So no. It’s not identical.
The thing your argument misses is that in viewing the work, the audience is changed.
Your experience of a work is a conversation between you and the artist. The audience brings to the viewing life experiences which inform their individual reaction, and the artist presents a work that speaks to a certain aspect of life experience.
High quality art creates a new life experience, and thus it is literally impossible to perfectly replicate any viewing experience.
Unless, of course, you do not engage artistic work on a deep intellectual and/or emotional level - that would be a barrier to being changed by a work.
A great piece of artwork can make its impact with great power on a wide variety of audiences in a wide variety of situations. If your art is so nice that it only works on a narrow audience, that is not a positive aspect.
To stick with the Evangelion example, I’ve watched it at different times in my life many years apart. I’ve watched it on big screens, TVs, and even an iPhone 3G. I’ve watched it in groups, and I’ve watched it alone. I’ve watched it on crappy VHS, DVD, and in HD. I’ve watched it knowing nothing, and I’ve watched it knowing way way too much. I’ve watched Platinum remastered edition with additional scenes, and I’ve watched original TV edit. I’ve watched it with different subtitle tracks.
It still holds up. The work is so durable that the only thing that ruined it was the dub, which I couldn’t handle for more than one episode. That is the mark of quality. It can’t be spoiled.
Slaps the top of the Evangelion. I can fit so many repeat viewings in this bad boy.
And those were all different experiences.
Think Utena. Half our discussion was trying to predict where it was going. None of those words would have been spoken had we already known.
No one is arguing the idea spoilers ruin a work except you (and the not very accurate word used to describe them). We are saying that knowing certain things changes how you experience a work and that by “spoiling” someone you are denying them that initial experience without that knowledge.
This. Spoilers aren’t about the work, they’re about the audience and their relationship to the work.
Being different doesn’t matter. It’s impossible for an experience to not be different because every human is different and experiences everything differently.
Let’s say we are waiting for a movie to start. I make a silly joke about one of the trailers. This changes your mood a bit. I didn’t tell you anything about the movie we’re about to see, but my action is still going to change your experience. I have changed the audience, and I have changed your relationship with the work. How is this not a spoiler by the definition you are using?
Spoilers are only worth avoiding or eliminating if they cause harm. If you’re truly creating a negative or harmful experience, or depriving someone of a positive one, then something has truly been spoiled. If nothing is literally spoiled, just changed to be different, then no harm has been done. There is no reason to avoid it if it is not harmful.
If there is reason to avoid something that could change you and your relationship with art, then you have to avoid life as a whole. Go get a sensory deprivation chamber and live in it. Only let movies and books inside.
And what I said before still stands. If something can actually be spoiled, then it is a fragile and low quality work, so there’s no need to worry about spoiling it. It wasn’t even worth your time to begin with.
I can even take this one step further. Only crappy works are spoil-able. Spoiling a crappy work may deprive someone of the one shot of pleasure it is capable of providing, which is bad. Yet, spoiling it for someone may result in them not wasting their time with such trash, and they will spend it on something worthwhile instead. The person who was “spoiled” may actually benefit even when they believe they have been wronged.
So you agree that it is different.
Well, I guess due to randomness of the universe it’s possible for precisely the same exact thing to happen twice, but it’s unlikely. You can eat the same food and take two shits at the same time in the same toilet two days in a row, and they won’t be the same.
But you agree that a person’s experience with media is different, to a real degree, depending on their pre-existing familiarity with said media?
So how is this different from the following situation?
I give my nephew a birthday present, and before he unwraps it, I tell him, “Happy birthday, it’s a Nintendo Switch.”
He will have many enjoyable experiences with the Switch going forward, but I’ve denied him that anticipation and rush of initial discovery that can’t be replicated and can be experienced only once.
I’d like to believe that many writers in all kinds of media would also like to induce that same emotion in their first-time consumers as well.
I agree it is different depending on everything that has ever happened. Pre-existing familiarity with the media is no different in influencing this difference than the weather at the time the media is consumed.
This is a bad example for me because I always found unwrapping to be a chore. My favourite christmas featured a gamecube and a few games for it all layed out unwrapped in the open, looked like candy. 10/10 would not wrap again.
If you are really less happy to get a Nintendo Switch for free because of the manner in which you learned about it, what does that say about you and your brain?
Do you agree that there are certain aspects of that experience that can be meaningfully identified as being destroyed by ‘spoilers’?
Do you agree that at least some people might derive positive value from those aspects of an experience?
With Utena, it’s drastically different. Countless hours of debate and conversation would never have occurred had we known in advance what was going to happen. The experience of the show would have been very different.
I think another important distinction of spoilers is that it is reasonably irreversible. Once you knew there was no way these conversations could have happened.
Versus say the weather where the experience is different but one doesn’t prevent the other
Personally, I don’t care if I get spoiled. Perhaps the experience is different but I’ve never had an experience where my enjoyment was diminished by being “spoiled.” I don’t go out of my way to find spoilers but neither do I go out of my way to avoid them. Usually though if I happen to overhear or read a spoiler it either piques my interest more or makes me think “that’s dumb I don’t think I want to consume that media.” So in effect spoilers, when I happen to encounter them, usually just inform my media choices.
It is not about being less happy. It is about depriving that kid of the experience of discovering for himself or herself what the present it. In the example, the nephew is going to love the Switch regardless, but by “spoiling” the present, you are depriving him of the excitement and joy of the unknown.
As I said, if it can be destroyed, then it is low art, and not worth experiencing in the first place. Good art, that is worth experiencing, is unspoiled. So yes, I agree that things can be destroyed, but fuck those things. They aren’t worth protecting.
They believe they do because they drastically overvalue the element of surprise. Surprrise is nearly worthless, yet people go to insane lengths to protect it.
We’ve seen it all and know everything, yet the countless hours of debate continue.