Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On spoilers

Spoilers are a tricky thing. Most of us know not to reveal an ending, but reviews in particular are guilty of effectively revealing the ending. I am guilty of this myself I have at some point mentioned that a story reminded me of An Occurrence at Owl Creek. If you haven't read that Ambrose Bierce story then go read it and then come back. Now, if you know the story, it has a particular ending that has been re-used many times. By referencing that story you are planting the seed of that sort of ending, or at the very least the notion of the twist ending.

The thing is, I as a reader, or movie watcher, do not want to know that there is a twist ending. More than half the fun of the twist is the jolt of surprise. Most twists themselves are fairly boring (he/she is actually insane and criminal/his momma is his aunt/we are but a dream of sleeping cockroaches,) but well presented they are wonderful. Once we expect them, they look like a parlor trick.

This makes all manner of things difficult to cite. If I mention Angelheart, you probably won't think about creepy ladies scrubbing blood off the wall. I suppose this really only affects thrillers, but I must say it vexes me.


HLK said...

Agreed. Suggesting "spoiler" suggests that there is something to be spoiled, which means "the ending is not what you expect." Thus, if you're like me and you know of a "twist," you spend most of the movie trying to figure out what, besides the obvious, will happen at the end.

One extreme case in point - the unbelievable amount of DON'T RUIN IT circulating about the Sixth Sense. I didn't see it right away, so had heard so much about the TWIST, though folks were pretty good about keeping it quiet. My brother called, said how great it was, and how cool the ending was. Now, since the tagline was public - "I see dead people" - I said casually, "what, is Bruce Willis dead too?" I had NO IDEA about the plot or anything - just the tagline. I could have just as easily said "What, is Bruce Willis actually a lounge singer in drag?" I just threw it out there. And it took my brother by such surprise that he said "have you seen it, then?"
Thus, it was ruined for me. I never got to be surprised, but instead watched the whole movie, looking for cues, and waiting for the bomb to drop.

Tripp said...

I lucked out with this one. We saw it the first weekend. Otherwise we would have likely had the same experience.

The challenge is with books and movies that really only offer a surprise at the end. It is hard to talk about them without talking about that.

Tripp said...

We have spoken here of the end, but what of the beginning? Is it a spoiler to reveal something that happens in the initial pages? I have heard time and again, it happens on page 3 so I am not giving anything away, but I am not so sure.