Friday, May 5, 2017

A Response to "Do Spoilers Ruin Stories?"

I recently began following a Youtuber known as Super Eyepatch Wolf. Despite what the name may suggest, his videos are often deep analyses of stories or story elements (particularly in anime). He's deep, he's logical, he's well-spoken, and he's even got an Irish accent. Hook, line, and sinker.

He posted a video about spoilers that I found fascinating. Check it out here first for context. Or if you just want a thought-provoking way to spend 16 and a half minutes.

Initially I was going to write a quick comment to the video as it really got me thinking. But then I remembered Youtube's community, so as the post got longer and longer, I figured it was words better spent sent to you. :P

Also, spoiler warning for his video. If you want to watch it, do so first and come back here later. I'll wait.

I must say that I really appreciated his video, as I am someone who often cannot stand spoilers. It definitely gave me a lot to think about--at the very least, it got me thinking about why they bother me so much, or in what contexts. It also taught me to not get quite so mad when they do inevitably happen, because I can still enjoy a good story even after it's been spoiled.

That being said, for me personally, spoilers are very damaging to my initial experience of a story--which is quite different from subsequent experiences of that same story. I can (and do) watch and rewatch my favorite shows over and over again, but the experience will never quite be the same as that first viewing. I will never have quite the same amount of suspense during a scene as I did the first viewing, for example; because for me to experience the height of "suspense," I cannot know what's going to happen. Upon a later viewing, I might experience anticipation and excitement--but those are very different feelings than the suspense that arises from not knowing how events will play out.

So when Wolf says that "spoilers don't ruin our enjoyment of a story," I would agree to some extent; we certainly can still enjoy a great story after spoilers.

But, I would argue, we won't be enjoying the same elements necessarily.

And this is the crux of the problem for me. Yes, I can appreciate more elements of the story than I did before (or I can appreciate some elements on a deeper level than before), but my personal tastes are such that experiencing NEW stories, experiencing suspense, and not knowing how things are going to turn out--these are the very elements of a story that I happen to enjoy the most. Once things are spoiled, there is absolutely no way for me to obtain those sensations.

I believe this preference is mostly because I'm a writer. I very often can tell where stories are going long before they get there. Now, is that because writing has taught me which details to focus on? Is it due to some freak writers' intuition? I don't know. However, that leads to me getting quite bored with stories I find predictable. And that, in turn, results in me placing even higher enjoyment on either 1) solving something before (not long before, but before) the story reveals it or 2) the story surprising me with a well-written twist I didn't see coming. The former makes me feel clever for interacting with a good story, noticing the well-placed clues, and making the proper connections. The latter is a delightful treat because it is such a rare delicacy for me.

For me to enjoy any of those instances, I must be spoiler-free. Spoilers absolutely kill them.

So is it the end of the world when I get spoiled? No. I can still enjoy a good story. And, in some cases, I will confess that "learning spoilers" did help me--ironically, in the cases I can think of off the top of my head, they helped me steer clear of stories I knew would just make me feel like I'd wasted my time (for instance, discovering a key plot point of Death Note helped me realize the show--while being so critically acclaimed--just wasn't for me).

But in a vast majority of cases, I would so much rather avoid spoilers. I just enjoy the experience a first viewing can give me too much. It's worth a little risk. ;)

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From Him, To Him

5 comments:

  1. I agree with your assertion on spoilers ruining a story because of that experience. I don't mind it if someone mentions a minor spoiler about a plot point in a review if it doesn't affect the whole experience, but if it's major, then I just say "why bother watching it?".

    With my film reviews, I do warn in advance if I mention a spoiler, but mainly for movies that I find to be horrible. One review that I wrote that isn't on my blog yet mentions a minor character dying, but I use it to highlight a major unfortunate implication in the context of the plot of that movie.

    Sometimes watching a movie multiple times lets me notice things I've never seen before like when I re-watched Before Your Eyes yesterday. I never noticed some of the foreshadowing and even some minor details that highlight certain characters in that movie.

    Well, that's my two cents. Oh, and Death Note is an overrated series anyway. Hahaha! I'm going to get hate from the otaku community for saying that. :P

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    1. I think he mentions this in the video, but movie trailers these days are especially guilty of those major spoilers. If you're going to basically tell me the gist of the story, I agree, there's usually not much point in me watching it--but I could also act as devil's advocate and argue that plot doesn't necessarily equal story for many tales! You can tell the same story but have vastly different characters, and the experience is completely changed. In that case, it might still be worth a watch.

      I think your film reviews do a great job pointing out spoilers while still talking about enough to get your point across.

      I actually love rewatching (or re-reading) my favorite movies/books if only for the fact you can sometimes pick up additional new details! Wow, guess I am a "new thing" junkie, huh? ;P

      Haha, and glad to know not watching Death Note all the way through won't be a life regret of mine.

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    2. True about movie trailers. The thing is they'll show those "spoiler scenes", but remove the context around those scenes. It's quite true with making trailers from an editing perspective.

      Thanks! I appreciate it. I want to make sure my reviews are persuasive enough. Speaking of which, I posted three more today. http://iridiumeye.wordpress.com. #ShamelessPlug

      Same here. If I can rewatch or reread some things and pick up new stuff, then that's how I know it's good. When I saw Shinesman, there were jokes that I missed the first time back then and I got more of them after watching that OVA. I also realized that Shiina is one of the few evil princesses I know even though she's a goofy villain given the context of Shinesman.

      Yup. An anime reviewer just liked the anime review I posted today, so I checked out his page. He put Death Note on his Top 5 most overrated anime list. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks so. In my opinion, Takeshi Obata's (Death Note's co-creator) best work is Hikaru No Go.

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    3. Definitely check Curtis's blog out if you're interested in trying to find some new movies or anime to watch you might not have heard of!

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    4. Thanks for the cross-promotion, Jeannette!

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