Max, I was nineteen and a sophomore in college when The Day After aired. A group of us watched it on the old TV in the dorm common room, almost the entire dorm, actually (it was a small school!). I can still remember how frightened I was after watching it. The Day After, for me, was the apex of the Cold War fear that I grew up with, and is one of the few television "events" that honestly had a profound effect on me.
I hid in the bathroom with my hands over my ears for a lot of that movie. I was also about 11. Good thing there's nothing like that to worry about today, huh??
Mom let me stay up and watch it with the strict warning that "you don't stay up all night worrying about nuclear war because IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN".
I totally stayed up all night worrying about nuclear war.
I was eleven too! I hid in my room when the rest of the family was watching. I was so scared of it! Even years later when I was in HS, my friends rented it as a joke and I couldn't sleep that night and had a panic attack about war.
I was 13 when I watched it, and must have been a little more jaded, because it didn't keep me up that night out of fear. Instead, I stayed up mangling an old Holly Hobby doll, giving her bald clumps of hair, melting some of her skin to mimic radiation burns, and sticking an arm out of her head (mutation). I tried to sell her at school the next day as an exclusive "Day After Doll," but no one bought it. Still got her buried in a closet somewhere...
I took a course in Politics and the Media in college, and I remember talking about this movie, and how everyone thought the general public would be all freaked out and they set up hotlines and stuff, and then no one freaked out at all.
Except for kids, because like many of you, I watched it and then stayed up nights worrying about nuclear war. I just thought it was interesting that whoever commissioned the study about the effects of the movie never thought to look at children and teens.