Knowing isn’t everything

So I know this person who always wants me to tell her how things end. If she hears that I’ve seen a particular movie or read a certain book, she isn’t interested in knowing whether I thought it was any good or if I’d recommend it. Instead she wants a full account of the plot and to know if I’d describe the story as ‘nice’.

I’ve never understood her logic, and as someone who enjoys the experience of watching a movie or reading a book without necessarily knowing the storyline, well I find her whole attitude bewildering. What’s the point in knowing precisely how everything unfolds and how it’s all going to end BEFORE you decide to watch a film or read a book? Personally I think that having a complete (or even partially complete … GRRR spoilers) prior knowledge can detract from the entire experience, and therefore has the potential to make it less enjoyable.

Knowing the end isn't everything

The other thing that makes no sense to me is her decision to only watch or read things that are ‘nice’. From what I’ve been able to determine, her definition of nice basically means the story needs to have a happy ending with no loose ends, that no characters should die, and that things should never get too real, too sad, or too gritty. That seems more than a little restrictive to me.

I can’t imagine a life without surprises or exposure to a full range of emotions, and that’s the same when it comes to books, movies, TV shows … and pretty much everything. Sure, not knowing everything may sometimes be uncomfortable or challenging, but taking a journey into the unknown or into the realm of the not so ‘nice’, can also be exhilarating and you know … maybe just a little bit fun. Isn’t life too short to know all the answers before you even begin?

26 thoughts on “Knowing isn’t everything

  1. This made me giggle Tracey. I hate to know the ending of films or books and like you can’t see the point of reading them if I do! My husband has a really bad habit of guessing what’s going to happen, especially in a murder mystery.

    I wonder if your friend has experienced some unhappy experience or loss in her life…it could be that she can’t cope with fictional sadness or loss because it’s too close to home for her….Just a thought.

    Deb

    • Hi Debby – Well I very much enjoy sending giggles your way. Oh, it must be interesting for you and your husband to watch things together, when he’s always trying to guess what’s just ahead… :)

      You might be right about her having to deal with an unhappy experience, or loss … you never do know. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. it really does reveal so much about a person, what they want from their books/films.
    not everyone is comfortable with the unknown, or surprises. i’ve come across people like this and it is reflected in how they read. one person always read the last chapter first!

    I have another friend who writes on and works with deep spiritual topics, and her choice of entertainment is all ‘nice’ stuff.

    we’re all different. :)

    me, i’m very comfortable with the unknown, so much so that i walk towards it, invite it in. i can’t stand anything other than the briefest trailer of a film or the back-cover blurb of a book. there are relatives and friends that i would never ask about a film because they’ll start to recount the whole thing to me! besides that i don’t want to know anything, i find it really boring listening to a film’s plot!

    • Hi Monica – As you say, what a person hopes to get out of watching movies or reading books, definitely reveals a lot about themselves. I just can’t imagine starting at the back of a book – if I knew how things were going to end up, I’d lose any urgency about finding out what happens in the rest of the story.

      But yes, each to their own. :)

      I love the unknown too … I will happily watch trailers and read the backs of books, provided they don’t provide too much information (which so many seem to do). Haha, I find it boring listening to a film’s plot as told by another person too. ;)

  3. I have to admit, I am much like you friend. I will sit and read the wiki of a movie or TV show while I am watching it. I am not a person who is comfortable with the unknown so I suppose it makes sense. I will also read the ending of a book before the beginning. I know that it drives Mr BB crazycakes!

    • Hi Hannah – Oh that’s interesting … and I suppose it’s one way of finding out whether you’ll bother committing to reading the entire book / watching an entire movie or tv series. :)

  4. It is baffling, isn’t it? I suppose knowing the end can afford a person some measure of control, which can be comforting, but, like you say, not at all fun or challenging. And this instinct to label stories/plots as “nice” — kills me. What does that word mean??

    • Hi Sarah – I’m the same as you for sure, give me fun or surprising or challenging any day … I must admit that I’m not a real fan of the word ‘nice’, it kind of inexplicably makes my skin crawl.

  5. I know a lot of people like this girl. People that want to know everything in advance, not only how a movie or a book ends, or if they are nice. People that don’t take risks, never, not even in the most simple and safe things. How boring. How are you supposed to discover new things and expand your horizons if you don’t walk on unknown streets? I thought I didn’t like science fiction movies, for example. Then one night I was wasting time in front of the tv and ended up watching a science fiction movie only because there was a cute guy in it. I discovered I like the genre!!! And cute guys!!!

    • Hi Bobbi – You’ve reminded me of a quote I heard a few years ago (though I can’t remember who said it), that in life it’s far better to be an active participant rather than a voyeur, and watch everything pass you by. I love discovering new things, and venturing out into the unknown because you never know quite what you’ll find. :)

      I love your story about watching a science fiction movie, with a cute boy bonus … that’s wonderful. :)

  6. Way back when, I use to have to read the last chapter of a book before I finished it. Partly because of my own impatience and partly because I sometimes just had to know a character was okay! I gradually stopped myself from doing this and the reward of doing was so worthwhile.

    I can understand how someone needs to know but like you say, actually experiencing something for yourself is so much more rewarding!

    • Hi Teresa – Oh I think it’s so sweet that you used to read the last chapters of your books. I think if I did that, I’d never bother reading the rest of it … that probably says a lot about my laziness / lack of commitment. Ha! ;)

  7. Funnily enough I sometimes don’t mind knowing what happens in a movie, but I dislike it when people give away what happens in a book. I used to feel sooooo guilty if a didn’t read every single word in a book, but now I’ll skim a page or two if I’m getting to a part where I really want to know what happens and I feel the author is too slow to get there with overuse of descriptive language etc. I guess that makes me a reading cheat – lol. I also NEVER used to skip to the end myself, but will on occasion now if I’m desperate to know what happens (still hate it if someone else gives it away, I want to be in control – lol). I do like movies, books, and endings that really make me think. And, I can not entirely ‘enjoy’ a movie, but appreciate the experience it’s given me. I’ll often go to a movie knowing I probably won’t come out of it feeling good, but believing it’s content is important enough for me to digest and reflect upon. I also enjoy movies that give me a good scare or really make my emotions run all over the shop…. well maybe not ‘enjoy’, but once again, appreciate the experience and the fact that they can make me feel. I don’t like OR appreciate going to movies with gratuitous violence or abuse of any kind in them. Blood and guts for the sake of pure entertainment is not anything I want to see.

    • Hi Linda – Interesting. Like you I used to feel really guilty if I didn’t read every single word in a book, but I’ve since loosened up with that. I used to always stick with movies and books even if I wasn’t enjoying them, or getting anything out of them. Now though, I figure life’s too short, and just go with something else instead. :)

      Yes, I’m the same as you – it’s the experience I’ll take away from a movie that is the important thing (content and delivery are everything). I like emotional stories too, and I’m always partial to a good scare. But yes, violence and gore for no real purpose are not something I feel the need to watch.

      Thanks so much for your interesting reflections. xx

  8. Interesting post! My partner is the same as you – he HATES spoilers. When it comes to TV shows, I do sometimes look ahead for clues online (when the anticipation gets the better of me). Interestingly, I read a study (I forget where) which found that knowing how a movie or TV programme ends does not actually spoil the enjoyment for most people. It doesn’t for me with digital media, but it does with books. Maybe because books are slower and are much more about the journey. Whenever I’ve given in to temptation and read the last chapter, I’ve always regretted it, because my reading of the book slows and my interest wanes…

    • Hi Kylie – Wow, I’m so surprised about the results of that study … knowing an ending or major plot points really bothers me with anything (movies, tv, books, sport). But maybe I’m just an easily irritated person. Ha! ;)

  9. I couldn’t help but mess with her a bit – tell her something had a happy ending when it didn’t. It does seem like a strange way to approach reading or watching films. I hate knowing how things end – it ruins the whole experience for me. Surely part of the fun with books in particular is not knowing how the plot unfolds. She misses out on all the tension etc by knowing beforehand. I couldn’t do it :D

    • Hi Selma – Haha, that’s a great idea. You know, it has never occurred to me to mess with her … I’ll have to do that next time. ;)

      I’m like you, I just can’t handle knowing the end of things ahead of time.

  10. I so agree with you. I think life is so much more fun if we don’t know exactly how everything will end. There’s something exciting in not knowing, maybe allowing you to be more creative?

    Great blog post!
    - Pati

    • Hi Pati Mo – Yes definitely … I kinda like not knowing what’s going to happen next. I agree, it is that element of the unknown which can drive so much creativity (and make for lots of fun too). :)

  11. Oh, I’ve had dealings with people who only consume ‘nice’ too. I think they prefer nothing to challenge them. While that’s their prerogative, it leaves me feeling depressed – their world-view is so limited.

    • Hi Hila – I completely agree … while I accept that it’s an individual’s choice as to what kind of books and movies they watch, at the same time I can’t quite fathom why they’d even want to limit themselves in such a way? There is so much wonder to explore in books and film, without just sticking to the ‘nice’.

  12. Nope, I don’t get this either. To the point where I get completely bored watching a book/movie if you can tell where the plot is going (my husband went through a phase of watching French comedies, but after a while I found that you could tell where the main characters where going to end up from the first 15 minutes. Yawn.)

    The youngest step son used to find it really difficult dealing with moments of stress or sadness in movies (to the point where he would get so anxious he’d find a reason to leave the cinema, or take himself off to bed to avoid the DVD). He would always, always want to know the entire plot and the ending. But with lots of reassurance and explanation (about story arcs and how plots work etc) and judicious movie choices (and growing up a little, of course) he now enjoys the movie experience a lot more, to the point where he actually asks NOT to be told what happens next. Not sure what this says about your friend (maybe they were forced to watch awful/scary/traumatic/emotional movies as a kid?!!), but as soon as I read this post I thought of our step-son!

    And yes, whilst I do love a bit of ‘nice’ now and then, I find the fiction that really engage and inspire me tend to have a bit of ‘not nice’ in there. Not necessarily violence or nastiness, just something that isn’t quite perfect, that makes you feel a little uncomfortable. Those are the movies and books that stick with me for long after I’ve experienced them.

    • Hi Emily – Yes, I’m the same … if a plot is too predictable or too obvious (or if I already know what’s going to happen), then I very quickly lose interest, because I figure … what’s the point? Oh you must have been glad to see the end of that French comedy phase your husband went through.

      How wonderful that your step son is now much more comfortable with letting movies take their course. I think getting a bit of age under the belt, and watching the ‘right’ kind of films, we all end up growing up to love all sorts of films. As for the person which inspired this post, I get the impression that she doesn’t really like ‘extending’ herself into life, and so that seems to be reflected in her film and book choices.

      Those imperfect movies and books are so much truer to life I feel, and like you I find that they’re the ones that stay with me for a very long time. xx

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