Sunday, February 06, 2011


A few days ago I found myself watching one of those cookie-cutter, made-for-TV movies about someone who gets amnesia.

You know, you have a happy family, then the husband or wife gets in a car accident or something, loses their memories of their partner and child and then it’s all high-drama “Why doesn’t he/she remember me?”

I always think they get these movies wrong. What usually happens is the person accepts that they have amnesia over the course of an afternoon…and then it’s basically a love story where the amnesiac falls in love with their partner all over again and they’re as close as ever in a matter of weeks.

I don’t think it would be like that.

Our memories define who we are. To the person with amnesia there's no real difference between not remembering something and that thing never having happened.

Think of it like this: Imagine going to bed tonight, and waking up tomorrow in a strange house next to a person you don’t recognize…and when you look in a mirror you suddenly realize you’ve aged ten years overnight.

It doesn’t matter that the person you woke up next to is someone you married nine years ago and built a life with, because from your perspective, it didn’t happen. On Monday you were 25 years old and single. The next day you’re thirty five, in a house you don’t recognize, surrounded by strangers claiming to be your family.

It would feel like a stranger knocked you out then walked around in your skin for ten years. Like an imposter took your place… and nothing short of getting your memories back would change that feeling.

For example, you’ve woken up surrounded by people you don’t recognize. To prove they’re your family, this stranger shows you a video of the two of you getting married. It wouldn’t make anything clearer or ‘prove’ anything, it would just be absolutely horrifying. With no memory of the event, you wouldn’t be watching yourself, you’d be watching an imposter walking around in your body and talking with your voice. You know that yesterday you were single. You remember everything you did yesterday…then you just woke up in this nightmare.

Even worse, imagine if your memory was erased back to a point where you were in a different relationship.

You’re happily married to someone, you’re deeply in love. You go out to dinner, watch a movie and go to bed. The next morning you wake up and the love of your life is gone and there’s a total stranger in their place. Imagine how you’d react.

The ‘new’ partner could show you all the evidence they liked of your relationship. They could tell you that your first marriage didn’t work out, you broke up, then met them a year later. You could watch videos of your wedding, your kids being born, flip through ten years worth of photo albums…but none of that would matter. As far as you’re concerned, yesterday you were happily married and deeply in love with your husband or wife…no amount of pictures or video will change that. The ten years you spent with your ‘new’ partner just didn’t happen from your point of view. Your first instinct would be to seek out your ‘real’ partner, and you wouldn’t care about your ‘new’ partner. Why would you? You’ve known them for a matter of hours, and even worse, they’ve usurped your real partner against your will.

Long story short, if these movies wanted to be more realistic, it would be a two hour clusterfuck ending with the amnesiac so traumatized, they’d spend the rest of their life in a mental institution.

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