Friday, January 04, 2013

To Spoil or Not to Spoil: A Discussion

An interesting thread on critics and spoilers on All That Chat got me thinking. As a theatre blogger, I've already thought about the role of a critic quite a lot, as discussed here. One conclusion I've come to is that I'm a reviewer, rather than a critic.  (An interesting discussion of the difference can be found here. Based on this differentiation, I think Michael Feingold is the only true full-out theatre critic we have right now, and it remains a sin that he doesn't have an unlimited word count for his writing.)
The Critic from The Critic

As for the spoilers discussion: I completely do not understand why people can't just label spoilers as such. It's such an easy thing to do.

But, of course, reader self-protection is also important. For example, if you don't want to know the ending in advance, don't read John Lahr's reviews (though, of course, he's no longer writing them, which is not a huge loss). And if you really don't want anything spoiled, don't read any reviews or articles before seeing a show. Save them for afterward.

A personal bugaboo is when the one-line descriptor of a show or movie is in itself a spoiler. For example, a friend of mine was reading a book, and I said, oh, that's her AIDS book, right? And my friend actually started yelling at me, because the main character's illness had not yet been diagnosed, and I had taken away the surprise. But I had no idea it was a spoiler--I hadn't read the book, and it was referred to all over the place as a book on AIDS.

I personally don't like even hearing, "Oh, you'll love the twist." It changes how I view things. I recently read a book about which I knew nothing, and every twist and turn was a complete delight. If I had read even the first line of most reviews, I would have been denied much of that delight.

Ultimately, it's hard to write about anything without, well, writing about what you're writing about. Sometimes too much will be said. But, where possible, segregating spoilers into one part of the review and labeling them as spoilers is a form of customer advocacy I can live with.

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