During a brief discussion with a person on Twitter today, it dawned on me that we have a culture which has turned angsting about spoilers into an obsession. Experiencing the ‘twist’ is now the only reason to imbibe some particular piece of art.
This was particularly the case for people with the Harry Potter series. Even fans realised that they were poorly written and in desperate need of an edit. When I discussed this with a friend of mine, she informed me that it was the plot twists that kept her engaged.
To me, that’s extremely sad. We have devalued novels to the point where there’s little joy reading them; we only seek to ‘find out what happens next’. I discussed this problem in a podcast: popular culture has franchised novels around this very point.
With the advent of the internet and discussion boards dedicated to particular television shows, the ‘spoilers’ meme has taken on a new life. The idea is fed by two concepts: first, that information about plot would ruin the enjoyment for somebody else; second, that it is inconsiderate and rude to discuss a show within a particular timeframe.
The very concept of spoilers ruins something important about cultural works: the resultant discussion and exploration of the ideas put forth. Through imposing a paradigm of behaviour on each other, we no longer discuss openly and freely the ideas explored through television shows and movies.
That is a huge loss.
It also encourages producers and writers to respond to this environment. They’re no longer held to account for how well they explore and issue or how well they craft a story; the main thing is that the twist was good.
Look at the difference between our storytelling now and our story telling a few centuries ago. Writers could take myths and folklore and stories already well known to the audience and craft something new and exciting out of them. Even though you already knew what was going to happen, the stories made you explore ideas in new ways.
By and large, we don’t do that now. I’ve written before about historical fiction, at which our modern generation sucks mightily. Instead of using a particular historical setting to explore something about the human condition, we have biopics slightly fictionalised to demonstrate that, as expected, history occurred in the order that we remembered it and that we should give Meryl Streep an Oscar for her impersonation of a famous person.
People who complain about spoilers are feeding into an unhealthy view of literature. They should be ignored. By ignoring them and by spoiling their television shows and novel with gleeful obsession, we will encourage publishers and producers to create better stories which don’t rely on cheap twists and turns to thrill us.