Trailergate: The Great Trailer Debate

There’s the infamous Watergate scandal; sports followers still get a kick out of Crygate; and Antennagate  briefly plagued Apple’s release of the iPhone 4.  Well, here’s a new one for you: Trailergate.  It’s completely made-up and involves no impeachable offenses or villainous superstar athletes, so bear with me while I set this up.

DISCLAIMER: This is a (slight) dramatization…

It all started when I announced excitedly to a friend, we’ll call him Dick for our purposes, that there was a new trailer for Django Unchained.  I was surprised when the reaction I received didn’t match my own.  In fact, it almost verged on hostility.  Dick sighed, looked at me with what suspiciously looked like contempt and asked, “Did you watch it?” Clearly already knowing the answer and prematurely disappointed, he awaited my response to begin the preemptive chiding.  I shouldn’t have been nearly as surprised since it’s been something of a debate that reoccurs.  The argument ensued and I was having a bit of trouble defending my indulgence and actually defining my stance, mostly since I was caught off-guard, but also since I empathized with his point and was too stubborn to admit it.

This is what really grinds his gears: there’s an oversaturation of movie trailers in circulation preceding and coinciding with a film’s release and this taints the viewing experience by robbing it of the element of surprise.  In today’s culture of information overload, trailers are so readily available and accessible that they’re virtually impossible to avoid.  Oftentimes, the best scenes or quotable lines from a movie are all jammed into the trailer and the actual film never measures up to these expectations in its entirety (see: Dark Shadows –I swear I’m not the only one who thought this was going to be good, 21 Jump Street, Crazy, Stupid, Love).  It’s similar to how there’s no such thing as a true cameo in films anymore, since it’s usually strategically announced as part of the marketing lure.  So, is too much early exposure to film footage ultimately changing the way we experience movies?  Do all these teasers and alternate clips ultimately detract from overall enjoyment?

There was arguably a time when you could walk into a movie knowing as little or as much about it as you chose, leaving room for pleasant surprises along the way.  It requires more of a concerted, conscious effort to control the volume of information guzzling, so it’s not even much of a majority concern.  If the film in question is one you were going to see regardless of an aggressive marketing strategy, you’re not an undecided voter and probably don’t require additional material to maintain enthusiasm for seeing it.  There’s no further enticement necessary.  Conversely, there’s nothing they could really add to a new trailer that will sway you away from it.  Nothing short of a cameo by say, Madonna, would deter me from wanting to see Django (I wouldn’t put it past Tarantino, actually).

So, let’s proceed with the facts.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you the potentially incriminating evidence:

Exhibit A: Not too long ago, I was a bit skeptical and intrigued, by the story of the man behind the blog series “Mark Does Stuff,” whose tagline emphasizes his “eternal unpreparedness.”  He’s approached popular media franchises, like the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings book series, and the Portal video games, with a blank slate, somehow managing to avoid spoilers.  His chronicles evoke the nostalgic feeling of wonder only genuine to an unspoiled first time experience, which fans relive vicariously through him.  This natural, irreplaceable sensation is the essence of the appeal behind being unprepared.

Exhibit B: It’s NBA playoff season, with Finals just weeks away.  Loads of high-market games are airing on national and cable television stations.  It’s the perfect opportunity to cram in as many movie trailers as possible for the summer’s upcoming blockbusters, most notably The Dark Knight RisesWith all the adrenaline already bolstered by the high-intensity playoff atmosphere, a glimpse at Christopher Nolan’s much-anticipated final Batman installment is an appropriate addition to the party.  Unless you’re trying to avoid spoilers at all costs, leading you to walk out of the room any time a trailer airs, which is exactly what one fellow ball fan did all throughout the playoffs.  He admitted to knowing about Catwoman and Bane, but claimed he had not seen any film footage, thus making his eventual, untainted viewing all the more rich.

Exhibit C: