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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Jason Mittell has a good post up explaining the differences between watching (Viewer A), watching-when-you-already-know-what-will-happen (Viewer B, the spoiler whore), and rewatching (Viewer C), using Lost and Veronica Mars as models. It's good stuff:

...if the pleasures of suspense are in the telling more than the story, then viewers B and C use their story knowledge to focus attention on the discourse, absorbing and enjoying how the story is told and the subsequent emotions that the telling stimulates. Again, our survey bears this out – many spoiler fans claimed that by knowing what was going to happen, they could actually appreciate episodes of Lost more fully! Fans wrote that they used their foreknowledge of story events to focus on textual details, subtleties of performance, foreshadowing and clues, and stylistic flourishes. Thus by knowing the story ahead of time, spoiler fans approach a “new” episode more like academic critics, simultaneously experiencing and analyzing a text. I’ve discussed this practice in the context of the broader trend of narratively complex television, arguing that such programs stimulate an “operational aesthetic” that combines the act of reading and rereading simultaneously. As Jonathan and I write in our essay, “If typical fan consumption practices for programs like Lost straddle the experiences of first and subsequent viewings, then spoiler fans are taking this process one step further, increasing their expertise to more fully embrace the logic of rereading, and, as one respondent noted, ‘allow[ing] for a deeper analysis while you are viewing it.’”