Just a thought… Spoilers are cowardly…If you go in there knowing what’s going to happen it’s like reading the last page of the book. It’s just cowardly. [Simon Pegg]
In a world of instant information, how are we supposed to avoid spoilers? A couple of cases that I thought you might find interesting.
FX channel aired a 10-part miniseries called Trust earlier this year. Based on the true story of the kidnapping of Getty Oil heir John Paul Getty III, it’s a drawn-out but captivating series that gives us a glimpse into a miser’s lavish life (Granddad had payphones installed in his mansion, Sutton Place, so as to avoid footing the bill for guests’ and residents’ long-distance calls) and the horrific events that led to his grandson’s loss of an ear in an attempt finally to get the old man’s attention and get serious about a ransom demand.
As we watched – at times binged – the episodes last week, I found myself looking up various facts about the era, the family members and the 1973 kidnapping itself. The precarious part was not learning more about the fates of the people whose lives were being played out by Oscar nominees Donald Sutherland and Hilary Swank (Paul Sr. and his daughter-in-law).
Not until we finished did we read the eventual fate of the red-haired and free-spirited grandson. We were very careful not to spoil things for ourselves, but grateful that the information was there, once we could stop tip-toeing through the internet to dive in and learn how this story ended.
Then we come to a fascinating documentary that was brought to our attention a few months ago, Three Identical Strangers, which we were delighted to learn was playing at our small local cinema in Sidney. If you haven’t heard of this story, you’ll want to watch the trailer below.
These are real people and actual events; you may even recall when three boys, who had been given up as triplets when they were babies, learned of each other’s existence. It was all over television, newspapers and magazines in 1980. It’s an incredible story and well worth the 90 minutes spent exploring their fates, the many ethical questions raised by the reasons behind their separation and the consequences those events had. You’ll be asking yourself again and again about the age-old argument surrounding nature versus nurture.
What burned my biscuits about this whole experience (besides the story itself, of course) was a New York Times article that first brought it to our attention this summer. The newspaper story was just one big spoiler.
Sure, the premise and basis of the documentary were well worth explaining, but the article went on to tell us the fates of the three boys as men, thus not only eliminating any surprises the documentary might contain, but also basically stomping all over a moviegoer’s right to go along for the ride and experience the story from a newcomer’s standpoint.
Just like with Trust, we were not completely ignorant of the story we were watching and some of its details. But in the case of Three Identical Strangers, the entire outcome of the documentary was laid out in black and white. And that wasn’t right.
In 2018, it’s almost impossible to be in the dark about events. We have news fed to us at firehose velocity and, depending upon our willingness to let it in, we can be as informed or uninformed as we choose. I just wish the NYT, in reviewing an incredibly touching and enlightening documentary, hadn’t taken away our right to do just that.
See Three Identical Strangers. It will stay with you for days, and that’s one criterion by which I judge any experience as to its worth. Trust me. And here’s the trailer.
Talk to you here tomorrow!