Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

One Person’s Meh is Another’s Trigger

how-to-train-your-dragon-2-poster1-690x1024Our local cinema is doing some advanced screenings of How To Train Your Dragon 2 this weekend, including some yesterday. Since our little man Xander is a mad fan (owns most of the toys, seen all of the TV show(like ten times each episode), and watched the movie at least once a week since he first watched it over a year ago) we knew we had to get in on that action.

Xander watches movies at the cinema well enough. He’s watched Despicable Me 2, Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs 2, Monsters University (and a few more I can’t recall right now) without disturbing other patrons, but still we picked a session during the day when we were sure there wouldn’t be too many other movie-goers (we picked well there were only six other groups in the whole cinema) just in case this was the one time he didn’t do well.

This was the one time he didn’t do well. We had toys, food, drink, loving parents to assure him all was safe. He loved the start, grinning, bouncing in his seat, but then his trigger happened.

Xander can’t handle kidnappings (this includes dragon-napping). Giant scary freaking monster – he doesn’t care. Someone dies – he doesn’t care.  Someone gets hurt – he doesn’t care. Someone gets their heart broken – he doesn’t care. Someone get’s tied up and/or dragged away – the world is burning OMG OMG OMG!

The first time we heard chuckles from those near-by, amused  that he was so upset by the first dragon-napping (I assure you, my spoilers will get no more specific than this). By the third or fourth time he was getting so upset he couldn’t calm down before the next would happen, so my husband and I tried to leave to calm him. But no, Xander knew this movie was too awesome to leave in the middle of. If we dared to walk out the door he would lash out, struggle out of our arms and run back in. So we moved to the seats in the cinema furthest from the other patrons to try and soothe him, to try and avoid his crying bothering the other people.

Mostly he cried during action scenes, so the sound shouldn’t have been audible, and no one approached us to complain or did the snide, sotto voice walk by where they whinge about ‘that noisy kid’ so I’m not sure if we did bother anyone for sure, but I worry that we did and wish I could talk with people and explain that for Xander the most horrible thing imaginable is not injury, not death, but kidnapping.

What seems unremarkable to one person can be a great fear to others.

Another example, I’ve cared for pet snakes in the past – but for some they are a terrifying creature. It’s hard to understand something someone else fears when it’s not scary to you, but that doesn’t make their fear less valid.

I can’t help but wonder when I’m writing how many scenes I create that might trigger someone. We writers can’t avoid it really – after all who wants to read a book where basically nothing happens? Even going out the front door can be terrifying to some people. But where’s the line? Some people say that certain triggering events should be removed from fiction altogether, but that is like denying that these awful things happen. It’s certainly walking the razor’s edge.

I hope by the time the movie comes out on bluray Xander will be able to handle watching it again, because it’s awesome and I can’t wait to see it some more ;p


  1. Samoan

    Aww Xander is such a cutie pie and brave to want to stay and watch the movie even though parts of it scared him. I think there will always be things in books and movies that triggers people and it is up to the watcher/reader to decide if they can handle continuing reading or watching it for themselves. It’s like you said we can’t just pretend that these things happen but writers can show people that they can survive that they have the strength to face what happened to them and get better to continue in life. Also writers can teach other how their action may harm other people, books and movies are a great tool in teaching a guiding people though situations and make people know that they are not alone

    • Kirstie Olley

      Thanks 🙂 I’d forgotten to acknowledge how brave he was facing his fears there. You’re so right about how stories can help people like that as well.

  2. Marita

    Poor guy 🙁

    Heidi really struggles with the intense emotional scenes, Brave was impossible for her to watch, mother on the brink of death for most of the movie.

    So glad you’ve written review of your experience with How to Train Your Dragon because I was wondering if we could risk the cinema to see it, but I think perhaps not. We will wait for it to come out on BluRay.
    Marita recently posted..Fairtrade Giveaway! Bringing Clean Water to the World One Chocolate Bar at a Time.My Profile

    • Kirstie Olley

      It is a great movie, but I think for more sensitive kids it might be a little tough. Xander will probably handle his second watch much better because he knows it all ends well, but I’m not going to risk the cinema again to try that. Bluray’s a great idea.
      So sad to hear about Heidi and Brave because Merida is one of my favourite Disney Princesses – she’s so strong and, well for lack of a better word, brave. Is it easier for her on subsequent viewings, or is it always tough for her?

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