Spoiler alert – this article will not end with a yay or nay stance.
Did I ruin the article for you?
I was too young to go to the cinema and see The Sixth Sense when it first came out. I was also too young to have an internet connection, plus Facebook, Twitter et al were not around yet. Good old word of mouth was what did it.
Years later, after being a fan of Shyamalan’s Signs and Unbreakable (and not much else), I sat down and watched The Sixth Sense anyway, despite knowing the now legendary twist.
So maybe your jaw doesn’t hit the floor the way it did for those first viewers, but overall it’s still an enjoyable journey. Heavily atmospheric, it has Bruce Willis doing something other than blowing shit up, and harkens back to when Shyamalan could actually make movies. The movie doesn’t suffer terribly from the viewer knowing where we end up.
Though, I’ll never know otherwise, since the moment of not knowing into knowing is irreversible. I won’t know what it’s like to have that revelation smack you in the face.
Sometimes that can be a relief. I mean, doesthedogdie.com is the kind of spoiler site that can save you from unnecessary heartbreak. But sometimes you really do want that “ohhhh shit!” moment.
Following BBC 4’s The Killing over 20 hour-long episodes was worth it for the, unspoiled, payoff. For every hour you play detective alongside Sarah Lund you become as determined as she is to work out who killed Nanna Birk Larsen. Imagine finding out in episode 4 and then riding out the other 16 hours towards an inevitable conclusion devoid of the tension, not falling for red herrings, and not fearing for certain characters because you already know where they end up.
Depending on who you talk to some might say the ending itself was what spoiled Lost (fuck those people), but knowing that the actors had it written into their contracts that they could be killed at any time really put everyone on edge, especially after the first character you are invested in gets killed off towards the end of season 1. Sure, the emotional, familiar “this episode is ending” musical motif will make you feel feelings regardless, but not knowing what was happening (like with a lot of the show) kept you hooked.
Spend even a brief amount of time in the QMU and you will enter into a discussion about Game of Thrones. These conversations often begin with an acknowledgement of where everyone involved in the chat has seen or read up to. Boundaries are set so that nothing is spoiled. Major character deaths are only discussed if everyone already knows they happen. People still talk in code, as the writers once did, with references to “RW” eliciting sadistically excited giggles from those who know, and looks of bewildered terror from those who have no idea what they’ve signed up to (and mild annoyance that they feel excluded).
In Freshers’ Week 2013 some of our lovely helpers had some time off during the day and could be found in one of our committee rooms behind a door with a note on it containing some very violent language directed towards anyone who spoiled the episode of Breaking Bad they were watching inside the room.
Our even lovelier editor in chief here at qmunicate and myself would often discuss The Newsroom, but on occasion when we hadn’t yet both seen the new episode we would be quick to cut the other off with “No! No.”
In some ways, Boyhood was easily “spoiled” by people saying it doesn’t really have a plot. If ever there was a film to prove that it is the journey and not the destination that is important it’s Boyhood.
Despite knowing the ending of The Sixth Sense, it was still great. Even though everyone knows how Friends ends, people have rewatched it enough to quote every line (“I’m Chandler! Could I be wearing any more clothes?”). Gone Girl’s biggest spoiler arguably happens halfway through its narrative, so there is still a ways to go before you reach the conclusion and it’s made no less enjoyable for that.
Plus, we all know at least one person who, when they buy a book, the first thing they do is turn to the last page.
Good media will warrant replayability. You may know the ending, but you wanna go through it all again anyway, even if you know he dies, and they end up together, and that even though the dog looks to be in mortal peril, it does not die, thank God.
My spoiler warning was a red herring – I like the unknown in my stories. I am anti-spoiler, pro-cluelessness. When Mr Burns bribes nuclear workers after an incident at the plant he offers them either a “washer and dryer, or you can trade it all in for what’s in this box…” to which the worker replies “The box! The box!” Sometimes you just don’t wanna know until it’s time to know.
[Scott Wilson – @HeartofFire]