This is a movie news website that has a specific focus on superhero movies (at least, that’s how I conceptualize it). So it is a tad bit paradoxical when I say that I am avoiding, like the plague, any and all news and spoilers on the upcoming Marvel comic book movie Doctor Strange. I made this decision about a month or so ago, and in the last few weeks it has become increasingly difficult as news begins to trickle out. The difficulty hasn’t been so much due to lack of willpower to avoid spoilers, but rather because I find myself unwittingly surprised by the wayward article title or Facebook “trending news.” My overall respect for those who conscientiously avoided Episode 7 spoilers until the very end has greatly increased due to this experience.
As time goes on, I doubt the process of avoiding spoilers will prove any easier. I support the idea of individuals being free to pursue spoilers/information about movies of which they are interested, and for news sites to provide that information. That said, I do think a social norm should exist whereby movie news/scoop websites and individuals don’t maliciously spoil plot points without warning, so that innocent bystanders aren’t caught in a trap, and this should absolutely include article titles. In short, don’t spoil stuff readers! And I will always make a conscious effort to provide ample warning if an article of mine spoils anything. I think, by and large, a great deal, maybe most, individuals and websites follow this unwritten rule.
My decision to avoid Doctor Strange news is rooted in curiosity —I simply wonder how it will change my movie-going experience to know as little as possible going in to see the Sorcerer Supreme for the first time. This means I’m not only avoiding outright spoilers, but teasers, trailers, TV commercials, and photos as well. I want to keep my knowledge as close to zero as possible. I anticipate that this will undoubtedly heighten the surprise I experience during the film, something that has increasingly become a casualty of the ever-churning movie news market, for better and worse. I openly wonder whether having extensive knowledge, going into a movie, dramatically alters how much of it one is able to enjoy. Doctor Strange will be a test case of sorts for me.
The question, ultimately, is whether increased surprise leads to increased enjoyment? Or, to get even more technical, whether the increased enjoyment from surprise outweighs the enjoyment gained from reading spoiler-ish news concerning that movie. While there is a downside to the constant churning of movie news, let’s not forget some of the benefits. There is fun to be had from speculating and creatively imagining what’s to come as information incrementally rolls in. And this can generate the sense of a movie-going community, if one engages with others in such creative speculation and critique (as many who comment on these articles do).
And it might simply not be the case that increased surprise leads to increased enjoyment either, as popular wisdom seems to advocate. As I wrote in my Star Wars: The Force Awakens review, I actually enjoyed the second showing more, knowing what to expect going in. The same was also true for the second time I saw The Avengers. Some movies, maybe movies with high expectations, might be better enjoyed with a greater amount of pre-acquired knowledge. I do not think Doctor Strange is likely to be one of these movies, which is part of the reason why I chose it. But again, I’ll find out in little less than a year.
In closing, I am curious if any reader out there has ever tried something like this before? What tactics did you use to avoid news, and how did it turn out? I anticipate I might eventually run into an all-or-nothing dilemma—either avoid all comic book movie news entirely, or welcome it all. Hard to isolate just one movie while keeping the others. But is this possible in the modern day? Hit me up (and any interested readers) in the comments. Advice and insight is most welcome.