Last weekend, Avengers: Endgame made history by becoming the first movie to earn $1 billion on its opening weekend. Among others, it also broke the records for highest-earning domestic weekend and for the most ever ticket sales for showings the night before its premiere. (Haven’t you heard that movies actually come out on Thursdays now?) Because it was the culmination of a huge film series that’s garnered the adoration of so many people, the premiere was a really big deal.
And no movie release of that scale could come without some level of controversy. The biggest problem Endgame and its fans had to face? Spoilers.
Even before the film debuted, the cast and directors themselves were reaching out to fans, begging them not to ruin the experience for others by talking about the big plot reveals in public. The hashtag DontRuinTheEndgame trended on and off all week. As critics were allowed to post their reviews, each had to clarify whether or not their review was spoiler-free. And fans went to great lengths, including total social media blackouts, to avoid any and all details about what they were about to see.
You see, nothing can ruin a movie more quickly than being told beforehand how it ends. When we go to see a movie (or read a book or watch a TV show), we usually want to go in without any foreknowledge of what we’re about to experience. A big part of enjoying the story is going through the journey in the way its creators intended. If you already know the big twist, then its impact will be severely diminished. What fun is that?
When it comes to the fictional stories that we enjoy as entertainment, spoilers are treated like a poison. We avoid them at all cost because we don’t them to ruin the experience for us. Maybe we would do well to apply that same logic and level of commitment to our own lives.
Here’s what I mean: I am a planner through and through. No matter what I’m doing, I have to go into it with a course of action in mind. Whether it’s something as simple as cleaning dishes or as important as considering the direction of my life, I have an innate desire to know what’s coming next. And I imagine I’m not the only one.
Left unchecked, this compulsion to plan leads down some unhappy roads: impatience to get to the next step, frustration when life doesn’t go according to plan, resentment about what could have been, and so on. If our lives are grand stories unfolding—and they are—then we’re the ones angrily mashing the fast forward button and trying to see what comes at the end.
The desire for what comes can ruin the journey. Because life isn’t just about whatever we’re looking forward to. It’s about what’s happening right now. If we’re not enjoying the journey now, then there’s really nothing down the road that can satisfy us. We’ll find ourselves constantly looking ahead to the next big thing instead of savoring the path that leads us there.
And isn’t that how spoilers ruin movies? By moving the focus away from the journey and onto the end? If we already know what happens, then what’s the point in going through it all? But really, the conclusion doesn’t mean much at all unless it’s earned. We recognize the importance of the journey when it comes to movies, but if we’re not careful, we can completely miss it in our own lives.
In the trailer for Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark points out that, “Part of the journey is the end.” And that’s very true. But on the flip side, the end is only part of the journey. And the rest of the journey has value, too. Endgame wouldn’t be such a payoff if we hadn’t started with Iron Man more than ten years ago. The end is worth it because of the journey, not in spite of it.
So it is in our own lives. We don’t need spoilers to enjoy the journey of life. We don’t need to be constantly searching for what comes next. Because if we’re always looking toward the end, we won’t be able to enjoy the middle, which to be honest, is where most of us find ourselves right now. And that isn’t a terrible place to be.
The big payoff will come in its time. But for now, why don’t we just kick back, enjoy the journey, and not try to spoil the ending for ourselves? We know it’ll be worth it, but only if we embrace the journey first.