Created By: NohbodySeptember 18, 2013 Last Edited By: NohbodyJuly 7, 2014
Troped

Awesomeness Induced Amnesia

Character performs awesomeness, but doesn\'t remember how.

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Trope
I asked about this concept in Lost And Found last month, and of the two non-me replies to the query neither suggestion (Laser Guided Amnesia and Victory Guided Amnesia) really fit the concept, so following up on that here I am. :P

Off the top of my head I can only recall two literature examples, but I'm pretty sure this has been used elsewhere.

Or, in short: Is This Tropable

(Rolling Updates)


When presented with a tough spot, a protagonist manages to pull off awesomeness in getting out of it. Unfortunately for the character, however, they don't remember how they actually did it, and may not even remember what they did.

There are many reasons they won't recall what they did: it could be because they were "In The Zone", acting on pure reflex because they didn't have time to think, that they have a Split Personality where one of the personalities can pull it off, but the other personality(ies) are unaware of things when that one personality is in control, they shut down anything not directly involved with surviving an encounter, or if supernatural powers are involved it may be a case of Die Or Fly, and they're not aware of how they pulled off the awesomeness because the power isn't something they previously used.

Whatever the cause, they have no recollection of what they did, at times leaving them puzzled about the praise they're receiving or frustrated by their not knowing exactly what they did.

Similar to Laser Guided Amnesia and Victory Guided Amnesia, but whereas those amnesias are externally induced, Awesomeness Induced Amnesia is completely internal to the character and not caused by another party. Compare The Greatest Story Never Told, where the hero knows what they did but no one else does.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Film 
  • In Old School, Will Ferrell's character Frank (who has never been shown to be anything more than average intelligence) is in a formal debate with a famous news pundit. After Frank delivers his argument, the pundit outright says that he has no response. When asked how Frank did that, he says he has no idea and that he blacked out.

    Literature 
  • In 1634: The Galileo Affair, Father Mazzare, the town priest for a 20th century coal mining town dumped into the middle of the Thirty Years War, is tasked with speaking in defense of Galileo, at his trial for heresy. The speech isn't explicitly mentioned, but afterward he's congratulated for what he said. However, in a bit of a daze afterwards, he mentally mentions that he doesn't know what he actually did say in Galileo's defense.
  • Unto the Breach: In a vengeful berserker rage about deaths from a trio of armed bunkers her overloaded helicopter is forced to fly over, Kacey takes the armed Hind helicopter back to the bunkers, and in a whirling dervish of destruction to the sounds of Dragonforce leaves them "fucking vaporized", as an observer to the carnage describes it. Afterward, however, in the narration it's noted that she doesn't remember any of it, between her vengeful thoughts and being "In The Zone".
  • This happens all over the place in The Wheel Of Time, where characters will do things they had never been able to before, either because they don't know they were supposed to be impossible, or because they're in such an emergency that they can only rely on instinct, and tap into some kind of spiritual Genetic Memory that allows them to discover new abilities. Rand in particular does this often, especially in the climactic battle the end of a given book.
  • In The Death Gate Cycle, Alfred manages to pull off incredible feats of magic as he used to be a master wizard but adopted a bumbling, useless personality which took over to the point that he only shows his skills a few times and reverts to his bumbling personality with no memory of what he did.
  • In Raising Steam, Moist von Lipwig kills several grags (Dwarven terrorists) in a blind rage after finding out that they'd killed some of the railway workers. Afterwards, he has no memory of doing it.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Star Trek The Next Generation: When Barcley gets a brain upgrade by some aliens, after it wears off he tells Troi that he remembers doing everything he did, he just doesn't remember how.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions supplement Champions III. Mystery Powers was an optional rule that allowed the game master to spend some of a character's points on a power that neither the character nor the player knew about. The example given was of a character with a power that would activate whenever they were in great danger. It would hopefully deal with the threat, but would also cause the character to have no memory of what happened.

    Video Game 
  • During the war between Aquaria and Airyglyph in Star Ocean Till The End Of Time, a Vendeeni ship appears out of the sky and begins to lay waste to the warring kingdoms. After seeing the wanton devastation and learning that the Vendeeni wish to capture him, Fayt unleashes his Destruction power to delete the ship from existence. The physical and mental trauma of the act leave him unable to remember how this happened.
  • In Fallout New Vegas, a Courier with poor skill in Medicine but a sufficient Luck stat can pull this off with brain surgery on Caesar.
    Vulpes Inculta: That was incredible. How did you do that?
    Courier: ...I have no idea whatsoever.

    Webcomic 
  • Casters in Erfworld can join into a "Caster Link", a type of Mental Fusion initiated by a Thinkamancer. If two casters participate in addition to the Thinkamancer then the resulting gestalt can create whole new spells or effects no single caster could even attempt. After such fusions, the individuals retain only vague memories of how they did it, but usually gain greater insight into their own discipline in general.

    Western Animation 
  • The Peanuts special "It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown" has our hero, Charlie Brown, giving the Little Red-Haired Girl the customary kiss...and after a state of euphoria, wakes up in bed the next morning with no memory of what happened after. Linus tells him later that he was the life of the homecoming dance, which Charlie Brown can't recall.

Community Feedback Replies: 51
  • September 18, 2013
    Koveras
    I think we had something similar, though I only barely recall seeing it. It was something about how one incarnation of The Flash invented the Super Speed serum while drunk and forgot how he did it when he woke up, never managing to reproduce it.
  • September 18, 2013
    Larkmarn
    • In Old School, Will Ferrell's character Frank (who has never been shown to be anything more than average intelligence) is in a formal debate with a famous news pundit. After Frank delivers his argument, the pundit outright says that he has no response. When asked how Frank did that, he says he has no idea and that he blacked out.
  • September 18, 2013
    randomsurfer
    • In an Isaac Asimov short story a mining robot crash-lands in a junkyard instead of the moon. It improvises a huge mining machine out of junk, then obeying the owner of the junkyard who is nervous about having a robot on his property destroys the machine and "forgets" what it did. When its owners arrive they find only a lost opportunity, as the entire machine was powered by two old D-cell batteries.
    • Star Trek The Next Generation: When Barcley gets a brain upgrade by some aliens, after it wears off he tells Troi that he remembers doing everything he did, he just doesn't remember how.
  • September 18, 2013
    LeighSabio
    Wouldn't this just be a subtrope of Victory Guided Amnesia?
  • September 18, 2013
    Nohbody
    ^ Related, but I don't know if subtrope is the appropriate relationship. VGA is an intentional targeted amnesia for a specific purpose, whereas this isn't intentional and isn't for a purpose (at least in-universe; as an RL creator's tool like Noodle Incident is another issue). It seems to me that super/subtrope connection should have something more than just both tropes using amnesia as a creator's tool.
  • September 18, 2013
    DriftingSkies
    During the war between Aquaria and Airyglyph in Star Ocean Till The End Of Time, a Vendeeni ship appears out of the sky and begins to lay waste to the warring kingdoms. After seeing the wanton devastation and learning that the Vendeeni wish to capture him, Fayt unleashes his Destruction power to delete the ship from existence. The physical and mental trauma of the act leave him unable to remember how this happened.
  • September 18, 2013
    Nohbody
    BTW, randomsurfer, that Asimov example is more Victory Guided Amnesia. This trope is more for coincidental forgetfulness, not being made to forget something.
  • September 18, 2013
    KarjamP
    The trope's current title implies that the amnesia is caused by the awesomeness, but the trope's about someone who "coincidentally forgets" about how awesome he was being.

    Therefore, tagging for Better Name.
  • September 19, 2013
    DAN004
    Um, I kinda thinking that there's a correlation between this trope and high levels of adrenaline, especially in a particularly distressing situation. Like, a character acting on nothing but instinct will usually not remember what they're doing.

    Alternately, the guy might be possessed by something and he does awesome things while he's at it, but once he stops being possessed he'll then look confusedly to the situations around him (or reacting awkwardly when someone tells it to him). Thoughts?
  • September 21, 2013
    Nohbody
    ^^ The only other possible name I can come up with off the top of my head is Awesomeness Amnesia, but that's probably even more likely to be confused with Victory Guided Amnesia than the current suggestion that kicked off this YKTTW.

    (Oh, and bump. :P )
  • September 23, 2013
    randomsurfer
    ^^^^Well, the robot is Literal Minded so when the junkman tells it to "forget it" it erases its memory banks of the event. The junkman isn't a robopsychologist so he doesn't know that telling to forget when he meant it idiomatically as "don't tell anyone you've been here" would turn out bad.
  • September 23, 2013
    Generality
    I think this might be, at least partially, I Just Knew.
  • October 25, 2013
    Nohbody
    (Need to remember to check YKTTW more than once a month... :P )

    I Just Knew doesn't really have much of any contact with this proposal, as far as I can tell.

    IJK is a Deus Ex Machina that puts a character where the story needs them to be to continue the plot, for no in-universe reason at all. The proposal here is that the character doesn't recall how they did something. Sure, they have to be present to do it, but there's nothing in my proposal about them being there purely for plot reasons even if it's contrary to any in-universe reason.
  • November 23, 2013
    Nohbody
    Obviously, I've not done so great on remembering to check this. :P

    Anyone else have input on this idea?
  • November 24, 2013
    Arivne
    This sounds similar to another more recent YKTTW proposal: Werewolf Amnesia.
  • November 24, 2013
    Newtor
    The inventor of adamantium created just enough for cap's shield when he came home one night and did something unspecified to the batch...
  • November 24, 2013
    Nohbody
    Arivne, the only real connection is "doing something they don't remember", as far as I can see, and that's hardly unique to amnesia tropes.

    Newtor, I'm not sure if that counts, as it's kinda vague if you're not familiar with the Marvel comic universes (my familiarity is only in Broad Strokes, and most of that from Popcultural Osmosis).
  • November 24, 2013
    Earnest
    webcomics

    • Casters in Erfworld can join into a "Caster Link", a type of Mental Fusion initiated by a Thinkamancer. If two casters participate in addition to the Thinkamancer then the resulting gestalt can create whole new spells or effects no single caster could even attempt. After such fusions, the individuals retain only vague memories of how they did it, but usually gain greater insight into their own discipline in general.
  • November 24, 2013
    MaxWest
    The Peanuts special "It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown" has our hero, Charlie Brown, giving the Little Red-Haired Girl the customary kiss...and after a state of euphoria, wakes up in bed the next morning with no memory of what happened after. Linus tells him later that he was the life of the homecoming dance, which Charlie Brown can't recall.
  • November 25, 2013
    Nohbody
    Added the above two to the OP.

    Do those contributing think this is a decent trope suggestion? I ask because although I've gotten a lot of input on the page, it has only one hat added, and although it's not absolutely mandatory (IIRC) it should have five before launching.
  • November 25, 2013
    Generality
    This happens all over the place in The Wheel Of Time, where characters will do things they had never been able to before, either because they don't know they were supposed to be impossible, or because they're in such an emergency that they can only rely on instinct, and tap into some kind of spiritual Genetic Memory that allows them to discover new abilities. Rand in particular does this often, especially in the climactic battle the end of a given book.
  • November 26, 2013
    Earnest
    Potential reasons for the awesomeness might be that they have a Split Personality that can pull off said stunt, but doing so blacks out the character. Similar to "in the zone", characters threatened with death of themselves or a loved one might go into a Heroic Safe Mode that's able to pull it off. If powers are involved, may be a case of Fly Or Die.
  • November 26, 2013
    Nohbody
    ^ Ok, how about this for the middle of the description?

    —-

    Afterward, those who saw this event are congratulating the character on their display of awesomeness, only there's one problem: the character doesn't remember actually doing it.

    There are many reasons they won't recall what they did: it could be because they were "In The Zone", acting on pure reflex because they didn't have time to think, that they have a Split Personality where one of the personalities can pull it off, but the other personality(ies) are unaware of things when that one personality is in control, they shut down anything not directly involved with surviving an encounter, or if supernatural powers are involved it may be a case of Die Or Fly, and they're not aware of how they pulled off the awesomeness because the power isn't something they normally use.

    Whatever the cause, they have no recollection of what they did, at times leaving them puzzled about the praise they're receiving or frustrated by their not knowing exactly what they did.

    —-
  • November 27, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Champions supplement Champions III. Mystery Powers was an optional rule that allowed the game master to spend some of a character's points on a power that neither the character nor the player knew about. The example given was of a character with a power that would activate whenever they were in great danger. It would hopefully deal with the threat, but would also cause the character to have no memory of what happened.
  • November 27, 2013
    DAN004
  • November 27, 2013
    Earnest
    ^^^ looks good. :)
  • November 27, 2013
    Nohbody
    ^^, ^^^ added.

    Now if the number of hats was closer to the number of contributors...

    (Or, alternately, explanations why a hat hasn't been added, to correct any flaws in the proposal.)
  • November 29, 2013
    Earnest
    Honestly, hattage is weird. I've got a ykttw with nearly 50 replies, all positive, but only 2 hats. I think you're fine to launch as is, tropers just must not feel strongly about some aspect, but you've got a solid ykttw so I don't see why not.
  • November 29, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Implying something here?
  • November 30, 2013
    Nohbody
    Any thoughts on the name? Karjam P said it needed work (hence the "Better Name" tag), but never replied back to my suggested alternate.

    I thought the original was fine, but then I may be a bit biased on the subject. :P
  • November 30, 2013
    DAN004
    Eh, title's good enough already. :P
  • November 30, 2013
    DAN004
    ...Though, what I'm thinking is that Victory Guided Amnesia also needed a better name.
  • November 30, 2013
    Earnest
    ^^^^ Not really. I'm just as confused by the (then) absence of hats on what's otherwise a good ykttw.
  • December 1, 2013
    Chabal2
    Inverted in Warhammer 40 K: Genestealers often subvert normal people like soldiers sent to clear them out by injecting them with a small bundle of genetic material that slowly turns them to the Hive Mind. Those infected this way have no memory of what happened except for a violent struggle, so when they return they and their comrades assume they fought their way in a berserk rage.
  • December 3, 2013
    troacctid
    I'm not a fan of the title, and it would be nice to get a less Example As A Thesis description. Would "Fog" or "Haze" work as part of the title? I think I've heard them associated with this trope before.
  • December 4, 2013
    Nohbody
    Hmm. Nothing comes to mind offhand about "fog" or "haze" as part of the title. As for EaaT, didn't think of that issue. How's this for a revised starting section, replacing the first two paragraphs:


    When presented with a tough spot, a protagonist manages to pull off awesomeness in getting out of it. Unfortunately for the character, however, they don't remember how they actually did it, and may not even remember what they did.
  • December 4, 2013
    Earnest
    See also Alternate Identity Amnesia. Both can overlap if the alternate identity is also awesome.
  • December 5, 2013
    abateman
    This happens throughout Avatar The Last Airbender
  • December 5, 2013
    Nohbody
    abateman, that's so vague that it practically defines Zero Context Example. Also, while it's been years since I've last seen ATLA, I can't really think of any specific examples that would fit the proposed trope.
  • December 9, 2013
    Nohbody
    Bump?
  • December 10, 2013
    Nohbody
    Trope description tweaked, as per my Dec 4 post above.

    (Yeah, and bump. :P )
  • December 11, 2013
    DAN004
    Just sayin': I kinda think Victory Guided Amnesia needs a better name since the victory is only orthogonal in the cause of amnesia.
  • December 11, 2013
    Nohbody
    Be that as it may, it's not a task for YKTTW, and I'd be saying that even if it wasn't my proposal it was mentioned in. :P

    That said, any last thoughts from anyone on the name for this trope before I launch? I can see where it might have a bit of confusion about the purpose from the name, but so far there's not been any suggestions beyond vague ones for alternative names.
  • December 15, 2013
    Nohbody
    At the risk of coming across as a passive-aggressive asshole, if I don't hear any objections by tomorrow night (US time) I'm going to launch.
  • December 15, 2013
    Chernoskill
    • In Total Recall, Douglas Quaid/Hauser manages to kill multiple attackers armed with guns at the subway station in a matter of seconds. After he shoots the last one, he realizes what he has done, lets the gun fall, and looks at his bloody hands in disbelief of his own awesome fighting skills.

    Wether he was just lucky there and managed to improvise, or if his actual training as a secret agent for Cohagen kicked in is not explained and every interpretation is tied to how the whole story is viewd as a whole (Quaid just dreaming the whole thing, or really being a triple agent).
  • December 16, 2013
    oztrickster
    In The Death Gate Cycle, Alfred manages to pull off incredible feats of magic as he used to be a master wizard but adopted a bumbling, useless personality which took over to the point that he only shows his skills a few times and reverts to his bumbling personality with no memory of what he did.
  • December 16, 2013
    Nohbody
    ^^ Cherno, which Total Recall? The 1990 Schwarzenegger flick or the 2012 remake? (or both?) Haven't seen the Arnie version in forever, and never bothered with the 2012 version.
  • July 5, 2014
    Nohbody
    Added the Death Gate Cycle example, after spending way too long away from YKTTW.

    Any further input before launching, as this now has 5 hats?
  • July 6, 2014
    StrangeBro
    • In Fallout New Vegas, a Courier with poor skill in Medicine but a sufficient Luck stat can pull this off during Caesar's brain surgery.
    Vulpes Inculta: That was incredible. How did you do that?
    Courier: ...I have no idea whatsoever.
  • July 6, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Literature
    • In Raising Steam, Moist von Lipwig kills several grags (Dwarven terrorists) in a blind rage after finding out that they'd killed some of the railway workers. Afterwards, he has no memory of doing it.
  • July 7, 2014
    Nohbody
    Since there doesn't seem to be objections, I'll launch this tomorrow morning, for any last-minute suggestions/changes/etc.

    (Added FNV and RS entries to OP, as well)

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable