Don’t tell me the ending! Spoilers and gender difference

I was talking to a friend the other day, and she mentioned the fact that she likes to read the summaries of events for the soap operas she watches that can be found in television magazines. This is not news to me – I know a fair few people who do the same thing. But as always I felt compelled to ask what, to me, is the obvious question:

“What’s the point of watching the program if you already know what’s going to happen?”

The rarity here is that I got a simple reply that started me thinking. To paraphrase, her response was something like:

“That’s such a bloke thing to say! It’s only men who are obsessed with not knowing what’s going to happen in films and TV. Us girls just aren’t as bothered – we tend to get more enjoyment out of seeing how the events unfold, rather than discovering the events as novelties in themselves.”

When I started thinking about it (which killed the conversation a bit dead, to be honest), I realised she may have a valid point. Almost all the people I know who get upset by spoilers are men – many of whom will quite purposefully not read any reviews of films or books in case their enjoyment is compromised – while the women I know tend to be quite proactive about finding out the basic framework of events in a piece of entertainment media before they actually see/hear/read it.

Now, I’m not a psychologist (nor do I play one on television), and I have no idea if this is mirrored in other spheres of human behaviour. And I’m certainly not going to make some divisive and chauvinistic generalisation about the different mindsets of men and women! But I am curious to know whether this is a case of ‘seek and ye shall find’ – in other words, me discovering evidence to fit a theory by subconscious cherry-picking – or whether this is something that anyone else has observed in their own circles of friends and colleagues.

So – are you bothered by spoilers? If so, why? What about people you know, men and women? Is there a marked demographical division here, or have I spun a correlation out of thin air and the chance comment of one person? Discuss.

6 thoughts on “Don’t tell me the ending! Spoilers and gender difference”

  1. No spoilers, please. I’m more interested in the effect of the storytelling rather that the construction of it — at least until I after I watch watch/read it.

  2. Part of the art of story-telling is in how you surprise the reader with the ending. That’s why I rarely reread a book. The story is spoiled if the ending comes out too soon. And I am male (last time I checked).

  3. Now that is one interesting question! I have to admit, I like to be surprised by a new book, TV show or movie. But once seen, heard or read, I still enjoy it again and again. There are movies and books I’ve repeated dozens of times.

    It’s a different sort of pleasure AFTER the surprise is gone. Maybe more like satisfaction, I’m not sure, but that’s why I’ll always go back again for a good story.

    I’m not sure what that means, though.

  4. Interesting stuff – I’m a lot less bothered by spoilers since I started learning about the mechanics of storytelling, but I still like the excitement of a fresh new book, wondering where it’s going to go – and it adds to the value when a story still manages to surprise me. But we need some female perspective here – what about your significant others, gentlemen? And what of the lady readers of VCTB?

  5. I despise knowing the ending of things – it ruins it for me.
    My husband is constantly leaning over in the theatre to tell me who is going to end up being the killer, etc.
    But, my mom always reads the summaries for her soaps, too.
    A bit hard to determine if this really is a gender variable.

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