The Maxim Hot 100

So I’ve missed some awards shows! The Billboard Music Awards and the American Comedy Awards, most notably. Both are somewhat-interesting affairs, I suppose, although the Billboard Awards are more interesting because lots of people perform at them1. NBC’s attempts to revive the American Comedy Awards are pretty laudable, but ultimately I just didn’t have a lot to say about them in the time I had available to me.

The Maxim Hot 100, on the other hand, is a different story.

The idea of what is considered “hot”2 is extremely useful to the study of a culture. A scientific ranking of the women that were “hottest” would be an incredible piece of information to have about libidinal values.

Unfortunately, the Maxim Hot 100 is a list compiled by tabulating the votes of a non-significant (although not insignificant) segment of the populous – people that are interested in the Maxim Hot 100, that is – that also happens to be interested in voting. Further muddying the waters is the fact that you can vote any number of times. While this leaves us with something that is basically useless in terms of rigor, it does give us a useful window. Stay with me for a moment. The people who are likely to care about the Maxim Hot 100 are the people who are likely to care that their opinion about who is “hot” is the “right” one. They are interested enough in establishing a correct (via consensus) opinion about what their arousal urges are aimed at that they will, in fact, support a publication that seeks to create one. this is, frankly, somewhat depressing. While I’m always interested in the “magazine sales” aspect of the Maxim Hot 100, and its little-brother list, the FHM Whatever They Call Theirs, and the very similar (but somehow more respectable) People’s Most Beautiful People issue, it comes (for me as for anyone else I know with more than a passing interest in the list) from a place of wanting to know who is going to be targeted at me for purposes of advertising, at least in the general sense.

Of course, the thing it all really says is that we, culturally, think of attractive women as horses, and attraction as a horse race, and we need them to finish in order. But laying that aside (by reason of their being no specific harm, since here we’re not saying “this is all they’re good for,” but rather “this is what we’re talking about right now”3), and further laying aside the fact that this is only speaking about a segment of our populace, I think that it’s worth diving into what it is, exactly, men mean when they say “I have a boner.”

For comedy purposes, of course.

So following is the Maxim Hot 100, complete with the secret messages of the placement of these women. Think of it as an opportunity to recontextualize them outside of their flesh.

100. Rebecca Garcia
WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: That, I suppose, it is truly obligatory that Maxim place the woman that enters and wins their “Hometown Hotties” on this list

99. Caity Lotz
WISAU: That we don’t care how you spell your first name

98. Beth Ostrosky Stern
WISAU: That Howard Stern still has a lot of fans

97. Lili Simmons
WISAU: Near as I can tell, that we badly want Amish girls to secretly go wild, even fictional ones.

96. Iggy Azalea
WISAU: That there will always be a weird Australian pop star among the ranks of the most desired.

95. Lydia Hearst
WISAU: That we are guided by the finest sense of humor possible. That an heir to William Randolph Hearst’s Yellow Journalism fortune would eventually be used (in some small part) to sell these, the yellowest of journalistic pages, is the kind of beautiful happenstance that makes one long for that kind of order in the rest of the world.

94. Jessica Parker Kennedy
WISAU: That television bit-part actors do not escape the attention of the male gaze.

93. Noureen DeWulf
WISAU: I’d like to think it says that lots of people watched Burning Love, and that it’s not by association with Charlie Sheen

92. Rebecca Mader
WISAU: That a small but significant portion of Maxim’s readership is probably way into accents

91. Taylor Momsen
WISAU: That if people knew what you looked like when you were a kid, they will insist that you are hot when you are an adult (see also: a good 20% or so of these entries). It probably does some good for your bankability, additionally, if you wear a lot of eye makeup and habitually cover your breasts with electrical tape.

90. Ireland Baldwin
WISAU: That deep down, each and every one of us wants to fuck Alec Baldwin

89. Joanna Krupa
WISAU: That there is an extremely narrow set of characteristics that defines “model,” and most of the successful ones4 look like that.

88. A.J. Cook
WISAU: That Sofia Coppola’s eye for attractive women is second to basically no one.

87. Sage Erickson
WISAU: The hotness urge has a weird tilt toward the athlete (there’s always a couple on these lists, after all), and I guess5 “surfer” counts.

86. Victoria Justice
WISAU: That people who starred in Nickelodeon shows that began well after I stopped watching are now old enough to be ogled in magazines.

85. Lisalla Montenegro
WISAU: That there’s a thing about Brazilian supermodels, and it’s pretty hard to argue with, really.

84. Gal Gadot
WISAU: That the Fast and Furious movies are basically a farm team for this list.

83. Eva Marie
WISAU: That a lot of Maxim-reading men end up watching E! with their wives, and recognize the lady from wrestling.

82. Lana Del Rey
WISAU: I am so far beyond being able to comprehend any facet of Lana Del Rey’s career at this point that I am quite certain that the only reason she is on this list is because others are as baffled by her presence, culturally, as I am, and vote her in out of a sense of unknowing confusion.

81. Gabrielle Union
WISAU: That a surprising number of Maxim voters watch BET.

80. Alexandra Daddario
WISAU: That everyone watched True Detective.

79. Ana Ivanovic
WISAU: A subset of the “female athlete” leaning is the “tennis player” leaning, with tennis as one of two sports you can get famous as a woman for playing even if you aren’t any good, provided you’re willing to pose scantily-clad in magazines (the other is NASCAR).

78. Anna Paquin
WISAU: Can we just have a separate sublist for “women who are naked on shows that Maxim readers end up watching because of their wives”? It seems like that would be a better use of our time.

77. Allison Williams
WISAU: I’m trying not to repeat any of these, but if you could go ahead and read #78 again and pretend I wrote something that means the same thing, but made a different joke, down here, that’d be great. Also I have no idea if Allison Williams was ever naked on Girls.

76. Jaimie Alexander
WISAU: That everyone, everywhere, wants to fuck an Asgardian6.

75. Rocsi Diaz
WISAU: That between BET and Entertainment Tonight, I have no idea what you people are watching.

74. Jill Wagner
WISAU: That MTV can put literally anything on the air as long as there’s a foxy lady talking over it, and people will watch it, and remember the foxy lady.

73. Rita Ora
WISAU: That we like Rihanna so much even cut-rate Rihannas get to be on these lists.

72. Liz Hernandez
WISAU: That way more people watch Access Hollywood than I heretofore thought possible

71. Hannah Davis
WISAU: That underwear models are just like regular models, only bustier

70. Kacey Musgraves

69. Danielle Fishel
WISAU: That the only thing that guarantees your spot on this list faster than being a former child star is being a former child star with giant boobs.

68. Dylan Penn
WISAU: That no matter how seriously thespianish your parents are, you can drop their names to be fast-tracked into a modelling contract and people will believe it.

67. Sarah Shahi
WISAU: That you can still make a somewhat long, sustainable career out of being “the sex bombshell girl” while still not really ever having a leading role (i.e. not the main sex bombshell girl) in these most modern of times.

66. Bar Paly
WISAU: That even if you aren’t, technically, an underwear model, you can still look like one for a spot in the bottom third of a Maxim list

65. Kerry Washington
WISAU: That you people confuse me, and I do not understand it. (Seriously? 65? Kerry Washington? Ten whole spots behind Lily Aldridge? Are we even looking at the same woman?)

64. Melissa Rauch
WISAU: That the producers of The Big Bang Theory liked Kaley Cuoco so much they found another Kaley Cuoco.

63. Summer Glau
WISAU: That people will never, ever let go of Firefly

62. Emily Ratajkowski
WISAU: That a lot of people spent a lot of time with the Blurred Lines video.

61. Amber Heard
WISAU: That names that are complete sentences are awesome7

60. Sarah Dumont
WISAU: That our fine nation’s obsession with skinny blonde girls simply cannot be sated.

59. Arianny Celeste
WISAU: That the thing about athletes extends to the athlete-adjacent, such as UFC octagon girls. Or at least one UFC octagon girl.

58. Miesha Tate
WISAU: That actual UFC fighters do, in fact, rank above Octagon girls.

57. Morena Baccarin
WISAU: That no matter how many TV shows your presence leads to the unceremonious cancelling of, people are still willing to ogle you.

56. Carrie Underwood
WISAU: That focus-marketing yourself to a very specific demographic will lead to them voting heavily for you in the Maxim Hot 100 polls. Alternately: marrying a hockey player in the South will really bump your rating.

55. Lily Aldridge
WISAU: That being an underwear model about whom there is almost nothing to say is enough to land you ten spots above Kerry Washington. Seriously, people. Do better.

54. Sofia Vergara
WISAU: That subtlety is overrated

53. Nina Dobrev
WISAU: That people other than Drake can start at the bottom

52. Jordana Brewster
WISAU: It’s unfortunate that whatever this does say about us, what it doesn’t really say is that everyone watches The Faculty every year or so like I do. Shame, really.

51. Emily VanCamp
WISAU: That my attempt to start the rumor that she was actually Emily Van de Kamp, heir to the fishstick fortune, who changed her name to be a successful actress didn’t take.

1 and, last year, Miguel kicked a lady in the head, which was as much news as they’d gotten in years.
2 that is to say, in Maxim’s parlance, “attractive in a way that is specifically libidinous,” and different from, say, “beautiful” or “likable.” It is important that the focus be glandular rather than emotional or intellectual since it’s much harder to argue with that sort of thing, and it forms something of a bedrock-level decision.
3 that is, we can appreciate that, say, Kate Upton appears to be pretty funny and reasonably grounded, even though her placement on this particular list has nothing to do with any of that.
4 although not, it’s worth noting, the most successful ones, who tend to be “interesting” looking over “nondescript”
5 note that “I guess” because surfing, as a followed sport, occupies almost none of the national bandwidth. I’m not calling surfing into question as an athletic display – that shit is hard.
6 heh. heh. he said “ass-guardian.” 
7 I am not interested in your arguments about the transitivity of the verb “heard.” The woman’s name is a grammatically complete sentence, and that is awesome.

On the flatness of izzas

The things I do for you people.

Previous forays into the “gimmicky novelty fast food” genre have yielded results that were often pretty tasty, or at least explicable and edible. Sure, some of them were so salty as to yield mouth sores, but at the very least they stood as anecdotal evidence that hyperpalatability is not just a word that food bloggers use to create panic.

The last time I ate Subway for the benefit of the public, I was generally underwhelmed by the generally underwhelming (and since discontinued) Frito sandwich. At that time, the flatizza was making its way into the world, an item advertised immediately below the flashier Frito sandwich1, and I thought “oh, well, if this frito chicken sandwich doesn’t work out I bet I could wring a joke out of those stupid pizza things.”

The Frito chicken sandwich didn’t really work out, so ROLL THE JOKE-WRINGING!

So I’ve made my position on Subway pretty clear, certainly, and I’m not going to rehash any of that, but there’s some building to do: I’m not actually capable of doing any real indulgence at a Subway restaurant. Oh, sure, there’s million-calorie sandwiches and all that rot, but they aren’t satisfying enough to justify the artery-hardening, and they just aren’t as tasty as the sandwiches that aren’t as horrifying. That said, I do occasionally finding myself making room in my gustatory plan for a meatball sandwich2, which is pretty gross, in the cosmic sense of the word. But that doesn’t feel indulgent, because the things that make meatball sandwiches special (namely: lots of melty cheese and sauce that is at least one click above “delicious”) aren’t really present.

American-style pizza3, on the other hand, exists almost exclusively as an indulgence. It’s not for nothing that a disproportionate amount of “health” food is aimed at providing a pizza-esque substance that people don’t have to feel terrible about. It is into this camp that the flatizza lands: they’re pretending that this is something that you could eat instead of a slice of pizza, because it has, if you have no idea what food is, the same set of ingredients (that is: “crust” in the form of flatbread, “sauce” in the form of the same “marinara” they use on anything else that they feel needs tomato sauce, and cheese which is, at least, cheese). Subway is banking their cachet as “the fast-food restaurant that won’t make you a big fat fatty” will extend to people believing that this goofball of a foodstuff will satisfy your pizza craving.

So I have been the eater of one of these, and I have to say that’s not true, and that’s not funny. What they are, actually, are an open-face six-inch flatbread sub (the two I had were a pizza sub and a veggie sub). I would have followed up the experience by going back and ordering a regular old pizza sub on flatbread to test the experiment, but I’m pretty sure that there are some areas where I don’t need to punish myself like that.

Subway’s flatbread is, in most senses, a complete failure on the “bread” front – it’s weirdly chewy, tastes of “flour” (and it’s twice cooked!) and doesn’t hug the sandwich fillings like I need sandwich bread to. It comes out looking like the output of the snootiest boulangerie when compared to its utility as pizza “crust,” however. If you’ve ever tried to make pizza on a cracker, or over-toasted an english muffin for an english muffin pizza, you’re already pretty familiar with the effect, except you paid someone money for this. The crust under school lunch pizzas is at least spongy. This is just sad.

It’s then covered with that sauce, which, it turns out, is a commodity that needs to be carefully meted out. On a meatball sandwich (or the rarely-available chicken pizziola) the sauce is, in fact, condiment for the wads of meat and lettuce that provide the bulk of the sandwich. On the pizza sub (which, as you may gather, is far from my favorite sandwich) it overwhelms the pepperoni handily, and goes most of the way toward also ruining the rest of the sandwich ingredients unless you destroy it with acid4.

On the flatizza, one version of which is like a pizza sub (in this case accompanied by onions, banana peppers and spinach) flattened out and mostly-dessicated, there is also a great deal more sauce. That was not the way to help. Interestingly, the veggie flatizza (onions, jalapeno peppers, banana peppers and black olives) fared somewhat better in this regard: maybe the olives helped cover some of the sauce, or maybe the whole thing was generally just saltier and made it seem less like it was topped by lumpy ketchup.

The cheese is fine. Subway cheese melts like any other cheese, I have nothing to say about hte cheese, except that those toaster ovens they use to melt the cheese don’t actually get it very hot, so it re-congeals very quickly and seems to have a tendency to leap off the sandwich in a single clump, a problem common to not-hot-enough pizza cheese. That caveat aside, by holding up its end of the bargain and not being converted into some weird nightmare version of itself, the cheese kind of ends up the all-star here.

All of this also doesn’t address the fact that the damn things are hard to eat. You have to hold them in both hands, but they’re relatively small, and the sauce doesn’t do a very good job of anchoring the ingredients to the crust, and the cheese certainly doesn’t do any cementing. So at the end of things, there is at least a 50% chance5 that you will end up with a wad of formerly-sauced flatbread that you have to contemplate trying to eat or throwing away (and therefore wasting).

On the one hand, it’s hard to fault Subway for realizing that they had a couple of sandwiches that they could just…not fold and call a new item. It could even be time-saving, if they weren’t also trying to carefully place each resulting contraption in a box (rather than the efficient, time-honored “roll it up in wrapper” solution practiced by sandwich purveyors of all stripes since time immemorial). On the other hand, guys.


This is an unfolded pizza sub with none of the advantages to pizza subs (i.e. it’s not a big sloppy sandwich). There is literally no reason to be eating these, and I order you all to stop post-haste.

1 interestingly, for years I ate lunch regularly at a Subway location that already offered wee pizzas. They were actual, like, single-serving frozen pizza blanks that they would put sub toppings on, instead of weird open-faced flatbread sandwiches. Since the introduction of the flatizza, they have joined the corporate lockstep and no longer serve their unorthodox wee pizzas.
2 this has less to do with the quality of the meatball sandwich itself (which is roughly average, I guess) with the relative cleanliness of the package: the meatballs are small and the sauce stays fairly well-contained on the sandwich, so it’s possible to eat them and not have to change your clothes afterwards.
3 we’re going to, for the sake of this piece right here, go ahead and call this a variant of American-style pizza, as opposed to Italian-style pizza, for reasons that could only be more obvious if they were dressed like Katy Perry.
4 banana peppers, because the vinegar they use doesn’t help, and pickles in that sauce are pretty gross.
5 the math here isn’t complicated, people.

Who The Fuck Would Listen to This – The Pixies, Indie Cindy

Ah, The Pixies. If there was such a thing as an advanced course of study in the field of “rock band legacies,” The Pixies would be the one to beat. Credited with really setting the scene for nineties alternative1, the critical read on the Pixies was, until 2004, pretty rigidly set down: “their albums were Great and Influential, but it’s not hard to get people to admit that the last one is, at least, a little wobbly.”

They occupied a place in rock music that is hard to hold: they were cool enough that there was no real quibble with liking them, but they were normal enough musically that everyone could, actually, like them. So everyone could agree: The Pixies were pretty cool.

Coolness is, ultimately, the best long-term prospect in terms of a career in music. Popularity is too hard to really gauge, and therefore take advantage of in career terms2. Coolness (meaning here the kind of global, long-term coolness, rather than “hipness,” which is more tied to time and place), however, tends not to go anywhere. So you can be “cool” for a very long time, and you’ll gain all sorts of word-of-mouth benefits that will sell your back catalog ad infinitum.

The Pixies, then, received the largesse of “coolness” for a very long time, and, in 2003, decided that they were going to capitalize (literally) on the existence of this whole new audience that was interested in their work (and, it stood to reason, seeing them live). The small-time band reunion in 2003 was still something of an unknown quantity – bands had done it, certainly, but generally it was still of the “pretend it isn’t a cash-in and make some terrible new material” variety3. At the time, The Pixies reunion seemed downright refreshing: they’d revived their live act to tour and show it to people, but it was nothing more (not unlike what their contemporaries in the Jesus Lizard4 did a few years ago, or what Slint does periodically now).

They did, however, record a song that didn’t appear on the Shrek 2 soundtrack, which was fairly well-received, and was seen, at the time, as an anomalous testing of the waters rather than a harbinger of the extended game of grab-ass that was about to follow.

They toured the festival circuit for awhile, and, after a few years, Frank Black started talking about the possibility of more albums. This was the state of the Pixies for six or seven years – festival shows, talk of an album.

In the middle of last year, that became very diffferent – Kim Deal (whose personal difficulties with Frank Black had led to the band’s breakup the first time) announced that she was leaving the band. She released some solo stuff and some Breeders stuff, and all seemed well.

The Pixies apparently decided that “no longer actually consisting of the people that had, to this point, been the only people to call themselves The Pixies” was the perfect time to get around to making those recordings they’d been threatening5. So they hired a bassist and shot out their second post-reunion song.

Then they released a series of EPs with their two subsequent bass players (Kim Shattuck, formerly of the Raincoats, and Paz Lenchantin, a seasoned mercenary bass player formerly associated with A Perfect Circle and The Smashing Pumpkins).

The EPs themselves were pretty terrible, but they apparently sold well enough for the band to keep on going6. And by “keep on going,” I mean “release the EPs packaged together as an album called Indie Cindy.” And there is the problem.

The music itself is pretty uninspiring. There are bits of it that aren’t bad (“Ring the Bell” is pretty good, and “Bagboy” is at least admirably weird), but none of it sounds like The Pixies, particularly. It’s obvious that Frank Black has spent the most time pursuing his vision, as a lot of the material is much more in line with what he’s been doing, musically, than with anything The Pixies were responsible for. But it’s far from the worst album I’ve talked about here, and it’s not precisely anything that would need to be snapped in half and set on fire.

Except: every. single. song. on this record has already been released on the EPs. They aren’t even re-recorded. Now, there’s a storied history of releasing EPs and then incluing songs from them on the album, but this isn’t that. Each of these EPs is the result of the same recording session, in 2012, with Gil Norton. They went in and recorded an album’s worth of songs, split them up into three EPs, then un-split them to sell them as an album7.

Lots of bands do things transparently to make money. There are constant reshufflings of material, old and new, to be resold. Often this isn’t much of a problem – no one is forcing anyone to buy a bunch of best-ofs or whatever if they don’t want to, and if fans of the band do want to, then the band is following its own interests and serving their audience, but the most ridiculous is, in 2014, releasing a collection of a bunch of songs you just released (and which you had recorded all at once in the first place). It’s not like there was even any clamor for their re-release: the EPs were received however they were received, but people were aware of them, and if they were interested, probably bought them. Redundancy is rarely a solid artistic move, and redundancy in the face of particularly uninspired music even less so.

So who the fuck would listen to this? I suppose people who wanted to save a couple of dollars and didn’t buy the EPs. Future generations that are interested in the twenty-years-on resumption of a recording career that, frankly, was wobbly when it stopped. I guess if you’re a big Frank Black fan, this might even be pretty good – it, even more than Trompe le Monde, sounds like nothing so much as a Frank Black solo album.

But other than that? This just seems a little bit crass, and a whole lot not worth anyone’s time, particularly. Go play Surfer Rosa and Doolittle again. That’ll get you where you need to go.

1. or bringing down the curtain on “college rock,” I suppose
2 although by the time you’ve made the necessary plays and concessions to become popular, you’re probably much closer to the end of your time as a viable artistic force than to the beginning, but I don’t need to tell you that.
3 sometime right around when the Pixies got back together, Mission of Burma, a band that deserves at least as much fame and coolness as that which has been bestowed upon The Pixies, released the first of three or so albums that made an impressive, convincing argument for breaking up your band for twenty years or so before you get back together. Mission of Burma’s second post-reunion album, The Obliterati, actually makes that seems like a asensible business strategy.
4 whose singer David Yow avoided calling their 2009 live dates a “reunion” in favor of “reenactment,” which is a useful distinction.
5 bear in mind that, at seven years of discussion, the talks that led to the existence of these recordings went on for almost twice as long as the original run of the band itself.
6 it does, however, make me wonder: for the four years that they originally existed, The Pixies were not a particularly successful band, per se. Clearly that phase of their existence was not dependent on income. Given that Frank Black has made other solo albums since the Pixies’ reunion (and that every member has appeared in other projects as well), one has to wonder what kind of creative fulfillment can be getting here, and this creates a paradox. To wit: there is no way these EPs were as creatively fulfilling as the projects closer to themselves than The Pixies, and there’s no way these EPs were as lucrative as spending that time playing another few giant festival shows. So even beyond “who the fuck would listen to this”, we’re sort of playing a game of “why the fuck would they go to the trouble?”
7 an album which, itself, came out less than a month after the last of the EPs. That’s not even good marketing, people.

Anything to Add, Monty Episode 8 (Draft Day)

In case you were wondering: the podcast is still up and going (eight episodes! that’s, like, four months!), and is, in fact, better than ever. The weeks that I didn’t post about here included predominantly terrible movies (seriously, there is no reason to ever watch Space Jam ever again). This week, Waiting for Next Year’s Craig Lyndall helps us talk about Kevin Costner’s cinematic journey from unproven Browns general manager to unproven but stunt-happy Browns general manager, Draft Day. As always, you can download it via iTunes, or whatever your favorite podcast-streaming medium is, and I’ll probably update this later with some links, even!

Jaye Davidson Has a Dong, Part 3

So the conversation itself is dominated by flag-planting and checklist-marking, and once it’s allowed to happen it revolves more around reactions and feels than it does around consideration and thought. Obviously, people have no control over how they react to something, but they do have control over how they discuss it. There’s no wrong way to appreciate something, but shouldn’t that mean leaving a space to appreciate things with your brain?

And so comes the question heretofore begged: why is this state so easy to fall into? I think specifically it’s because you can’t help your reaction to things, therefore your reaction is never “wrong.”

The hostility toward critics is, quite often, based in this idea that things are either “good” or “bad,” and that anyone that says the thing that you don’t think can be held in contempt. This is because nobody likes to be “wrong” – if you watch, say, Space Jam and are into the pretty colors and the terribly-depicted basketball, and someone points out that it’s got seven thousand plot holes before the plot is even introduced, it creates a disconnect between your brain (which can now see the plot holes) and your reaction (which was that cartoons just played basketball wheeeeeeee!). Anyone whose natural inclination is to be even remotely analytical has almost-certainly been accused of “ruining” something by “overthinking” it1 – the thing, then, is only “ruined” if the person making the “ruining” accusation had, in fact, not considered.

“Ruin” is pretty easily recognizable as a synonym for “spoiled”

And so it goes: any story can get the magic right of withholding information about where or how it all ends up, and so can be engaging for the length of its running time provided there’s a central piece of withheld information that’s compelling enough to continue watching it. But not many stories can stand up to particular scrutiny. And so people rely on their initial feelings (which are buoyed by the novelty of the story in question), and when the time comes to ask “how did they ________?” or “why didn’t he just ________?”, the answer is “doesn’t matter it was a good movie.” Tautologically, the movie shouldn’t be analyzed because it was good, and it was good because it wasn’t analyzed.

And so “spoilers” take away some of that novelty – knowing the ending means that, instead of being propelled by the force of the story toward its conclusion, you’re stuck already knowing where it ends up and paying more attention to how. You’ve suddenly become an active viewer, instead of a passive one, and in that state of activity it’s much easier to spot things that are setting up or preparing for the payoff that you’re already aware of.

So if “good” means “made me feel” and “bad” means “boring,” and anyone who applies a critical opinion to that is committing the cardinal sin of calling your gut reaction into question, and knowing information means you yourself are committing that sin, then hostility toward spoilers is suddenly all of the hostility toward critics mixed with all of the hostility of not being able to trust your own reactions (and, I suppose, also not being able to identify that it’s in the nature of wide-release cinema to pretty specifically manipulate emotional responses). And, again, every subgroup gets to define terms for themselves. So, dialectically, for the Theoretical Average Viewer (TAV)2, “good” does mean “provoking an emotional reaction that I find satisfactory” and bad does mean “did not hold my interest or end in a way that I thought was worthwhile”. That’s what all that business about the language was in the first place.

What I propose is not a rewriting of the definition, but a reconsideration of whether or not it’s necessarily true that “spoil” is, in this case, “bad”. See, spoilers are inevitable. People watch The Empire Strikes Back knowing that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. More people know that rosebud is a sled than have watched Citizen Kane. In those cases, however, it doesn’t prevent anyone from seeing the movies, from enjoying them for their merits, and from not spending a large amount of time regretting not having them “spoiled”.

On the other hand, there are stories (The Sixth Sense, Lost, There’s a Monster at the End of This Book) where the “spoiled” ending is actually a time-saver. In each of those cases, the telling of a story is replaced by a device (Bruce Willis is dead the whole time, the Island is purgatory or something, the monster is Grover) that reverses in two ways, one of which, I would argue, is bad: the first way is the obvious. You thought that Bruce Willis was a child psychologist, that the island wasn’t a metaphor, and that Grover wasn’t pants-wettingly terrified of his own reflection, and that subversion is a surprise (because Bruce Willis is usually alive, islands are usually islands and seriously, Grover, are there no mirrors in wherever it is that you live?). The other expectation, and the one that’s ultimately the reason this kind of “twist”y thing is fun when it’s novel, and dreadful when it doesn’t work, is that you also expect a story, and the presence of that kind of big-ending twist is a substitution for a proper ending (Bruce Willis does get to stop wandering around, but Haley Joel Osment is now down the only child psychologist that believed him, THE ISLAND WAS WHAT, NOW? and Grover is still unable to look in a mirror, the stories are exactly where they started with cosmetic changes).

“But,” I hear you saying, “it’s not always about the big whole-ending spoiler. I’m a wanker and I think it counts a spoiler to know that Thanos smiles at the camera at the end of the Avengers movie.” The theory is still the same: if knowing that tiny piece of information ruins that tiny part of the movie for you, then it never had any merit beyond its own novelty to begin with.

And that brings us to the whole point of this whole thing: obviously I’m not in charge of what words mean. Obviously I’m not in charge of how you enjoy the things you enjoy, nor of how you participate in their discourse. But there isn’t really a discourse while there’s a portion of the people converting the discussion into an extended game of “I’VE DONE THAT” and/or ‘I WAS THERE”. So what I’m saying is: it’ll keep your blood pressure down, it’ll make you new friends, and it will increase your ability to enjoy things if you shut the hell up about what’s revealed before you see it, you jerks. Otherwise I’m going to start a campaign to have you turned into Soylent Green which, as you know, is people3.

I would like to say, that although I’ve spent this whole time deferring to the consensus usage for the words, that it would be helpful if we adopted the term “clabbered”. To “spoil” means to make useless and, in a food context, this is done by encouraging reaction (chemical and biological) that renders the food unusual. “Clabbering” cream is something you do to make it acidic so it can react better with baking powder, or taste better in eggs. It’s kind of the first step to creme fraiche, and it’s an important step in your finer biscuit doughs (the ones without buttermilk, generally). “Clabbering” then, is not spoiling. It’s giving away plot-relevant details of import in such a way that makes it no longer necessary to sit through a whole movie. For example: in the theatrical release of I Am Legend, Will Smith finds a fucking vampire cure. Now I have “clabbered” that terrible movie4 which, admittedly, is also ten years old. But you get what I mean.

1 I’m not going to address this absurdity overmuch except to say: this is nothing less than demanding that people value their very lives less than they do. If I spend ninety minutes or whatever watching something that aims to have an effect, the fact that it does or doesn’t, and the way that it does or doesn’t, is an important thing to do with my time at the end. The experience isn’t really worth having if it’s nothing more than a carnival ride.
2 I’m using the term “viewer” here, but it applies across media – no popular entertainment form is safe from the spoiler-preventative weirdoes.
4 hey, everyone who just said “the director’s original ending was way better”: that’s what I hear, but it’s still pretty stupid.