Spoiler Unfriendly

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The debate, or rather polarizing backlash, over spoilers is one of the most divisive issues in fandom. I understand the basic desire to not have the mystery or magic of entertainment removed before the experience is over, but the extreme to which some people take the notion of having something prematurely exposed is baffling.

I personally love spoilers. I find the wondering a distraction from the experience of the story, but maybe that is a convenient excuse and I’ve simply inherited my father’s impatience and my mother’s obsessive-compulsiveness. In either case, I am often found to be flipping through the pages of a book to find out how it ends or what is and where will come the big reveal, so I can go back and enjoy the full read without the constant anxiety over what could possibly be ahead. I scour internet reviews, Wikipedia articles and summary websites looking for everything I can find out about a new movie or TV show, so I can decide, after knowing the plot and what people thought of it, whether or not I want to devote my limited financial resources and free time to consuming it.

But other people don’t feel the same way I do, and nor do I believe they should. There is nothing wrong with appreciating magic for its wonder, or not wanting that magic ruined by having the underlying trick exposed. Escape from the harshness in reality is a common desire for people, and media culture has created a safe place to explore such flights of fancy. Spoilers are an extension of this sense of wonder. People want to have the experience in the order it is presented to them, learning and devising each new piece of information as it becomes available in the work itself.

However, the problem lies with the expectation that everyone is somehow required to be complicit in the desire to remain within illusion to the very end. “Spoiler Free” reviews now require that anything more than a restatement of the premise or blurb from the publisher’s PR or Marketing departments with a letter grade tacked onto the end be deemed fatal to the fan experience. There seem to be three kinds of readers of reviews on the internet these days: the ones who haven’t consumed a property and want to know what others thought of it before they consume it themselves, the ones who have consumed a property and want to know what others thought of it after they have consumed it, and the ones who don’t want anyone to know anything about what happens until everyone has consumed it. Setting aside debate about an inclination in the second group to troll reviews for having differing opinions from their own, what the last group is even doing reading reviews in the first place is what I find confusing. It is frankly insulting for reviewers to be asked to wait for everyone to know about something before talking about it in detail when an obvious alternative is available.

If you are going to be that sensitive to information about something that piques your interest, it’s probably better that you simply not read reviews on sites you know will probably reveal more of the plot than you are comfortable knowing. Just go to Rotten Tomatoes or Amazon and look at the average viewer/customer rating and decide from there. If you want to be a part of the conversation, as many do, of the newest big thing, either consume it first, or be prepared to be spoiled to at least some degree. It is the price to be paid for participation in the conversation.

But not all the backlash about spoilers comes from the newest properties. The line between something that is too new versus something that everyone has had ample time to consume before it is acceptable to talk about it, all plot reveals included, is a subject of great debate. Is it in years, decades, or is it as some on the extreme side believe, never? It is this “never” category, a vocal minority one can only hope, that seems to be causing much of the current issues we have with conversations about spoilers. I won’t supplant my own opinion of where this line should fall, but in an internet age where the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones is Tweeted about even before the episode’s initial airing, if you don’t want to be spoiled, you should probably stay off the internet until you watch it yourself. It is wholly selfish to sit back and expect everyone else to curb their enthusiasm to suit a desire to be surprised at a self-chosen time.

When I write my reviews, I give little regard to spoilers. In fact, I find a sub-genre like BL, which I review almost exclusively, to be the kind of trope-filled content that requires knowing exactly how much of the same you are in for when you pick up a book or put in a DVD (or click on an online reader, player or download). How well something is executed and not what combination of well-worn premise, characterization and plotting is the important thing to take away from a review of BL, or at least that is how I feel about it. If you don’t like that, please feel free to not read my reviews. The great thing about the internet is that there are plenty of other places you can go for information about things you might want to consume, some more spoiler-friendly than others.

To bookend this entry, I leave you with this.


Videos embedded from YouTube, not uploaded by me.

The Semantics of Style

There’s something that has been bothering me for a few years now. It’s utterly semantic, and therefore only a somewhat relevant topic, but I feel like discussing it, so here we go.

People have a tendency to mistakenly label anime and manga. I’m not talking about people who regard them as “genres” or occasionally lump them together as if they are the exact same thing. I’m actually talking about the people who call them “mediums.” I know it is an effort to correct the misidentification of anime and manga as genres, but it is still inaccurate. They are not “mediums.” Animation is a “medium.” Comics are a “medium.” anime and manga are “styles” of animation and comics respectively. They are not a separate thing. Here’s how I see it; there are four basic categories of media: format, medium, style, genre.

Format

The format is the method of consumption. This can be film (movie), TV, DVD/BluRay, streaming, newsprint, magazine/anthology, graphic novel/tankoban, live (stage), etc. The format has little to do with the content, it is simply the means the content is conveyed.

Medium

The medium is a division of media types. For TV, film, etc. it would be the difference between a documentary program and a work of fiction. But this is also a division between live-action and other forms of media, like animation. The medium still doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with content, but it is an aesthetic identifier. A medium can exist in any number of formats.

Style

A style, then, is a form that a medium takes. For animation it would be the type of animation, and there are many: 2D, CG, stop-motion/claymation, rotoscope, etc. Anime would fall in this category. It is a type of animation marked by its industry-wide use of particular character designs, tropes, etc. I would also put something like “Pixar” or “Disney” in the realm of style. While one might argue that certain types of animation are mediums unto themselves, CG for example, if you say “Pixar” you are conjuring up a specific type of CG animation. If you say “Disney” it likewise conjures up a very specific style of animation. If CG is defined as a medium, CG anime, for example, would still be a style.

Genre

Genres transcend all forms of media. They exist in all types of fiction in particular. These are the easily recognizable: comedy, drama, sci-fi, fantasy, horror etc. Sub-genres also exist, like “dark comedy.” There are genres that exist only within specific styles, like in anime and manga, “mecha,” “shonen” and “shojo” are virtually unique to those styles. Likewise, sub-genres within a style’s genres are often unique as well: “BL” and “magical girl” are often sub-genres of shojo (though occasionally you see “magical girl” used within other genres, like in Madoka Magica).

The most notable result that can be derived from defining anime and manga as styles and not mediums is the way that products from outside of Japan can now be identified by them. There has been great resistance in the past to defining products from outside of Japan as anime style, simply because they came from somewhere else, but the influence of anime style on animation, particularly in recent years, cannot be denied.

If anime is a style of animation it shouldn’t matter from where it originates, only that it utilizes those specific criteria that define something within the style. If anime is seen as a medium unto itself, and something separate from other kinds of animation, the resistance to defining content that uses the style outside of Japan is far greater. In terms of the ubiquitousness that anime and manga style have found themselves in the last ten years, it really is time to change the way we define them. They no longer belong only to Japan or to anime and manga fans around the world.