Thursday, January 23, 2014

An experiment with spoilers

...Those who advocate spoilers say that spoilers enhance our love of films and make our lives better.... Of course, there is also the illicit pleasure of a spoiler. A person browsing the Internet can feel empowered coming across a spoiler. They now possess forbidden information about a film that most other people don't have. Still, as alleged by the pro-spoilers faction, the most powerful benefit of sharing spoilers is that it helps to build a community around movies and television shows. But doesn't it impart too much importance to the latest film to build a community around it
I gotta admit, I don't understand why some fans need to know things in advance. I realize this never used to be a problem; there was a time when people never made as big a deal about learning advance information about a movie (or book, or TV show, or comic, or what have you), but with the rise of the Internet, it has become more of a thing, partially because information is so much more easily obtainable and more easily passed along now. This week, we saw Quentin Tarantino decide to not shoot his latest film because the script was leaked over the Internet - and who can blame him?

There are books I've read prior to seeing them adapted into movies, and there have been classic films I've watched after reading all about them in blogs or books, but those aren't quite the same thing. In this particular case, there's an assumed perception of an upcoming movie and a certain level of expectations that go with it that prompt a fan to seek out advance knowledge. This is commonly associated with genre movies, but also with movies from certain popular directors, such as Tarantino. The question remains, though: can one more easily enjoy a movie if you know it from start to finish?

I'm gonna test this hypothesis by taking two upcoming movies and approaching them from both extremes: I'll go into one movie knowing as much about it as I can possibly learn, and into the other knowing as little as possible - which, I grant, won't be easy, which is why I'll set the minimum goal of not knowing plot details beyond the barest of essentials. This will likely mean doing things like skipping out on the trailers whenever I go to the movies, for example, but I can do that. At any rate, I won't actively pursue knowledge about my "blind" movie, whereas with my "spoiler" movie, I'm gonna go whole hog and learn everything. My goal is to find out whether advance knowledge of a film helps or hurts the viewing experience.

I've chosen two movies coming out this spring, and they're both sports movies: Draft Day, a football movie with Kevin Costner, coming out in April, will be my "blind" movie, while Million Dollar Arm, a baseball movie with Jon Hamm, coming out in May, will be my "spoiler" movie. Maybe I should've chosen a more fanboy kind of movie, like the sci-fi flick Transcendence, or a movie with a popular director, like Darren Aronofsky's Noah, but the fortuitous chance of two sports movies coming out in the same season, both of which I would be interested in anyway, makes this a better fit for me. You can follow my progress on Twitter, where I'll use the hashtag [#spoilerxpmt].

Any advice on how I can fine-tune this experiment would be greatly appreciated.


  1. Great idea, Rich ... I'm not a Twit (haha), and I hope you might consider posting a summary or something of what you will be putting on Twitter. I'm split on the issue -- I don't mind sometimes, but usually am furious if somebody blurts out the twist of a mystery plot, that kind of thing. When I wanted to see "The Sixth Sense", I deliberately did not look at anything that mentioned it. My sister had it figured out half-way through, but I didn't and it was such fun to be really surprised. That's what I miss when someone tells you before you see a movie. I guess it doesn't really bother me if it is a "Happily Ever After". But the unexpected -- I don't want to know!

  2. I can talk about my progress in my monthly links post if you like. Probably would've done so in any case.

  3. I'll be very interested in the outcome of your experience.

    I'm definitely on the side of those who abhor spoilers. The most horrifying scene in any movie is the bit in "When Harry Met Sally" where Harry (Billy Crystal) turns to the back page of a novel before he starts to read it. I actually groaned audibly in the theatre.

  4. It seems counter-intuitive, but if all these people do it and enjoy doing it, I gotta wonder if there's something to it.

  5. I have a mixed opinion about spoilers. I watched Citizen Kane already knowing what Rosebud was, and it somehow interfered with any surprise I could get at the end. I also watched Planet of the Apes knowing the end (the pic in the book "1001 movies you should see before you die" spoils it), but I greatly enjoyed the film. By the way, now Soylent Green is spoiled to me.
    When I watch a more recent film, I prefer to know what it is about, but not much. But when I'm gonna watch an old film, I don't care to know anything in advance.
    I'm curious for your results!

  6. Oops! Sorry about that... but if it makes you feel better, I didn't know Snape kills Dumbledore...

  7. I hate, hate, hate knowing in advance what happens in movies I'm going to see. Sometimes I even close my eyes during trailers (which often tell THE ENTIRE STORY) of movies I want to see. Honestly, sometimes I usually even want to know the genre. If a director I like (Paul Thomas Anderson, David Mamet, Terrence Malick, etc.) makes a movie, that's all I need to know - I'm there.

  8. I've already seen the trailer for MILLION DOLLAR ARM and it, too, lays out what appears to be the bulk of the story, leaving little to the imagination. Trailers can be really bad about that sort of thing.

  9. I meant to say, of course, " Honestly, sometimes I usually don't even want to know the genre".


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