Cultures Film & TV

Spoilers – a Distinctively Unapologetic Apologia

Illustration by Nina Skrzypczak

I love spoilers.

Seriously, I need them; they make my film-watching experience infinitely more enjoyable. They help me relax because, if I know what’s going to happen, I know I won’t be traumatically shocked when someone unexpectedly dies, joins a cult, marries the psychopath, or whatever. I also love a bit of foreshadowing; it’s a powerful dramatic technique but it has no power whatsoever if you don’t know what is being foreshadowed. Sure, there are films that you will watch over and over again because they are just that good but there are many films that, after I’ve suffered through them once, I will never be returning to. If I am never returning to them, how can I appreciate their beautiful foreshadowing? Hence why Wikipedia and IMDb become my best friends when I watch crappy movies. Plus, knowing the plot makes communal film watching so much more fun. I love the power of being the only one in the room who knows precisely what’s coming next. You have free reign to judge outlandish theories, laugh at how convinced everyone is that they know exactly what is going to happen, drop in casually provocative hints and so on.

I place some blame on my mother for nourishing my love of spoilers. I think it’s primarily due to how she traumatised me during my first watching of Dead Poets’ Society. It was mainly because she couldn’t go 5 minutes without telling me ‘you are going to love Neil’, ‘Neil’s incredible’, ‘watch out for Neil’. Now, I’m not going to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t seen this incredible (and incredibly sad) movie. While I love a spoiler, I don’t love being that person that spoils films for other people; that person’s a jerk. However, you don’t have to be a genius to infer from my mother’s comments that fate has something bad in store for Neil; you can imagine my distress after she got me all emotionally invested in the character. So yes, after that moment I knew I was never going to voluntarily be in that situation again. I didn’t even enjoy the end of the film – I was too broken by shock. But watching it the second time, fully in the know, was a completely different experience. Emotional instability gave way to a complete appreciation of the poeticism and beauty of the final scene.

That being said, we shouldn’t put it all on my mum. Who hasn’t subtly dropped hints about a movie to a virgin watcher? It’s fun, it makes you feel powerful, it’s kind of the cultural norm now.

Yes, a love of spoilers is a generational thing. It’s how we’ve been raised. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Disney +, Now TV (the list is infinitely long and only growing exponentially) make films and TV shows readily available for instant viewing. While cinemas are closed, it remains possible to (unconventionally) watch the film out of order. I am shockingly good at this; I will often skip to the final five minutes, catch a sneak peak of the ending, and then return to the beginning. I know I am not the only one who does this; I am just perhaps one of the few with the courage (or the shamelessness) to say it!

These streaming services have made binge watching the entertainment norm. Often an entire series of a TV show is released in one evening, leaving you completely free – and arguably encouraged – to complete it that night. When a TV series does not conform to this norm, we often feel uncomfortable. Waiting a week in between every WandaVision episode was a genuinely difficult experience, and my father found my discomfort hilarious. He would regularly make classic and unhelpful parent comments like ‘call that waiting…in my day you had to wait three years for a film to come out.’ 

Much as I hate to admit it, my father did have a point. Our generation certainly approaches film and TV differently. Streaming services are responsible for normalising and encouraging binge watching, for making anything longer than an hour feel like an eternity. At the same time, social media also plays a part, especially when coupled with time differences between the UK and the US. With the US being several hours behind us, everyone over there has already watched the next big show or film before we wake up…and boy do they love posting it about it on Twitter! All you need to do is log on, check the trending page and boom! You are faced with countless – and often embarrassingly bad – memes about each entertainment piece. Sometimes this backfires because the ending or plot is so absolutely ridiculous that these posts look like they are taking the mick, as was the case with the final episode of Game of Thrones

In a way, spoilers have always been a part of my life. They are a part of all of our lives because when something game changing happens, people just can’t help but talk about it. I knew Darth Vader was Luke’s father before even properly knowing what Star Wars was, just like I always knew Ned Stark was going to die; although, I would also argue that was just plain obvious. (Yes, I know I added in some spoilers despite promising I wouldn’t, but if you didn’t know these you have been living under a rock and I have your best interests at heart by educating you).

Knowing spoilers doesn’t have to hinder your enjoyment of a  film– despite what the older generation might say! Yes, they have changed the way we view entertainment; they have changed how we watch a film or TV show. But, they haven’t – and never will – take away the joy.

Jess Steadman (she/her) is the Senior Cultures Editor at The Oxford Blue. She is a second year studying Medieval Literature at Univ and is from (mostly sunny) Essex. If you want to find her, she is probably chopping about on the Isis River.