if you don't know it's coming, but more interesting when you do.* The piece of art that truly rewards going in completely cold is rare.

*I remember a lot of the reviews about Fight Club at the time were dismissive of the "twist," as critics compared it unfavorably to the twist in, of all things, the Sixth Sense.
posted by thecaddy at 6:41 PM on August 29, 2012


Knowing it's the sled (even knowing what happens to it!) does not ruin the movie even the slightest bit.

You should read Hollywood Babylon for the other twist...
posted by ovvl at 6:42 PM on August 29, 2012


If it were possible to turn an abstract concept into a physical object for the purpose of violently smashing into pieces with a baseball bat, that's what I would do with any and all variations of the smug "If a movie (or book, TV show, etc.) can be ruined by having major plot points spoiled, it wasn't worth experiencing in the first place" mantra that is repeated pretty much every single time the subject of spoilers is discussed (and I see it's been predictably trotted out here in some form).

To use the "Breaking Bad' example that some have brought up already - I started watching BB at the start of Season 3, then went back and caught up on the first two seasons on DVD. By which point I was already aware of any major plot points that were to unfold. It didn't ruin the experience for me; the show is not one that is solely dependent on "shock value" to be enjoyed and is written, acted, directed and put together well enough to where simply watching the action unfold held a great deal of entertainment value. But it was an entirely different experience than watching the series, unspoiled, in real time, where I am constantly at the edge of my seat, heart racing, anticipating what will come next, jaw frequently left agape at the end of episodes, unable to sleep for hours after an episode has ended because I need to come down emotionally from the wild journey I just went on. Given the choice, I definitely prefer the latter experience to the former.
posted by The Gooch at 6:42 PM on August 29, 2012


I don't mind spoilers. As a kid, i remember digesting the Star Wars Trilogy and Lord of the Rings in scattered, random intervals, each piece adding to the whole, but not in order. I knew that Darth Vader was Luke's father before i ever saw Empire.

My best friend, on the other hand, is religious when it comes to being spoiled. He wants to know NOTHING about a movie before he sees it.

"Hey, Tom Hardy is playing Ba..."

"Shut up! La la la la! I don't want to hear it!"
posted by ELF Radio at 7:22 PM on August 29, 2012


Also, i think one series that would be greatly improved by spoilers is LOST.

"It's light. Magic light. There's no answer. Ignore everything about Dharma. There's nothing there. Jack wins. The Smoke Monster is really some dead guy named Mr. Grumbles. Kate remains hot but Claire becomes frumpy and useless. Her baby isn't important. Jacob is some douche who like to f*ck with people. The Island is the home of the magic light, which is meaningless. Then they all die, i guess, at different points. Lapidus never does anything."
posted by ELF Radio at 7:25 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Darth Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke Skywalker: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Darth Vader: No. I am your father.

This happens in the third movie, right?


Only if you count "The Star Wars Holiday Special" as one of the movies.

(though to be fair, the brother/sister part, as well as the confirmation of Dad Vader wasn't until Jedi.)
posted by ShutterBun at 7:33 PM on August 29, 2012


This is such a huge load of horseshit and I wish people would stop parroting it in the course of trying to morally right their own actions.

Some people do not like to know what's going to happen. Seriously. Is that really hard to understand?


Dude, relax. I don't go around spoiling things. I don't necessarily like having things spoiled for me. All I'm saying is that, if the story is good enough, it should be able to withstand spoilers. That's not horseshit and I don't know what actions you think I'm trying morally justify.
posted by asnider at 8:31 PM on August 29, 2012


The Butler did it.
posted by ovvl at 9:17 PM on August 29, 2012


Sys Rq: "I'll never watch 'Citizen Kane' for that reason, how true...

Knowing it's the sled (even knowing what happens to it!) does not ruin the movie even the slightest bit.

It's a really good movie. You should see it
"

Hell, it doesn't even affect the movie a little bit. That was easily the most incredible part of watching it for myself for the first time (at the age of 27), that I knew almost literally nothing about the actual movie part of the movie. It's about as spoilery as something like "At some point, you see Luke Skywalker talk to a guy with a sweet mustache."
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:25 PM on August 29, 2012


"This is such a huge load of horseshit and I wish people would stop parroting it in the course of trying to morally right their own actions. Some people do not like to know what's going to happen. Seriously. Is that really hard to understand?"

No, it's not, and I don't go around spoiling things for other people. I don't even ask, "Have you gotten to ...?" I ask, "How far are you? I have things I wish to discuss, but I don't want to spoil anything." And I confine my conversation to things they've already read/seen so I don't wreck anything further along.

I just find that spoilers sometimes enhance my ability to enjoy a movie or a book or a show (knowing the dog/baby will survive); frequently don't impact it either way but may let me enjoy seeing a little sort-of "behind the curtain"-ness of the show (warehouse 13 -- I like it the same spoiled or unspoiled, but I think it's fun to know a bit more than is plainly on screen); or the piece is such a fine work of art that all the spoilers in the world don't ruin the plot or suspense because even when I know how it ends, I am 100% wrapped up in the story being told and forget all that outside stuff. Sometimes I don't want to know, but frequently I do like spoilers.

But yeah, put "spoilers below" or whatever, it's common courtesy. If I'm seeking spoilers I get excited that I've found them, and if I'm avoiding them, I know not to look. Liking spoilers doesn't mean I don't follow spoiler etiquette.

I'm in a book club where invariably someone hasn't finished the book, and it's interesting the dynamics that arise from that. Officially it's all fair game when we have the meeting about the book, but unofficially, people know which people like and don't like spoilers. So if I'm the non-finisher, people know they can go ahead and talk about the ending and I'll like it and might even join in with, "Wow, at page 400 that does NOT seem like where it's going!" But we have another friend who hates being spoiled so we always ask where she is and only discuss to that point, and obliquely, in case we give anything later away.

(Also I figured out the Sixth Sense the first scene Bruce Willis had with the kid. "Why did they film this so weird? The kid can see dead people? OHHHHH, I bet I get the twist." This is not the sort of thing I'm normally good at, movie cleverness mostly passes me by, but that one just beat me on the head and so it read as a very straightforward movie about a dead shrink talking to a kid with psychic powers to me.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:26 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are few things worse than cohabiting with someone who holds a different view on spoilers than you do. The girl and I are watching the entire run of Homicide: Life on the Street right now, and the DVDs very helpfully come with an unskippable title screen for each episode which gives a paragraph-long summary of everything that happens in the episode (including deaths of major characters). She reads them closely and utters gasps of shock and dismay to learn that so-and-so will take the dirt nap this episode, while I try to advance past them as fast as possible. I cannot figure out why she wants to have her experience mediated by the marketing department and she cannot figure out why I care that she watches the show this way.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:32 PM on August 29, 2012


Since this is essentially a double-post

I was feeling the deja-vu. Spoilers will very often stop me from watching a film. It’s not that it’s not going to be good any more, I’m just not as interested.
posted by bongo_x at 9:35 PM on August 29, 2012


The 'whodunnit' is a traditional 20th century murder-mystery genre typified by the English novelist Agatha Christie. It's a game. The goal for the reader is to figure out who committed the murder before the climax of the story. The goal for the writer is to tantalize the reader enough to force the reader to say: "I really should have known better" when the culprit is finally revealed. It's a swell game.

Traditional 20th century literary genres are sometimes asphyxiated in the current live-tweet era. Shame, but, oh well.
posted by ovvl at 9:39 PM on August 29, 2012


A friend made a good point a bit back about this study - there's absolutely no reason for anyone to care about being spoiled on a bit of text for a psychological study. With anything else, you at least have some anticipation of viewing/reading/experiencing whatever it is; with the given example you're given a story you've never heard about. I'd doubt people would give a rat's ass either way about being spoiled on something so minor with such little prelude.

I think that's the main issue people have about being spoiled, for what it's worth. They anticipate the experience and then have it short-circuted.
posted by flatluigi at 10:21 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a memory of Tom Stoppard talking about audiences knowing what's coming next, and I thought he was very insightful. I wish I could find and quote the original source for this - I hope I'm remembering it correctly. Here's how I remember it:

Stoppard was attending rehearsals for a revival of The Real Thing, which has a big surprise right at the beginning. He was worried about how audiences were going to react to the big surprise, because - unlike the first time it was in theatres - a good number of people in the revival audiences will have seen the play before. It won't be a big surprise anymore.

As it turned out, even though a lot of people knew what was coming, they enjoyed it anyway, and as he thought about it, he realized that people go see things they've seen before all the time. We go see Shakespeare plays over and over. Certainly we (many of us) re-watch favorite movies and even sitcom episodes over and over. The surprise of the first time is wonderful, and we can never be completely surprised that way again; but so much of the delight of theatre and storytelling is in the work itself, whether it's familiar or new - the perfectly worked phrase, the line or gesture perfectly delivered.

I've seen Stoppard's Arcadia four times now, and I'm going to see it again in May. I know exactly what's supposed to happen, and there are no plot surprises for me anymore. It still gives me shivers of wonder.
posted by kristi at 10:22 PM on August 29, 2012


From Eyebrows McGee Death by Newbery Medal link:

"The dog always dies. Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down."
—Wallace Wallace, No More Dead Dogs


If you like spoilers, I love Dana Stevens' Slate Spoiler Specials movie reviews podcast. They don't come out nearly often enough, but there is a good backlog going back to June 2006.
posted by marsha56 at 11:09 PM on August 29, 2012


That's not horseshit and I don't know what actions you think I'm trying morally justify.

No, it's not...


Yes, it is. As I said before, there is often more to a story than just a narrative. I am sorry that both of you choose to miss out on that. If you don't care about spoiler then fine, other people do. Don't sit around making up nonsense reasons as to how other people are supposed to understand the media they're consuming.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 11:40 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Surprised no one has mentioned the very spoiling spoiler music video Spoiler Alert by MC Frontalot. Fun stuff (warning: spoilers inside).
posted by el io at 2:06 AM on August 30, 2012


yasaman: "The Attolia series by Megan Whalen Turner has it especially bad when it comes to the summaries spoiling the books, since if you look at a summary for a later book, you've just been spoiled for the ones that came before it. This wouldn't be a problem if the books in the series were numbered or their position in the series clearly indicated, but the casual reader unknowingly pulling out King of Attolia before Queen of Attolia ends up getting spoiled."

The Attolia/Queen's Thief series is one of my favorites, but when I try to recommend it to friends it's so hard for me to figure out a way to make it sound interesting without spoiling the the revelations. It's still a great series even if you know what's coming, but I don't want to deprive people of those, "What the -- oh my god this makes complete sense how did I not see this before -- oww, my brain" moments that Turner is just so good at, nor the fun of rereading afterwards to see how badly you got led around by the nose by phrases of such sublime ambiguity that you don't even realize there are other meanings to them.

On the other hand, even though I'm glad I read the books in order, I wish I could experience reading The King of Attolia as a new reader. There's an entirely different narrative tension between wanting to know how the protagonist will figure out what you already know, and trying to figure it out with him.
posted by bettafish at 4:18 AM on August 30, 2012


The only big movie that I've gone in cold to in living memory--big movies being those of the sort that you might have someone spoil for you accidentally or on purpose, as opposed to smaller "art house" releases--was The Cabin In The Woods, because the article summary when the A.V. Club reviewed it was something along the lines of "Gets better the less you know going in."

My job involves watching all the TV ads for any movie advertised on TV. This is good as it means you know a movie will be good if you aren't yet sick of it, but bad in the case of Cabin in the Woods. My SO went to see it cold - I still haven't seen it, but know what makes it a little different than the first couple of trailers we saw made out.

Mind you, because it's easier to watch big US dramas and comedies here now the internet and DVD box sets exist, I'm working my way through a lot of things I missed when I was younger. It's not a spoiler as such, but watching season 4 of NewsRadio was so difficult knowing that season 5 would begin with Bill's funeral - because Phil Hartman died between the end of season 4 and the beginning of season 5 - that I held off on watching the last episodes for as long as I could. I've seen Jon Lovitz in other things since and liked him, but I just couldn't enjoy that last season because NO BILL.

The first Seinfeld I ever saw was the one with the Puerto-Rican Day parade, which I came across by accident on my mum's cable TV. If it had been a much lauded episode, where I'd sort of know the plot, I might not have enjoyed it so much.
posted by mippy at 7:19 AM on August 30, 2012


Yes, it is. As I said before, there is often more to a story than just a narrative. I am sorry that both of you choose to miss out on that. If you don't care about spoiler then fine, other people do. Don't sit around making up nonsense reasons as to how other people are supposed to understand the media they're consuming.

Oh, for fuck's sake...no one is telling you how to enjoy/consume/understand media. If anything, you're doing that to us by telling us that our opinions are horseshit.

Everyone here seems to be more or less against intentionally spoiling things for people against their wishes. The difference between you and I is that we have different opinions of how much we can or can't enjoy something that has been spoiled. Neither one of us is full of horseshit. We have different opinions. This isn't some kind of moral binary and I don't know why you're framing it as though it is.
posted by asnider at 7:25 AM on August 30, 2012


I happened across a midnight release party for the very last Harry Potter book when that came out in 2007 and, I'm not going to lie, it took willpower I didn't know I had not to hide in some nearby bushes and yell "SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE" at passing schoolchildren.

Oh, that did happen at our release party. I thought, "Yeah, right," and ignored it, until....
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:29 AM on August 30, 2012


If you're so violently against being spoiled that the slightest revelation will ruin your enjoyment of any work of art or entertainment, it's on you to avoid discussions where spoilers might occur. There are caveats, it's definitely a dick move to reveal major surprises (the "circle Waldo" level spoiler), but Rosebud? Really? You're gonna give me shit for talking about a movie that came out in 1941? At some point, either watch it or accept that you won't get the purest virginal experience.

For some of us, DISCUSSING cultural products is as much (if not more) part of the fun as consuming them. When we start catering solely to the spoiler-averse, it quickly becomes ridiculous. I was listening to a podcast (Pop Culture Happy Hour, maybe?) where they were talking about Batman, and all the contortions to not talk about things while talking about them made the entire conversation pointless. "You know when that thing happens, what did you think? Oh that scene I can't talk about was massively significant!"

I try to give spoiler alerts, but if you wander in a conversation in progress and don't tell me explicitely that you don't want to hear certain things, I'ma talk about them.
posted by Freyja at 10:17 AM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let me die in peace.

"STFU"?

posted by mrgrimm at 10:29 AM on August 30, 2012


but Rosebud? Really? You're gonna give me shit for talking about a movie that came out in 1941?

I don’t understand why anyone has to ever give away the plot of a movie. If I needed to talk about Citizen Kane I would say "have you seen it?" If you haven’t then I’ll recommend it and we’ll talk about something else. Why does it matter when it came out? Very few people here saw Citizen Kane in the theaters in the original run, so it’s all the same to us. If someone is 15 years old why should you say "well you should have seen it by now, it’s been out since 1941". It’s not water cooler talk, something that was on TV last night.

This is related to movie "reviews" that are really synopsis. They are not the same thing. I can talk about a movie for quite a while, why I enjoyed it, what it meant, etc. without giving a rundown of the plot. When I say "spoilers" I really mean I don’t want to know anything. One sentence is enough of a synopsis, two if it’s especially complicated. Any more than that and you’re just telling me the story and I’m going to ask you to stop because you probably aren’t as good at it as the film maker.

I don’t understand the impulse that says "sorry I gave it away, I just couldn’t stop myself from saying that out loud". Surely you can find something else to talk about in the film than the plot twists, since a lot of people seem to be arguing that a good work is much more than that.
posted by bongo_x at 10:50 AM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


SPOILER ALERT: Jesus dies.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:54 AM on August 30, 2012


Oh, for fuck's sake...no one is telling you how to enjoy/consume/understand media. If anything, you're doing that to us by telling us that our opinions are horseshit.

I can't tell if you are intentionally misundersting me at this point or not. "I like spoilers" is an opinion, and a "story can't be spoiled because..." is an assertion of fact. As I have already said - I am perfectly fine with the former, but the latter is blatantly untrue. I call "horseshit" because it is untrue, and the fact that people keep repeating it like a mantra without clarifying it's veracity.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 11:01 AM on August 30, 2012


I can't tell if you are intentionally misundersting me at this point or not.

I think, maybe, you misunderstood my original comment.

a "story can't be spoiled because..." is an assertion of fact

I never made the claim that a story can't be spoiled. My original comment, which you called horseshit, was that certain types of stories can still be enjoyable EVEN IF they are spoiled. Not once did I claim that "a story can't be spoiled."
posted by asnider at 11:17 AM on August 30, 2012


bongo_x: "but Rosebud? Really? You're gonna give me shit for talking about a movie that came out in 1941?

I don’t understand why anyone has to ever give away the plot of a movie. If I needed to talk about Citizen Kane I would say "have you seen it?" If you haven’t then I’ll recommend it and we’ll talk about something else.
"

This gets complicated when a conversation involves multiple people (especially as in the internet.) Can you never discuss Citizen Kane in public anyone might come within earshot or happen to come across the archived discussion?
posted by Karmakaze at 11:21 AM on August 30, 2012


Tell Me No Lies:
Inception: Didn't bother watching it, because it was spoiled.


Huh, I think you may have made a mistake there. That movie is much more about pageantry than plot. And it is a remarkable pageant.
OK, thanks! I'll give it a go.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:23 AM on August 30, 2012


SPOILER ALERT: Jesus dies.

I don't think you watched the whole thing.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:29 AM on August 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


If a story is good -- well crafted, engaging, etc. -- then it doesn't necessarily matter if you know what's going to happen.


This is what I responded to, but thank you for clarifying what you meant.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 12:09 PM on August 30, 2012


I often enjoy, and occasionally seek out, spoilers, particularly if I know I'm not going to get around to seeing/reading something for a while. Most of the spoilers I feel the need to find out are of the "is he/she/the cat going to be all right" variety. I never intentionally try to spoil someone else, and it's fun seeing someone react to entertainment that's old news to me. For example, I'm introducing the fiance to Buffy with a friend of mine with whom I experienced the whole thing first-hand as an overly-emotional teen, and we're enjoying watching his reaction as the two of us try vaguely to remind ourselves, with no key words, "has the thing happened? You know, when he, with the-" "-no, that's in THAT episode." "Oh, right."

I definitely think there's a gradient of evil when it comes to spoilers. I don't understand rage when people are talking about a book series or movie that's, say, a decade old, and the spoilee wanders into the conversation by accident. There's a line between intentionally being a jerk and having to walk on eggshells at parties. Of course, if someone in the vicinity says "hey, I haven't seen that yet, would you mind," I wouldn't talk about it no matter how old it is.

What boggles my mind, however: I teach a novel-reading class, where we read novels over two or three weeks. Sometimes I will be teaching the last week of the novel, when everyone in the class is required to have finished it. Invariably, at least one student will whine, "no spoilers, Prof! I haven't finished the book." I cannot imagine what would possess someone to ask a professor to rewrite her lecture on the spot because that person hasn't finished the ASSIGNED reading. (I do, however, have a friend whose professor once cut a lecture very short because her initial premise for the hour was that we never find out who Rosebud is. When she was corrected by a student? Now THAT's a spoiler.)
posted by ilana at 12:39 PM on August 30, 2012


mrgrimm: SPOILER ALERT: Jesus dies.

I don't think you watched the whole thing.
Atheist... must... resist... making... "Meh, the book was better"... joke...

Failed.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:40 PM on August 30, 2012


Durn Bronzefest: I kinda hate you right now.
posted by lunasol at 1:38 PM on August 30, 2012


This is what I responded to, but thank you for clarifying what you meant.

Yeah, I know. What I meant and what actually came across ended up being two different things, it seems. Anyway, I think we're on the same page now. I'll buy you a beer to make up for my snark if we're ever at a Meetup together.
posted by asnider at 2:06 PM on August 30, 2012


Durn Bronzefest: I kinda hate you right now.

McNULTY DOESN'T DIE.

Of course, I have made similar assertions.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:41 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


McNULTY DOESN'T DIE.

Aw, way to ruin the surprise!
posted by Sys Rq at 2:56 PM on August 30, 2012


I am a big fan of spoilers. Sometimes you just gotta know. And hell, if I find out the ending is going to be something I'll hate, then I'd rather save the money and the angst by finding this out ahead of time before I put down money.

In the case of The Cabin In The Woods, I had these issues:
(a) I was a rabid Whedonite.
(b) I don't like horror movies. I don't enjoy being grossed out and scared beyond the level of what I watch on television.
Which lead me, and other folks like me, into a dilemma about whether or not to see it. And the people being all, "No, go in spoiler free, you'll be TOTALLY SURPRISED!", uh... THIS WAS NOT HELPING ANY to hear that. Especially since the nature of horror movie surprise is why I don't want to see them in the first place, eh?

So yeah, I read all kinds of spoilers before deciding to see it. And you know what? I'm glad I did. Because hearing what the cool twist(s) actually sold me on seeing the movie, when odds were at least 50/50 (or worse) that I might not have gotten up the nerve to see it when I feared it'd be everything I can't take in a movie. So, yay spoilers!

But the OMG DON'T EVER SPOIL ME FOR ANYTHING, I DON'T EVEN WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING BEYOND THE NAME OF THE BOOK (seriously?!) people annoy me. Like, what is the point of a "spoiler free" review of anything? "I liked it." "I didn't like it." That's literally all they can say? I want to know something about the damn story to figure out if I'd be interested in seeing it or not, so that is useless to me. And I hate having to dance around the spoiler-free people, especially about stuff like the aforementioned Citizen Kane. Look, if you really super wanted to know what happened, spoiler free, it's on you to make sure that happens. You can't expect the rest of the world to wrap you in cotton wool any more so your virgin ears stay pure.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:30 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


This gets complicated when a conversation involves multiple people (especially as in the internet.) Can you never discuss Citizen Kane in public anyone might come within earshot or happen to come across the archived discussion?

I ask everyone in the conversation. I can’t be responsible for people eavesdropping. But the point is, can’t you think of anything to discuss about Citizen Kane without giving away the plot? This is the part I don’t understand. There are people who think it’s impossible to talk about a work without retelling it to you, and some of them are film critics.

Like, what is the point of a "spoiler free" review of anything? "I liked it." "I didn't like it." That's literally all they can say?

I can say a lot more, and most people can. It usually goes something like "I liked it, and here’s why;" followed by the reasons why. What’s the point of telling me the plot before I’ve seen it? Do you also sing a version of your favorite new album to your friends before you let them hear it? You know, just so they can know if they’re going to like it or not. No, it really is the same thing.
posted by bongo_x at 10:47 AM on August 31, 2012


Like, what is the point of a "spoiler free" review of anything? "I liked it." "I didn't like it." That's literally all they can say?

I’m putting effort these days into presuming good faith in comments but I’m struggling with this one. Ebert is strictly a no-spoiler reviewer. Agree with his conclusions or not (he bats about 650 for me), you perceive him as only ever putting out “liked it” or “didn’t” reviews? The thumbs were shorthand, you understand.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:03 AM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Should clarify this one--usually when I've seen "spoiler free" reviews, they somehow can't or won't even talk about the plot at all, whatsoever. Which I thought was useless.

As opposed to the normal person's view of spoilers (such as Ebert), in which roughly the first half of the work is fair game for discussion. That's perfectly fair and fine.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:49 PM on August 31, 2012


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