Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes
I loathe spoilers with every fiber of my being, but my best friend Rachael adores them and actively seeks spoilers for everything. I figured the best way to get a balanced view on spoilers was for me and her to have a conversation, featured below.
Spoiler warning for: Stars Wars EU: Fate of the Jedi, Agents of SHIELD, Battlestar Galactica, Continuum, A Song of Ice and Fire.
R: I love spoilers.
D: Okay, so I wanted to talk to you in particular about spoilers because I know I can’t stand like even a hint of what’s going to happen in a TV show and I know you love them.
R: LOVE THEM. Sometimes I can’t watch/read/etc. something until I have them.
D: I always feel like if I know something in advance it completely ruins the context. So when it does happen I can’t judge if they did it effectively. Totally innocuous example: my ship on Agents of SHIELD kissed after like two and a half seasons of ship-tease and I was livid because all of the advertising for the episode told me it was going to happen. It ruined the moment for me!
R: For me it’s two things:
- relieving the anxiety, and
- deciding whether I’ll even watch/read it.
D: I look up stuff for #2 for things I don’t give a shit about. Like I had some acquaintances that told me to watch Friends. I hated it, so I looked up what would happen and was like “yeah, nope” and quit watching.
R: See, I do it for things I love though. For instance I made my friend Rocky spoil the last Fate of the Jedi book for me before I would read it.
D: That would drive me crazy.
R: I was super worried they’d kill off Luke and I just didn’t want that. I have a much easier time like cognitively ignoring/rejecting things I haven’t seen than things I have. So if I needed to ignore Luke’s death I would have elected not to read the book.
D: Ah, that’s a good point.
R: Fortunately he lived and all was fine but my point stands.
D: I feel like I’d rather experience the story as it’s presented. Then even if it pisses me off, I can examine why. How did what they did not work for me?
R: I still haven’t seen the season 3 finale of Continuum because I’m not certain I want to live in a reality where Sonya Valentine is dead.
D: That’s what fan fiction is for! If I know it’s going to happen before I read or watch something it’s a foregone conclusion and I can’t get into it no matter how well done it is.
R: And for me it’s the total opposite. To me it’s the journey v. the destination, which is why #1 exists. If I spend an entire book/episode/movie/etc. freaking out with worry about what the destination will be I can’t enjoy the journey.
D: I love the anxiety a story creates. Take that away and I usually stop caring.
R: For me the anxiety distracts.
D: I remember when I was a kid I accidentally read ahead a few pages in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and I was like “NOOOOOOOOOO.” Because then I couldn’t even process the pages between because I already knew what they were leading to.
R: I regularly flip to the end of books. Hell, my biggest dislike on the Kindle is that that’s harder to do. Even if I skip ahead and find out that my worst fear is happening then at least I can cognitively prepare and accept it… and then trek into it with resignation rather than anxiety. And I prefer that by miles.
D: I’d rather be bludgeoned over the head with it and experience that grief in real-time. If I know what’s going to happen I don’t experience anything but disappointment that I knew. I’ve screamed reading books before. I think my favorite incident was in A Song of Ice and Fire when Littlefinger dropped Lysa out the Moon Door. It was like 4AM and I was so worked up I literally screamed when that happened.
R: I just feel so distracted by the worry, like I’m not enjoying anything. Take the worry away and let me relax and I enjoy the journey so much more.
D: And for me I feel like the anxiety is half the joy. Which is ironic since I have an anxiety disorder. But it’s almost like the sort of anxiety that comes from the unknown in fiction is a safer way to experience that feeling? It’s enjoyable anticipation instead of vomitous worry for me. You told me once that you used to read X-Files scripts before they aired, which just made me laugh because I’d spend entire episodes trying to guess what weird thing the outcome would be. Figuring out the mystery was my ultimate triumph watching that show.
R: See to me I like knowing and then picking up on hints and foreshadowing and being like “I see what you did there.”
D: Maybe that’s why I reread/rewatch so much.
R: I rarely reread/rewatch things so I gotta appreciate it the first time!
D: Oh my god, I do it constantly! I love to pick things apart. But I have to have that completely unspoiled experience first and then go back later and see how they did whatever they did to my emotions.
R: I don’t have the patience for major rewatches? Or rereads. I just skip to my favorite bits. Like I can count on one hand the TV series I’ve watched all the way through more than once. Books I can probably do on two. I’ve seen all of Dead Like Me and Azumanga Daioh twice… I think that’s literally it.
D: I get really obsessed. It’s like this encyclopedic compulsion to catalog and categorize it all in my brain. I can tell you exactly when and where pretty much everything happens in the entire MCU and that’s almost 100 hours worth of stuff right now because I’ve rewatched it so damn much figuring out how it works (or doesn’t) and why. But I still vividly remember experiencing each movie or episode unspoiled for the first time. I remember what it was like to discover the story. I know another one I rewatched a zillion times: Battlestar Galactica.
R: I’ve tried… and I just end up rewatching “Faith” for the 3 millionth time.
D: And that got spoiled for me before I even really got into it. I was at a Dragon*Con panel for Mark Sheppard and he said that Kara Thrace dies. And I’d seen like two episodes at that point or something and I was just like “NOOOOOOOO FUUUUUUUCK.” So every time anything bad looked like it was going to happen to her I’d be like “WELP, HERE SHE GOES.” But it took forever. And I feel like that entire first-time experience of BSG was just me rolling my eyes every time she came close to peril because I was already checking out. Mind, she was like my favorite character. Knowing she died just made me want to disengage.
R: NOW WOULDN’T IT HAVE BEEN BETTER IF YOU KNEW “OH SHE DOESN’T DIE UNTIL THE END OF SEASON 3 AND THEN SHE COMES BACK”?????
D: NOOO. I’d rather have not known at all! I’d rather have been stabbed straight in the heart. I do have an example where I actually read teaser-ish press releases though! My girl Simmons on Agents of SHIELD got sucked into this unknown stone of doom in literally the last five seconds of the second season. So when the promotional shit for the third season started coming out I actually clicked on a few interviews and stuff. But even then I almost wish I hadn’t because it ruined a lot of the suspense of the first few episodes. It became “well duh she’s alive. Duh she’s coming back. Just get the fuck on with it, you’re not fooling me.” It made all the ~suspense feel gimmicky.
R: I love how we’re so completely opposite in this!
D: We are opposite in all things; you know this! Every time you ask me if various characters die on The Expanse I have to willfully force myself to tell you because I know you actually want to know. If someone told me my favorite died before I saw it happen I’d want to smash things! Like Bear McCreary tweeted about writing his most “sentimental cue” for an episode of Agents of SHIELD and I was like “WELP, THERE GOES FITZ” automatically because he was the character in most danger at the end of the last episode. And I was ready to throw up just over the suggestion ahead of time that he might bite it. He didn’t; he’s fine. But I can’t deal with that kind of foreknowledge. It ruins the story for me.
R: Nah, I’m like let me know so either I can steal myself or in a handful of extreme cases just nope right out.
D: Even in situations where I’d wanna nope out, I always still feel obligated to watch to see if maybe they can do it well. Like, semi-relevant example: the entire premise of Jane the Virgin is that this girl is “accidentally artificially inseminated” and I was like “NOPE, FUCKING NOPE NOPE.” But a few people whose opinions I trust told me to watch it and I did and it actually was done astonishingly well. Although I do think if they ever go for my babes on Agents of SHIELD I might actually peace the fuck out. I still don’t want to know that in advance though.
R: Nah, I need to know. If I see it it’s soooo much harder to ignore.
D: That’s another point, I think, is that for you seeing it makes it like concrete canon in your head?
R: Definitely more concrete than if I didn’t.
D: And for me, I’ve gotten to a place where if I see it and hate it, I can just dump it on the trash heap and make up something of my own. It took me reading and despising the Buffy Season 8 comics for me to realize that canon isn’t actually fixed and you don’t have to accept it. I’m gonna bait you a little bit: you saw The Force Awakens but don’t consider that as more “legitimate” than the EU.
R: Well, to be honest, I’m prepared to say there are two equally sub-canon post-Return of the Jedi storylines: Legends and Disney, since they’re kinda an either/or. I pick the one I like more.
D: Did you read TFA spoilers before you saw it?
D: Bahaha! I actually literally went to see it 100% because I knew I’d be pissed if it got spoiled. I had zero interest in it at all. All right, we’ve probably blabbed plenty. I think we got the gist of each other’s hilariously incompatible arguments. Anything else you want to add?
R: Only llamas porn.*
D: I’m totes leaving that in the transcript. Thank you for talking to me! I’ve always wanted to “interview” you about spoilers because I feel like we have the same conversation all the time.
R: Glad I could help!
*ETA: I have since been sent the llama porn Rachael was writing on a dare during this conversation. It is glorious.