With the past few weeks seeming like the ultimate culmination of pop culture over the past decade — from Avengers: Endgame to the Battle of Winterfell — it’s no surprise that spoilers have become such a hot topic. You see Facebook contacts threatening to ‘unfriend’ anyone who posts spoilers. There are Twitter users swearing off the platform until they’ve seen what they need to see. Even directors of multi-million projects like the Russo brothers kindly ask that people #DontSpoilTheEndgame.
Considering all this ruckus made about spoilers, being spoiled, or giving spoilers we have to ask: are spoilers even really that bad?
A quick disclaimer is that this obviously doesn’t apply to merciless spoilers which are posted only for attention. People who post entire summaries about films or shows just because they can are excluded from this narrative.
One Twitter thread discusses how exaggerated our aversion to spoilers has become. It’s in our nature as people to gush about things that excite us and to seek a release from our feelings. It just so happens that technology has made that easier to do on a more public platform. Yet in a time when it is impossible to escape from spoilers, people have become increasingly hostile towards them.
This is largely tied to the way we appreciate stories in the first place. Spoilers can only matter insofar as you believe plot twists to be notable. Meaning, the only reason to hate spoilers is if you believe a good movie is a shocking one.
But shock value doesn’t necessarily make a story good or bad — often, it is simply a cosmetic tool used to aid the narrative.
Without the shock value, the core of the narrative still remains. The movie still plays out as it was intended to and whatever you do or don’t know shouldn’t impede the general quality of the story. Stories, good ones at least, envelope you in its narrative and consume you. It takes you on the same journey its characters take and makes you feel the same things they do, regardless of whether you were expecting it or not.
That’s why even if we walked into the cinemas knowing [redacted] wouldn’t make it out alive, we still mourned when it happened. The way certain things happen should matter more than the fact that it does. Focusing on momentary instances of gratification makes stories disposable. As Alder says, “art only spoils at the point of exposure if we believe art to be a novelty consumer product.”
The caveat, though, is that spoilers can and do shape our viewing experience. And that experience is directly linked to how much we ultimately value a story. Films, unlike stationary art, are all moving set pieces and progressions of ideas. It is inherently a fluid form.
(Related: Who should adjust when it comes to spoilers?)
So while it shouldn’t take anything away from the overall quality of a story, it can affect its initial impact on us. But even initial impressions makes way for more lasting forms of appreciation. This is why some of us rewatch our favorite movies over and over again despite knowing the plots like the back of our hand. Ultimately, it’s up to each person to decide how they want to take spoilers and how to appreciate stories.
What do you think?