With the popularity of book-to-movie adaptations and TV streaming services, a new kind of fear is spreading in the American public: the fear of the spoiler. Concern over spoilers is something I’ve noticed in the past few years. It’s an entirely new fear that is proliferated by social media, and made worse by the plethora of movie and TV adaptations that are being produced now.
Recently it was announced that the “Game of Thrones” TV show would overtake the books that it is based on and spoil the ending of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic. Fans of the books took to the Internet to voice their annoyance with having to wait so long, and their fears that the show watchers will spoil the ending and important plot details.
I can respect someone who doesn’t want to have important plot points or twists revealed to them. There is a certain thrill to being shocked by the movies and shows you watch. But personally, I never understood this aversion to spoilers. They are not that big of a deal. Stories are not the only reason we read books, or watch TV and movies.
In an interview with The Verge, George R.R. Martin also talked about how he never understood people’s fear of spoilers. His argument is that having the plot spoiled does not really detract from the enjoyment that comes from watching a show or reading a book. He’s absolutely right.
To me, watching a show or reading a book is about the journey that the author or director is taking you on. The shocking plot twists are not shocking on their own; rather they are gut wrenching and surprising because of how they are presented. The moments before the twist, whether they are a slow build up to the reveal or fast-paced action that dramatically turn, are what make certain plot twists so great and memorable. In fiction, it is not about the destination; it is all about the journey.
Instead of focusing solely on what happens, viewers and readers need to be more worried about how it happens. The success of these stories, whether being told visually or through literature, rests on the build up to these major events and not on the events themselves. Your enjoyment of the story is not reliant on being surprised by what happens, it relies on you being surprised at how it happens.
Spoilers can actually enhance your enjoyment of a story. A 2011 study by Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt at the University of California – San Diego showed that people who had been told the ending of a story actually enjoyed the story more than those who had not been told.
Spoilers are not something to fear. Having the ending spoiled will not take away from your enjoyment of a story because ultimately you’re not there for the ending; you’re there for everything before it.