I remember back when Batfans were getting amped up for The Dark Knight Rises. It was an exciting time. So many rumors and theories and tantalizing glimpses and…
The argument over spoilers gets very heated in pretty much every fandom ever. I think most forums dedicated to a TV show, a character, a book series, an author, a movie franchise, or a comic series has a subforum dedicated to spoilers, and often that forum will have at least one thread dedicated simply to compiling spoilers into one place for easy reference. These same forums will also contain a subforum dedicated to the same discussions about future work, but where spoilers are simply not allowed. And furthermore, even in a spoiler subforum, you still have to provide huge warnings and find a way to hide the spoilers so that people who may want to be surprised don’t have to read those spoilers.
Now, this seems like a great compromise where everyone gets what they want, right? People who enjoy having spoilers get them, and people who hate spoilers are free to avoid them.
This seems perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?
Actually, the debate over spoilers rages on even in subforums dedicated to providing spoilers.
It was amazing, over on Superhero Hype, before TDKR was released, how many threads in the spoiler subforums devolved into a flame-war over whether or not spoilers are a good thing. Even in threads and subforums dedicated to spoilers, people still complained about spoilers and started arguments with those who wanted the spoilers and demonized those who provided the spoilers. And things devolved as those of us who like having spoilers and those who like providing spoilers had to go on the defensive, yet again, and explain why we’re there in the first place and that humans are not a monolith and do not all think alike.
To be frank, I hate the anti-spoilers brigade. If you’re wondering why, it’s very simple: because they are almost always “morally superior” to those of us who actually like spoilers. They get very self-righteous, hand-wringing over what the creators might think of such things being leaked, and bashing those of us who eat that stuff up for enjoying it.
But here’s the thing… just because you don’t like spoilers doesn’t mean everybody doesn’t, because… guess what…
Ask anybody who’s ever gotten me a gift, for my birthday or for holidays. I love getting presents, but I hate not knowing what they are before-hand. I don’t entirely know why. I’ve never really thought about it. But I love to know. Being surprised is not something I actually think is fun. It actually adds stress to my life. People who insist on surprising me really just make me that much less healthy and that much more anxious.
Obviously this plays directly into my love of spoilers. I spoiled myself for books 6 and 7 of Harry Potter, I spoiled myself for TDKR, I am now slowly spoiling myself for the Doctor Who Christmas Special (I missed out on most of the spoilers for the 50th anniversary… I didn’t even know Tom Baker would make an appearance, and as much as I enjoyed that [it was beyond awesome], I would’ve liked to have known beforehand, just so I could anticipate it), and I fully plan on spoiling myself for the upcoming Superman/Batman film and the whole Justice League universe films that will inevitably spawn from that. And I am honestly okay with this. I don’t want to be surprised.
I think spoilers serve a similar purpose to the old adage “try before you buy”.
With guitars, for example, you can’t really just buy a guitar online, because you need to play guitars first and find out which one suits you. Guitars, like all musical instruments, are not just tools, but extensions of the self. If I believed in actual souls, I’d say that the guitar you choose should be a physical manifestation of your soul. But regardless, it should complement you and your music.
So “spoiling” yourself over how a guitar plays actually saves you money, because it means you pick the guitar that’s best for you.
And yes… when you spoil some sort of work not-yet-released, you are basically operating on the same principle. Obviously, a TV Show isn’t meant to be an extension of your soul, but it’s okay to go in knowing that you’ll enjoy it.
For me, spoiling an upcoming movie, TV show, or book that’s part of something I normally enjoy allows me to save time and money:
I knew way ahead of time that I would not enjoy books 6 and 7 of Harry Potter (despite my continued love for books 1-5). So I saved the money I would have spent buying the books. I was fully aware that I would love The Dark Knight Returns (sadly, my opinion of the movie has dropped a lot since I first saw it in theaters, largely thanks to so many subsequent viewings and having so much time to think about it… though I still like it, and the trilogy is still my trilogy), so I had no problem spending the money I did on five total movie tickets (two for real Imax) and the special edition Blu-Ray release (and I’ll soon be spending even more money on the special edition Blu-Ray box set of the entire trilogy).
I’m operating under this exact same principle yet again for the Doctor Who Christmas special.
“But Nathan”, you say, perplexed, “don’t the trailers and teasers and such serve that same purpose?”
Yes, but trailers and teasers can be flawed. I have seen amazing trailers for movies that ultimately sucked, and horrible trailers for movies that were wonderful. Teasers and trailers can be misleading and, at least in my experience, are ultimately untrustworthy.
Of course, spoilers come with an even worse risk: you don’t really know if what you’re reading is true until the show or movie or book is released.
However, you can judge the veracity of someone by his or her track record. I have a tendency to believe spoilers posted by someone who’s been right about things in the past. For example: most of the spoilers that were in fact accurate about TDKR were largely posted by people who also posted accurate spoilers for The Dark Knight and Batman Begins. Others who are seekers will often vouch for those with a great track record as well, so if you’re new to looking for spoilers, definitely read those spoilers posted by people who seem to be trusted by the rest of the community. In this case, a forum member who’s trusted by the majority of other forum members is likely trustworthy, and what they’re posting is probably at least partially accurate.
But there are people who get self-righteous in such forums, taking it upon themselves to go in to a spoilers subforum, read the spoilers, and then step up onto a high horse and write long, tedious posts about how immoral and evil spoilers are, how immoral those who leak spoilers are, and how sorry and pathetic and lacking in self-control those of us who read and enjoy the spoilers are. I find this both hypocritical (what are you doing in the spoiler subforum in the first place?) and pathetic. IMO, it says a lot more about them than it does about all those involved in leaking and reading spoilers.
Just because you like to be surprised doesn’t mean we all do. And as I have said so many times before, you do not have the right to enforce your personal moral ethics upon others. I like being spoiled for movies and TV shows and books and such, and I want to be spoiled, and not only does it not ruin any potential for me to enjoy the particular show, movie, or book, but it can in fact increase my anticipation for said show, movie, or book, dependent, of course, upon whether or not I actually like what I read.
In response to my defense of spoilers, someone once told me that he wanted people to enjoy TDKR just like he is… which is exactly the point. You may enjoy something more when you’re surprised, but I don’t. I like knowing. My enjoyment is enhanced by spoilers, not diminished.
You see… for me, the enjoyment of a film, TV show, book, comic, etc comes not from the surprise, but from the execution. I could read the complete, finished script of a film, and it still would not be enough, because even then, I could only imagine how I would film it. My enjoyment of that film would then come from seeing how they executed it. What did they do that I would have done? What did they do that I wouldn’t have done? I’m more interested in execution (as well as good acting, a good story/plot, and a good script) than in being surprised.
So please don’t try to push me into your box. In return, I won’t try to push you into mine. Let’s both enjoy our obsessions in our own ways. Because to be completely honest, if you’re a Whovian and/or a Batfan, then I don’t care whether or not you enjoy spoilers. I just care that we have something in common that we can talk about.