That’s what this NPR article claims. In one cited study, readers were told the ending of Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery.” (I’m not going to spoil it for you, and if you haven’t read it, you might not want to read on, until you do.) According to the study, most people enjoyed the story more because they knew the spoiler. Here are some explanations and defenses for revealing spoilers:
>Knowing the ending in a suspenseful story can ehance the suspense. This is the Hitchcock argument about showing the bomb ticking would be more suspenseful than not showing it. (I might be butchering the example, so somebody help me out if I am.)
>Great writing and great characters can’t be spoiled. I guess the argument is that the surprise doesn’t really play a key role in the enjoyment or value of the work.
I’m definitely in the anti-spoiler camp, and I’ll try to respond to the some of the arguments listed above later.
yes they are good for you
its why things hold up to repeated viewings
anything worth a damn is just as good if we go in knowing everything about it
Knowing what happens actually also enables you to see how bad some things are
Sixth Sense for instance
Hell no. What type of question is that!
Could you explain, Den? What’s the link between knowing spoilers and the film holding up in repeated viewings? I understand that a film might possess qualities that make it “impervious” to spoilers, but I don’t think that means that knowing spoilers actually improves the initial viewing.
Right, but you can get that experience on a repeat viewing. However, if you reveal the spoiler, you rob the viewer of surprise on the initial viewing—and the surprise can be quite delightful, imo. I’m guessing surprising don’t do it for you?
That’s sort of my feeling, but how about expanding on that.
knowing spoilers is like a repeat viewing, in both instances you know what happened (did not claim it made the film better).
I know just reading a handful of Woody Allen reviews, critics give away everything (the plot listing on the film website of Whatever Works was a complete scene by scene synopsis of the film), This does not make the gags less funny and I sometimes find myself looking forward to jokes and situations they gave away while I am watching.
The suggestion is that spoilers can actually enhance or improve the film experience (actually, I believe the research related to literature)—which is close to making a film better.
But if it’s just like a repeat viewing, why not have an initial, spoiler-free viewing?
Btw, my remark about you not caring about suprises was genuine. I suspect this may be a big reason for valuing spoilers. For example, my wife likes romance novels, and she will read the ending of them before starting the book. I was appalled at this when I first found out, but she explained that she doesn’t want to read a book with a tragic ending. (I’ve since discovered that other fans of romance are like this.) She doesn’t care about surprises, and she doesn’t want the negative surprise.
To me a film is an experience. Look at it as having sex or making love. Some things just can’t be communicated, and shouldn’t be.
Knowing the plot frees you to pay attention to other aspects of the film.
Stanley Fish talked about this study a while ago. He had all sorts of things to say—including something called the Paradox of Suspense .
“First-time readers or viewers, because they don’t know what’s going to happen, have access to the pleasures of suspense — going down the wrong path, guessing at the identity of the killer, wondering about the fate of the hero. Repeaters who do know what is going to happen cannot experience those pleasures,but they can recognize significances they missed the first time around, see ironies that emerge only in hindsight and savor the skill with which a plot is constructed. If suspense is taken away by certainty, certainty offers other compensations, and those compensations, rather than being undermined by a spoiler, require one.”Stanley Fish: New York Times
Films are slightly different each time you see them, based on your perspective, age, mood, ect. This is especially true of the difference between the first and second viewing because, only that first time, do you have a chance of experiencing it fresh. Some film are meant to surprise more than others and some spoilers rob you of the opportunity to experience that “first” film.
Look at it as having sex or making love. Some things just can’t be communicated, and shouldn’t be.
I’m not sure this the best example. I mean, you know what’s going to happen (or what supposed to happen) at the end of sex, but that doesn’t ruin the experience at all, right? ;)
Matt said, Knowing the plot frees you to pay attention to other aspects of the film.—and Fish’s quotes in bold from J&K say the same thing, albeit more detailed.
I totally agree. But that can occur after the first viewing.
I make no effort to avoid spoilers.
But if the study only included reactions to one story than it might no be accurate. Some books/movies are probably more enhanced or hurt by spoilers than others.
I never read film synopses before watching them (my job is ironically writing them).
However, when we watch a James Bond film, for instance, we always know that 007 is going to be alive at the end of the story, and this is something screenwriters, producers and directors are aware of.
The answer to the question this thread is posing relies on the viewer’s aim when being exposed to cinema more than in a specific movie – what is he looking for when watching this film?
James Bond productions are made for people to be amused with their action; but if the viewer is specially interested on plot twists and such crap, giving him a spoiler will pretty much ruin the whole experience for him.
If we talk about Stalker, for instance, I think even if I had been told what happened at last I would have still enjoyed the film enormously, but being told this would’ve deviated my attention towards a supposition and thus, I would’ve missed some details.
Suming it all up, I’d say that spoilers do not ruin the film experience, but they diminish our openness and ability to read events beyond what was “spoiled” for us.
I don’t mind spoilers…I feel that films that depend on spoilers (shocking surprises) are just covering up weaknesses in other areas…script, acting, directing….if I know some spoilers heading into a film I can focus on the film as a whole and not be sidetracked by sudden plot twists and such……
Psycho is a great film, not because of the surprise ending (which isn’t really much of a surprise anymore….even those people who haven’t seen Psycho pretty much know the story) but because of the superior acting, directing, script and music among other things.
I prefer some spoilers to be quite honest with you.
However, I never reveal spoilers to other viewers……
But even beyond that there’s the simple joy in finding out how those spoilers are met. I’ve been trying to catch up on Breaking Bad over the past four months. Just by knowing that there are five seasons, I am aware that Walter, Jesse, and other major characters aren’t going to be dying during the first four seasons. I know that they will escape whatever predicament they are in. Knowing that I find myself wondering exactly how they are going to get out of it. It can be fun this way.
Knowing the plot means you’re anticipating the moments you know are coming instead of relishing in the current ones.
Or worse, you get distracted because something you thought should have happened by now “hasn’t happened yet”.
And you’ve started formulating your opinions, consciously or no, based on these spoilers, which means you aren’t giving everything as fair a chance as possible.
For these reasons and many others besides, spoilers are generally to be avoided, assuming the most “pure” experience possible is desired.
little OT, but this stuff i find interesting.
I actually know a guy who would sometimes start a film in the middle and watch it to the end and then start at the beginning and watch it until it got to the middle part where he had started. He would just do this sometimes with films he had never seen before. He said it made some films better.
He would also sometimes be watching five films at a time and watch five minutes of each one at a time before switching to the next one and watching five minutes of that one so he was watching like five films at a time.
Does knowing the ending of Hamlet make it any worse? Because pretty much everyone in the western world knows at least a general outline, beginning to end, of every single major Shakespeare before they read it.
Great narrative art is great specifically because it transcends the simplicity of narrative ‘anticipation.’
NO NOT NOW NOT THEN NOT NOW NOT NEVER
NEVER SPOILERS NEVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!
Hitchock’s experiment with manipulation is even more evident if you see Psycho the first time knowing the entire plot.
^ i agree with you on that Fal
Analyzing how Hitchcock manipulates you should be reserved for second viewings and beyond. The first viewing is for allowing yourself to be manipulated.
Sure, but you can also watch a movie more than once. With something like Psycho, I’d argue that it’s ideal to not know anything going into it. Once you’ve had that initial experience, you can appreciate the rest on subsequent viewings.
Edit: What Brad S. said. The initial experience, unencumbered by knowledge, with any suspense picture (especially a Hitchcock) is valuable.
“Analyzing how Hitchcock manipulates you should be reserved for second viewings and beyond. The first viewing is for allowing yourself to be manipulated.”
If you know the plot beforehand you can do both at the same time on the first viewing.
“With something like Psycho, I’d argue that it’s ideal to not know anything going into it.”
Why? That surprise lasts minutes. The understanding of that surprise is what sticks with you.
From an experiential standpoint, I don’t believe this to be true. Like Brentos, I knew the ending of Psycho before seeing it (pop culture, etc.) and still enjoyed it. But knowing definitely diminishes the shock. When home for Christmas a few years ago, I took a copy of Psycho for family viewing. My father, who has never been much interested in movies, let out a “Woah, Mama” at the sight of Norman Bates’ mother’s corpse. I’ve never had the chance to do that.
I value my emotional reactions to a movie. If I lose out on the surprise, then I lose out on something I value.
>>If you know the plot beforehand you can do both at the same time on the first viewing.<<
How can you do both when you are wise to the tricks the film has in store? Hitchcock, and directors like him, keep certain pieces of information from the audience for specific artistic reasons. By knowing spoilers, you are compromised from viewing the film as intended by the filmmaker.
Has comedy been mentioned? If someone reveals the funniest jokes in a great comedy before you see it, you may still appreciate the humor, but I’d suggest you would not laugh as hard as if it took you by surprise.