Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Don't Tell Me

It is in the nature of humanity to want to experience something for ourselves.


We have all done it at one point or another, but requesting "no spoilers" is a really weird concept if you think about it. *Note, there are no spoilers contained within the text of this post. But stay away from Twitter...

First of all, in reality, there is no such thing as a spoiler. You wouldn't ask somebody not to tell you about something they heard on the news, or not to describe an event, simply because you wanted to have the story told to you by somebody else, or in another medium. In a world where something as simple as a TV show ending can merit people who are weeks or even years behind asking to please not get any details about the show until they have had a chance to digest it. I know people who are still wishing to not know what happens on the last episode of Breaking Bad, a show that ended 6 months ago.

The real spoiler is in the show's title.
Does hearing a single outcome that is revealed in 10 seconds over the course of a 30-60 minute piece really merit that kind of blissful incertitude for such a long time? If knowing a plot point in a TV show before you have seen it could ever render your own viewing of that show unnecessary, did you really enjoy watching the show?

I can and do spend time watching sporting events that I know have already ended and whose scores I already know. The fun of being entertained is entirely in the narrative that the story weaves and how the entire thing plays out, not a synopsis or boxscore.

I couldn't help myself but to read this morning about the major points of the finale of How I Met Your Mother, and out of courtesy, I will not share them here. But I feel a lot better now knowing what happened, even though I won't be able to watch the episode until tonight. It has been 9 years in the making, and I have been following the show since midway through the fourth season. I thought about trying to spend all day being extremely careful not to hear anything about the show, but since I found out what happened, I have only wanted to watch the episode itself more.

Knowing what is going to happen in sports, or in TV or movies is a very comforting thing, especially when other aspects of your life might make you uncomfortable or uneasy or you tend to stress a lot about things you don't know. I have watched episodes of Community, Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation, The Office, Arrested Development, Happy Endings, and others MANY, MANY times. I see new things each time I watch, and I think I actually enjoy the episodes more when I know what's coming. And we all have movies we love to watch over and over again, even when we can quote every line.

What makes life itself so difficult is its unpredictability, with twists and turns rivalling even the most well-written scripts. You will never be completely satisfied with a storyline, and I'm sure you can ask any writer if they feel comfortable with the way they wrapped up a story and they will be uncertain that they did things the "right" way. 

The fact is, in life as in entertainment, there is no "right" way for a story to play out. All stories are told in the same way, as they have for all of human history. There is little gained from knowing specific details of a story, and the "how" is a lot more satisfying than the "what". I cannot wait to watch the How I Met Your Mother finale, and I will take solace in the comfort of knowing that at least some things in life, I can know for certain.