Please note that this post will have spoilers in it - and even though I'm talking about a movie that is more than a decade old, this probably still matters to somebody out there.
Okay, that's out of the way; I can get on with this quasi-review. This week, I both read and watched Fight Club for the first time. I'd seen the first 20 minutes of Fight Club when I was in High School, but never finished the movie. I'm sure most of my readers have seen this shirt before*, so it should come as no surprise that I knew of the major twist at the end of the movie.
My question then is: did knowing this spoiler ruin the movie for me? For that matter, do spoilers in general ruin stories at all?
First, I think I should mention that while I read the book before watching the film, I'm going to concentrate on talking about the film - most people haven't read the book anyway, I assume. I should also assert that the simple fact of knowing that the narrator is Tyler Durden DID colour my viewing experience.
While I was watching, I was looking for all the clues that point to Ed Norton really being Tyler Durden. You know what? There are a lot of clues, starting with one of the opening lines: "I know this, because Tyler knows this." There's also an almost throw-away scene on a city bus where a passenger knocks into Norton, and not Tyler. All the references to sleep - the narrator never knows if he's awake or asleep; Tyler disappearing when Marla shows up; the subtle camera angles when both Tyler and Nortn are supposedly in the same room that only shows one or the other.**
These clues are fairly subtle, and I'm not sure that I would have noticed all of them had I not known the big secret at the end. These are clues that I would have definitely picked up on during a second viewing of the movie. Honestly, as much as I enjoyed the film, I don't think I would watch it again. In a way, this was my second viewing.
In this instance - just this particular case - I believe the spoiler did ruin the movie for me. But not because of someone else telling me the secret; I would have only watched it a second time anyway, no more. What may have been ruined was the whole "my mind is blown" moment, but I'm not too concerned about that. I can tell you what wasn't ruined: how I enjoyed the film.
Yes, the joy of discovering the truth about Tyler Durden was taken away from me, but instead I had fun picking out those "Aha!" moments that I mentioned earlier. You know what? I probably even missed more than what I mentioned, and could find more on a second viewing. So to answer my initial question, Fight Club was NOT ruined for me because I knew the story's secret.
But what about in general - are stories really ruined by spoilers? Most of the time a spoiler is just one small tidbit of information, and in no way affects the rest of it. I knew that Snape Kills Dumbledore, but I didn't know the Snape was the Half-Blood Prince (sorry). While I'm not presenting very much evidence in support of my theory, I think my stance here is fairly obvious. Spoilers don't ruin anything beyond a brief surprise at the end of it all.
* I'm not a fan of the wording of "Tyler Durden isn't real". While it gets the point across, I'd very much argue that Tyler Durden is very, very real in Fight Club.
** I really appreciated the way these clues were pulled off. Also the fact that the writers/director didn't feel it necessary to go back to each instance and hit us over the head with it, as many other entries into pop culture dealing with an imaginary person do (*cough*Dexter*cough*).