What's about spoiler-free reviews anyway?

-in which I "spoil" a lot about Star Wars and other stuff

So, I see this practically everywhere.  Either it's "I promise you, I'll mostly keep my reviews spoiler-free" or "Spoiler-Alert! The following section might contain spoilers so close your eyes if you haven't seen or read it". Spoilers are deemed to be very, very bad, almost evil. It just get's a little bit annoying, how much spoilers are feared and how they're avoided in an almost paranoid way nowadays. They're marked white or transparent, so only the people interested will see them. Some reviewers paraphrase practically everything in their posts, just to avoid spoilers, making it confusing and hard to understand, what they are actually talking about. Because they don't want to name the things that troubled them.

And yes, I totally understand this. Last year in December, when Episod VII came out, I had this decent, comical moment, when a friend of mine sat at lunch deeply depressed so I asked him what was up and he told me, that the boys in his class had totally spoilered him that Han Solo dies. Me: When did I ever tell you that I already was in Star Wars? And he just gazed at me shocked, realized, that he had passed his oh-so-depressing fate of knowing that Han Solo would die, before having seen the movie. He had simply believed I was such a nerd that I would be right there in the cinema on the first day it came, wouldn't I? Instead I went two days before christman. And I admit, at that moment this was a tiny little shock for me. What the fiddles. How could such a thing happen to me? I had never before believed, that I was susceptible to spoilers.

I never believed before, that I would ever care if somebody "spoiled" me. But just after it, I realized, that this actually wasn't even bad. The shock was a mere shock, for a few seconds and I actually didn't become totally embarrassed or anything. I didn't decide, that I don't want to have anything to do with Star Wars anymore and found the way I had been spoilered very funny. I mean, it was absurd. But I still wonder. Why do so many people care about spoilers?  They're not even THAT bad. Of course, when it comes to Game of Thrones (where I shamefullyy still haven't begun the third volume yet), Star Wars and a couple of other really big things I'm more or less excited about, it does bother me, at least a bit. And the people around me are all the time careful to shut their mouths about it, even though in most cases I'm tempted to just shrug about it. And of course it IS nasty to learn something about one of your favorite characters, when you weren't prepared for it. Definitely. Still, Episod VII doesn't consist essentially of Han Solo dieing, so it's still worth it to watch the movie at the cinema.

But still I don't get why anybody should intentionally avoid spoilers in a review. Usually you write a review to reflect about what you have seen or read. So why shouldn't you be allowed to describe and name exactly what you saw and read and thought about it? Otherwise you barely scrape the surface of a story. Maybe it's just me, because I am a very analytical and detailbased reader, but I feel very bad when I read some of my first reviews, and they're like: "Oh, I was so excited about it, but shush I won't tell anymore, because that would be a spoiler". And they tell me only little more than nothing about what I really thought about that book, or how that books was for me, because I don't name any facts. And the feel horribly dumb, wrong and plain to me, because they are so meaningless. They give no arguments, why I really liked or disliked anything about a book.

And this is seriously weird, because I actually love details. I love taking written words into pieces, analyzing single frames in movies and decribing the exact happening in a scene. It's the reason why reviewing at first seemed so exhausting for me. It was no fun and I just did it, because I loved books, and thought that I had to review books as a bookloving blogger. But I'm very bad at beating around the bush or paraphrasing anything. For me this is hard, because everthing I do that, I have the feeling, that I'm leaving way to much aside; that I left out some really important details. I just slapped out my reviews. Finished. And in one aspect this did good to me, because I never had the trouble of wasting too much time just for a review I would write on my blog. This had reasoning. But on the other hand, all of my reviews felt so incomplete to me. It actually feels unnatural to me to leave things away.

Let's take one of the most famous spoilers. Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father. Does anybody care about this anyway? I belong to a generation where probably most of us knew already that Darth Vader was Luke's father before they ever really watched the movie. Still there are lots of Star Wars fans even among the youngest children today (thank you, LucasArts Merchandising and nerdy parents!) and this is because a story that is really strong and memorable isn't hurt by spoilers. Even if you know some of the most central facts, you still think about it. You're still interested, or might even get more interested into a story when you pick up something like this in advance. And it doesn't matter if you were surprised about the revelation or not. Of course, the surprise is something, that could make a story even stronger for the moment. But when you have a story that lasts in your mind beyond the surprise, then the spoilers aren't as bad as claimed.

For one thing, I believe, that you need to really know details and the exact happenings of a story to fully analyze and understand a story and so you can explain, why you judge a book or movie the way you judge it. Of course, you're asking, aren't reviews only written so other people can decide if the want to read or watch the subject afterwards? Maybe some of them. But for me a review is beyond that and rather a reflection of the thoughts, ideas, feelings and anything else I had when reading or watching. How the single parts connect in my mind, what the book means to me (either the meaning of preciousness or the meaning of a maybe plain and boring read). Especially when it comes to stories almost everybody knows, it isn't about retelling the story or explaining what type of story this is. Everbody knows. Books reviews in the book blogging world should, in my opinion finally acknowledge, that they're so much more worth, when they're personal, and at the same time go deep and not just into describing the book in a few paragraphs and ending with a rating of usually zero to five stars.

I don't read reviews of books I haven't read yet. Because, first, you can't comment much on the post where you can't judge how you would judge the book if you haven't read it and there are so little spoilers to this book. I'm not a professional reviewer, so why should I really target on telling people if they should read this book or not? I don't want to merely recommend or condemn books. Sure I can, but for this I can also simply rate them with the famous zero to five star rating -which I also avoid, because it seems so inept to me, but let's not go deeper into that too. I think, to know what a book -or a movie or any other kind of storytelling. this is getting a little bit loose since the last paragraph- is really about, you need to know it. You have to know, or otherwise every discussion about it seems worthless.

Reviews have so much potential of being discussed and getting other people into thinking, if we wouldn't write for people wo haven't read the book yet or, at least, wouldn't pretend to do so. Discussions are great and can only happen when there are arguments. To argue about a book you need to tell details and facts. And when you click on the link to a book review you actually already have taken the choice of possibly getting spoilered. It's a review, not a commercial. It's not a blurb on the bookjacket and not merely a trailer for the book. You actually kind of want to know more about the book, don't you? So why should it be so bad to get spoilered? Isn't it completely boring to go spoiler-free?

Sure, it dosn't look polite to present spoilers completely without warning, for instance to post "R.I.P Han Solo" on Twitter. And it isn't right to tell the complete story, for heavens sake. On the other hand, partial spoilers can actually even be pure joy. I wouldn't be so excited about continuing to read A Song of Ice and Fire, if it wasn't for a friend who told me, that Arya and the Hound would become a combat team. Otherwise I wouldn't have born up those chapters of Theon Greyjoy betraying his former hosts. They can be sweet rather than devastating.

Lately I read "Magnus Chase" and heck, apparently Norse Myths are based on everything being doomed to die at the end of the world. Everyone already know what will  happen to them at Ragnarok. As Loki -yes, evil Loki- points out, "our choices can alter the details". And even though he actually turns out to be evil, it's not the most interesting, what happens, but how you get somewhere. It's the point, that the little differences can be even more thrilling than the big spoiler and they make much more of the reading experience. Does a known ending make the Norse Myths less interesting? Of course, the thing with the dying makes it a little bit claustrophobic to think about, but it doesn't ruin anything. They make them even better.

I mean, take it further, and I'm again going with Star Wars: Everybody who saw cute little Anakin in Episod I already knew, that he was destined to become the evil Sith Lord Darth Vader. Did it mean, that nobody cared about how the story went on? Let aside the fact that the prequels of Star Wars are kind of ruined, the ticket booths of the cinemas prove that many people still wanted to see the Prequel Trilogy. When I was spoiled about Han Solo dying, I was actually even more interested in how and why he dies. Something's wrong about all those spoiler warnings.

I'm sure you know at least two people who read the last pages or paragraphs of a books, before they even go to the beginning. How many times have you told your mommy to read you a fairytale, let's say "Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs" again even though you knew exactly, that Snow White would marry the prince and live happily ever after? How often did you read your first favorite book of your childhood again and again, never getting bored about it, even though you knew it by heart? Why do we still read Greek tragedy in modern times, even though we know they end, well, tragically? Think of all the retellings that are published and how people love to read a well know story. Secretly we all love predictable endings.

Spoilers aren't necessarily bad, maybe they're not bad at all! They actually contain the essentials of a story and the rich stuff that is actually worth to be discussed on blogs! Also, it is much more exact and fine and to judge a book, when you know the details of it. Those things that can considered to be spoilers are actually those which are most worthy to be discussed! So why should we leave those crucial things away, when we review a book? It makes so much more sense to tell everything! We could find out so much more about interesting stories and break them into their many facettes. Long live spoilers! And may the spoilers be ever with you!

smurfly greetings, Mulan

So what do you think? Would you -like me- look forward to a more open, book discussing, "spoiling" world? Do you think there are simply different kinds of reviewing? Or are you going to prove that I am completely false and wrong, because you totally hate spoilers? Whatever your thoughts may be, tell me in the comments!

See also: Spoilers don't spoil anything↗ and The Origins of the Spoiler↗

5 comments:

  1. I think this is a really interesting discussion, because I can see both sides. Personally, I dislike spoilers, because if there's some really good twist (like Han Solo dying) that is in the story BECAUSE of the shock factor, it is intended that the viewer/reader experience it fresh. It's part of the purpose of the story. However, I also don't think that a story is useless once it has been spoiled. For example, Allegiant was spoiled for me (I don't know if you've read it but there's a GIANT plot twist that you totally don't expect) and I read it anyway, and found it super enjoyable, and was able to analyze how that twist fit perfectly with the main character.

    I do think there is something for reading a book fresh, without knowing anything, though. It adds to the intensity and mystery of the story - not knowing what's going to come next, not knowing ANYTHING. I'm kind of on the middle of this one. I'd rather not hear spoilers, but if I do, it's not going to GASP RUIN THE EXPERIENCE for me.

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    1. I don't know if you're even following this discussion... but let me answer it anyway.
      I think, shock factor isn't bad, but I personally believe, that any story should still work without the shock factor, even if it is part of the story. It didn't ruin the movie for me to know, that Han Solo would die, so apparently it worked without. I wouldn't spoil myself on purpose either, but I'm a bit annoyed of all those spoiler warnings on the Internet, especially, when they're about minor spoilers, that not in small bit would ever ruin the plot. You know, I personally cling to details and I still love watching all the details, even if I already knew what happened. But spoiling myself actually helps me, when I'm unable to finish a book when I'm unable to stand the tension. When I read "The Lost Hero" from the Heroes of Olympus series, for me, it was good to read the last chapter and something about Percy Jackson, because somehow I was way more relaxed for the rest of the book and could enjoy it much more, than before, because I still had that unanswered question in my mind and it was solved, right there.

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  2. I totally think it depends on the person! Like you obviously don't mind spoilers and want to discuss them, but plenty of other people dislike them. So, to make it safe, I definitely think spoilers should be covered up and spoiler warnings should be huge and visible! I personally loathe being spoiled. It ruins the book/movie for me and often I don't even go bother watching/seeing it later because I like the shock factor and the surprise. If I know what's going to happen, then it kind of loses it's interest for me? Reason #9839 I haven't seen the Star Wars movies because I know all the spoilers so I don't see a point! XD

    So definitely each to their own! But I'm pretty anti-spoilers myself. :)

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

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    1. Well, actually to some extent I can understand that some people want the shock moment and all the drama, but for me, I'm the kind of person who sneaks into the book's last page while being in the middle. Probably though, when I wrote that article, I was a little bit exaggerating at least about, don warn people about spoilers, I guess, and it's not yourself you're doing it for, but the others, but I still can't help but feel it's nothing I can relate much to.

      It still isn't too late for me to add spoiler warnings in my future reviews :-) (my blog's so sad and empty so far...)

      Actually, when it comes to stories I didn't see or read and had heard umptillions of spoilers before, it often turned out that I was actually quite prejudiced about them (Like, little me saying "I totally hate Star Wars! It's a ridiculous movie for the boys!" and look where I'm now...) and then the story has actually a totally different meaning than what you pieced together from incomplete knowledge. Though, it sometimes also embarrassed me about things I was excited about, because of this and that spoiler and then there wasn't much behind all the fuss.

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  3. This is such an interesting discussion, because I really can see it going either way. My personal opinion is that, as long as they're clearly marked and labeled, spoilers aren't really a problem for me. But if they're out in the open without any warning that's when it gets frustrating. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous discussion! <3

    ~ Zoe @ Stories on Stage

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