“Hey Abed, real stories — they don’t have spoilers. You understand that TV and life are different, right?” – Britta
I might not be quite as intense as Abed (from Community) about the issue- but I don’t like to know what’s going to happen next, in fictional stories at least. I like surprises!
I want to be able to watch the plot unfold with as few preconceptions as possible, especially because I think I watch enough stuff to be relatively aware of tropes and storytelling devices. There’s a pretty good chance that I can work out what’s going to happen as it is, I don’t want to add to that.
I’m sometimes incredibly resentful of the ‘previously on’ segments at the beginning of an episode (especially for the shows that I properly devote my attention to, such as Supernatural and Community, as opposed to procedural shows that I see as relatively episodic and whose mythology I’m not hugely invested in, like House or Castle). I don’t want to be told what aspects of the show’s history I should be focussing on and remembering- because it often gives too much of the episode away immediately.
I want my watching experience to be completely free of expectations, asides from the knowledge I’ve “legitimately” gained.
I hate teasers too, I cover my eyes and ears if I can’t run away from them quickly enough. I’ll tolerate promos if they’re vague and uninformative, but usually I find it’s best not to dip into that whole Pandora’s box.
And the clue’s in the name really- a spoiler literally spoils. It ruins the surprise, and renders all the build-up and anticipation pointless because it doesn’t get to come to a natural conclusion. It’s like peeking behind the magician’s curtain- you might think you want to but once you’ve ruined the illusion there’s no “undo” option. Boiling stories down to simple spoilerific statements (“blah blah dies” or “x kisses y”) removes all the nuance, all that’s exciting about story-telling.
I do understand that addictive drive for more information about something you’re really interested in- and the need to know what happens next. Cliffhangers are tense and annoying, and sometimes a bald ploy. However, I’d rather shelve that desire until after I’ve actually seen something- let it pack its punch its own way and then google away to glean as much information about the process as possible.
I like watching commentaries and interviews and so on, just not until after I’ve seen the final product. I think you can better understand any additional information once you really know what they’re talking about, and I think that can only come when you’ve seen the real deal.
Of course you can still enjoy something when you know about the plot. Good luck living a life that avoids knowing the basic premise of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde or Star Wars before you even contemplate watching/reading the original works. And knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t stop something from being entertaining- but isn’t it annoying to not be able to approach something with fresh eyes?
I find it even more annoying with TV shows, because what I love about them is that they’re not just about one concept or one story- they’ll inevitable develop more complicated plots that grow and change over time, as part of an organic process. And that’s exciting. That’s interesting. That’s compelling.
Ironically, it’d be easier to illustrate my point right now if I started spewing spoilers. But I’m sure everyone’s watched a show where characters have gotten together that you’d never have expected at the beginning, or a show that’s widened its scope considerably from what the first season suggested, or seen characters switch allegiance and develop into very different personalities than how they originally appeared.
I love the fact that shows can create an elaborate world that’s not static, one that’s populated by characters that I genuinely care about. So having the twists and turns pertaining to that ruined for me is just disappointing.
Spoilers would also impinge on my ability to theorise about the future of shows myself. I want to see how my ideas fare in comparison to how it really plays out- and knowing what’s going to happen means that’s not possible.
I find it impossible to completely avoid spoilers, sadly. Twitter, websites like whedonesque and- despite her best attempts- Miss Penn all end up hurling TMI at me.
And I’m pretty fussy. I really don’t want to know anything, not even casting spoilers- especially if it’s about a returning character. I’ve resigned myself to accepting premise information (this is the Madonna/alternative universe/paintball episode) because that stuff gets talked about so much before an episode airs that it’s really difficult to avoid.
I don’t actually get particularly het up about stunt casting news, as don’t consider that to be particularly important to the plot. I’d prefer not to know if someone’s returning to, or leaving a show, or if a cult actor’s going to appear. For example, I already know that a couple of Buffy alums will be appearing in season seven of Supernatural, it’s not a big deal but I would have been pleasantly surprised if it could have happened without me already expecting them to show up.
I’d be happier to avoid it all entirely, and to let the shows I care about genuinely shock and awe me.