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DID YOU READ

Spoilers good for the soul, says science

Spoilers good for the soul, says science (photo)

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Disgruntled bloggers are a little less gruntled this week, since learning the news that a University of California, San Diego study finds what many of them have argued for years: that ruining the ends of film or TV plots don’t actually spoil anything. In fact, they may enhance the enjoyment. Here’s an excerpt from the U of C’s findings, as quoted on MSNBC.com:

In an experiment, researchers gave away the endings for three different kinds of short stories — those with an ironic twist ending, mysteries and tales Leavitt calls “more evocative literary stories.” These were real short stories by authors such as John Updike, Roald Dahl, Anton Chekhov, Agatha Christie and Raymond Carver; none of the 30 undergrad study participants had read these stories before… people “significantly preferred” the spoiled versions of the ironic twist stories and the mysteries. (The so-called evocative stories were less appreciated in general, “likely due to their more expressly literary aims,” [study author Jonathan] Leavitt writes. No spoiler alert needed there.) But in all three kinds of short stories, people like the texts with the spoilers worked into the opening graphs about as much as they liked the unspoiled texts.

According to Leavitt, spoilers “may allow readers to organize developments in the story, anticipate the implications of events, and resolve ambiguities that occur in the course of reading.” In other words, if, like most human beings of adult age, you know that “Planet of the Apes” is set (UNSCIENTIFIC SPOILER ALERT) on Earth before you watch the movie, you’ll spend the film looking for clues to that fact throughout the narrative. This provides an interesting argument for why spoiler warnings are unnecessary: spoiled endings essentially make us more active readers (or viewers) and a more active reader is generally a more satisfied reader.

It’s all interesting stuff, and as someone who’s always argued that writers should be allowed to spoil stuff in their writing (with appropriate warning), it’s nice food for thought. But here’s where the study loses me a little (sorry, science). It concludes that “perhaps birthday presents are better when wrapped in cellophane, and engagement rings are better when not concealed in chocolate mousse.” It’s a conclusion delivered with tongue firmly in cheek, but it made me think of my wife, who demanded that my engagement proposal be a total surprise, and who adores surprise parties and surprises in general. If I’d giving her a engagement ring that hadn’t been concealed in (my case proverbial) chocolate mousse, I’d say there’s a decent chance she would have turned me down, at least until I came up with a more clever way to propose. I, on the other hand, hate surprises. If you’re throwing me a party, I better know about it in advance.

Which got me to wondering: what if different people are wired differently in regards to spoilers? The U of C’s study’s sample size was just 30 undergraduate students, not very large at all. If they’d performed the same test on 300 students, would the results be the same? I have a feeling if I’d been a subject of the experiment, I would have voted in line with its findings. But if my wife had been a subject, she probably wouldn’t have. She likes surprises too much to enjoy them being spoiled.

What if there is something in our DNA that makes us more curious about — or wary of — spoilers? Could it be hereditary? I seem to get my own aversion to surprises from my mother, who has always claimed if we ever threw her a surprise party she would turn around and walk out. U of C needs to dig even deeper into this, and search for a genetic link regarding spoilers. Maybe there’s a spoiler gene inside us. And maybe it’s shaped like the Statue of Liberty. Science, it’s up to you to find out.

Do you buy the university’s study? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.