Viewers have been encouraged to “go in blind” to The Perfection, but keeping potentially triggering content a secret could do more harm than good.
It’s been a week since Netflix dropped The Perfection. It’s a film that some have hailed one of the best of the year. But it has proven to be extremely divisive. People seem to either love it or hate it, with very little in between. One point of contention is that many of the film’s champions — as well as the filmmakers and distributors themselves — continuously encourage viewers to go into the film as blind as possible.
With the release of Marvel’s latest blockbuster, Avengers: Endgame, there has been a lot of debate on the subject of spoilers: the pros versus the cons, if they should be avoided at all costs, and whether or not they have to potential to make or break a film.
Many people have been firmly anti-spoiler when it comes to The Perfection. Over half the reviews are decidedly spoiler-free and encourage readers to go into the film with as little information as possible, sometimes going so far as to caution against even watching the trailer.
Indeed, I went in only knowing the most basic plot details and, to be fair, part of the thrill of watching this nightmare unfold was that I truly didn’t know what to expect.
That being said, I’m a believer in content warnings — and The Perfection warrants a lot of them.
Many would argue that the point of horror is to take the audience out of their comfort zone, and to an extent I would agree. But there is a difference between being scared, grossed out, and uncomfortable in the name of entertainment and potentially endangering your mental health. There are films with certain themes that I won’t watch because I know they will cross that line for me. I think that everyone deserves to be able to make that choice for themselves before they consume any kind of media.
But, according to some, knowing the potential triggers contained in The Perfection “ruins” the experience of watching the film, just as many Marvel fans claimed that knowing which characters die at the end of Endgame would “ruin” the story.
But if a narrative depends completely on the audience avoiding spoilers at all costs, if it falls apart once a single vital plot point is given away, perhaps the problem lies in the storytelling itself.
Being surprised or shocked by a plot twist is great. But the journey to that point should be just as gratifying as the twist itself. Otherwise, there would be no point in watching the film more than once.
I have not watched The Perfection a second time (I’m going to need some time to emotionally prepare for that), so I can’t say if the ride is just as exhilarating when you know what’s around every twist and turn. However, I do feel like the overall themes of the film will carry through multiple viewings. The final victory will be just as satisfying as the first time around — or at least it should be. If a film immediately loses its appeal once the curtain is lifted and the audience is in on all its secrets, is it really a good film?
Of course, the “go in blind” approach on behalf of the filmmakers and Netflix is, more than anything, a promotional gimmick to build hype for the film.
It’s the 21st Century version of “No one… will be admitted to the theater after the start” of Psycho. It’s also certainly a response to spoiler culture, capitalizing on recent discourse on the matter. But for a film that features so much triggering content, insisting viewers avoid all information about the plot and themes contained therein could potentially do more harm that good.
You don’t know what kind life experiences each viewer is bringing with them when they sit in front of the screen. When your film deals heavily with child sexual abuse, rape, and trauma, insisting everyone go in with as little information as possible is effectively throwing your audience into the lion’s den. An unwillingness to warn for these thematic elements shows a lack of awareness at best and a lack of empathy at worst.
So, if you haven’t seen The Perfection, I’m not going to tell you to go in blind.
What I am going to do is give you a list of content warnings — which I do not consider to be “spoiling” the story — so you can make an informed decision regarding whether or not you want to watch the film.
Content warnings for The Perfection: rape, child sexual abuse, body horror (namely amputation), vomiting, insects, self harm (cutting), institutionalization, electroshock therapy.