The following was commissioned by Flickering Myth
Henry Bevan on spoilers…
I lasted five days. Five days without having someone spoil the new episode of Game of Thrones. Those days were spent in constant fear. I was like one of the journalists in All The Presidents Men, constantly looking over my shoulder for the innocent bystander who might tell me what the hell Ed Sheeran was doing.
Eventually, I realised my quest was futile. I grew tired of avoiding people and I gave up. My five days made me reconsider my relationship status with spoilers. I’ve always been ambivalent about spoilers; to me, there is more to a film or television show than its plot points. Sure, tell me what happens, but don’t tell me why it happens, but my experience highlighted how my focus on not having an episode spoiled was blinding me towards the show’s other qualities.
Now, I understand why we don’t want Dave from accounts to ruin the plot, but, our fear is ruining how we interact with our media and even how it is made. In an effort to #keepthesecrets film, TV and theatre producers are going to extreme lengths for our viewing pleasure. There have already been horror stories about Kit Harington filming 15 hours of red herrings, and how Tom Holland doesn’t know who he is fighting as he is fighting them in the upcoming ALL-CAPS blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War. Don’t even get me started on the lies actors are now required to tell during the press rounds.
Yet, the main problem with our spoiler-phobic society is that we end up focusing on what happens and not why it happens. Dumbledore dying isn’t the interesting thing about that story, it’s the circumstances surrounding his death, it is why he dies, that is more interesting. The “what” is the bone of the narrative, but the “why” is the meat and when you’re chowing down on some BBQ ribs, it’s the meat you want. If a plot point being spoiled ruins your entire experience, then the film/TV show/play just isn’t very good. If you’re attracted to nothing beyond what happens, then there is probably nothing worth watching in the first place.
To illustrate my point, I’m going to throw out the big gun: The Sixth Sense. M. Night Shyamalan’s best film is famous for its final twist. The director built a career out of it, and it is the reason we give him a chance after massive failings like After Earth. It makes us say: “Maybe next time M. Night.” But, all the pop culture oxygen metabolised by the ending detracts from the directorial skill M. Night shows during the movie’s runtime.
I watched the film for the first time ever two weeks ago and I was taken by the way the director builds tension, creates a creepy atmosphere and amplifies the screenplay’s character work. I knew the ending of The Sixth Sense years before I watched it and it didn’t ruin the movie. I was still swept up in the story of a boy who can see ghosts and the child psychologist who tries helping him. Sure, there was an element of waiting for those famous moments and for the characters to catch up with you but knowing the future didn’t stop me from enjoying the movie.
It is the same with book adaptations. Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games are billion dollar franchises born out of a love for the material. We already know what is going to happen before it happens and we still go. Yes, spoilers are annoying, but maybe we should start looking at our films and TV shows from a different perspective.