Recently I’ve been thinking about the strange way in which I interacted with stories as a kid. When I was about, say, five through seven or eight years old, there were often small details of stories that I’d assign far too much importance to, to the point where they’d utterly change the message I’d take away from the story. It wasn’t that I would miss the point, per se, because I was a precocious enough kid to recognize what the writer was trying to say on multiple occasions — hold your applause, though; we’re talking about very simple stories because I was pretty young at the time — but, instead, I’d read a story and go, wait, but what about…? and completely stray away from whatever direction I was supposed to be headed.
To give a very specific example: there was a Battlestar Galactica comic strip that I’d return to regularly, in which Apollo had to save to save the day, and the water supply of the entire fleet, by fixing a pipe by tying his jacket around it to prevent leaks. The punchline to the story was something along the lines of, “Why so glum, Apollo? You just saved the lives of everyone in the fleet!” “Yeah, but that was my favorite jacket!” Cue the laugh track.
Except, to me, that was a tragic story. I couldn’t get past the fact that Apollo had lost his favorite jacket. I got that he’d saved everyone’s lives, so the jacket had been sacrificed for a good cause, but it was his favorite jacket, so surely losing that was really sad, right…? Why was everyone laughing on the page? Were they just being really insensitive to poor Apollo?
I had this response to all kinds of stories. I’d be completely derailed by an emotional consequence that literally no-one else seemed to notice, never mind care about, aside from me. I don’t know where it came from, and more importantly, I’m not entirely sure where it went — whether I just learned to not care because no-one else did, or something else — but, every now and then, I wonder what the reader I used to be would make of the stories I read nowadays.