A Trip Through Improbable Scenarios in Popular Culture
Have you ever wished you could forget something? Not just in a push-it-to-the-back-of-your-mind kind of way, in the sense that you forget where you put your keys or what your login password is. I’m referring to true erasure from your brain. That humiliating memory of wetting your pants in the first grade? Gone forever. Did a string of adolescent cruelties warp your ability to connect with others? What if you could lift them from your psyche forever?
Michel Gondry’s 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” grapples with the ramifications of memories, how they shape who we are, and the consequences of their loss. For a story that involves a rogue doctor, unethical employees, a storefront medical business, and pseudo-science, you might not expect this to be a love story.
Jim Carrey (in what might be his finest moment as an actor) stars as Joel, who has gone through a crushing break-up with his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet). She decides to visit Lacuna, Inc., run by Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), to have her memories of Joel scraped from her mind, which prompts Joel to do the same. (when Joel wonders about brain damage; the Dr. reassures him, “Well, technically speaking, the operation is brain damage, but it’s on a par with a night of heavy drinking. Nothing you’ll miss.”)
Once we get to experience these memories, and Joel begins to lose them, we come to understand the consequences of such a decision.
Something prodded me to wonder if this kind of silliness could ever become reality, and much to my surprise: the feat has been achieved in mice.
The article assures us this is selective and safe, and while I have no reason to doubt this, Gondry’s unconventional film makes plain that things we assume to be safe and desirable do not always work out that way.
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