Are spoilers a crime against viewers? EW debates the merits and perils of advance plot info
Spoiler Alert! This page contains provocative critical essays by EW senior writers Jeff Jensen and Dan Snierson debating the merits and perils of plot spoilers, such as those Internet rumors that spread last month about the death of Alias super-spook Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan) in the show’s Sept. 29 season premiere. Some people (like Jeff) happily seek out such controversial intel; others (like Dan) aggressively avoid it. Here, they argue their viewpoints. Read on at your own risk.
JEFF: Supporting spoilers is intellectually indefensible, right? Surely I must be some geeky, impatient, suspense-intolerant know-it-all, right?
Wrong. I have good reasons, and they begin with ”buyer beware.” The flameout of Twin Peaks and slow fade of The X-Files left me forever wary. Yes, they were great shows, but both ultimately abused my investment of trust and time. Now I look (ahead) before I leap: I won’t get fooled again. If that sounds like sour grapes, consider that since The Crying Game and The Sixth Sense, ”follow the clues” and ”don’t give away the secret” have become gimmicky marketing clichés, not inspired creative choices. Spoilers, then, are the equivalent of a test spin. Thanks to inside intelligence, I skipped the less-than-fantastic Fantastic Four and gave Veronica Mars a shot — despite the whole UPN thing.
Moreover, I reject the notion that spoilers actually ”spoil” anything. A story’s construction is as riveting as the story itself, and spoilers help illuminate that artistry — which is why I didn’t mind knowing the thing about the thing in The Sixth Sense. Spoilers also help prep you for heavier pop-culture meals: The Matrix and Lost are such feasts of information, some predigestion helps them go down easier.
Yet the real reason I seek out spoilers? You were right all along: I just like being a know-it-all.
DAN: Tell me if my girlfriend is going to run off with that guy in her pottery class who looks like the Desperate Housewives lawn stud. And blink twice if that guy at the end of the alley is going to rob me silly. Information like this could enhance my quality of life.
The other juice — the forbidden-fruit nectar that my colleague slurps up happily, foolishly — does the opposite. They’re called ”spoilers” for a reason: They ruin the true pleasure of a story. So Mr. Know-It-All is dying to tell me that there’s a guy named Desmond inside the hatch on Lost? Or that Martha Stewart gets hopped up on vanilla extract and fires three people on next week’s Apprentice? I say no to it all! Do not flatten my roller-coaster ride! Do not remove the wondrous element of flabbergast! I’m with the Puritans: Postpone present pleasure for future gain.
We live in a sneak-peeked, control-freaked, info-at-a-mouse-click culture, but we must not be compromised by it. Reject the desire for ill-gotten knowledge. Look what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden — there’s a helluva lesson about spoilers. The less I know, the more heightened my enjoyment. I even fast-forward through those ”coming up after the break” teasers. Why would I possibly want to wreck something I’ll see in four minutes? It’s time to foil the spoil.