I’m a pretty big Star Wars fan. I’m the kind of dude who grew up with a Yoda poster in his room and went to a post-midnight, opening-night showing of Episode I. I’m not entirely sure why I love the movies so much, but I’m sure it’s some combination of emblematic, Campbellian archetypes and childhood memories of watching them with my father. I don’t claim to be a superfan: the kind of guy who waits in line for 12 days to see them or even attends conventions. Still, I was stoked about The Force Awakens. Then, one hour before I saw it, a spoiler snuck into my world like a Rebel fighter searching for a weak spot. It blew me up.
I have no desire to spoil anything major here, so, if you haven’t seen the movie, you can read on as if this were a review. (If you’re into spoilers, btw, they’re all right here, enjoy.) Speaking of, I didn’t read any full reviews when they were released for fear of a spoiler. (I checked that fresh-as-hell Rotten Tomatoes score and was pleasantly surprised.) I avoided Twitter. I made sure Gchat friends were warned I didn’t want to know what they might know. My plan worked overnight Thursday and well into Friday afternoon.
The anticipation for The Force Awakens had been building for years. There was the announcement. There were the trailers. I even bought one of those stupid BB-8 toys. Last November, emotions began building toward a fever pitch in the St. John household. When the first teaser hit, I sent it to my dad. He wrote me back:
wait, we have to wait A YEAR???!!!
In April, the second teaser came and we did the same thing all over again. He sent this reply:
why do we have to wait til christmas if it’s already done?! ha
When he booked his flight home for Christmas, I bought us tickets for a Friday afternoon showing. (He arrived Thursday night, so we didn’t want to risk missing if it he were delayed.) I didn’t know much besides the names of the main characters: Kylo Ren bad, Rey good. And that’s just how I wanted it. As the opening day showing approached, I logged onto Instagram to check out some pictures of hot girls and recycled jokes. Then, it happened. My friend, Kevin, had posted a photo of a sparsely attended Force Awakens showing in Australia, where he lives. He wrote, cheekily, “Looks like #starwars isn’t too popular in Oz.” Below it, a commenter wrote “Maybe that’s because…” The ellipsis, here, stands in for the mother of all spoilers. Right when I saw the words, I knew they were true. I got spoiled, hard.
I was dazed walking around my house and pretty upset — but maybe not this upset. (I found out, emphatically, that I am not the kind of person who doesn’t care about spoilers.) My blood pressure rose as we drove to the theater and I told my dad that I thought I had stumbled across some big news. He asked me what it was and I said he didn’t want to know. Then, he said, “Tell me. I don’t care about spoilers.” When I told him, he immediately said, “Oh, fuck.” He was visibly shaken.
As the movie played out, I knew the spoiler was becoming true. The relationship between the characters was confirmed and the plot built toward such a conclusion. I still thought the movie was splendid, a pop feast of sensory delights and nostalgia-driven goosebumps. I just wish I had gone in fresh.
Don’t get me wrong: All of this talk about spoilers and spoiler alerts has become annoying. It’s become part of our cultural fabric in the age of the lightspeed internet: How do we avoid knowing something, even for minutes, let alone days? (Netflix has even designed a new, life-or-death ad campaign — probably in bad taste — around the subject.) In 1980, you might’ve overheard someone at the sandwich shop say, “Vader is Luke’s father!” But, otherwise, you were in the clear. Now, as I told my mother I’ll be doing in 2017, you’d have to retreat to a Kaczynski cabin.
After the credits rolled, I emailed Kevin to find out who his Emperor Palpatine-evil friend was. Physical violence entered my thoughts. “Holy shit,” he wrote back. “I just deleted [the Instagram photo] so others don’t suffer. Not my friend, just some asshole commenting on everyone’s photo who tags ‘#starwars.’” Even worse, I had been taken down by a random troll. Who are these nihilists? What are their goals? It’s exasperating. This sole actor probably spoiled the major plot point of the new movie literally around the world. And why? It’s, at best, insensitive and at worst, wicked.
Plenty of people have told me to stop being a baby and even given me the ol’ Oh, well, you would’ve found out eventually. (Some even say it wasn’t that big of a spoiler or that they guessed it before the movie even started. I attribute all of that to posturing and backlash.) But it all misses the point. If I didn’t want to actively participate in surprises, I would have somebody tell me the score of the Super Bowl without watching the game or give me unwrapped presents on December 23rd. There’s a certain malevolence to pushing facts onto people who are engaged in not knowing them — unless you’re a grade school teacher. I’ll be going back for a second viewing tonight, already knowing the big reveal. It’s just too bad I never had that first chance with a blank slate.