A Word on Spoilers

Spoilers. They’re everywhere these days, aren’t they? I think it’s safe to say that pretty much everyone hates them. No one wants the book they’re about to read or the movie they’re about to see to be ruined because someone else couldn’t keep their mouth shut. But there are degrees of spoilers. Telling someone who’s never read Harry Potter how the final book ends is egregious and, in my world, unforgivable. But what if you don’t go that far?

What if you just mention your favorite joke from a story? Or your favorite scene? Is that still a spoiler?

Let’s try a specific example.

What if there’s a cameo in the middle of a movie that remained a complete surprise to everyone upon first watch, but you decide to let the cat out of the bag in your review? That’s not telling anyone how the movie ends or what happens to the main characters, so is it really a spoiler? I’d argue yes. This exact scenario played out on At the Movies with A. O. Scott and Michael Phillips in 2009 when they reviewed Zombieland. You can watch the clip here, but if you haven’t seen the movie and want to, I don’t recommend watching it. Basically, Phillips gleefully reveals the surprise to the viewers. What bothered me about this is the fact that when I saw the movie, it was so delightfully unexpected, I was almost giddy–why would anyone, especially someone who liked the film, want to ruin that experience for everyone else?

There’s a joy in discovering things about a piece of work like that. Can you imagine what The Godfather would be like if its scenes hadn’t so thoroughly permeated pop culture? Imagine seeing that movie unfold and genuinely having absolutely no idea where Sonny Corleone would end up. Or how about Star Wars? What would The Empire Strikes Back be like to watch if we didn’t already know who Luke’s father was?

That’s what I want to preserve for you with my reviews. I know that if you wanted to learn more about any of the books I talk about, it’d be easy. But I like the idea that maybe I can convince someone of a story’s value without having to pull out all of its pieces. I like the idea that I can hate something without needing to ruin it in a way that might make it less enjoyable for you if you disagree.

My boyfriend takes things to the extreme, often refusing to watch trailers or read news about anything he’s interested in reading or watching in order to preserve a kind of “pure” experience for himself. I don’t think it’s necessary to go that far. But I do want you to know why it is that my reviews tend to be sparse on details when it comes to talking about plot.

I want to give you the same fresh experience I had, the chance to really dive in free from expectations about where the story will go. I’m not sure if I’ve been able to strike the perfect balance on this bog yet, but I’m certainly working on it, and I hope it’ll end up being worthwhile.

-S

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