Surprises are what make life interesting. Without them, we’d have nothing to throw us off our game. Nothing to pull us back from the mundane and make us say “Well, this is new.” So whoever invented the spoiler must have harbored a fun-sucking, routine-loving soul. And I, for one, am mentally sending brain waves full of annoyance his or her way.
Not that my distaste for the spoiler will do anything to change the way information is reported about our favorite movies, television programs or books in the day and age of social media sites and universal reviewing capabilities. These outlets thrive on being the first to report the latest information or the most complete summary of just what exactly is happening with, say, Tyrion Lannister in the newest Game of Thrones episode.
Now, I’m not saying that spoilers are inherently evil. In fact, a lot of the times they might be necessary to keep interest alive in the work that is being placed for all to read. As Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker wrote in his 2008 spoiler debate essay, “Whether I’m writing a review or reading one, I don’t want any held-back information to prevent that review from being the most interesting, thought-provoking one possible.”
Tucker makes a good point. Crucial plot points and twists are what viewers want to discuss as soon as the final curtain has closed. And they might feel cheated out of this experience if the recaps and reviews don’t engage in their excitement-fueled fire of surprise. After all, entertainment isn’t created to sit quietly in a corner after it has been enjoyed. Rather, it’s created to often times live way past its air date, and the complete coverage provided directly after it comes to life goes a long way in preserving its expiration date.
But what about the viewers who can’t watch the action as it unfolds? Tucker points out that “the very fact that a plot twist becomes the most sacred bit of information, the key to enjoyment, doesn’t speak well for audiences’ appreciation of the performances, the direction, and other elements that make a show worth pondering.”
I have to disagree. One of my favorite television plot twists arrived in the Season 7 Supernaturalepisode “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters.” The entire episode is pretty standard, as episodes for the CW hit go. There are a few heart to heart chats, a character gets apprehended by the bad guys, daring rescue attempt ensues. But the last twenty seconds of the episode (and, annoyingly enough, spoiler alert for all who haven’t made it this far) made my heart stop in terrified surprise as Sam Winchester held up Bobby Singer’s beloved blue baseball cap with a bloody bullet hole through the front.
My world exploded as the brothers voices made desperate calls to their friend over a black screen. And I think that Tucker forgot about moments like these when he was writing his essay. No matter how much a show is loved, these surprise twists and endings don’t have the same impact if they’ve been read about prior to viewing. Someone’s heart won’t race. Strangled screams of anguish won’t try and escape throats. There will only be anticipated sadness or anger that might ruin the beauty of a scene meant to capture a person’s raw, in-the-moment feelings.
So I’m not saying that there should never be spoilers. I’m saying that we all, writers and readers alike, need to be more vigilant in being aware of how spoilers can truly affect just what it is people are seeing. And really, is it so hard to add a simple “spoiler alert” message into a piece of writing? I think not.
Where do you stand on The Great Spoiler Debate? Let us know in the comments below!