Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spoilers in Reviews

Well, I'm still avoiding my art homework (due tomorrow...ugh), so I figure, why not blog? I'm not doing anything else anyways, so...Here we go. This is an ever popular debate within the ani-blogging world (and the rest of the world, really), so that must mean that I need to write my own opinions, right? Of course I do. This'll be short (I mean it this time!), because I expect my internet to shut off in about 20 minutes (I hate my network administrator's security settings).

Do you become an avatar of death when you see a spoiler?

[as with my last editorial, I'll stick to the "show" example, so I don't have to say "show/game" every time]

     So, I won't talk about my own personal experiences or about how spoilers ruin shows, or whatever. What I will talk about is the one (or at least, one of very few) instances in which a spoiler is acceptable; in a long review. Now, there are a lot of people who believe that all reviews should be spoiler free, because reviews are usually for those who have yet to watch the show. However, let's think about the literal meaning of the word review - "to view again." When we review things, we sometimes want to talk about specific points and how they relate to the whole. For instance, lets suppose that I used no spoilers in my Hidan no Aria impression. Rather than showing the multiple instances of plot inconsistencies and why they were inconsistencies, I would have to tell you that there were multiple plot inconsistencies. Showing almost always leaves a stronger impression than telling does. Strength of arguments aside, though, there's also the fact that looking at some things in closer detail requires us to reveal certain things about the plot and characters. For instance, suppose I wanted to talk specifically about why Rygart from Break Blade has his cowardice, as opposed to just describing his character in general. I would need to reference several things about his past, focusing on a few specific examples that support my points (e.g. a flashback where we see him being bullied). I would also need to point to a few revealing points about his character's actions and words that he uses in the story itself. Trying to create any kind of argument or strong opinion without these things would be nigh-impossible. Compare:

   I) A statement with no spoilers: "Rygart's cowardice stems from his past. This is shown by the things he says in the story."

   II) A statement with spoilers (not really, because I don't want to spoil the show for you. These don't happen): "Rygart's cowardice stems from the several beatings he had in his past, especially that one time [which I (hypothetically) brought up earlier] he tried to be brave and it totally backfired. This is really shown by the way he says, 'If I'm brave, I'm going to die!"

     Now, again, these don't actually contain spoilers of Break Blade (at least, I think), but they do show what I'm trying to say pretty well. I mean, compare the two statements above. Which is stronger? (Don't answer that, because it's a rhetorical question.) The answer is pretty clearly II. However, statement II obviously requires spoilers. The reviewer has to reveal parts about Rygart's character that a person who hasn't seen or read Break Blade before wouldn't know. Revealing those "spoils" the story, or at least Rygart's character. Does that mean people should never use statement II? Well, I think that no, they certainly should use statement II. To forbid people the use the spoilers is to forbid them the ability to look at things in closer detail and to share a deeper meaning they got out of it. Indeed, what's the point of reviewing - viewing again - if you can't share the new details you got out of that additional viewing? And while there certainly is the point of recommending or warning against certain shows for other people, that's reviewing in the common sense of the word - which is really recommending(/recommending against).

     Of course, I don't think spoilers are good. And there's certainly no excuse for spoiling without any good reason. But if one needs to review something and can't make their points nearly as well without revealing some part of the story, then I say go for it. This is not very surprising, as my reviews, while they rarely go into such detailed explications as the one mentioned in the example was, do often contain (usually minor) spoilers. My way of getting around this is simply to try to denote first off at the beginning if a review is going to have spoilers in it. Additionally, I try to denote specific areas of my reviews with "SPOILERS" warnings. And lastly, I try to not spoil anything particularly major even in those parts (if I can help it). I don't know is my system is good or bad, but I haven't gotten any complaints yet, so...


What do you think? Do you agree that spoilers are acceptable in certain situations (and if so, which situations), or do you think that they should always be kept out of all reviews?

6 comments:

  1. Spoilers is usually something we have 'wars' between my boyfriend and I. I'm the kind of viewer that I'm gonna get myself spoilered. And well, some times I really don't understand what spoiler consists of... it could be anything in my boyfriend's case lol.

    I agree with your view about what is review and why slight spoilers need to be used. I also think that if someone doesn't want to be spoilered at all, then the best (s)he can do is stay away from reviews and blog posts. It'd be enough for him/her to check the summary given from Anime News Network and perhaps making a 'research' about the ratings the show is given.

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    1. That is something I didn't bring up, was what exactly a "spoiler" is. I think it varies from person to person. I mean, technically speaking, the mere existence of a review itself has spoilers. Knowing that the characters are good or the plot has twists do tell something about a show to a reader, something they didn't know before. They probably wouldn't mind such simple "spoilers," but I think everybody has different thresholds for just what constitutes a "spoiler."

      I agree, that is probably the best you can do to avoid spoilers and still get some insights into whether or not you think a show's worth your time.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  2. Hmm, you bring up a good point about the nature of "spolier" material in general. Like I stated in a similar post, when I do a review I avoid spoilers, but at the same time, I want to be as specific as possible. It is a very challenging thing to accomplish since as you stated spolier material is different for everyone, but as long as I layout of the gist of the story and breakdown why I liked "XXX" series; I am prone not to explain everything to someone that might not be sure.

    After all, a review is a personal opinion (also should be sound as well without bias), so I leave it up to the viewer to decide whether or not they watch watch "XXXX" series. I am just another voice among millions stating my opinion. Nothing more, nothing less...

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    1. As you say, it is very challenging. I think you do a pretty good job of getting specific without revealing details, perhaps even the best that can be done. I personally don't think I'll ever be able to avoid the really minor spoilers - after all, my arguments are usually based on examples, which *are* technically spoilers - but I do question whether or not I can avoid more major ones, like plot events. Especially with the story sections, trying to discuss specifically why it's good, or more often why it's bad, almost always requires examples and details (look at my El Cazador De La Bruja review, for example). Perhaps I'll get better as time goes on (I certainly hope I will), but I guess until then I'll just keep on denoting spoilers at the beginning of my reviews and in the specific areas. (shrugs)

      Well, the best of luck to us both! Thanks for commenting!

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  3. I try to keep my reviews as spoiler free as possible for the most part...unless it's a sequel where I try hard not to spoil depending on what it actually is. For the most part I've successfully kept my reviews as discreet of spoilerific content as possible and will continue to do so. My fans aren't complaining about how I write reviews so I'll keep on going till I reach 200 and keep on going.

    Spoilers only work when it happens very early on...or I give hints in which episode a very important event will occur. Stuff like that.

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    1. From what I've seen (which is really just a small fraction of what you've written - great blog, by the way), you do pretty well in this regard. You get pretty detailed and have some good insights without revealing too much (or much, period). And, if you have an established style, I'd stick to it.

      That's true. I never did talk about the severity of a spoiler here. Even if one were to establish spoiler notifications and stuff, having a major spoiler (like a character betrayal near the end of the series) can ruin a review's potential.

      I did notice you doing that a couple times for a review of a show I wasn't following, and I thought it worked pretty well. I have little faith in my own ability to form a strong argument or point without using specific examples, so doubt I could make a "hinting" work...but knowing that there are those out there who can almost makes me want to try.

      Thanks for commenting!

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