Trope Talk: Amnesia

  • Published on:  9/20/2019
  • Amnesia! The trope too powerful for its own good! It's a favorite of soap operas and anything else that likes quick and easy drama, and when it comes to shuffling around core character traits, amnesia is basically a swiss army knife - need to roll back a week or two of character development? need to revert a character to a clean slate? wanna make one of your lovebirds forget their FIRST KISS? amnesia is the trope for you! and if you're an audience member sick of being emotionally manipulated by writers doing any and all of the above… WELCOME TO THE PARTY

    What's YOUR favorite amnesia plot - or, if you've got an axe to grind, what's your LEAST favorite instance of the trope? Yell about it in the comments!

    My favorite example of amnesia done right, which I didn't have time to delve into here, is the season 1 finale/season 2 opener of Transformers Prime, where Optimus Prime sacrifices the Matrix of Leadership to defeat Unicron, and in the process loses all of his memories SINCE HE GAINED THE MATRIX and first BECAME Optimus Prime. He reverts to Orion Pax, a simple pacifist librarian who believes Megatron is still "Megatronus", his best friend and fellow activist. He doesn't know ANY of the autobots, since technically speaking, Megatron IS his oldest friend - so he ends up working with the Decepticons for MULTIPLE EPISODES as the Autobots try and get a working backup copy of the Matrix of Leadership to restore Prime's memories. It's a uniquely fascinating look into the mind of a truly ancient and very battle-hardened being from BEFORE he became the most iconic leader in science fiction - the seeds of the noble paragon he'd become without the weight of worlds on his shoulders. Orion Pax doesn't even BELIEVE he could be a Prime, because he doesn't think he's WORTHY of it. And even without his memory, Orion Pax figures out that Megatron is lying to him and being all evil and stuff, and rebels all on his own without Autobot help (and then gets his ass kicked because Orion Pax has no idea how to fight, oops). It's honestly such a fun arc (and I have to give ENDLESS credit to both the animators and to Prime's voice actor, Peter Cullen, who, exclusively through facial expression and tone of voice, manage to communicate a much younger, much less experienced Prime despite his appearance being totally unchanged. It's so well-done, even before he talks you can tell something's wrong.)

    EXAMPLES USED (in rough order of first appearance): Transformers Prime (Orion Pax p.1), Death Note, Blindspot, Doctor Who (Utopia), Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Captain Marvel, Batman: The Animated Series (Forgotten), The Iron Giant, Frozen, She-Ra (Remember), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Young Justice (Bereft), Wall-E, Gravity Falls (finale), Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Wreck-It Ralph, Captain America: The Winter Soldier



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