As you may have read, earlier this week I had the privilege of being a guest on the second episode of the /Filmcast, the official podcast of SlashFilm.com. It’s quickly making a name for itself as one of the most thorough and lively entertainment podcasts around, largely due to the dedicated of Dave, Devindra, Adam and Peter to making it an interactive and enjoyable experience – it was an honour to only briefly be a part of it.
The episode is now available for download @ Slashfilm.com (Or should be soon, I’ll update the link later), or you can subscribe via iTunes (Link will take you into iTunes to do so, FYI), and I had the pleasure of discussing the Lost finale with the fine gentlemen in the show’s first quarter (Starting at about 14m, but listen to the whole thing folks). And, well, it got me thinking (What doesn’t?).
In a third season episode of How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson (played by Neil Patrick Harris) finds out ahead of time that his friend Marshall plans to slap him (as part of a “Slap Bet”) during Thanksgiving dinner. At first, he chides Marshall for this childish error: now that the element of surprise is gone, all of the suspense is taken away, and the slap has lost its impact. But then the anticipation gets to him, tearing apart his emotions and leaving an empty shell of a man who (eventually) gets the slap and a celebratory song to go with it.
Now, I doubt that the writers of this particular episode were necessarily thinking in these terms, but I find great meaning in this storyline in lieu of a re-engaged question of “spoilers,” a four-letter word in a lot of internet circles. I am part of these circles, an adamant believer that spoilers need to be marked extremely carefully if not excised entirely. For example, I’m okay with a spoiler being found in a review of an upcoming episode, but not on the front page of a popular entertainment site (Not that Zap2it has ruined countless episodes of Survivor for me, or anything).
I raise this issue for two reasons: first off, Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker recently fired a shot at people like myself. In admittedly his harshest pullquote, he ends with the following:
Knowing the way something turns out shouldn’t ruin anyone’s pleasure. Hey, it’s a 24/7 media world. The best way to kill spoiler culture, if you don’t like it, is to say one thing to both spoilers and spoiler ”victims”: Grow up.
Admittedly, this is bound to upset a lot of people, myself included – yes, it’s a 24/7 Media World, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse unlabeled spoilers within 12 hours of an episode airing. However, Tucker’s point gained more clarity through something he said earlier:
I admit that if someone tells me who won The Amazing Race before I’ve seen it, I may gnash my teeth a little. But chances are, it will make me want to see how those people scored their victories and how the producers edited the game even more.
First off, if anyone ever ruins The Amazing Race for me, I might have to hurt them.
Second, after discussing it with the folks on the /Filmcast on Monday night, one of the things that came very clear was that Lost Season Four had one problem for quite a few people: it had been spoiled. We knew how it ended, knew that our castaways would get off the island and that they would be called the Oceanic Six and that there was a whole lot of fishy things about their departure. It wasn’t just that we presumed what might happen (Like Chekhov’s gun, for example), but that we actually knew the end result: we just had to, as Tucker seems to argue, enjoy the journey and how the producers take us to that conclusion.
So when we all sat down to discuss the Lost finale, and we all kind of agreed that the ending being spoiled had a profound impact on how we viewed the season, I wondered whether here we have a microcosm, a perfect test for Tucker’s thesis and the argument of spoilsports around the globe. And while it is certainly open for interpretation, I tend to believe that it both proves and disproves this concept that knowing only makes the heart grow fonder.