Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Stealing Memory

Olin Levi Warner, Memory (1896). Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

I finally managed to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and it is probably my favorite in the whole X-Men series so far. For those who haven't seen it yet, please don't read on, because major SPOILER is coming up. You have been warned.

For those still with me...

At the end of the film, 'Wolverine', formerly 'Logan', is robbed of his memory by the evil guy of the movie, Colonel Stryker. A big chunk of it anyway. He doesn't even know his original name anymore; but the dog tags around his neck say 'Wolverine', which he had chosen at some earlier point as an alias, and which has now become his 'real' name.

Among the things he doesn't remember is the dead woman lying nearby, who had once been his lover, then turned out to have been just a 'plant' to watch over him while he had been out there in the world, doing his own stuff. In the end, it's revealed that she had been blackmailed into doing this by the Evil Guy, but that didn't stop her from falling in love with Logan—and in the end she dies, not quite in his arms, but he knows the truth anyway. Then his memory of her is taken—all of it, the good and the bad, the joy and the pain—and all he can do is close her dead eyes; and maybe deep down there's a sense that...


The ending triggered a lot of stuff, not least of which was the whole issue of 'memory', which was also dealt with in movies like Dark City, Bladerunner and The 13th Floor. It occurred to me, and this was a visceral reaction that surprised me, that stealing someone's memory—in the sense of either taking it away from them directly, or altering it in such a way that it bears no truth-correlation to what was there before the taking'—should be a crime punishable at least as severely as killing someone. Because, good or bad, accurate or distorted through life and time, it is all we have that is ours—because our memories are our stories, which weave into the whole, constantly changing single story that we understand as our 'being'.

Think about that. And think about the things that are being done to us on a daily basis by those who take away and replace, if not all of our memory, then at least large portions of it. Of course, one could argue, that there's little difference how memories get changed: by ourselves or others, and where's the boundary anyway? But that's not the point. If we change them, then it's our doing, at least partially, and we should make this 'partially' account for as much as possible. That's the whole thing about being responsible to the greatest degree possible for our actions and for what we are. But to allow others to take over that job is unacceptable—at least I think so.

And yet we let them do it, day by day and in so many subtle and overt ways...and be it only simply by believing their bullshit about what was, is and will be.

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