Friday, February 13, 2004

Short-Term Memory

I've been thinking a lot about the latest Adam Sandler movie, "50 First Dates," and it really bothers me. It looks like a funny premise - a guy dates a girl who loses her short-term memory, so he has to make her fall in love with him again every day. The problem I have with the movie is that it takes what was once an original idea, a character who loses short-term memory, and turns it into a stereotype.

Have we really beaten the short-term memory concept to death so much that we can use it as the premise for a romantic comedy? I remember the first time I saw the concept on SNL with Tom Hanks, brilliantly playing Mr. Short-Term Memory. Then there was the underrated Dana Carvey movie, Clean Slate. Then of course, there was the masterpiece, Memento, which explored the tragic consequences of memory loss.

Oddly enough, it seems like "50 First Dates" is based on "Clean Slate" more than "Memento." Both movies portray short-term memory loss as something that happens only at night, so the person keeps their memories until they wake up the next morning. I did read an account of someone with the real condition in one of Oliver Sachs' books. The real condition is more like "Memento," with memories that drift away throughout the day, not all at a specific time. I think "50 First Dates" trivializes what is a very real and painful condition. If the girlfriend in "50 First Dates" had Alzheimer's, it would never have been made. I'd hate to see this flawed portrayal of memory loss catch on.
Categories: entertainment

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