Spoiler Camps

There are two extremes when it comes to thinking about spoilers. On one side, there is the ALL SPOILERS ARE BAD camp. These folks seem to believe that once a story is spoiled, it's not worth experiencing. I once saw a Facebook comment that said, "Any Ender's Game film will be a disappointment--imagine watching The Sixth Sense if you'd read the book first!"

I can't agree with that extreme. I'd love to see an Ender's Game movie, even knowing how it ends.

The other camp says THERE ARE NO SPOILERS. In Stephen King's words, "You might as well say 'I'm never gonna watch Wizard of Oz again because I know how it turns out.'"

It's a good point, after all we re-watch movies and re-read books all the time. But the first time you saw Wizard of Oz you didn't know how it would turn out. And I think a lot of the reason we revisit stories we love is to re-feel what we felt that first time.

Obviously I fall in between these camps. I think experiencing a story spoiler-free increases the emotional impact. The second and third viewings not only remind us of that impact, but also free us to see more in the story than we saw the first time -- clues we didn't catch, subtle hints that show the author knew what they were doing the whole time.

Spoiling a movie essentially skips that first viewing. We are half experiencing it for the first time and half watching for the clues that hint at the twist. But the emotional impact is gone because we know it's coming. At least that's what I think.

So I believe there are spoilers, but just because you've seen a movie before (or read the book) does not "spoil" it the second time.

I suspect most of us fall in between the camps, but I don't know. So where do you stand on spoilers? Have you ever had a book or movie ruined by spoilers (or the opposite: heard spoilers but still loved the story)?


Emmet said...

A good story/movie can't be ruined with spoilers, they just take some of the fun out of the experience. A lousy story/movie that is watchable because of a single reveal can be ruined, but it was a lousy movie so who cares?

The real tragedy is the fake spoiler. In theory this should make the "reveal" that much more of a surprise, but in reality it changes the way you watch/read and causes you to look past the real reveal in an attempt to not get fooled. People who do fake spoilers should be shot!

Matthew MacNish said...

Well on the one hand I will say that I HATE spoilers when it comes to a franchise that I know and love, in the sense that I want to have the right to enjoy it for the first time once, the way I want to.

On the other hand if a story is good enough, like the Lord of the Rings, for example, which I have read at least 10 times, I can read it over and over and still suspend my disbelief long enough to have that emotional connection again, in spite of the fact that I already know how it turns out.

Great post, great question. Thanks Adam.

Adam Heine said...

Thankfully I've never been the victim of a fake spoiler. I'm not sure how I'd feel about that, but I don't think it would be good.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I had to hide from the internet for a week between when Mockingjay was released, and I allowed myself to read it. And there were still hints that were spoilerish for me ("Oh! It's SO violent! Did they have to do that?") So, of course I'm thinking what??? and watching for the violence when I read.

I really like to form my own impressions first.

Which, oddly enough, made it very difficult for me to write queries - I didn't want to give away too much of the story. I had to get over that to write a proper query that would pique the interest of agents.

Ken Lindsey said...

Aww man, Wizard of Oz has an ending?! Now you've ruined it for me!

Not really, I'm more of a no-spoiler kind of guy. There are so many ups and downs in a good story, spoilers usually only take away the surprise from one of those.

Lexi said...

My daughter was reading Anna Karenina, and while discussing it I mentioned the ending - it didn't occur to me she wouldn't know it.

She's still grumbling about it.

L. T. Host said...

Most of the time, I find that spoilers aren't really spoilers unless you have the context of the whole story (i.e., who won a football game when you've been following one of the teams all year). But otherwise, most spoilers really don't spoil much in my opinion. There's still some delight in the story even if you know how it ends.

Having said that, I still try to avoid them, as the discovery of the journey is a big part of the fun of it. But I will still give it a chance if it's spoiled for me.

jjdebenedictis said...

Amid a massive test group of three people (including myself) who had viewed both the American and the original Japanese version of The Ring, the majority (i.e. three out of three of us) preferred the version we saw first.

I think it's because of the spoiler effect. We didn't know what was coming the first time we saw (one version of) the movie, so the plot scared us effectively; it had emotional impact.

On viewing the second version of the movie, all the big scares were gone, so even though both movies are excellent, the version viewed second didn't create the same impact.

Personally, I prefer no spoilers. I've even refrained from reading the back cover flap on books I've been anticipating. I want no clues as to what's going to happen.

And yet, I do re-read books I love. (Maybe it's because I have a bad memory? Every day is a surprise!)