How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Spoilers (Thanks To Wrestling)

Back in 1999, during the height of the WWF vs. WCW Monday Night Wars, Mankind was set to face reigning WWF Champion The Rock in a no disqualification match for an episode of "Monday Night Raw." The same night, rival NWO faction leaders Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash were facing off for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. "Nitro's" show was a live broadcast, but "Raw" had been pre-recorded the week before. "Nitro" announcer Tony Schiavone (under the orders of Eric Bischoff) gave away the result to the pre-taped title match on "Raw," believing that spoiling the results would keep people tuned into WCW.

"If you're even thinking about changing the channel to our competition, fans, do not, because we understand that Mick Foley, who wrestled here one time as Cactus Jack, is going to win their world title," Schiavone announced. What was supposed to be a huge dig at WWE backfired completely, because an estimated 375,000 fans changed the channel to see just how Mankind was going to take down The Rock. It didn't matter that the results were spoiled, because in the world of professional wrestling, the journey far outweighs the outcome. Just eight months later, Bruce Willis starred in "The Sixth Sense" and the reveal that Haley Joel Osment's claim of "I see dead people" included Willis' character became the hottest topic around the water cooler, and kickstarted spoiler culture as we now know and experience it.

What Is Spoiler Culture?

Spoilers have existed for centuries, but the way we respond to them has dramatically changed over the years. Alfred Hitchcock famously bought up as many copies of Robert Bloch's "Psycho" as he could get his hands on to prevent audiences from learning the ending, and George Lucas had the actor performing Darth Vader give a different line when shooting the iconic "No, I am your father" scene in "The Empire Strikes Back." Creators were so afraid that if these huge reveals were spoiled, it would dramatically hurt the success and integrity of their work. Buuuuuut, Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" literally opens with a monologue that roughly says "these idiot teenage lovebirds die at the end," and we've been successfully telling and re-telling the story of star-crossed lovers for over 400 years without anyone throwing a tantrum about it.

Now, thanks to social media, Spoiler Culture has been running wilder than Hulkamania with every little detail from vague headlines to mentioning something shown in a film's trailer running the risk of being classified as a spoiler. Sure, there are absolute jack-holes with malicious intent, like the dude who did the drive-by spoiler assault of "SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE!" as I waited in line for the midnight book release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," but there's a peculiar pandemic afoot where fandoms are now so precious about spoilers, they respond with obscene levels of hostility at the mere possibility of being spoiled.

Spoiler Culture Relegates Film To Parts, Rather Than Wholes

I genuinely believe my life-long wrestling fandom has wired my brain in a way that makes me not give a single f*** about spoilers. The results of wrestling matches are pre-determined, and keen observers can pretty much predict who is going to win the fight long before they step foot in the squared circle. The rapper Bad Bunny was a special guest for a tag-team match during "Wrestlemania 37," and since celebrity guests notoriously win their matches, we knew he was walking away victorious. What we didn't know was that Bad Bunny was going to hit John Morrison with a Canadian Destroyer. The excitement of that match lied not in the outcome, but in the storytelling that got them from bell ring to bell ring.

As someone who works in film, it's impossible for me to see all of the new movies immediately upon release and the conversations surrounding the films are equally as impossible to escape. I've still not seen "Spider-Man: No Way Home" because I'm too immunocompromised to risk seeing it in the theaters, and because of this, every big reveal has already been spoiled for me. Knowing what's to come has only piqued my interest more, because I desperately want to see how it all plays out. My enjoyment of a film does not lie in those moments, it's how they've all been interwoven into a cohesive story. If a film's enjoyment can be ruined by knowing what's to come in a singular moment or reveal, is the film actually any good?

Spoilers Don't Actually Spoil Experiences

After the Russo Bros. started the #DontSpoilTheEndgame hashtag before "Avengers: Endgame," a man in Hong-Kong was beaten outside of a theater for spoiling the film, and left on the sidewalk with blood gushing from his head. Look, I understand not wanting to have a movie spoiled, but if your reaction to hearing a spoiler is to physically harm someone, you might need to unpack why that is. Actor Tom Holland is notorious for accidentally spoiling Marvel films during interviews, but, even after all of his spoiling, and the "Endgame" spoilers that were leaked online, films like "Spider-Man: Homecoming," "Avengers: Infinity War," and "Avengers: Endgame" were still financial successes and fan favorites.

Spoilers lack a crucial element in storytelling, and that's context. Sure, it sucked hearing "Bruce Willis was dead the whole time," when "The Sixth Sense" was spoiled for me as a youngster, but that spoiler doesn't include the emotional realization Willis' character has when he figures out the truth for himself. Finding out "Snape kills Dumbledore" was a disappointment, but it didn't include the context of Snape doing it at Dumbledore's request, which changed everything. Knowing these spoilers didn't ruin the stories, because the context surrounding these moments is what makes them effective. Without actually seeing the spoiler in action or having context, we can't know the execution of the scene, the tone, or see the reactions characters have to the moment ...all necessary cues to a moment's impact

I'm Not Pro-Spoilers, I'm Pro-Calming the F*** Down

I've existed as a woman on the internet long enough to know that there are going to be people out there who are going to read this headline and immediately start frothing at the mouth to harass me online for even writing it, but what I want people to understand is that I'm not advocating for movies to be spoiled, I'm advocating for people to learn how to rethink the value they place upon spoilers and learn to not let them ruin their enjoyment of the final product. 

Every time a new trailer drops, there's always a flurry of "This is gonna be terrible" reactions online, as well as the evergreen response of "They spoiled the whole movie." This negative response plants a seed of doubt, and audiences carry that negative attitude into their actual viewing experience thereby almost guaranteeing they're going to have a bad time. Responding with such vitriol to the possibility of a spoiler sets us up for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We all react to spoilers differently but because some people react with rage, it can poison the enjoyment for those around them. I've waited months to see films because toxic fandoms turned me bitter towards a film with their fans' pre-release actions, knowing I wouldn't be able to give the film a fair shake until my personal feelings subsided. That also meant that I was susceptible to spoilers due to the time passing, but that's my own landscape to navigate, no one else's.

The Emphasis on Spoiler Culture is Diluting the Conversations About Film

With so much emphasis on spoilers and spoiler culture, it's become almost impossible to discuss, analyze, and even praise films. When even the most vague of statements are immediately lambasted as being "a spoiler," it has greatly dampened the way we communicate. Everyone loves to complain about misleading and "click-bait" styles of article headlines, but if we so much as divulge the smallest detail as to what the article contains, we run the risk of committing the seemingly unforgivable crime of spoiling. We all do our best to provide spoiler warnings, nest details on social media, and let an appropriate amount of time pass before publicly discussing points not already general knowledge, but just like trigger warnings, it is an absolute impossibility to determine what is or is not a spoiler to an individual. Someone who wants to know nothing has a different definition of "spoiler" than someone who religiously reads trailer breakdowns.

Whereas companies like WWE and AEW will spoil results of matches in real time, knowing people may catch a really cool gif of a move or a shocking result and immediately run to Hulu and Sling the next day to see what the hell happened. I'm not saying movies should be spoiling themselves, but I am saying that the world isn't going to end and a story isn't ruined because you saw a photo of Vincent D'Onofrio in a Hawaiian shirt without any context.

Don't Give Spoilers The Power to Ruin The Gift of Cinema

As the holiday season comes to an end, I can't help but think about what it was like to open presents as a kid. As I got older, it became harder for my parents to hide what they had gotten me for Christmas, and many gifts of mine were spoiled by questions like "What size shoes do you wear?" or "Do you still like The Spice Girls?" Knowing I was getting shoes or a CD for Christmas didn't ruin my enjoyment of receiving them, because at the end of the day, I was still getting what I wanted. Letting spoilers ruin your entire film viewing experience is like saying because you knew you were getting a Playstation 5 for Christmas, you're now incapable of having fun playing it. Sure, it would have been more exciting to have opened the gift on Christmas morning in complete shock, but if having the gift spoiled for you tarnishes it, did you want the gift or did you just want the anticipation of opening it?

I was too poor growing up to have video games, so I never got to open a Nintendo 64 or a copy of WWF No Mercy, but that doesn't mean I didn't have the time of my life playing the game with friends. Movies are a gift, and whether we receive them covered in shredded paper or meticulously wrapped with a bow, the enjoyment should be about what's inside.

Wrestling Has Made Me Zen With Spoilers

Approaching films the same way I (and many other fans) approach wrestling feels like the solution to spoiler culture. We knew for months leading up to "Wrestlemania 35" that Kofi Kingston was going to win the championship and yet we all screamed "HE FINALLY DID IT!" when the moment happened, because professional wrestling, just like cinema, can throw unexpected curveballs no matter how much we think we know how things are going to end. That isn't to say that I'm always happy with the results, as I'm exclusively disappointed whenever one of my faves is booked opposite Randy Orton because I know they're going to lose. That disappointment exists not because I know they're losing, it exists because I dislike Randy Orton.

The predetermination of wrestling forced me to learn how to experience a story as whole, rather than fixate on the final outcome. With how quickly the conversations surrounding film and television move, I've learned to become zen with the existence of spoilers. In a perfect world, I'd be able to go into every moviegoing experience free of spoilers, but we live in an imperfect culture where avoiding spoilers is getting harder every day. I wish things were different, but this is the reality we've created and I refuse to let the possibility of spoilers ruin the biggest solace I have in this world and turn me into a jabroni about it. It's all a matter of perspective.