Spoiler Alerts Unnecessary for Documentaries

Spoiler Alerts Unnecessary for Documentaries and Docudramas

Spoiler Alerts are unnecessary for documentaries and docudramas, because both are based on past factual events that are already well-known in detail to the general public in most cases.

For example, Wikipedia is intended to be an exhaustive knowledge source, and for that purpose it has many articles containing “spoilers”.

So too the descriptions of these factual films on this website ‘must-see-movies dot net’ are unlike ones about films of fiction for which spoiler alerts often preferable to avoid revealing any plot elements which threaten to give away important details concerning the turn of events of a dramatic episode.

Spoiler Alerts Often Preferable for Fiction

(Note:  Since this website ‘must-see-movies dot net’ contains reviews of documentaries and docudramas almost exclusively, the following information about spoilers pertaining to works of fiction is included for general information only, adapted from Wikipedia)

A spoiler is an element of a summary or description of any piece of fiction that reveals any plot elements which threaten to give away important details concerning the turn of events of a dramatic episode.  Typically, the details of the conclusion of the plot, including the climax and ending, are especially regarded as spoiler material. It can also be used to refer to any piece of information regarding any part of a given media that a potential consumer would not want to know beforehand.

One of the reasons people enjoy reading fiction so much is because they do not know what will happen next, so the book becomes a page-turner causing them to keep reading.  Because enjoyment of fiction depends a great deal upon the suspense of revealing plot details through standard narrative progression, the prior revelation of how things will turn out can “spoil” the enjoyment that some consumers of the narrative would otherwise have experienced.

A plot twist is a radical change in the expected direction or outcome of the plot of a novel, film, television series, comic, video game, or other work of narrative. (Sometimes people even use “plot twist” to describe a sudden change of a situation in real life.)  It is a common practice in narration used to keep the interest of an audience, usually surprising them with a revelation. Some “twists” are foreshadowed.

A surprise ending is a plot twist occurring near or at the conclusion of a story.  An unexpected conclusion to a work of fiction may cause the audience to reevaluate the narrative or characters, especially if it changes one’s view of the preceding events.

It is often assumed that revealing the existence of a plot twist spoils a film or book, since the majority of the film/book generally builds up to the plot twist.  However, at least one study suggests otherwise (See last section of this article.).

For Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” in 1960, Hitchcock famously appealed to audiences not to give away the twist ending of Psycho.  Other twist endings are in classics like “Planet of the Apes”, “Memento”, “The Sixth Sense”, and “The Usual Suspects.”

Spoilers can be found in articles, reviews, commercials, and movie trailers.

Spoiler Alerts Introduced

If the posting of “spoiling” information is unavoidable, it can be preceded by a warning, such as “SPOILER ALERT”.  Or the spoiler itself has to be masked so that it can not be visible to any but those keen for details and not fazed at the thought of such potentially plot-revealing information.

Sometimes, these spoiler warnings are omitted, accidentally or deliberately, and so some unwitting readers have had literature, films, television programs and other works “spoiled” that they were looking forward to experiencing.

As the Chicago Sun-Times film critic, Roger Ebert wrote an article entitled “Critics Have No Right To Play Spoiler”.  Ebert wrote:

“The characters in movies do not always do what we would do.  Sometimes they make choices that offend us.  That is their right.  It is our right to disagree with them.  It is not our right, however, to destroy for others the experience of being as surprised by those choices as we were.

A few years ago, I began to notice ‘spoiler warnings’ on Web-based movie reviews — a shorthand way of informing the reader that a key plot point was about to be revealed.  Having heard from more than a few readers accusing me of telling too much of the story, I began using such warnings in my reviews.”

Ebert used two spoiler warnings in the article, saying “If you have not yet seen Million Dollar Baby and know nothing about the plot, read no further” and later said, “Now yet another spoiler warning, because I am going to become more explicit.”

Spoilers Often Do Not Diminish Enjoyment of Favorite Fiction

However, author Stephen King said, “You might as well say ‘I’m never gonna watch Wizard of Oz again because I know how it comes out’.”

Small children clamor to hear or watch their favorite stories again and again, sometimes to their parents’ dismay.  The fact that kids already know all the details of their favorite stories and how they end does not spoil their enjoyment in hearing or seeing them again.

Experiment Testing if Spoilers Diminish Enjoyment of Fiction

In 2011, Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt of UC San Diego did a psychological experiment testing whether spoilers actually diminish enjoyment of fiction.

They gave subjects short stories with surprise endings to read, giving some of the subjects information in advance about the surprise twist ending.

For nearly every story, subjects who had the story “spoiled” actually enjoyed the story more than the subjects who didn’t know the ending in advance.


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