This guy wrote a column about The Hunger Games and gave away many details of the plot, some of them big-time spoilers.  Then he wrote a column about how he was actually doing his readers a favor because spoilers actually increase the enjoyment of the book.  For example

The suggestion is that there is a trade-off in the pleasures available to first-time readers or viewers on the one hand, and “repeaters” (as they are called in the scholarly literature) on the other. First-time readers or viewers, because they don’t know what’s going to happen, have access to the pleasures of suspense — going down the wrong path, guessing at the identity of the killer, wondering about the fate of the hero. Repeaters who do know what is going to happen cannot experience those pleasures, but they can recognize significances they missed the first time around, see ironies that emerge only in hindsight and savor the skill with which a plot is constructed. If suspense is taken away by certainty, certainty offers other compensations, and those compensations, rather than being undermined by a spoiler, require one.


The positive case for spoilers is even stronger if you are persuaded by those who argue, in the face of common sense, that suspense survives certainty. This is called “the paradox of suspense” and it is explained by A. R. Duckworth: “1. Suspense requires uncertainty. 2. Knowledge of the outcome of a narrative, scene or situation precludes any uncertainty. 3. [Yet] we feel suspense in response to fictions we know the outcomes of” (“The Paradox of Suspense II—The Problem,” The Journal of Film, Art and Aesthetics, Jan. 14, 2012).

and some other related arguments. Even if you accept these arguments, they amount to saying that there is a qualitative difference between the spoiled reading and the fresh reading and you want to have both. But this does not vindicate the spoilage. The problem with the spoiler is that it deprives you of the fresh reading. Spared the spoiler, or suitably alerted, you could have had both.

Now maybe you have time for only one reading. And so the counterargument could be that if the spoiled reading is in fact better than the fresh one then the spoiler saves you the effort of self-spoiling (settle down Beavis!) and gets you straight to the good, i.e. spoiled, stuff.

But notice what this says about the author of the novel. The author invented this whole story. She created the entire spoil-fodder. Indeed the spoiler only exists because the author chose not to “spoil” it himself by informing the reader right away what’s going to happen later. Either that is because this makes for a better story, or because the author is incompetent. In other words, putting a naked spoiler into your column and claiming that it makes the story better is tantamount to saying that the author is a hack. Not

If “The Hunger Games” is so shallow that it can be spoiled by a plot revelation, the alert doesn’t save much. If “The Hunger Games” is a serious accomplishment, no plot revelation can spoil it.

Deerstalker dash:  Alex Frankel.

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