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?


  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.

  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.

  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.


  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...

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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!

  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.

  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-

  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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