Lately I am get increasingly discouraged by all the set leaks, interview gotchas, and advanced publicity that have become the norm for some of the shows and movies I enjoy now. Recently, we found out that someone had allegedly teased out “proof” that Jon Snow probably isn’t done with on Game of Thrones. I was happy to wait until the next book and/or season of the show to find this out, but the internet wasn’t and so now one small surprise has been taken from me. There’s been a huge number of set leaks from big properties like Star Wars and Suicide Squad recently too. This need to know, to learn, to demand pieces of a story before it’s ready to be told is something I find discouraging about the internet surrounding popular shows and movies. And there’s plenty of blame to go around.
First of all, there’s the studios. With promotional material now starting to come out when the films are announced (and announcements being mainline news rather than pure industry trade news) they’re encouraging this kind of “be a part of the process” mindset in fans. It’s a dangerous line to walk, because people have fickle attention spans and feelings, and keeping fans happy and excited for sometimes over a year while filming and post-production happen is difficult at the best of times. Marvel has taken it a step further than that, releasing their plan for films years into the future for us to start speculating over now. We have costume reveals, set reveals, endless “teaser” trailers all strung out months before we’ll even have a chance to see the finished product. It takes away a lot of the mystery, but also gives us a chance to judge the project in something other than its final form. I’m not sure why studios think this is a good idea, but maybe they’re just trying to stay ahead of leaks.
Another factor of this seems to be the kind of hardcore fandom communities that have sprung up thanks to the internet. It’s wonderful to see people come together in mutual appreciation of the show, but there seem to be a dark underbelly where the fans feel a sense of ownership over the property. This makes sense if you come to define yourself and the majority of your relationships through what shows, movies, or books you appreciate, but it’s a flawed understanding of the relationship between the creators and the audience. Even if you’re a huge fan of a property you’re not “owed” anything other than what the creator gives you, how they want to and when they want to. Yes, they need you generally to be successful but they don’t really need you specifically. Besides, isn’t it a bit of a let down to go see a film where you already know exactly what it’s going to be before you get there? Isn’t that kind of why we all felt underwhelmed by the Veronica Mars movie? Because it was exactly what we thought it would be and there were no surprises?
Finally, I can’t let myself or you, my dear readers, off the hook either. Those of us who write on the internet know that we make money when people click on articles. We know that when we tease a reveal, a set photo, a piece of information that shouldn’t be available but suddenly is, you will click on it. On our side it’s a capitalist impulse, on yours it’s a natural curiosity. But it keeps the cycle going.
Before you click on another one of those articles, ask yourself if individual pieces of information devoid of context is an enjoyable way to experience a story. I suspect the answer will be different for all of us, I clearly don’t enjoy it but I also never hunted for my birthday or Christmas presents as a kid. I like surprise, I like anticipation, I like experiencing a creative endeavor as a finished product rather than a series of blurry photos and interview gaffes spread out over weeks or months. Maybe you don’t, that’s ok too, it’s just something to think about.