Saturday, April 30, 2005

Spoiled Rotten

I've got embroiled in a very interesting (to me anyway) discussion at The Mumpsimus about spoilers and spoiler warnings. Matt takes an extreme, though highly principled, position that any information you give about a work constitutes a spoiler, and therefore posting warnings about plot spoilers constitutes an undue privileging of plot over other elements of the work. Thus he refuses in general (with certain exceptions) to post spoiler warnings.

While I respect the purity and motivation of this program, I can't help feeling it fails to address the visceral rage of the reader-on-the-ground when she finds key plot points of an anticipated book or film wantonly revealed in a review. Spoiler warnings at least give the reader the option of preserving her (very possibly inappropriately privileged) experience of the plot unspoiled.

Fact: Revealing information about any aspect of a book or film does in fact 'spoil' something about that work, and there's no coherent structural justification for opposing the spoiling of plot over any other element.

Another Fact: I (and I think many others) become vastly more incensed when I experience the spoiling of plot than of characterization, setting, political viewpoint, &c.

How to square these realities, short of insisting on walking blind into books or films knowing nothing more than their titles?

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