Hanson: Don’t let spoilers spoil your movie experience

(Creative Commons)

The internet is a minefield of spoilers.

Few people understand this fact better than some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most dedicated fans. Prior to the release of “Avengers: Infinity War,” some fans chose to abstain from the internet entirely. A price worth paying — some of them may argue — to avoid hearing about important details and plot twists.

But do spoilers really ruin movies as much as people tend to believe?

Although society often looks down upon spoilers and those who spread them, a study suggests that spoilers might improve, rather than ruin, the audience’s enjoyment of a story.

Jonathan D. Leavitt and Nicholas J.S. Christenfeld at the University of California, San Diego conducted this experiment on 819 students in 2011. They presented each student with both spoiled and unspoiled versions of different short stories. Some of these stories were mysteries that ended with ironic twists while others had straightforward conclusions. Despite these differences, the study demonstrate that the readers consistently enjoyed spoiled stories just as much, if not a little more, than their unspoiled counterparts.

Does this study make it acceptable for people to openly spoil movies? Hardly.

In fact, Benjamin K. Johnson and Judith E. Rosenbaum at University of Amsterdam reported that audience members consistently preferred unspoiled stories when they conducted a similar study three years later.

While these findings might appear contradictory, they both report similar trends. Regardless of whether an audience member preferred their stories to be spoiled or unspoiled, the impact of spoilers on their overall experience remained relatively insignificant.

The distaste that many people express toward those who spread spoilers is justified but usually an overreaction. Carelessly revealing major plot details for much-anticipated movies such as “Avengers: Infinity War” is an obvious blunder.

Despite this, people still need to understand that spoilers are not as bad as they might think. Avoiding the internet, ignoring friends and shutting down conversations are all overreactions to often unimportant movie details.

When people angrily respond to spoilers, both online and in person, they promote the toxic atmosphere of spoiler culture. Too often it seems that fans, driven by their aversion to spoilers, will shut down most conversations about a film or book around its release.

It goes without saying that people should be courteous and avoid ruining the best parts of movies for others. But moviegoers should still understand how little spoilers tend to impact their cinematic experience.

Movies are supposed to be fun. They are designed so that die-hard fans and casuals alike can gather their friends and family to enjoy a story on the big screen.

It is time for people to stop taking spoilers so seriously and watch movies for what they are: well-crafted stories that most people can enjoy, with or without spoilers.


Please consider donating to the Emerald. We are an independent non-profit dedicated to supporting and educating this generation's best journalists. Your donation helps pay equipment costs, travel, payroll, and more! 
Donate