Every day, while browsing social media, I see people talking about their new favorite game and saying “no spoilers, please!” at the end of the post. Whenever I watch a YouTube video about a new anime or game I’m falling in love with, there is always a spoiler warning before discussing details about the ending. These warnings are necessary components of media discussion in the modern world, but thinking about them led me to something else: Can spoilers ever be a good thing?
I want to be clear here: The point of my writing today is not an excuse for anyone to go out and actively try to spoil people just for fun. This is, instead, about showing the circumstances in which purposefully getting spoiled for something can actually be useful and increase enjoyment of a given piece of media, not hinder it. Many people will never want to be spoiled, no matter the circumstances, and those people should be respected. How media is consumed should be a personal choice for everyone, so don’t take that choice away.
The first, and arguably most important, concept to bring up is potential triggers as spoilers. If the piece of media contains something that may be detrimental to the viewer’s mental health, then the viewer may choose to look up reviews that contain any potential trigger warnings in advance, even if these warnings may be considered spoilers by others. Trigger warnings are useful because they allow a viewer to be better-informed and choose to either not consume a piece of media or go in prepared for what will occur. Honestly, whether trigger warnings even truly count as spoilers is a very tricky topic to navigate. I don’t want to focus this post on triggers in order to avoid further confusion regarding the discussion over the difference between triggers and spoilers, but I also didn’t want to completely ignore that the topic at hand does coincide with trigger warnings.
What about the other reasons, however? Why would someone want to actively spoil themselves for events in a piece of media? Well, I have a few examples because it turns out that I am this kind of person. I don’t spoil myself in advance all the time, or even most of the time, but I do have a few moments in anime and gaming where I chose to look up a particular story outcome or even a full ending for a variety of reasons.
One of my favorite examples of spoilers increasing my enjoyment of a show involves avoiding a story element I dislike. No matter how much I may like romance as a genre, I hate love triangles. I don’t like watching these two or more rival relationships form at the same time and would much rather watch a single relationship that I know is endgame develop from the beginning. Also, I watched the 2019 Fruits Basket a few years ago. This point is probably starting to come together now. While the characters are great and it’s an enjoyable watch, a love triangle is central to the plot of the first two seasons and, realizing that, I considered fully dropping the show.
Ultimately, though, I was falling in love with Fruits Basket. It was so charming and sweet that I knew I wanted to watch it, but I wanted to do something that would make the love triangle more bearable. Therefore, I made the choice to read up on who the protagonist, Tohru Honda, ends up with at the end of the series so I could watch the show with that knowledge already in mind. This was a good decision, as I enjoyed it a lot more with that one frustrating plot point resolved in my head. I could ignore anyone that came in as a potential romantic rival and focus solely on the actively forming relationship, instead.
Another example is that sometimes things make more sense on a second viewing or playthrough. It’s always fun to go through something that had a twist ending and catch hints and clues towards said twist scattered throughout the rest of the story in a second experience. Sometimes, however, it’s easier to learn the ending in advance and know what is coming from the beginning. This was my experience watching School Days.
School Days is a notoriously bad anime about a high school love triangle (that trope constantly comes back to haunt me), but it’s most notable for having an incredible twist ending. I don’t want to spoil the ending here, but I knew about this twist going in because my brother had watched this show before me and was telling me how awful it was. Ultimately, the twist was not enough to save the show in the end for him and it remains one of his most disliked anime of all time.
When I watched School Days for myself, however, I had a different experience. It’s not the best anime made by any means, but knowing the specific twist ending that occurs allowed me to see all of the characters in a different light and actually did make the watching experience of the earlier episodes much more fun to sit through. Picking up on those little hints here and there that all was not quite as it seems made the ending all the more enjoyable. It’s still a pretty average anime, but I mildly enjoyed it, when I likely would have hated it just as much as my brother if I had gone in without knowing anything.
Ultimately, actively wanting to be spoiled for something is the exception and not the rule. One of my favorite anime of all time is The Promised Neverland, and I would have been devastated if anyone had spoiled it for me ahead of learning the ending for myself. My beloved Danganronpa games can really only be experienced if the player goes in blind because once those cases are solved and the murderers are revealed, there isn’t much else to the game. Spoiling anything for anyone on purpose is an awful thing to do. That said, I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing some voluntary spoiling once in a while for the reasons I listed above, or any other reason that will result in the viewer having a better experience.
What are your thoughts on spoilers? Have you ever voluntarily spoiled something for yourself? Let me know in the comments below (but no major spoilers for big plot reveals without warning, please)!