Ignorance is not bliss
Spoilers don’t ruin movies, they increase our enjoyment of them. Daniel Bettridge writes.india Updated: Aug 16, 2011 21:38 IST
In the age of Twitter, blogs and YouTube, dealing with spoilers is an everyday battle. When you’re reading about movies that are still months away from release you’ve got to tread a fine line between feeding your curiosity and preserving the enjoyment of seeing the film.
This is something that’s reared its head again in recent weeks with the avalanche of spoilers that have emerged from the set of The Dark Knight Rises. Christopher Nolan has made no secret of his desire to keep plot details about the final part of his Batman trilogy under wraps. But the Web has been awash with reports, photos and even footage from the film.
What do you do in the face of such rampant revelation? The consensus among film fans is that ignorance is bliss, because knowledge of the final product ruins your enjoyment of it. But that may not be strictly true.
At least according to a new study that says it’s okay to skip ahead to the ending, as knowing what happens ahead of time actually increases our enjoyment of a story. Researchers from the University of California in San Diego asked 30 people to rate 12 short stories, some of which had been altered to include a spoiler that revealed the story’s ending.
The results showed that those subjects who were told of the plot twist ahead of time took more enjoyment out of reading the story than those who weren’t.
Substitute story for movie and what the research suggests is that the lack of surprise is part of the pleasure, that we like it best when we know what’s going to happen. We don’t have to work up a sweat worrying about whether the protagonist is going to pop his clogs or if the “will they/won’t they” couple will or won’t.
In short, spoilers don’t spoil movies, they actually improve them.
If you think about it, it’s not that shocking a revelation. We all have favourite films, which we’ll re-watch time and time again without denting our enjoyment of them. Likewise, isn’t our choice of film itself an inherent spoiler?
We intrinsically understand that by choosing to watch a film from a particular genre — say a romcom, western or sci-fi — we know where the film is going to take us. The pleasure is derived by seeing how it gets us from A to B rather than what B actually entails.
The California team concluded their findings by saying: “perhaps birthday presents are better wrapped in transparent cellophane, and engagement rings not concealed in chocolate mousse”.
So maybe it’s better that you know that Verbal is Keyser Soze. That Soylent Green is made of people. Rosebud is the name of the sled. Donnie dies. Norman Bates is the killer — in drag. 42 is the answer. Deckard is a replicant (or is he?). Tyler Durden isn’t real. Vader is Luke’s father. Neo is the one (whoa). Dil is a man. And that it was Earth all along — because it will improve your enjoyment of the movie.
Or maybe it’s better to stay ignorant? In which case we’re sorry for spoiling some of the biggest twists in the last 50 years of film.