Today, my friends at Vox.com published a terrific 5,000-word feature about the legacy of the Sopranos, framed around one very exclusive piece of reporting: series creator David Chase told reporter Martha Nochimson whether Tony Soprano dies at the end of the show, a question that fans have debated endlessly in the decade since the series famously ended on a hard cut to black.
It's terrific, and the Vox.com product team engineered a fantastic presentation where the screen blacks out before the reveal. It's everything a feature on the internet should be: thoughtful, concise, exclusive, and interactive.
But because the headline was phrased in the form of a question — the question of the entire series — Jake Beckman, who runs the Twitter account @savedyouaclick, decided that it wasn't worth it. He "saved you a click" and tweeted the reveal.
This is bullshit.
he didn't save anyone a click at all — he stole an experience
It is bullshit because he didn't save anyone a click at all — he stole an experience. That story is great. It is absolutely worth the click. Arguing that it's not because the headline is phrased in the form of a question is reductive to the point of absurdity, just like arguing against lists or quizzes or gifs or any specific form of art is absurd. Rock music. Horror movies. A generation raised on rebellion has grown up to instead police the web pages of the larger internet from the wide-ranging terrorism of mild curiosity. We are all of us the Tipper Gore of clickbait headlines. Parental advisory: viral content.
Saved you a click is a joke that's over, just as all jokes-of-a-moment eventually turn into the cloying aftertaste of unimportance. It's a joke that's turned into a crusade in the name of formalism; a series of sad internet book reports insisting that there's no room for depth behind the binary series of yes / no answers haunting every thoughtful person's wettest nightmares.
a joke that's turned into a crusade in the name of formalism
Fighting against the idea of stories that begin with questions is to insist that we live in a world without any suspense, in which even contemplating the existence of two possibilities before lightly tapping a small button to reveal the answer is somehow an affront to good taste that must be stamped out. Meanwhile, everyone else is just enjoying a small taste of freedom at work.
You know what saving that click really stole from you? The chance to read this, Nochimson's brilliant final line about Tony Soprano: "It's not whether a character dies on screen that is at stake, but whether we die to our own capacity for wonder."
Oh, and in case you're wondering, the headline on this piece was constructed in strict accordance with Betteridge's Law.