A recent, controversial New York Times article by Stanley Fish uses the results of a 2011 psychological study to argue readers and viewers experience no negative effects from knowing the ending of a story in advance. We asked a few of our friends what they thought–check back regularly today for their responses.
Oz isn’t real because Dorothy was dreaming the whole time.
Norman Bates’ mom is actually dead – he just wears her clothes.
Harrison Ford’s wife was the killer in PRESUMED INNOCENT.
If we were in the time of the height of the popularity of these films, and you were on the way into the theatre to see one of them and I stopped you in the lobby and told you these spoilers, you’d serve me up a well-deserved knuckle sandwich. Why? Because I would’ve ruined the movie for you. A child would understand that. And it takes a child-like mentality to believe otherwise.
The New York Times piece wins a gold medal in the Rationalization Olympics as it tries to support the notion that being pre-told the surprise/shocking/unforeseen conclusion to a story doesn’t necessarily take away from the movie-watching or TV show-viewing or book-reading experience.
As humans we’re wired to hope for “The Surprise Ending” because we innately know that life itself is full of surprise endings. Your life can end as soon as you step off a curb … or, as it did in my case … it can change forever as soon as you swing your fist at another.
I haven’t discussed this soon-to-be-confession with Little Brown/Mulholland Books prior to writing this piece and they’ve been incredible supporters of mine so I hope they don’t think I am blind-siding them. And the truth is, I’ve never shared this information publicly before right now, at this very moment, as I type this.
But I believe enough time has passed that I can talk about it and I hope that readers understand that people change over the years.
Over two decades ago, when I was 18, I began an incarceration term in Fishkill Prison in New York for the killing of another teen in a fight over money. I was young and stupid and I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, let alone take someone’s life … but I deserved the time I got. I was 17 when the fight happened, so the records have always been sealed.
I spent the first year in prison hiding.
The second year crying.
And the third through sixth year in the Rec Room watching TV and Movies. The shows and films with twists and surprises and endings you never saw coming — those were the ones that stayed with me for weeks and months — those were the ones that were talked about and debated in The Yard. Those were the ones that were special.
They helped get me through my bid. Because I knew I wasn’t alone. Other people (even if they were fictional) had their lives turn on a dime as well — others were surprised by life’s fickle whimsies as much as I had been.
So let that be my vote against spoilers.
Nick Santora (author)
(ps – I never did time in prison. Never killed anyone. Made the whole thing up. Now that you know that, go back and read this piece and see if it is nearly as interesting now that you how it ends.)
NICK SANTORA was a lawyer before his first screenplay won Best Screenplay of the Competition at the 2001 New York International Independent Film Festival. A co-creator, executive producer, and writer for the hit A&E show Breakout Kings and former writer and co-executive producer of Prison Break, Nick Santora lives in Los Angeles, California.