Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks

Great editorial by Matt Singer over on The Dissolve about how the proliferation of spoiler-y photos of movie sets and actors in costume, whether taken by spies or fans or leaked deliberately by the studio, is detrimental to our reception of the finished product. Singer's argument is that movies should be experienced as a complete, holistic phenomenon. If you see an Age of Ultron stunt guy in the top half of an Iron Man suit and sweatpants online, fifteen months later, the image will have seeped so deeply into your subconsciousness that you'll automatically see him and not Tony Stark on the big screen.


I don't entirely agree with his thesis — I love spoilers and set reports and kooky/dumb rumors. But then again, when I was a kid, I often read the endings of mysteries first and then worked my way backwards to see if the plot made any sense. There are lots of movies I really want to see but don't really care if I know everything in advance — I read the storybook of Empire Strikes Back a week before the movie came out and didn't feel I'd missed out on anything (though that one plot detail was really, really hard to keep). If I know everything about the Avengers sequel a year before it comes out, I won't feel like I've cheated myself so much as I've done my proper due diligence. There is, after all, a compelling argument to be made for spoilers as shitty movie insurance.


But there are also arguments against seeing movies before they're made, which is Singer's point. Movies are totally fake, indeed unbelievably so, no matter how expensive or elaborately designed. A prop that looks incredibly detailed and solid on camera can be flimsy and cheap-looking up close. A costume can look like bad cosplay if it's not lit properly, or the actor is out of character. Fussing over greenscreens in the background can be a lament for the loss of "real" sets, but it can also reflect an obsession with something that wasn't real to begin with. And there's also the loss of novelty. If Alien were being made today, by now we would have probably seen the half-constructed Space Jockey set (it was built that way to save costs) as well as shots of the actor in the Giger costume with the head on and off. Indeed, the studio might have done that on purpose as a preemptive move. And we'd probably go into the theater wondering how long we'd have to wait to get to the guy in the cheesy rubber suit we'd seen online six months earlier, not with feelings of anticipation or dread.

So should we stop looking at these damn things already?

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