Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wearin' My Spoiler Shirt

Yesterday, I wore my spoiler shirt to work. "What is a 'spoiler shirt?'" you ask. It's just a simple black t-shirt that gives away the twists to movies with notorious surprise endings.

I've been told by several people that owning and wearing this shirt makes me a dick. Now, I'm definitely a dick. But it's not because of this t-shirt.

First of all, every spoiler on this t-shirt is well past the statute of limitations on spoiler warnings. (Except possibly the Harry Potter spoiler; but that's only if you're waiting for the movie instead of reading the five-year-old book.)

Second of all, most of these spoilers are well known, to such an extent that people who've never even seen the movies know the endings. If you don't know that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's dad, then you are three years old and have never met a male human being in your life. To those of you who meet this criteria, I apologize.

Earlier this month, Entertainment Weekly ran a series of articles addressing the modern problem of rampaging spoilers. (Read their reporting here, here, and here.) My position on spoilers -- and part of the "statement" I'm making by wearing the spoiler shirt -- is that they don't spoil anything.

"A movie is not what it's about, but how it is about it."
No amount of spoilers can ruin the experience of seeing a movie unfold. Or should I say unspool? The pace, the editing, the camera movements (or lack thereof), camera angles, lens selections, lighting, costumes, production design, performances... If knowing that Ian Holm was actually Jack the Ripper all along ruins the entire movie for you, then I've got news for you: you don't actually like movies.

That being said, I completely understand the appeal of being caught off guard by the big third act reveal. Back in '99, I didn't see The Sixth Sense until two weeks after it had opened. A close friend of mine -- one not known for keeping secrets -- had already seen it, but didn't say a word about it. In fact, she didn't even over-hype the movie. Just go see it, she said. The twist ending was left unspoiled for me, and it was a delight when the truth was finally revealed.

But here's the thing: even after you know the twist ending, The Sixth Sense is still a great movie. Some people have seen The Sixth Sense exactly two times -- the first, they were surprised; the second, they wanted to "make sure it worked."

Those people do not like movies. The Sixth Sense is so much more than its twist ending. It's mood and atmosphere. It's characters you care about, and experiencing the growth and changes they go through. It's about coming to terms with the scars of an unhappy past.

My mom was one of those people who (spoiler alert) figured out that Bruce Willis succumbed to the bullet wound (end spoiler) upon first viewing of the scene. She didn't even really know that she wasn't supposed to know. Did that ruin the movie for her? No, she owns it.

By contrast, consider The Others. That movie is not good. Once you figure out the twist -- which you should, long before it's "revealed" -- there's little else to love. You don't care about the characters, you're merely curious about all the weird stuff that's going on. Once the weird stuff is explained, you just kinda shrug and go about your day.

Now for the flip side of the spoiler argument: If you go seeking spoilers... dude, get a life. No, wait. First, take your chill pill. Then get a life.

The demand for instant gratification, which fuels the spoiler market, is childish to say the least. On a personal level, I'm highly anticipating The Dark Knight, seeing as how Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins was the best thing to happen to Batman since the animated series. I get excited when I see the previews, I read every magazine article I find about it, I discuss it with friends. But am I poring through the internet, scouring Ain't It Cool and all the other spoiler sites, trying to squeeze out every last bit of information about the movie before it comes out?

No. Take a pill. Relax. Watch the movie when it comes out.

You know those kids in the grocery store whose parents have to take the long way around the candy aisle in order to avoid causing a scene? "Mom!!! Can we get candy?! Mom, can we get some candy? I WANT SOME CANDY MOM CAN WE GET SOME CANDY I'LL CLEAN MY ROOM I PROMISE TO BE GOOD I WON'T TEASE THE BABY CAN I GET SOME CANDY MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM?!"

That's what the spoiler seekers are like. I hate them all.

(Note: You do not fall into the category of sugar-high spoiler seeker if you browse spoiler sites while you're bored at work. In that case, you simply fall into the category of being bored and doing the only non-boring thing you can do that makes it look like you're working. God bless the internet. How did working shmoes ever get by without it?) (Oh yeah, they smoked.)

I guess the message here is that everybody needs to chill out about spoilers. If you're a spoiler-seeking maniac who wants to know everything about every movie now now NOW, you need to chill. Likewise, if you're reading up on a movie you're interested in seeing and you come across a spoiler, don't start panicking about how this just ruins EVERYTHING! If that's all it takes to ruin the movie for you, then you probably wouldn't have liked it to begin with.

I mean, Spider-Man is always going to win, the Titanic is always going to sink, and The Confederacy will always fall. But how it all happens is what we go to the movies to see.

That, and boobs.