29 April 2005

Spoiled Again!

After I wrote about The Assassination of Richard Nixon recently, BionOc took me to task for revealing major plot points of the movie without providing a spoiler warning. Our discussion is there in the comments on the post, but I wanted to elevate it to its own post, because I think the various viewpoints are important ones to some of what I've been trying to accomplish with The Mumpsimus.

There are lot of reasons to be in favor of spoiler warnings. Particularly for reviewers of mystery novels. There are very few reasons that any rational human being would be against some form of spoiler warning. In fact, I've even used them occasionally myself, as BionOc pointed out.

But in general I dislike spoiler warnings. I have a few reasons for this odd belief, but the important one is that spoiler warnings raise plot above other elements of a narrative. I like plot, and tend even to prefer stories that contain some sort of plot to stories that don't, but it's rarely what I read a book for or watch a movie for, it's seldom what determines whether I am impressed by a work or not, and it's not usually what I remember about a particular story. Therefore, to me, any commentary on a particular work contains spoilers -- spoilers about characters, language, viewpoint, imagery, etc.

None of that, however, would be reason enough to avoid spoiler warnings here at The Mumpsimus, because I realize most people value plot more than I do, and are disappointed when reviewers reveal major plot points. As I've thought about it, I've realized that my quest is even more ridiculous than I already knew it was, because I was hoping that my intentions would be clear from my actions, from the general avoidance of spoiler warnings, but that's silly. Realizing this, I've decided that I will soon put up a link at the top of the site to this post as a "statement on spoiler warnings".

One thing I particularly liked in BionOc's comments was: "I think it's fairly safe to assume that most reviewers in the mainstream press don't share your principled reluctance to privilege plot, especially given that plot is generally all they can fucking talk about." The latter part of that sentence is a particularly important one. The tendency to devote 90% (or more) of a review to describing the plot of the work in question is idiotic. It does a disservice to most writers, particularly the good ones.

So the lack of spoiler warnings here (with occasional exceptions) is a deliberate act, not an oversight, but not intended to cause major angst, either. I am simply trying to show that there is life beyond worrying about the plot all the time, and that plot is neither greater nor less than other important elements of any narrative which get mentioned all the time without warning.