Are Spoilers Actually Good?

The new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released about a month ago, and it's made nearly two billion dollars so far. In fact, it made a billion dollars faster than any movie in history.

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It would seem that anyone who cares about Star Wars must have obviously seen the film already. Not me. I do care about Star Wars: I watched Episodes IV-VI as a kid and loved them, and watched Episodes I-III as they came out while I was a preteen and teen. (I mostly loved them, too, but later—like most fans—realized they had some significant failings.)

Instead of watching The Force Awakens, though, I accidentally spoiled one of the major plot points for myself, and then the internet spoiled another for me. However, now that I think about it, I'm actually happier knowing the major surprises of the movie without having seen it, and I can wait even longer before I take the time to watch it. Perhaps—and hear me out on this—spoilers actually a good thing.

First, let me try to explain how boring I am: I've never really liked watching films or TV as much as I think my peers did. I watched movies more often when I was younger, for sure, but now I pretty much only ever watch them when my wife wants to, or when I need to watch one for teaching, which is only once in a blue moon.

I also don't read much fiction. I only read two works of fiction last summer—Heart of Darkness (as I wanted to understand references to it in non-fiction works about Africa), and Serena (because my wife strongly recommended it). I haven't finished a fiction book since. Right now I'm reading two books—The First North Americans: An Archaeological Journey, and Wanderings: Chaim Potok's History of the Jews. That's the kind of reading I almost always enjoy most.

Now that you understand my strange preferences a little better, you may begin to see where the spoilers come in: My wife is a voracious reader of fiction, and often when she reads an interesting book she'll tell me some of what it's about. If it's a book she finds particularly compelling but I don't expect I'll ever read it, she'll tell me even more of what happens.

Yeah... I don't ever plan on watching this.
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For example, she read all the Hunger Games books. I figure I'll never read them. (The way they're written really turns me off, for one thing.) So, after she finished Mockingjay, I asked her how the series ended. When I watched the movie Mockingjay, Part 2 with my brother and sister, I already knew the twist—and to be honest, I was happier that way. I think I was more invested in watching the story unfold when I knew the ending because I had invested so little in the story myself. (I didn't even watch Mockingjay, Part 1, and maybe I never will!)

When it came to The Force Awakens, things unfolded a little differently. There is no book version, of course, and none of my friends actually talked to me much about the movie after they saw it. Instead, my greatest exposure to the movie was online, surfing community sites I enjoy like Imgur. I was exposed to many, many references to different aspects of the film, and that often sparked my curiosity about those particular things, leading me to follow links to all sorts of information.

Who is Kylo Ren? Now I know. (source)
Eventually, this habit spoiled one of the major plot lines in the film for me: I wanted to learn more about what sort of name "Kylo Ren" was and where he might be from, so I looked up his Wookiepedia article (spoiler alert for the link, obviously). Soon after, when I was playing the addictive game agar.io, I saw that one of the players was named another spoiler in the film (in the spirit of the people who told everyone "Dumbledore dies!" after reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince).

With the key points of the film's plot spoiled for me, I felt a little weight lifted off me: Now I was in on the same story as everyone else, and there was a lot less pressure (or reason) to go spend a lot of money seeing the film in the theater. With just a bit more waiting, I can watch the film whenever I want—and I can do it much more cheaply. Perhaps this sounds crazy, but I think I've read dozens of articles about The Force Awakens now, including many spoiling the plot—and I've probably enjoyed reading those articles just as much as I will watching the film, whenever I get around to it.

Spoilers can be a good thing: Sometimes they get you more involved in a story you had little interest it; sometimes they let you in on a story you're mostly just curious about; and sometimes they relieve the pressure when it seems everyone's rushing to experience a story right away. I know they're not for everyone, but I love my spoilers. I hope more people start appreciating them.

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