Spoiler Alert! Do Spoilers Really Spoil?
What is a spoiler? A spoiler is that bit of information you hear about a movie, show, book, game, or whatever that gives away how it ends. In the digital age, spoilers are super common. Movie review websites, blogs, youtube videos, forums, and other places where pop culture is discussed online are bound to have issues with spoilers. In some cases, the ending might become the main focus of a critique of a movie. I mean, if a movie is able to wow them in the end, people can look past a lot of flaws and plot issues from the rest of the movie. A lot of successful movies in my opinion, like Star Wars: A New Hope, do this.
This is the main reason for a lot of the internet's collective rage against spoilers, and people's insistence that spoilers be marked in a way that allows a reader to overlook them. (TV Tropes came up with an ingenious way to do this; on that site, spoilers are invisible text, visible only when someone highlights them with their mouse.) The reasoning being, if the movie has a particularly unexpected, awesome thing happening at the end, the spoiler ruins the suspense building up to it.
However, as someone who frequently reads spoilers and disregards TV Tropes and other such spoiler warnings, I'm on here to discuss why I think spoilers don't always spoil, in the sense that they rarely truly ruin the experience. I think people are uptight anymore about a lot of things, and some people can't stand to not have their experience of something be perfect, like fussy aristocrats from a forgotten time. So stop powdering your wigs, or whatever it is uptight people do, and consider this radical statement: spoilers aren't that big of a deal.
Reason 1: The Spoiler is Just a Tiny Part of the Picture
Let's start with the obvious: spoilers give you very little of the information about what's going on in the show. It's one thing to say "The killer's mother is actually a second side to his split personality." Ok, so who is the killer? What does he do? Whom does he kill? How? Why? Does he get away with it or not? Do any of his victims escape? If so, how? None of that is answered by the spoiler alone. This clue to how the ending happens really doesn't capture the entire experience of the whole movie. I mean, it would be sad to say that the experience of watching Star Wars is such a hopelessly bad movie/series of movies that it can be "ruined" by knowing that Darth Vader is Luke and Leia's father. I've often read books after seeing parodies of them played out on shows like The Simpsons, or before that, Wishbone. They don't spare you the ending, but they still left me wanting to read the original books. I've read spoilers before reading a book, or seen the movie of a book before reading the book. I knew, for example, from the Game of Thrones TV Show the biggest "spoiler" from season 1/ Book 1. However, I still wanted to read the book, even knowing in detail everything that happens. Why? Well, it brings me to my second point.
Reason 2: It's Possible, If Not Likely, That You Will Still Enjoy It.
How do I know this? Well, let's use another film example. One of my favorite movies, one I watch over and over again, is The Sixth Sense. The movie is rather famous at this point for having this twist ending: The main character, a psychiatrist studying a boy who says he can see ghosts, is himself a ghost.
Every time I re-watch The Sixth Sense, I know this going into it. Does it ruin any part of the experience for me? No. If anything, it's more fun to know the ending and go into it looking for clues to it (such as in the Sixth Sense how the main character's wife is very distant from him and never speaks directly to him for any extended period of time). I knew the ending of Donnie Darko, and I still re-watched about a bajillion more times, just because it made no sense whatsoever.
Or, a lighter example, take kid's movies or cartoons. You know with almost watch-setting certainty how most of those will end. The bad guy will die or be robbed of power or defeated, and the heroes will triumph and live Happily Ever After. So, you never watch a kid's movie? So it's not exciting to watch Shrek, or the Muppets, or My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, or Harry Potter? I think the numbers disagree with the statement that no adults ever enjoy watching programming that was originally aimed at children. I'm sure most adults watched those going, yeah, I know the bad guy is going to lose in the end. That does not stop anyone from watching or enjoying those kinds of shows. Why?
Reason 3: In Life As In Pop Culture, It's The Journey, Not the Destination
Not to get all hippie philosophical, but this is true. For example, think about film adaptations of the same source material. Same plot, characters, same ending. Different movies altogether. Like the Johnny Depp/ Tim Burton take on Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory vs. the older Gene Wilder version we all like instead. Same book, two very different movies. In other words, one destination, two very separate journeys arriving at one point.
In life, humans tend to be very heavily fixated on goals. They want to get through school, get their dream job, open a business, expand a business, and their main goal in life is then broken down into thousands of micro-goals. That's how modern society works, by being extremely goal-oriented. However, the case used to be that people tried to get the most beautiful experience out of daily life, without rushing around to fulfill a long list of goals. So forget the rat race and even the bucket list and just do and just be. Ok, so I'm getting hippie-philosophical here. Sorry!
Anyway, no one could have gotten me away from seeing my favorite movies or reading my favorite books just by revealing a bit of information about the ending to me. Whisper in my little 6-year old ear "Mufasa dies, and Simba grows up to avenge him," but I'd still be watching The Lion King. I'm watching a movie or reading a book because I want to, because it looks interesting, and knowing the end ahead of time can only make me more interested in the rest, not less. This obsession with the ending, at the expense of the appreciation for the beauty of the journey, in our culture, as if the rest of it was not important, seems to me to be a symptom of a larger sickness.