Do Not Forget to Remember

My LiveJournal friend Laura mentioned a few weeks ago that she didn’t like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. because of Agent Coulson’s desire to hide things from the public, and that she disliked Men in Black for much the same reason. I haven’t watched S.H.I.E.L.D., and I only saw the first Men in Black movie (I thought it was an interesting idea that wasn’t really developed that well), but I can see why this would be a problem.

I thought of how the Harry Potter series also tends to have memory erasure in the same style as MIB.

The power to erase specific memories is a common one in fiction, but in some cases I think it’s largely a way to create a world that’s identifiable, yet also has fantasy or sci-fi elements. Think about it this way. If you want to portray our world as having magic or super-advanced technology, one way is to create an alternate Earth that’s quite similar to ours but with these things existing. A low-level example of this would be the web comic Questionable Content, in which the world is realistic except for sentient robots being commonplace. It’s also the case in the Bartimaeus Trilogy, the Related Worlds in the Chronicles of Chrestomanci, pretty much everything by Jasper Fforde…the list goes on. Another way is to make these elements exist, but make them outside the knowledge of most people. Think of the Mist from Rick Riordan’s mythology books, which is controlled by Hecate and stops ordinary mortals from seeing gods and monsters.

Or, instead of attributing this sort of thing to a supernatural force, you can have people whose job it is to stop the masses from seeing the extraordinary, with the memory erasure as a failsafe in case they do. This is the MIB model, and it comes across as rather elitist. Apparently it’s okay for certain people, often members of a government-sponsored organization, to know about aliens, but not anyone else. Even in the Potter books, one of the few Muggles who doesn’t have to be a friend or relative of a wizard in order to know about the magical world is the Prime Minister. Yeah, because I’d really trust someone like Margaret Thatcher with knowledge like that. The intentions going into this are often good, trying to prevent witch burnings or race riots against Rigelians, but there’s an air of totalitarianism about them. Mind you, if such things really did exist and people in power knew about them, whether or not the general public would ever find out would likely depend on whether there was any money in it.

This entry was posted in Authors, Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Comics, Conspiracy Theories, Diana Wynne Jones, Harry Potter, Heroes of Olympus, Jasper Fforde, Magic, Percy Jackson, Rick Riordan, Technology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Do Not Forget to Remember

  1. Bryan Babel says:

    Best memory eraser ever…Princess Bubblegum literally erasing with a pencil the knowledge written on the Lemongrabs’ brains.

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