Lootcrate Villains Box and Subscription Box Spoilers

Last month I signed up for Lootcrate and received the Heroes box. August’s theme was, unsurprisingly, villains and the box arrived today. I was looking forward to this one given the theme but I ended up being a bit disappointed.

The box was pretty full of stuff (though I seem to remember last month’s being fuller) and contained a Venom mug, a wooden painted Joker, a Hydra badge, A lootcrate badge, a Breaking Bad apron and the August Lootcrate newsletter. Mugs always come in handy so that’s gone in the kitchen and the Hydra badge is really nice. I’m a bit nonplussed by the wooden Joker though. I mean it’s a kind of cool idea but I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, and I haven’t yet seen Breaking Bad (I know, I know!) or do much cooking. My sister, on the other hand, has and does so I’ll probably give her the apron to go with the Breaking Bad cookbook I bought her last Christmas.

If this was the first Lootcrate box i’d got I’d probably be much less enthusiastic than I was about last month’s, but there is another reason why I wonder about my disappointment. The trouble is I’d seen the box’s content about a week before mine arrived.

I follow several unboxing accounts on Instagram and given Lootcrate was being shipped from the US, people in the States got it before I did, and uploaded their unboxing photos. I don’t think many of them actually made it into my feed but I was curious and wanted to know what I was going to get. I did umm and ahh about going looking for photos of August’s box. After all I would be getting it myself if only I could be patient, but the novelty of the boxes hasn’t worn off yet and I was excited. So I went ahead and spoiled myself.

While I was waiting for my box, thinking about this post and the photos I’d looked at, I found myself comparing them to TV spoilers. As a rule I don’t generally look for spoilers. If it’s a show I’m really invested in I’ll actively avoid them, though I don’t have an issue with teasers. The difference between spoilers for TV and spoilers for subscription boxes, though, is that generally the TV spoilers are text (articles) rather than images, or if they are images they’re of one aspect of the episode, not the whole episode (this isn’t a hard and fast rule, obviously). Subscription box spoilers are for the entire thing though. You see what you’re going to get in Instagrammed detail and can read reviews about the box as well (which, yes, I did). So when the box arrived today there was no sense of excitement about what I was going to be getting, and I was disappointed with it because I’d already seen it all.

Henry Jenkins talks about spoilers in Convergence Culture, and in particular focuses on Survivor fans who go to great lengths to get spoilers about the series:

there is a hardcore group of fans which has already pieced together detailed information about the location, including photographs of the Tribal Council site and the location of the first challenge. From these pictures, the Survivor fan community will be able to piece together a great deal about the forthcoming series. Even as we speak, other members of that community will be trying to ferret out the names and identities of the contestants (well before they are announced by the network) and others still will be trying to extract information from people on the ground in the Cook Islands who might have seen something or overheard something during the production. They call themselves spoilers. – See more at: http://henryjenkins.org/2006/07/behind_the_scenes_spoiling_sur.html#sthash.I3osvxl9.dpuf

For these fans there is pleasure to be gained from trying to find the information that producers want to keep quiet. In contrast, Gray and Mittel talk about Lost fans who sought out narrative developments online. They suggest that fans obtain extra-textual pleasures from seeking out spoilers, be they ‘cautious’ fans who want to prepare themselves for things to happen, fans obtaining cultural capital by being the first to break a piece of news, or finding enjoyment in unravelling the mystery of the spoiler itself. If this month’s Lootcrate had contained last month’s items and I’d seen them before the box arrived, I think I would have been even more excited to get my hands on them. In that sense there’s an extra-textual pleasure in the anticipation of receiving a desired item, rather than the anticipation of the surprise. That more closely mirrors Gray and Mittel’s framing of TV spoilers as an experience:

Might the act of spoiling be a clever way for impatient viewers to short-circuit the out-of-control experience of being taken for a narrative ride and go directly to the pleasures of repeated viewings on the first go round?

Could my pre-viewing of August’s Lootcrate be seen as a way for me to short-circuit the out-of-control experience of being taken for a material ride? Possibly, though it still left me disappointed with the box. In contrast, I signed up for August’s Level Up wearables and didn’t see any photos of those before my parcel arrived. I was excited to open it and see what I’d got, and the items I had were a Poison Ivy hair clip and a Harley Quinn travel bag.

I really liked these! In fact I wore the hair clip to work today and I’ve already filled my travel bag and put it in my suitcase. I think I would have liked them just as much if I’d seen previews before they arrived, but of course I can’t really test that. I do know that, having seen July’s Level Up items, I would have been a bit disappointed with those so maybe it’s not being spoiled for the box that was the issue this month but the items themselves. I still need to decide if I’m going to look at September’s photos before my box arrives though.

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