You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

On spoilers

Why is ther an insatiable desire for spoilers? Or is it an uncontested drive by media outlets to publish and be damned? Or is knowing the spolier the lazy person' guide to everything? Or a vicious desire to see those who do not want to be spoiled be dismayed on the revelation?

I spent months trying to avoid spoilers for The Phantom Menance, back in 1999, and the final result wasn't worth the effort.

Trying to avoid Harry Potter 7 (7! This kids has done more rounds than Rocky) spoilers was a little easier - it's a book, not yet a fil, so just avoid all print, tv and internet, but KFC an McDonald's kids toys are safe.

What is the big deal. Three points of view:

J.K. Rowling:

A couple of weeks ago (April 28th, if you want to go and search the archive) the Potter fansite The Leaky Cauldron posted an editorial on potential spoilers for "Deathly Hallows". It made me laugh, but I was also incredibly moved and grateful.

We're a little under three months away, now, and the first distant rumblings of the weirdness that usually precedes a Harry Potter publication can be heard on the horizon. The Leaky Cauldron's early mission statement on spoilers (ie, don't, and we're not putting them up if you do) is deeply appreciated by yours truly.

I add my own plea to Melissa's for one reason, and one only: I want the readers who have, in many instances, grown up with Harry, to embark on the last adventure they will share with him without knowing where they are they going.

Some, perhaps, will read this and take the view that all publicity is good publicity, that spoilers are part of hype, and that I am trying to protect sales rather than my readership. However, spoilers won't stop people buying the book, they never have - all it will do is diminish their pleasure in the book.

There will always be sad individuals who get their kicks from ruining other people's fun, but while sites like Leaky take such an active stance against them, we may yet win. Even if the biggest secret gets out - even if somebody discovers the Giant Squid is actually the world's largest Animagus, which rises from the lake at the eleventh hour, transforms into Godric Gryffindor and... well, I wouldn't like to spoil it.

Josh Wheedon:

AVC: Is there a conscious philosophy to avoiding spoilers rather than seeking them out? There are fanatics on both sides of that divide.

JW: You know, I had older brothers, and I don't think there's anything worse than an older brother. They pretty much told me the end of everything they got to see before I did. It occurred to me very early on, "This would have been a lot more fun if I hadn't known everything that was going to happen before it happened." I got a little neurotic about it, and people were like, "What up?" So I sat down and I really thought about it, and realized that there is a philosophy behind it, one that I've talked about before, and I won't bore you with. It's the idea of surprise being the point of storytelling, and the most honest emotion, because it's truly humbling. Surprise means you have to reassess what you thought. It means that you were wrong about the way things were structured, and that's exciting, and really important. It also makes for a good story. I mean, The Sixth Sense is fine the second time around, but honestly, the first time around, it's dazzling. When it matters, when it makes a difference, letting a story happen to you, letting a narrative take place instead of just waiting for placeholders is a better experience, and it feeds you. We need narrative, it feeds us in a particular way, and deconstructing it completely before you've actually experienced it, I think it leaves us unfed.

And some tongue in cheek from Slate (warning! Contains HP7 spoilers for spoiler purist, and some basic themes for those who don't care as much)

So, it's not crazy to posit that peekers and page-by-pagers may represent two opposing personality types. Maybe the tenacious tots who read Harry Potter all the way through will show great self-restraint, competence, and resourcefulness later in life. And maybe when the peekers come of age they'll whine, sulk, fidget, and try to get ahead by taking shortcuts. To date, I've only heard one convincing reason to flip to the back, from another famous Harry. In When Harry Met Sally..., Harry says "I always read the last page first. That way in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Dave McLennan here, formerly a brother in arms. Like your blog, but seems like you're letting your colleague do all the heavy lifting.

Drop me a line if you have the inclination - I'd be keen to hear whether you're still in the classroom, still a private, and still wanting to transfer to pay corps.