Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Searching out spoilers

Like most people, I usually avoid spoilers like the plague. What's the point in watching a football game if I know who's going to win? A book loses its dramatic tension if I know the main character lives.

But lately I've begun to change my mind on spoilers. I may start seeking them out.

This past summer, everyone seemed to be raving about the movie Inception. But, they warned, it was mind-bogglingly complicated. It was a movie one needed to pay attention to, not just a popcorn flick.

In my typical anti-spoiler fashion, I didn't read any reviews. I skimmed headlines, saw people were enjoying it, but ignored the content of these conversations. I didn't want any surprises.

I regretted that. Because I'm way too serious about these things, I spent the entire movie trying to catch every detail, absorb every fact fully. Those of you who have seen the movie know there's a fair amount of complicated facts and backstory. And for the most part, the details aren't really important. At the end, I had understood every twist. But I was exhausted. Unlike many, I didn't think it was a great movie. But perhaps that's partly because I spent the entire movie fearful I'd miss something.

I was reminded of this when I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows I. I've read the book, I wasn't nervous about spoilers. But I was worried about negative critics spoiling it for me. Before I went, Phil had told me of one negative review, my parents shared another, written by someone who had never read the books nor seen the other films. I was annoyed by the bad press and elitist, adult critics complaining about a phenomenon they'd never even bothered to engage with. So I didn't read any reviews.

I wish I had.

I wish I had known that it would feel like only the first half of a movie, that there would be hardly any character development, or plot arcs. I would've gone anyway. I would have sat back and enjoyed seeing Ron, Harry, and Hermione again, enjoyed the action, the spectacle. Instead, I spent most of the movie thinking, "Wait, why did Ron just do that?" and "That made a lot more sense in the book," and "That was it?"

Of course, reading reviews and spoilers could easily backfire. What if I would've really enjoyed a movie, but reviews made me overly critical? And there's not much reason, in my mind, to watch a football game if I know how it ends, especially if my team loses. The problem is, only hindsight is 20/20.

But in the future, I may be more open to reading reviews and even spoilers ahead of time. After all, it's not usually the dramatic tension that I most enjoy about a movie.

Do you ever seek out spoilers? Do you ever wish you had?

11 comments:

  1. Although I don't watch many new movies, I can carry this over to books. I've been misled too often by reviews so I go by reading the jacket flap and the opening to see if it grabs me.

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  2. I've traditionally avoided spoilers and I still do with books, but with movies I've started reading reviews beforehand. I think a big reason is that movies are expensive and I don't have a lot of time to go see them, so I like to make sure the movies are worth seeing before I go. I guess it takes some of the fun out of it, but if the movie is actually good then I forget everything I heard about it and just enjoy the experience.

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  3. I avoid spoilers with movies, books, tv series (dvds).

    But I must say that I have learned, when borrowing movies from a particular friend, that if he says it's a very "special" movie, to check out some reviews LOL. In the case of the one movie, oh boy did I ever wish I had read some reviews before hand so as not to see even those first 15 minutes before we turned it off!

    I am wanting to watch Inception - it just came out on BluRay. I'm curious now what I will think of it.

    Elisabeth

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  4. Andrea, I've definitely been misled by book reviews, too. I don't know why I don't read the opening pages more often, they're usually so much more of an accurate indicator!

    I think that's definitely true, Anna! If a movie or book is REALLY good, all the negative reviews and spoils in the world won't change anything.

    Elisabeth: Hah! I love the idea of a "special" movie! =) I hope you enjoy Inception! Certainly lots of other people have. Just don't pay TOO close of attention! =)

    All of you are making me realize that my criteria for reading reviews is very different between movies and books. Must think more on this...

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  5. The only spoiler I've ever read was for the movie The Village by M. Night Shyamalan and, boy, that was a mistake. It ruined the whole thing. I think that I would have really enjoyed the movie if I hadn't known the ending. Since then I try to avoid spoilers like the plague.

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  6. I generally read books several times and enjoy them even when I know the ending (I must have a very simple mind). So no, I don't really mind spoilers. I don't seek them out, but I can see why you might want to.

    Like Anna above, I prefer to vet books and movies before spending money on them -- time AND money are precious. And I always read first pages AND reviews of books and go for recommendations of reviewers I believe I can trust.

    But having said all that, I'm reading a bestselling book right now with glowing reviews and I'm bored stiff by it.

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  7. Amykated: Oh dear. That's exactly the kind of spoilery I'm afraid of! But perhaps the fact that it hasn't happened yet means I'm not the type of person to be bothered about it? I can't think of a movie that was ever ruined for me by knowing the ending. Though I can think of a few that I perhaps enjoyed less. I can certainly see that with Shyamalan movies.

    Mary: That's true--I reread books frequently, too, and never mind knowing the ending. You're not the only one with a simple mind, apparently! =)

    Yes, exactly, time and money are precious! But, like your bestseller, it seems however much I vet books and movies, I can never be certain, and there will always be duds. So I guess the question is if I want to go into it with my eyes wide open or firmly shut.

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  8. It's not 'spoiling' exactly, but cynical, sarcastic reviews can prevent me from really getting into the spirit of a film. For example, if a film is described as overly sentimental, then every time there's a romantic or tragic scene I'm thinking 'I wonder if that's the bit the critic meant...' rather than engaging fully. On the other hand, many a potentially dull film is lifted if I've read that it's sexist or racist and I have the interesting task of verifying that assessment for myself. So like you Anne, I think I'm ambivalent about it!

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  9. That's funny, Anna! I was just reading a book and saw a review that had described it as patronizing and racist. And I'm not sure I would have picked up on it right away, but having had it pointed out to me, I could definitely see it. So yes, the question definitely is, had I not read that review, would I have still enjoyed the book? I don't think so, but perhaps I would have at least read a bit farther than I did.

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  10. I confess- I seek out spoilers all the time- can't understand Shakespeare unless I review the play before hand and know where it is going- hate " someone is going to die movies unless I know it is coming-" and I actually enjoy movies more the second time, often see them twice at the movie theater and love all the nuances and detail I catch the second time around-

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  11. Hah! Thanks for admitting it, Julia, I was hoping to find someone who did! It's funny you mention studying Shakespeare before you go; I do that, too. The plays are just too complex to understand in one sitting. But your post does make me wonder if I would appreciate other things more if I read about them beforehand too. I think I might need to experiment with this!

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