Spoilers have become a contentious and fickle part of discussion – when one has seen something the other hasn’t. Depending upon the person’s level of interest their reaction can range from mild indifference to slight annoyance to absolute exasperation. It’s evolved into something of a great boundary in conversations.
My argument against the anti-spoiler culture is for movies and shows that the person has no intention of watching. There is a reason to divulge more information about something when someone has rejected it, since they won’t care about spoilers at this point anyway. Extra details and further discussion will not ruin what has already been spurned. In fact, it opens the possibility to introducing the idea of what they might like if they return and continue with the series.
Consider One Piece, a series near and dear to my heart and one I am confident in saying that it contains great characters and storytelling, exceptional world-building and inventive ideas, as well as apropos humour. It has a vibrant, engaging momentum that acts in harmony with the flow of story, while also elevating it through more focused and impactful moments. One Piece hardly ever lets up (speaking for the manga here). The characters, relationships, and dynamics work super well. There is a great balance of comedy, action and dramatic moments. The structure and narrative flows so well it’s hard to believe how a story like this can maintain and continue to be impressive.
And while there is emotional weight behind tragic character reveals, knowing that going in won’t ruin it, because of how well it’s done. It allows you to appreciate the rich substance and depth to the characters leading up to those moments. There is also excitement once you leave spoiler territory and delve into the unknown, where you can only speculate as to what will happen and how the characters will act going forward.
My friends and I have know plenty of people who don’t like One Piece, because they thought it was too long, they didn’t like Luffy, and a few other reasons. So, they drop the show early on before it ever gets to the swing of things and becomes non-stop great moment after great moment. If you ask me, the series from start to (almost) finish is consistently good. There is rarely ever a dull moment in the series (if that – I wouldn’t know since I read the manga), but I also did get into it knowing what lied ahead. I wanted to know how things got to certain points, as well as the context of certain scenes. And I felt that when I got those parts, despite knowing them ahead of time, I was still able to feel and appreciate the emotion and intensity of them, because they were so impassioned and moving.
So, I feel like if I were to reveal some character moments and events that happened later in the story, it might evoke a sense of curiosity within a disbeliever, and spur them into giving it another shot. I’m not saying this works for everyone, but there’s no harm in spoilers regarding this type of subject matter around someone who has renounced said show. Some people might appreciate and enjoy a person’s passion for something, while still staying away from it. Others might take up that interest in order to be a part of the conversation.
Now consider a TV series like Game of Thrones. Something of a cornerstone in pop culture and hot-topic discussions due to its controversy and shock factors. It’s some of the most engaging piece of entertainment put to screen, and while watching it with fresh eyes makes those scenes more dramatic and powerful, I do believe that it’s still worth a watch even if they’ve been spoiled for you. It suffers from the popularity and hype effects, where people will be turned-off by it simply because everyone raves about how great it is. And because it’s such a big topic regarding today’s media, it’s nigh-impossible for someone who hasn’t seen it to hear about it without being exposed to spoilers at this stage.
But I don’t think that’s enough to ruin the show for anyone. There’s still plenty to like about Game of Thrones beyond that. From its characters, to its world, to the level of detail put into the set pieces and costumes. The writing, direction, and acting are all top-notch. And there is a lot to appreciate about the great lengths the show-runners went to in order to adapt it and make it as dramatic, exciting, and impressive as possible. While it may not capture the spirit of the books (though, I can’t say that for sure), it still remains a rich and remarkable work of labour and love with an outstanding cast and teams of writers, artists, animators, and costume designers. The characters are interesting and charismatic, the writing and directing is far more than what is expected for a TV series, the story and world are engaging, and all of that makes it re-watchable, and worth trying out whether you’ve been spoiled for it or not.
I will conceit that spoiling something for someone who is planning on engaging with the material is unfortunate, and a dick move if you spoil it for them knowing that. But, the other argument I’m making is for those already spoiled. There is value in something beyond plot twists and shock factors (not always, mind you). Being told something happens and then experiencing it for yourself can often wind up being enjoyable and engaging, and even interesting if you’re a keen observer able to spot subtle nuances and other thought-provoking imagery. Understanding the themes and pathos behind the story and characters also adds to the experience and can make it seem all that more compelling when you see the big picture.
Remember, there is much to love about a work besides the experience of engaging with something new and fresh. Set about looking at things from different perspectives: employ an understanding of what you like about something, and try to appreciate the effort put into what you find captivating and impressive. While it is valuable to immerse oneself in something with fresh eyes, it is also worthwhile to look at something from another angle and see if it is still enjoyable then.
Edit: Check out the School Days analysis by thoughts that move for more on spoilers and enhancing engagement with stories.