I don't wanna be remembered; I wanna be forgotten
MEMORY and MEMORY LOSS in FICTION
Playing with memory and memory loss is a handy device for fiction writers, from soap opera-type melodrama to exciting-but-thought-provoking stories like The Matrix, and in all kinds of stories betwixt and beyond.
Like any writer's tool or technique it can be used badly or well, with hackery or with great skill.
I remember in the first season of 24, when a major character needed to be taken out of the action for a stretch of time, she took a tumble and got temporary amnesia. This was season one and you gotta do what you gotta do, but it played pretty unbelievably and silly (and not in the way that the show was supposed to be unbelievable and silly).
Some of my favorite uses of this trope that, er, I can recall at the moment:
The Matrix, as I referenced above. Humanity is living a fairly normal, 15-minutes-in-the-future kind of life, before the main character learns that he, and everyone else, are living in a shared illusion. It's iconic and unforgettable (ah, I didn't realize what I was sayin'!). I've never seen the sequels…even before I heard the mixed reviews, there seemed no real point. The first movie is phenomenal (and was a phenomenon!)
Memento features a character with a condition that causes him to forget everything since his years-ago injury every few minutes. He's hunting a killer in a VERY noir thriller. There's a structure to the film that helps us share the Protagonist's confusion. The main action of the film plays backwards, with the last scene first. I don't know how well regarded it is these days, but I always found it super cool.
This premise was also used in the romantic comedy “50 first dates”, which I've never seen.
“And When the Sky Was Opened” from the original Twilight Zone series. An experimental spaceflight returns and one by one, the crewmembers disappear and are completely forgotten by everyone except one member of the crew. Nobody believes his story about the forgotten men. In the end, no answers are given, but it's damn chilling.
The movie Total Recall (the Arnold Swarzenegger version is the one to see, not the remake!) stars a character who becomes unaware of who he really is - a secret agent with false memories or a regular guy in a Matrix-style illusion with fake memories. It's a blast, and easily one of Arnold's best movies
In the 2000's version of Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons are robots that look completely human. They have infiltrated human society - and some of them actually believe they're human. The show plays a lot with erased memories and identity. Great sci fi stuff!
Stories involving amnesia and fake memories call to mind what I hear some metaphysical speakers talk about. They say we are cosmic entities having a physical experience. We are here to experience things, or learn things, or love and help each other…or all of the above. But our true nature and true memories are hidden from us during this experience.
Of course I have no idea whether this is true, but it's kind of awesome to think about. I hope I'm actually a secret agent!
Hmm…I guess if this IS true, I AM a secret agent, as are we all!
See you next time!
Remember me! Or don't; it's all good.
Banes at 12:00AM, May 26, 2022
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