I was 7 years old when The Land Before Time debuted in theatres. I loved dinosaurs just as many children did growing up. My favorite character was Ducky followed closely by Spike. I eventually had it on VHS and would watch it fairly often. And every time I popped that tape in, my mom would leave the room soon after. At one point I remember asking her why she wouldn’t watch parts of the movie with me.
She explained to me that because her mom was gone, it was too sad for her to watch.
I’m sure I raised an eyebrow at her. Did she not understand these were cartoon dinosaurs voiced by people? Because I was 8 years old and I knew that. Whatever, mom. Weird.
Fast forward 10 years and I lost my mother at the same age she had lost her’s. And wouldn’t you know it, as I went along in life consuming fiction (as I am want to do), stories where someone’s mother died became incredibly painful to experience. Want to watch me cry real tears? Pop in “The Body” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
People have wildly different reactions to fiction depending on their life experience. Beyond the objective good or bad fiction, stories are a sort of magic spell that only affects a percentage of the population.
And there are different ways of enjoying fiction. Some people can read a book and admire the style of prose. Others read to be transported by worldbuilding or fall in love with a character. There’s no true objective way to view this sort of thing. It’s all opinion, and it’s all a reflection on the person consuming it.
I can’t stand horror films, bu not because I find them scary. On the contrary, I find them excruciatingly dull. My favorite thing as a kid was the Making Of Star Wars documentary from 1977. I loved how movies were made. I never really got caught up in stories too much because I cared about how they did it. So gore doesn’t really do anything for me. I just sit there wondering how they made the monsters or what effects they used to make the blood. Then you’re left with jump scares (lame) or an actually “scary” story. And I’ve just never found a film that could scare me.
You are either someone who enjoys horror films, or you aren’t. My life experiences have lead me to be someone who cries when a character’s mom dies, but isn’t really bothered when a house full of characters are slaughtered with chainsaws. These things just are, and getting worked up over someone liking or not liking the same stories as you is a waste of everyone’s time.
This isn’t to say that fiction doesn’t matter, but know that its impact has limits. And whether you are talking about fiction or reality, not everyone is going to feel the same way. Not everyone is going to cry when Littlefoot’s mom dies.