Sunday, June 21, 2015

Spoilers don't have to ruin the experience

My June 21, 2015 column.


The season-ender of the fifth season of the HBO series Game of Thrones stayed true to what has now become a tradition in the ardently-followed show: It was brutally tragic, utterly heartbreaking, and, as far as many were concerned, totally unexpected. (Those who have read the books, however, already had an inkling of what was going to happen. Although the TV series has taken so many liberties with the material and has strayed away many times from the storyline, the people behind the show have been talking about yielding to pressure to return to the original work of author George RR Martin.)
But that season-ender will also be remembered for the many “relationships” that got severed, at least in social networking sites. I personally came across so many angry warnings, threats, and heated arguments over spoilers about how the season will end. Because the season-ender was shown ahead in the United States and Britain, there were people who have already seen it before everyone else did in the Philippines. There were those who, either because of excitement, or out of a desire to annoy others, started sharing spoilers – revealing the highlights of the season ender. This, of course, did not sit well with many fans who craved for the visceral thrill of witnessing shocking, unexpected developments unfold before their very eyes without the benefit of a warning or advance information. And so the flurry of blocking and “unfriending” and scolding people for being spoilers ensued.
I empathize with those who felt that their appreciation of the season finale was severely reduced by some inconsiderate trolls who couldn’t keep their excitement and their tendency to blabbermouth in check. But for crying out loud, if one truly did not want to come across information about what happens in the season-ender, they should have simply stayed away from social networking sites where people afflicted with the compulsion to share every single thought that crossed their mind or every bit and piece of their mundane existence, lurk. The way I see it, it is unreasonable to expect everyone in the world to conform to one’s viewing preferences. Surely people can still see how ironic it is to aggressively accost people and call them names supposedly for being inconsiderate and disrespectful of others.
The argument that was repeatedly brought forward was that spoilers destroy the viewing experience. Although I really believe it’s a matter of personal preference, there are actually studies that say spoilers do not necessary destroy the experience – and may in fact, heighten better appreciation of the work in question. There are people who read the last chapter of a mystery thriller first, or people who deliberately ask for advance information about a play or movie, in order to enhance their enjoyment. When the brain has advance information of what’s going to happen, it can become more analytical and learn to focus on many other elements of the work. Plot, after all, is not everything. It is important, but it is not the only element that people can derive appreciation from. In movies there’s the cinematography, the dialogues, the production design, etc.
As an example, I don’t think that my enjoyment of say, Jurassic Park or The English Patient, has diminished despite having watched these films for the nth time. The same can be said for books that I particularly love. When someone inadvertently told me that Dumbledore dies in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, I got irked, but became a better reader, I think, because I started to look for clues and motives early on.
But then again, that’s just me. I will concede that it all boils down to preferences. If people want to rely on the television series rather than read the books, fine. If people prefer to limit their enjoyment of a movie to the plot rather to other elements that are present, so be it. There’s more than enough room in this world for tolerance for all our quirks.
Sure, people should try not to deliberately spew spoilers unless it’s sought. But as the cliché goes, when life gives you lemons, as it often does, hey, make lemonade rather than rile about it and fight with everyone else. You might just realize that not all gifts need to be hidden in layers of wrappers to be appreciated.

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