[NO SPOILERS, PLEASE]
One of the best things about reading a book, watching a film, or even writing my own story, is that I don’t know how they’re going to end.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. I couldn’t believe that after feelings of loss and betrayal and an innocent child’s pure honesty that it turned out the way it did. What was great about that film is that it didn’t really follow the book, but it stood on its own, and it was just as magical as the book was, in its own way.
“The Wizard of Oz” left me reeling toward the end when I saw it. Will Dorothy ever get home? Oh my gosh, even though Oz and the journey to it was a place I wanted (still want) to visit, I would miss my family and friends too much. How will she ever, ever get home? I feared she would never see her family again.
In 1987, Gene Hackman and Kevin Costner starred in the film “No Way Out” and blew the ending out of the water at the very last possible moment in that film. Suddenly you’re in one direction, and then you’re not just on a different road, you’re in a different car, on a different road, in a completely different country.
In 1999, Bruce Willis counsels a boy who sees dead people. Did ANYONE see that coming? No. No one did. And don’t try to convince me otherwise. If you really lost yourself in that film, there’s no way you could see that coming. But HOLY HELL, that film had a huge impact on me, on how to turn a story around, how to see it from a completely different perspective. (I still have faith in you, M. Night Shyamalan!)
In 2008, the last book of the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn, had me on the edge of the seat not knowing the fates of so many vampires and werewolves I’d come to know and love. Would they live or die? Who would live and who would die?
In 2007 (I leave the best for last, even if it’s not following my chronological order), J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in her seven-book series, I desperately hoped Harry, Ron, and Hermione would find and destroy the remaining horcruxes. Would Voldemort kill Harry? Would J.K. Rowling kill off anyone, and if so, who and why?
Why, why, why does anyone have to die, ever…well, we know why, or we don’t and just accept it. Or we accept it but don’t like it.
As I’ve gotten older, and information of all kinds in all different ways (news, information, car recalls, toy recalls, stupid criminals, and any other types of information being played out on TV, newspapers, Twitter, Facebook, and all kinds of other media formats), I have had to protect and safeguard my childhood innocence of not finding out what happens before I experience it myself. I’ve gone so far as to plug my ears while closing my eyes and singing LOUDLY to avoid hearing a smidge of info that I believe may remotely spoil a book or cinema experience for me.
I abhor (yes, a strong word, but it’s a strong feeling for me on this topic) any information about the ending of something that is beloved to me. I abhor knowing the ending of a story before I experience the story myself in the way it was intended to be experienced. (Yes, that’s probably me shooshing you in cinema if you’re making too much noise with your candy wrappers or talking to yor mate or GOD FORBID, on your mobile.)
I go to these worlds via books, film, TV shows, etc., as a way to dream, imagine, feel and express feelings, learn more about myself, and ultimately escape. So I don’t want to read in the paper how “Dexter”, the TV show, will ends its final season of the series. I don’t know want to know how “Burn Notice” or “Breaking Bad” will end their final season of their series, either.
I don’t want to know anything about any story until I have that first-hand experience myself.
Because once I know, I can’t unknow that experience, that ending. And therein lies a sadness: once I know, I can’t unknow. I only get to experience it once, brand new, with no preconceptions other than maybe the inside flap of the book or a trailer for a movie.
Some stories have such wonderfully unique, surprising gems that I want to go back and re-read with a new set of eyes to experience all that I felt and thought when I read it the first time.
But it’s not possible because once you know, you can’t unknow.