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On Spoilers

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Aug. 17, 2019

So, full disclosure: I am spoiler immune.

I don't really care if I know how a story ends, or where the twist is. I might even enjoy it more as I anticipate it. I will watch the movie without issue and still enjoy it just as much.

Granted, when I don't know what's coming, SOMEtimes I get an impact (in the vein of a jump scare) that I might get in a slightly lesser degree if I know something is coming.

Usually though, even when I know something is coming, it still gets me.

The reason for that, I think, is my immersion. When I get into a movie, I forget myself along with my disbelief that is suspended. And I don't stop to think what I already know about the story. I simply follow the characters as the story progresses, and react to what is on the screen.

Others aren't like this. They cannot be spoiled, or the movie or show will be ruined. I'm …honestly not sure how that works (let us know in the comments!). But I respect it.

The other day though, I was watching yet another deep dive on how Game of Thrones botched its final season and a line there got me thinking:

It's not the spoilers that spoil the movie, it's the movie's story and whether people need to retell it.

That's an interesting take I thought warrants some discussion. The point is further illustrated with the Shakespearean classic Romeo and Juliet, and how the ending is literally spoiled 5 seconds into the play: “…a pair of star-crossed lovers, take their life.”

And yet, though we know that they die in the end, we still watch it. We still worry and pine for them to survive against all odds. And we still feel the gutpunch that is them dying and virtually casting in mourning and tragedy two entire families.

Is it possible that a spoiler is only valid if the story is built in some manner that only hinges on the shock and awe of its novelty?

I am not sure. Sometimes, you need not to know in order to feel what the characters are feeling. Take, for example, the movie The Others with Nicole Kidman.

I remember being at the edge of my seat watching the movie. The suspense and the quality of horror was such that hinged largely on the reveal of the actual situation of the haunted house. (No I won't spoil it)

The biggest effect I remember watching the movie was the break of fear that the reveal brought around. Everything felt explained, in place, and non-scary because I finally knew what was going on.

Would I get the same effect watching it a second time?

Honestly, I don't know. Because I haven't watched it a second time. I didn't feel the urge to do it, because I now knew the secret, and I didn't find anything else in the movie to lure me to rewatch it. Had I been spoiled before my first viewing, would I still go see it? Yes. I would because I'd want to see how they do it but I'm not sure if I would be that mesmerized by it again.

Do I want to retell the particular story?

Not really. But then again, that might be because I'm not that much into ghost stories and not because of the story itself.

On the other hand, when it comes to other movies with big reveals, I still want to watch them again, to savour that big reveal again and again. Such films are Shutter Island, The Departed, Primal Fear and many others.

Would I like to retell them?

Sure! But then again I like suspense.

What do you think? Are spoilers important only if the story is constructed to have emotional impact if the spoiler isn't previously known to the audience? Or is it a layer of enjoyment that is necessary, at least where it comes to cold audiences?

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AmeliaP at 5:18PM, Aug. 21, 2019

"But then again I like suspense." I'm 100% with you. Nah, spoilers never worried me, mainly because when you study storytelling, it's hard to be surprised. Still, I don't care. I care about the journey, the execution and how the author will entertain me until the end of the story.

PaulEberhardt at 12:12PM, Aug. 18, 2019

I'm pretty much spoiler immune, too. Many stories are so formulaic in their structure that I can tell what will happen next anyway. The more I enjoy those occasions when a story really manages to surprise me. However, I think the most important thing are well-developed characters, and the best are often those that you only really get when you read the whole thing a second time.

Kou the Mad at 11:53PM, Aug. 17, 2019

One of the reasons I dislike anime and jrpg openings is because they spoil things. That and I usually hate the music they use, (I just don't like J-Pop, and as someone who loves Anime and JRPGs, having to constantly put up with it kinda infuriates me.). It's like "Oh gee, I wonder whose going to be plot relevant.".

ShaRose49 at 3:16PM, Aug. 17, 2019

Even though spoilers generally don’t ruin my enjoyment at all—occasionally I try to avoid spoiling huge things if I really wanna see if I can figure out whodunit myself. My sister and I are going through Detentionaire and I’ve managed to avoid major spoilers so that maybe her and I can solve it together or at least be dumbfounded by who ends up being the real culprit

bravo1102 at 9:47AM, Aug. 17, 2019

Ellery Queen and Columbo were like that. You knew who did it but the whole thing is watching how the detective pieces everything together. That's a fascination with watching remakes of Agatha Christie. You know who did it from previous productions, but her characters are so rich and how the story comes together fuels my interest, not whodunnit.

usedbooks at 6:06AM, Aug. 17, 2019

@Altair Thanks for the link/source!

Altair IV at 5:46AM, Aug. 17, 2019

The study that found spoilers do not interfere with enjoyment is this one:

mks_monsters at 5:22AM, Aug. 17, 2019

I don't like spoilers myself and I hate giving away what happens in my own story because mystery is what entices readers. Plus, it's fun finding out who did and why.

usedbooks at 4:54AM, Aug. 17, 2019

Btw, I often can't get to a movie until it has been out for a while. Like it or not, I always end up "spoiled" on anything popular. So, I watch with the "Is this where he dies? ... How about now? ... Oh, this scene must be where he bites it..." Some things set you up for that mentality from the start by spoiling themselves. The beginning of Ghost Dad is the best (only good?) part of the movie as it plays "this could kill you" gags. And the entire Series of Unfortunate Events as the narrator reminds you constantly that everyone you meet is going to die.

usedbooks at 3:50AM, Aug. 17, 2019

Oh, and I hate manufactured suspense/mystery. There are two kinds of irony. You can keep the audience in the dark on things the characters know or keep the characters in the dark and reveal all to the audience. I prefer the latter. I stick to third person omniscient and show what others are up to. First person stories are fascinating but draining, espevially stories where you have to sort out reality from perception. (Shutter Island, I Kill Giants, American McGee's Alice) Those stories have a lot of payoff on the second viewing, though.

usedbooks at 3:45AM, Aug. 17, 2019

I read somewhere (can't recall the source) that they did a study and found out "spoilers" overall improve people's enjoyment of a movie. I can't remember the logic behind it. To be honest, I find many movies and shows are more enjoyable on their second viewing. I still like to be surprised once, but I look forward to that second viewing. Tbh, some movies/shows need it because their story framing is confusing. Or they have characters with mysterious loyalties, and you want to follow "the bad guy" from the start. My granddad always read the end of the book first. My dad always basically asks for an entire synopsis before watching something. I don't mind either way.

bravo1102 at 1:44AM, Aug. 17, 2019

I've often told the story of how in college "spoiling" the story became "steveing" a story because I was always doing it whenever I watched anything with anyone. Because of that, I've become quite tight lipped unless specifically asked. Some movies once I've seen the twist, I'll want to see it again to see how it was foreshadowed. A good storyteller always broadcasts the conclusion throughout his tale and it's it the savvy listener who picks up on it. And all too often it's not the ending that matters, but the JOURNEY.

bravo1102 at 1:36AM, Aug. 17, 2019

Also spoiler immune. For me I like to know what happens so I can see how the story brings it all together. There's supposed to be hints and foreshadowing and stuff and once I know the ending, I can go back and see how it was all constructed. A surprise is never truly supposed to be a surprise. There are always hints. In film class the professor would tell us the whole story so we'd pay attention to how the film maker with how the scenes were constructed.

hushicho at 1:23AM, Aug. 17, 2019

I don't think "spoilers" really ruin the experience. It's always different to experience a work than it is to hear about it. These days, with such terrible writing on parade in entertainment, I much prefer to know in advance if a story is going to run off its rails and end up disappointing. I've wasted so much time on stories, in whatever medium, that only failed to satisfy me or even infuriated me with how they ended up writing their story. That said, I also don't find it the case with a good story that knowing what's going to happen really affects the experience. If a story is well-composed, you can experience it any number of times and still be satisfied with it.

ShaRose49 at 1:19AM, Aug. 17, 2019

Someone who is like me?? I never thought such a thing could be possible!! (I’m pretty much spoiler immune—sometimes I even read spoilers to hype myself for something).

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