Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Enjoying The Journey Vs. Online Spoilers
By Cory Treffiletti In a recent issue of Wired, film and TV producer J.J. Abrams wrote an editorial on how the proliferation of online spoilers has affected our ability to enjoy media. It got me thinking of an old concept, one that is ever more applicable now that we all engage in such hectic, cluttered lives: that one must learn to enjoy the journey, not just the arrival at a destination.
Case #1: Recently Fox was pummeled online by a "stolen, incomplete and early" leaked version of the upcoming "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" film. Those of us who are fans of the character already know the full origin story, so does the release of an early version of the film mean we won't still see the film in theatres or buy it on Blu-ray? I doubt it; the fans will still stand in line and support their favorite Marvel character, especially given that the film was downloaded a paltry 100,000 times or so while it was still online. And for the record, casual fans weren't hurt by this trend, because they don't spend much time on the Pirate Bay and related locations.
Case #2: the upcoming Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco, which is scheduled for Aug. 28-30 and features none other than my boys, Pearl Jam, headlining with the likes of The Dave Matthews Band and The Beastie Boys. The festival line-up was announced on April 13, but rumors had abounded online for a few weeks, and rabid fans had their ideas about who would be headlining, along with what the band would be playing, since the song list for their new album is already appearing online, even though it's not yet complete. Does that mean we won't still be standing at the ready when the band jumps on stage and debuts their new material? I highly doubt it -- I think it will actually add to the excitement. It sounds like good marketing to me!
Case #3: In just a few clicks, any fan of "Lost" can find 100 Web sites providing detailed, extremely well-informed theories for what the outcome of the show will be. These efforts are littered with true spoilers, but does that stop viewers from watching and enjoying the path that winds through the rest of the season? Absolutely not. Show fans enjoy the gradual understanding of how these intricate stories weave together, regardless of what the end will be. The art is in the storytelling ability, not just in the story itself.
In an information-hungry world where a high school student need not memorize any information, but is instead taught how to find the answer in less than two clicks of a mouse, I find myself starting to enjoy the journey rather than just awaiting the outcome. It is almost impossible to keep a secret these days, so one has to learn to enjoy the path to the answer, not just the information itself.
If anything, I think that simple concept is actually comforting -- and rather Zen in its simplicity.
I understand that for some people, spoilers are a bummer, but I think it's a matter of perspective. When the final Harry Potter book was released, the press did a pretty good job of not revealing the outcome, but even if you did find out the end in advance, did that stop you from reading the book? Probably not. It was so well-written that you still picked the book up and enjoyed the 700+ pages of intricate storytelling. It's easier to understand when referring to a book, which seems to carry with it a more "intellectual" capital than the art of movie-making or comic books.
Still, In my world, all media is to be enjoyed equally and whether it's a film, a TV show, a book, an album or any other format of media, you need to enjoy the process, not just the outcome. To that end, we are starting to see more examples of musicians inviting their fans into the process of creating their art.
I understand the extent to which many people will go to stay out of the way of spoilers, but don't let their inevitable discovery ruin your media experience. Look at the bigger picture and not just the final moments, and try to enjoy the full journey. If you can apply that simple concept to your media experience, then maybe you can apply it to the rest of your day as well!
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Cory is president and managing partner for Catalyst SF.
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