Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Spoilers vs. the storytelling art

I'm sure there are some people who genuinely love spoilers for their favorite TV shows, but it's my pet theory that a lot of the people who say they do, and think they do, only feel that way because they don't realize what they're missing.

Spoilers are an instant-gratification for the impatient. The story makes you want to know what's going to happen and spoilers are a cheap solution. But that suspense is part of what you were watching the show for in the first place! It's not something to be solved, any more than you should solve a rollercoaster's scariness by making it flat.

Making a TV show, movie, play, etc. is a very complicated art. There are hundreds of tiny decisions that go into every moment. A delicate balance of subtle, almost subliminal factors, ranging from the intricacies of facial expressions of a good actor to the precise timing of camera movements to the details of color in a costume, cumulatively (and holistically) have an impact on the mind of the observer. The producer isn't just tossing plot revelations at you; he's not even only telling you a story. He's crafting, from a thousand tiny brushstrokes, an experience.

Start tinkering with any part of that experience and you may end up diminishing the enjoyment you get from it, possibly even in ways you wouldn't consciously notice. For instance, watch it on a TV whose color calibration is way off, and you might miss subtle cues or have some aspects of the psychological impact of the scene diminished or removed, which can throw the whole balance. You may well come away thinking not "that seemed good but I didn't appreciate it as much as I could", but rather, thinking "that sucked! Why did other people say so much good stuff about it?"

It's my considered opinion that a lot of people are eroding their enjoyment of TV shows by embracing spoilers, without even necessarily realizing it. Inevitably they end up complaining about how the show has really gone downhill, and maybe it has, but I bet some of the time, it's at least in part because they've been changing how they watch the show.

Let the storytellers practice their art. That's what they're (hopefully) good at. They chose when that plot twist would be revealed for good reasons, to maximize its impact on you, to crank up suspense, to build up a payoff, to improve your enjoyment of the show. They went to school for this, they got picked out of a large number of contenders based on their talent, they spend all day every day thinking about how it can best be done. Let's do them the honor of trusting them to do their craft. Or at least have the decency not to bitch at them about how badly they do it, if we aren't even going to let them do it their way.

No comments: