Are you sure you want to know? Wouldn’t you rather wait and see what happens, rather than clicking on that headline, and spoiling it for yourself? The new season starts in less than a month, why give in now? Maybe you just have to find out what happens to your favorite character, or if the one you hate finally gets his little blonde head put on a spike. Maybe you don’t watch the show, and only clicked on the link because you like to keep up with pop culture. Or, if you’ve read the books, you like to observe the reactions people have to the plot developments in the popular series.
I won’t be providing any spoilers for you.
I apologize for the bait and switch, but the fact that you are here does illustrate a point: Some people just can’t help but to jump to the end.
I’m definitely one of those people. Anytime I’m engrossed in a story, I have to know how it ends, no matter if it is a book, movie, show etc. I don’t even have to read the last couple of pages or skip to the last scene. I can just jump onto Wikipedia and read the plot summary. Hell, even when I’m not engrossed in a story, I like to know the ending. Many people have uttered the statement: “I’m not going to watch it, so just tell me what happens.”
I don’t think is new phenomenon. People have been skipping to the last page since The Bible. I do wonder, however if “self-spoiling” is a growing trend. Is it more likely to occur in younger generations? Is technology the cause, or does merely enable younger people who are predisposed to self-spoiling? Psychologically, why do people self-spoil?
A few years ago, the University of California, San Diego released a study showing that people enjoyed stories more that were spoiled before they read them. There are several possibilities of why this is, the simplest being that the plot is overrated. “Plots are just excuses for great writing,” according to the study. Also, knowing the ending makes absorbing the story more comfortable, and one can “focus on a deeper understanding of the story.”
The study does not conclude if one type of person if more likely to self-spoil than another, but it does give some insights as to why people self-spoil in the first place:
1. It’s not the journey, it’s the destination.
Usually, people believe themselves to have the opposite sentiment. However, according to the study the plot is for writers, and the ending is for the readers. I believe this to be somewhat mirrored in society. A recently popular buzzword(s) is “instant gratification.” In pretty much every aspect of our lives, we can get what we pretty much anything we want in a relatively short time period.
Order something online? 2nd day shipping.
Hungry? Jimmy Johns is freakishly fast.
Short on money? 877-CASH-NOW.
If you’re desperate to find out what happens to Arya Stark, you can always ask Google. It’s important to note that instant gratification may not be an attribute exclusive to younger generations, but rather a universal human trait that has developed along with the rise of technology.
2. It’s emotional aversion.
It’s odd that humans willingly place themselves in situations that are discomforting. I remember one night I was reading the book “House of Leaves.” The book is hard to describe, not as scary as it is disconcerting (it’s also a chore to read). I found myself hard pressed not to just look up the ending on Wikipedia. Despite that the book is difficult to digest, I can’t help but think some of my aversion to pick it up every night was the emotional state it caused. Like the study says, people might like to process information in a state of comfort. We could be choosing to save ourselves from emotions that can be undesirable, like fear and suspense.
3. People need closure, and not just in a breakup.
I didn’t get this from the study directly, but you can observe how people react to things that are left unresolved. You probably remember the Sopranos debacle. What happened in those final moments? For those of you who witnessed that episode, just remembering it probably leaves you feeling a bit anxious.
But how much does unresolved plot lines affect the actual story? Many people thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Sopranos,’ but did the ending really ruin the entire series?
It’s hard to justify that belief when you have spent years enjoying the show.
Movies are a good test for this hypothesis, because the story is confined into just a few hours. I’m going to be honest, and say I actually really liked the movie ‘Prometheus.’ Sure, it has flaws, but I don’t think that is why some people didn’t like the movie. I think people had a hard time dealing with the story, because it had so many unanswered questions:
How is this a prequel to Alien if the movies take place on different planets?
Is Charlize Theron a human or cyborg?
Why are the Engineers trying to kill the humans?
This is how the director, Ridley Scott, engages with the audience. You’re not supposed to know the answer to everything; you’re supposed to wonder about the possibilities. The goal here is to make story telling less of a passive experience, or one where you watch the good guy defeat the bad guy.
Doesn’t that make the story more interesting?
Or do we crave closure, and does leaving a question unanswered leaves us feeling unsatisfied?