Spoilers Matter

Between Avengers: Endgame, Game of Thrones Season 8, and the upcoming Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker—all concluding parts for their respective stories—pop culture has been in prime “spoiler warning” territory. If you’re plugged into any sort of social media, and you don’t have the opportunity to watch things as they’re released, it can be a struggle to avoid any and all information. This also means it’s incredibly easy for a few trolls to ruin other people’s days, but what I’m even more concerned about is a recurring notion I’ve been seeing, about how people’s anger and frustration over being spoiled is some kind of sign that these works are less about art and storytelling and more about shock value and surprise. They might even say something like, “Truly good works are good even when spoiled.”

Perhaps they’re right. Perhaps they’re not. Either way, it still doesn’t mean that a desire to go in relatively “blind” is somehow valueless. In fact, I find it to be quite rude and even a little elitist to value a work over people’s own desires to such an extent that negatively impacting their experience is somehow “okay” because it shows how “limited” both the people and their “shocking” entertainment can be. While it’s true that some things stand the test of time better than others, and that a piece of media that can be enjoyed over repeat viewings is strong in many ways, you still only get one chance to see something for the first time regardless. Just because something is even better the second or third time around doesn’t mean that the initial exposure should be diminished.

Granted, even without spoilers, “going in blind” means different things to different people. Some might have ideas as to what they think will happen, and will be bracing for the moment that their pet theories are confirmed or denied. Others might be looking at character interactions and trying to see if their chosen characters have any romantic developments. Personally, I purposely try to avoid pushing my expectations onto a work as much as possible. But whatever one’s approach, and even if a work holds up after spoilers, being aware of what happens changes the way a work is experienced. You go from trying to navigate the work on your own terms to being aware in the back (or front) of your mind that an Important Thing is going to happen. That’s not necessarily bad, but if you view a work once without spoilers and then a second time with spoilers, it means you get to have both experiences.

Note that there are a few caveats. The choice of spoilers vs. no spoilers is anything but binary, and that something as simple as a movie trailer can be “too much” for some and “not count as spoilers” for others. There’s also a difference between “being okay with spoilers” and, say, people who want advance warning on anything that might trigger them and cause deep psychological pain. And for instances where a work might come from a very unfamiliar time and culture, and not knowing the proper context can mean not catching many of the meanings and signals that are assumed to be “obvious” or “common sense” to anyone from that original time or place. Foreknowledge can be significant, but having it isn’t inherently better than not having it. First impressions can potentially be based in ignorance, but that ignorance can be corrected afterwards. You can’t take back a spoiler.

If all a film, TV show, book, or whatever has is shock value, so be it. If it has more to offer, all the better. That still doesn’t make those who wish to be surprised or who wish to focus on the unexpected somehow symptoms of an ailing entertainment industry, or make their experiences trivial. They can always come back, and if the problem is that people don’t want to revisit after the first go-around, that’s not an issue with anti-spoiler culture—that’s an issue with time and its usage. But ultimately, if people only have enough time to see something once, they should be able to do it on their terms, and not ones set by some externally imposed values rooted in notions of how “true quality” is defined.

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Cersei Lannister vs. “Anime Incest”

There are a great number of anime and manga with incestuous overtones, but contrary to what might seem obvious, I’m not so sure how much of it truly has to do with a desire to have sex with siblings, real or imaginary. There are other qualities to take into consideration, such as what goes into a “little sister” or a “big sister” as a character archetype beyond simply a familial relationship, or the fact that these archetypes exist at all.

To what extent does the anime/manga aesthetic itself, as well as the other tropes that these works tend to carry, make “anime incest” into something even more different from simply its portrayal in fiction, positive or negative?

HBO’s Game of Thrones is a non-Japanese property which features very prominently an incestuous relationship. Jamie Lannister and his sister Cersei are madly in love with each other, and have even bore children as a result. However, I don’t think Cersei is thought of in the same vein as the sisters of My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute or The Irregular at Magic High School, and therefore does not possess the aspects which make those characters so popular. There’s something to this “positive portrayal of incestuous relationships” in anime and manga that transcends the characters being connected by blood… or not, in the case of the “non-blood-related sibling” trope that technically removes the moral and biological issues to an extent.

CerseiEW

My Big Sister Can’t Be This Vindictive

Put a different way, if the sisters, hot moms, or other family members were not portrayed visually and narratively through anime and manga, would the fans of these characters still be fans of them? If so, would it be for the same reason? My feeling is that the answer would be “no,” because it’s these incestuous character archetypes exist within a greater realm of tropes that anime and manga fans are drawn towards.

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