Guardians’ James Gunn on Plot Spoilers: “Is This Really What Fandom Wants to Know?”

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Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has denied a new plot spoiler scoop about the sequel and asks on Facebook, “Is this really what fandom wants to know?”

[Editor’s Note: The potential spoiler will NOT be revealed in this post.]

In short, no. At least from my perspective. I can’t tell you how many times in the last few years I’ve written about official announcements from studios or creators about casting or plot points and been told I’ve spoiled something. I had to make a call long ago that if a studio wanted viewers to know, I would not consider such a spoiler. Otherwise I could not function in my job.

There is obviously a point at which an entertainment writer has to weigh the value of what they’re putting in a headline or story. You need people to click on your stories. That’s a fact. I would say most writers are good about wording things so as to let people know what they’re getting without actually spoiling anything. But putting headlines themselves aside, as a writer or an outlet, why run a story that potentially spoils a major plot point of an upcoming film?

Here’s what Gunn had to say about it today on Facebook:

All right. From this moment on I’m going to stop commenting on any rumors surrounding Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, because, eventually, someone is going to come up with a spoiler that has some truth to it. That said, the rumors surrounding Quill’s parentage at the present moment are completely false, and aren’t even close to the truth. I don’t know how people come up with this stuff, but it certainly isn’t through legitimate sources.

Also, I get the desire to get “scoops” on character inclusion and casting choices, etc. But since when is a plot spoiler a “scoop”? Is this really what fandom wants to know? Plot details in movies ahead of time? I got in this business because I love movies, and I think most film journalists are the same way. And spoiling plot details doesn’t add to the enjoyment of the film-going experience. So bravo to those folks out there who don’t partake in this sort of thing.

But, as I said, eventually someone will actually spoil some detail of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. So this will be my last comment squelching a rumor until May 2017. But if you do pick up on some plot detail between now and then, be aware, A) They are likely full of shit, as has been everyone so far who has claimed to have had inside info, and B) We’re creating a film that doesn’t rely on plot twists to be an enjoyable experience. They’re only a very small part of what we’re cooking up for you.

James

He’s specifically referencing a “scoop” from Heroic Hollywood today that purported to reveal Star-Lord’s father. Umberto Gonzalez, Editor in Chief of the site, refers to himself as a “fanboy journalist” in his Twitter profile. With Heroic Hollywood and his previous work through Latino Review, he’s never been one to get folks to go on the record and that always gave me pause when sourcing potential stories. I stopped linking to Latino Review a while back because it seemed they were often just throwing things against a wall to see what stuck.

Speaking about his site launch earlier this year, Gonzalez told The Washington Post, “There’s a lot of established websites in this [superhero] space already, as it is. My thing was, ‘How am I going to step out from the crowd?’ — and the only way I know is through scooping.”

True, Hollywood staples like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are always looking to be the first to a scoop but their information is usually focused on casting, not plot reveals. For this latest story at least, Gonzalez did not reveal the actual name of the character in his headline, so if folks didn’t want to know they wouldn’t be inadvertently spoiled. He also wrote on Twitter, “I kindly ask you don’t reveal the info in tweets, instagram posts, headlines, banners, etc., You get the idea. Much appreciated. I know it’s difficult to enforce, all I can do is merely ask.”

It’s a very convenient position to put yourself in to be sure. Though he later wrote, “No bragging, no gloating, no spiking the football, no braggadocio. Staying humble because this scoop was indeed my most challenging” later still, soon after Gunn posted his Facebook message, Gonzalez Tweeted…

That could have been over other outlets angry he got said “scoop” but I’m leaning toward a direct dig at Gunn. Either way it’s seriously uncool and certainly contradicts his “humble” message. You can put yourself outside of the crowd without having to reveal someone else’s hard work without their permission. I’m of the mind that these types of scoops do not serve fans at all, only your analytics, and I would think a “fanboy journalist” would agree with that. Even as a regular journalist, is this the type of story that serves the public interest?

But I could be wrong, as Gunn asked, is this what fans want? So far most of his replies are saying no, they don’t want to be spoiled. But what do you think the traffic is like on Heroic Hollywood right now?

There have been studies done that say people enjoy a story more for having been spoiled. All I can say is I personally don’t find that to be true for myself. However, a different study says being the one who gets to spoil something for someone else gives the individual a sense of power.

Something to think about.

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  • In terms of knowing major plot points ahead of time, I don’t think most people want to be spoiled, but to a degree can’t help themselves. It’s information they do want to know (eventually), but now it’s suddenly right there in front of them. It’s an instant gratification kind of thing; being spoiled on major elements can be gratifying momentarily, though it’s not nearly as satisfying as seeing it in the actual finished product.

    That said, my personal viewpoint on spoilers and major twists is that if it’s well written, knowing the twist can actually be really interesting when watching the first time. I was accidentally spoiled on the (SPOILER?) Pandorica being a trap for the Doctor, and as a result I watched the episode knowing where it was going. It was actually pretty fascinating, because all of the clues made total sense but I didn’t know if I would’ve put it together without previously knowing. A good piece of storytelling won’t make the twist the only thing worth watching, as something will only be a surprise once. If it’s handled well, it’s like you’ve just jumped to your second viewing of the material from the first viewing. Also, I know there’s situations where spoiling something has actually made me want to see it more; I would probably have dropped Arrow half a season ago if it hadn’t been spoiled by Legends of Tomorrow casting that Sara was coming back.

    • Hmm, it’s interesting. The way you put it is sort of how I look forward to things when I watch them a SECOND time, you know? Like, first time is being in suspense of not knowing where the story is taking me and trying to figure it out and the second time (obviously if I enjoyed it enough for a second viewing) is appreciating where clues were dropped or things were hinted at etc.

      • I think it boils down, to me at least, that if the piece of media is good enough to have a really enjoyable second viewing, a spoiled first viewing can actually be really fun. But that relies on the quality of the media itself, and if it is the kind of thing where the twist is a big enough part of it that it’s just not that enjoyable once you’re spoiled, then it also kind of isn’t a very good thing to begin with.

        All that said, when possible, and when I trust the thing not to surprise me with something that will make me hate it (like, I dunno, my favorite character getting shot with three arrows to the chest and falling off a building), I’d prefer to be unspoiled because you really only get to experience the twist once, and you might as well do it in the moment rather than in an article online a week before.

  • I think rumor milling and stuff is pretty lame but that is simply because I don’t care. Like I just don’t really care at all unless it’s something problematic that I should know about or something really cool that I should know about (that would make me want to see it).

    That said I think that trying to shut down rumors is a slippery slop kind of thing. Where do we draw the lines on not reporting on things. Can we not talk about things that are problematic if they are leaked, what even counts as a leak of information? I mean are all websites just pawns in a larger marketing game? They get to chose who gets to make a big announcement, when, and what they say about it. I feel like that control of information is very much a thing I don’t care about getting messed up. I am not going to weep for people who are going to make near a billion dollars on a movie for getting some info out to a couple of thousand nerds.