What we talk about when we talk about spoilers

When was the last time you had a film, book or series spoiled for you? I’ll wager it was recently and, more likely, occurred on one social media platform or other. But chances are you’ll also have had something spoiled by reading a review or editorial.

Long-time readers might have noticed that we rarely – if ever – use spoiler warnings. The simple reason is that our reviews and features are discussions about one or two particular anime and so will obviously be exploring plot points and narrative twists. Even so-called ‘spoiler-free’ reviews still offer an impression of whatever it is that’s being covered, putting thoughts in their readers’ heads that’ll shape how they see that media.

The discourse around spoilers has reached fever pitch, especially in regards to major blockbuster movies. Most of you will probably already be familiar with the ridiculous lengths movie productions have gone to in order to curtail leaks. Everything from drone blockers and fake script pages to self-destruct files – and all this on the top of the typical non-disclosure agreements. It’s created this strange entertainment epoch in which creatives are under such contractual distress that they can’t say a damn thing in interviews and press junkets for fear of the tiniest, most inconsequential spoilers making their way out. And so they repeat the same safe little soundbites.

It’s not entirely fair to blame this on studio execs and movie moguls. After all, the landscape has changed. The internet and social media have intensified the discourse around movies, in particular box office juggernauts like Star Wars and the MCU, and TV behemoths like Game of Thrones. A fuzzy set photo is obsessed over in minute detail, spawning fan theories, news stories and think pieces. And with the advent of hacking, drones and other questionable means of gathering intel, every other viewer is a veritable gonzo media journalist.

Yet far from preserving people’s experiences and restoring the magic of the movies, it’s just made the whole experience much more draining. There’s so much noise around each new instalment of this franchise or that, without ever really learning anything, that I honestly prefer to watch things years down the line. Earlier this year, I had my appendix removed and had a couple weeks off work. I used a lot of the time to catch up on the MCU movies I’d missed out on, fully aware of what happened, and you know what? It was great. The only franchise I’m compelled to stay up to date with is Star Wars, and it’s one of the very worst offenders in this regard. Anyone would think J.J. Abrams was head of military intelligence. (Incidentally, if you’re a Star Wars fan, check out our sister site.)

So what does all this mean for anime? For me personally, I don’t really care about spoilers here. It doesn’t diminish my experience of viewing a show, but rather inspires me to watch it that much quicker. For example, Mafuyu and Ritsuka’s kiss in given was all over ani-Twitter before I got a chance to actually watch that episode. Yes, it was technically a spoiler, but all it did was make we want to catch up.

Partly I think this is down the nature of anime. It’s almost impossible not to have parts of long-running series like One Piece spoiled along the way. Then there’s massive event anime like Attack on Titan which, whether you’ve seen it or not, you’ve probably had spoiled for the most part, whether online or from reading ahead in the manga. There’s the old joke that anime titles and intros reveal so much about the plot, showcasing characters that haven’t even turned up yet so that when they do appear it’s not exactly a surprise. I think as anime fans we grow accustomed to this over the years. It’s just a part of the experience.

I’m curious what you all think about spoilers. Is it something you avoid, embrace or are ambivalent about? Let me know in the comments below.

About Dominic (130 Articles)
Journalist, blogger and father. Usually found in a Star Wars or anime tee-shirt. Obsessions include epic fantasy and model spaceships.

3 Comments on What we talk about when we talk about spoilers

  1. I try to avoid spoilers, but I’m not generally super upset if I happen to come across some by accident. Sometimes knowing what’s going to happen ahead of time actually can make watching something more enjoyable. I find when I rewatch a movie or a show that has a twist or big reveal, I enjoy it more on that second viewing because I can spot and appreciate all the clues and foreshadowing that were dropped early on.

    I also sometimes find that if I was disappointed with how something went in a show, if I go back and rewatch it I’ll end up liking it more the second time around, because this time I’m watching it divorced from whatever expectations I had originally and I can appreciate the work for what it is, rather than what I think/hope it’s going to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For me, it depends. Like, games I’m more particular about spoilers because it often takes 3-5 years for something to be released. And some people are plastering pictures of the ending in like a day. But anime I’m less particular about. Either way, marking spoilers is just a nice thing to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For me it depends. I usually see movies so far after when they’re popular that a few things (like Thanos’ snap) get spoiled for me way before I see them. On some level, I have to accept that spoilers are part of life.

    That said, in this media saturated landscape where it seems like the fight to be relevant means you need to see everything, right away, is frustrating. I feel a certain amount of peer pressure that I simply could not afford to live up to.

    Liked by 1 person

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