Spoiler alert: unexpected heroes of entertainment

Jenna Culpepper, Opinion Editor

People anxiously hover over their mouses and keyboards in hopes of getting the perfect ticket to opening night. The thought of missing the first viewing or sitting on the front row tortures these buyers as they refresh the page over and over. Then, there they are. The tickets go on sale and hardcore fans across the world snatch up the best seats in a matter of minutes.

The worst nightmare of the fans who don’t get those first viewings has come true. Now they’re at the mercy of unpredictable, ruthless spoilers. At any time, anywhere, people can stumble upon a spoiler on social media, overhear one in a passing conversation, or encounter a rude viewer who has set out to ruin other people’s experience.

Spoilers are the worst. The suspense of your favorite movie or series is only to be crushed by some uncaring person who threatens you and then blurts out the words you dread to hear. Three relatively recent movies come to mind when I think of spoilers and ruined movie-going experiences: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

Around the world, people impatiently waited for months to watch these movies. When they were released, some people who saw them early threatened others with revealing spoilers. Spoilers became leverage and caused people to become your instant enemies.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. What if spoilers weren’t such a bad thing, afterall. Have you ever thought that maybe spoilers don’t detract from your experience, but instead enhance it?

A study released in 2011 by Johnathon D. Leavitt and Nicholas Christenfeld tested if spoilers actually ruined people’s enjoyment of stories. 819 participants read nine different short stories from three genres–mysteries, ironic-twists, and literary stories. Some stories were minimally reworked in the introduction to include a spoiler, others had spoiler disclaimers in the beginning, and some stories contained no spoilers.

Spoiler alert: the groups that knew about the end actually enjoyed the story more. Leavitt and Christenfeld found that for eight out of nine of the tested stories, participants that had spoilers beforehand rated their enjoyment of the story higher than those who weren’t given spoilers.

With spoilers, readers and viewers are able to better understand and enjoy the full plot. Instead of getting caught up in the heat of the plot, you have the opportunity to enjoy every part of the story through the lens of the inevitable end.

So yes–spoiler alert–Han Solo died. Thanos won and Iron Man dies. Anna becomes Queen of Arendelle and Woody leaves the toys. Gollum falls into lava and takes the ring with him. Snape and Dumbledore die. Bran Stark wins the Iron Throne. Carl dies (it was a zombie) and Dr. Malcom Crow was actually dead the whole time. And John Connor becomes Terminator.

So, what really is the harm in knowing?