Spoilers Don’t Spoil Stories, They Enhance Them
A UC San Diego study revealed that viewers actually enjoy stories more if they’ve been spoiled, so do the right thing.
By Gabriela Hernandez, Kansas State University
We’ve all heard of them: Information about the plot of a book, movie or television show that ruins the surprise for someone who hasn’t seen or read it yet.
Basically, your worst nightmare when it comes to your favorite show or a movie that you actually paid for. But what’s worse than the spoiler itself? The succubus that tells you that Claire leaves Frank in House of Cards.
We all have that one friend who loves Netflix. He takes pride in knowing the ending to every movie and TV show ever. He will also make sure to drop hints and smirk when you ask the right questions about How I Met Your Mother, because he is dying to tell you that the mother actually dies and Ted ends up with Robin. You hate him and tell him he’s “literally the worst.”
Turns out, you should actually be thanking him. He told you that Jon Snow dies in Game of Thrones, and while you are mad at first, it also made you ask, “What? How? When? Where?” The revelation probably depressed you, but it also got you excited to watch the episode in season 5 and see John get stabbed a million times.
Instead of just having that spoiler troll as a friend, learn from him, be like him, ruin things just the way he does. Here’s how you do it.
First, think of your favorite show, one you couldn’t possibly think about living without. Maybe Making a Murderer is the only reason you still smile every morning, and there’s a good chance that Steven Avery is your only friend. You probably think that it would kill you to know the ending right? Wrong. It would help you enjoy the show that much more, I promise.
Next, pull out the device that’s in your front pocket, go to Safari and type in “Mad Men ending.” Do not, I repeat, do not freak out and quit now. You’ve come this far! And there it is: Wikipedia has an answer for every question you have about the season 3 finale.
You don’t have to waste your time and wonder what Don Draper might do because in 2.5 seconds you’ll find out that he decides to basically drop out of life. There was no need to guess and waste precious, precious brain energy that should really be spent on your dreaded Calc 2 homework.
Finally, read every single word on the plot review. Close your eyes and thank Wikipedia for providing you with this top-secret information.
Now comes the important part: Go out and ruin every single show for your friends. Not because you hate them, but because you really care. Great leaders hold their peers accountable, and while you might look like a huge asshole for ruining One Tree Hill for Stacy, know that you did what’s best. Stacy will come back around, they always do.
You see, human beings love predictability; we love knowing what’s going to happen next because life is uncertain. Maybe we live vicariously through Meredith Grey and McDreamy because we can’t get our Tinders to stick around long enough for Valentine’s Day.
But if we at least know that M. Grey and Derek end up together (until he dies, of course), then the world is suddenly okay again. No, it doesn’t make the show pointless. Isn’t life about the journey and not the destination? Do haunted houses become lame because we know that there’s a creepy guy in the room pulled straight from SAW III waiting for us to walk by? No. If so, why do you even go every single Halloween?
Sometimes, it’s better knowing what’s going to happen. It doesn’t take away from the excitement and surprise; quite the opposite, it makes life much more interesting. We know when Christmas is, but does knowing make us less excited about opening our gifts? Or do we love the day even more because we look forward to it all year?
According to an amazing study performed by UC San Diego psychologists Nicholas Christenfield and Jonathan, people love spoiled stories more than unspoiled one.
The study involved 12 short stories by authors like Agatha Christie and John Updike, and was performed three separate times. Each story was categorized as either “literary,” “mystery” or “ironic-twist,” and was shown to at least 60 test subjects.
Half of the subjects had a paragraph in front of them that spoiled the plot. The other half read the story unspoiled until the end. Afterwards, the subjects were asked which stories they preferred and they all responded that they liked the spoiled versions more.
Turns out, spoilers don’t spoil stories. In fact, they seem to enhance enjoyment, especially ironic twists and mystery stories.
The explanation? Once you know how a plot turns out, it’s easier to focus on more deeply understanding the story. Apparently, spoiled stories taste sweeter.
Imagine how much time it would save if you only had to watch a movie once because you already knew how it was going to end? You could watch The Prestige and pick up all the clues instead of being surprised and having to rewatch the movie. You would have all the answers and basically be a magician yourself.
We like to pretend that we hate spoilers and the people who told us that Han Solo dies before we even watched Star Wars, but in all reality we need to thank those kind souls. If you do the job yourself, then you are your own hero and that has to feel good. Honestly, spoiler alerts are for nerdy losers and you’re better than that.