"Never underestimate the ability of a human being to rationalize the truth."A Self-Serving Memory is a Flashback that is blatantly altered to serve the needs of whoever is remembering it. More often than not, it is played for comedic effect, though it is used a decent amount for dramatic purposes by arrogant jerks. At the lowest level, it is mainly used for dramatic purposes by a Consummate Liar to suit their needs or manipulate other characters. When cranked up, however, it can result in wildly fantastic scenarios which, more often than not, are impossibly unrealistic. Depending on the believability of the character dreaming this up, it can be quite funny, both as a standalone gag or even as a plot point. See also Flashback Fail and "Rashomon"-Style. Compare Unreliable Voiceover, The Munchausen, and Crazy Memory. May be related to I Reject Your Reality and can go hand-in-hand with Believing Their Own Lies.
— From the very short list of so-called Moscow Rules used by the CIA when operating in the USSR.
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Anime and Manga
- Played for laughs numerous times in Ranma ½.
- Happosai's memories of any given set of events (and of his own appearance in his youth) are usually rather different from what really happens. Same with Genma, too.
- When Kuno suffered from amnesia, and saw female-Ranma for the "first" time again, his brain spontaneously generated a romantic love story of their past as a couple. Nobody (but him) was amused.
- Akane "chooses" to remember Ranma giving a fairly cogent explanation of one of his harebrained schemes as "blah-blah-blah you have small breasts blah-blah-blah" in order to justify her thumping him. The explanation involved pressure points on an adult teacher's breasts.
- Used in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya when Kyon has to lie to his friend to explain how he ended up in a compromising (though technically innocent) position with Yuki. He explains that she, being an anemic, fainted, and he was forced to catch her. This was probably more believable than the truth, as the Class Representative, Ryoko, attempts to kill him, and he catches Yuki after she jumps in front of large spikes to save Kyon.
- In Martian Successor Nadesico, Yurika is convinced that as kids Akito would chase her around while calling her name, while Akito reminds her it was the other way around.
- During the Battle City arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kaiba bemoans the fact that Yugi is still regarded as a better duelist than him, even though Kaiba won their last encounter. The fact that Kaiba only won due to threatening to kill himself if he lost (at which point Yugi, who had been on the brink of victory, resigned) has conveniently been omitted from his memory.
- In the second season of Phi Brain: Puzzle of God, Pinochle believes that after Daimon Kaito broke a promise with his Childhood Friend Freecell, Kaito then started badmouthing Freecell behind his back to make himself look better. This turns out to have been a lie that Pinochle told himself until even he started believing it, thanks in large part to his Orpheus Ring. The truth is that while Kaito did break his promise, it was Pinochle who spread rumors about Freecell so that Freecell would have to become his friend by default.
- In Kill la Kill, Ryuko Matoi's hatred of her arch rival Satsuki Kiryuin grows to the point that Satsuki takes the place of Ryuko's father's killer in her flashbacks. The real killer, Nui Harime, doesn't look anything like Satsuki.
- In the first episode of K-On!, Ritsu tries to guilt Mio into joining her band, asking her to remember The Promise they made years ago when they saw an amazing rock concert together. It turns out that only Ritsu was gung-ho about the idea, Mio made no such promise, and they watched that concert on TV.
Was all that a lie!?No, your story is.
- Happens in an issue of Green Arrow/Black Canary. Green Arrow reminisces on a past event, and all the female characters are wearing less clothes and have larger breasts.
- Scott Pilgrim
- How Gideon remembers his time with Ramona.
- Scott is a bit more complicated; Scott suppresses the negative aspects of the memories, namely in his relationships. The mistakes and problems (mainly his own) are glossed over in memories, so he keeps making the same mistakes. However, he does show subconscious awareness that he did something wrong, but the details aren't seen until later.
- Gideon thought Scott's memories were boring so he "spiced them up." The most notable example was how Scott and Kim got together. The fake was Scott rescuing Kim from Simon while The Cerebus Retcon shows a glimpse of the real memory, namely Scott getting in an unknown altercation with Simon.
- In a Spider-Man story written by Peter David in the 1980s, Peter Parker, Mary Jane, and JJJ sit at a table in a bar, telling Joe Robertson about a robbery they had just witnessed in the "Rashomon Bank". Mary Jane tells it in a way that she thinks will help Peter's standing at his job at the Daily Bugle, trying to make Spider-Man look good, while portraying Peter Parker as a loyal employee and trying to make JJJ look well. In J. Jonah Jameson's account, he is the hero and Spider-Man was probably in cahoots with the robber. Peter's version is the closest to the truth (the would-be robber was a pathetic loser, JJJ embarrassed himself etc.) but he still conceals the fact that he's Spider-Man and tries to make Jameson look better. He ends up having to pay the tab for all.
- In The Mansions of the Gods, Caesar recalls the Hollywood History-famous moment of Vercingetorix's submission to him after the battle of Alesia, where Vercingetorix's troops were forced to surrender. As he tells it, Caesar is sitting on a throne in beautiful golden armour looking handsome and splendid while the battered Vercingetorix bows to lay his arms at his feet. When we saw the scene happen in the first book Asterix the Gaul, Vercingetorix is actually throwing his arms on Caesar's feet, and Caesar is dressed poorly, is a bit overweight and looks a total mess even besides how he's howling in pain. This works on two levels. In-story it shows Caesar having a self-serving memory. On a meta level, it provides an example of how patriotic re-imaginings affect the way we look at historical events. In his own account (the only contemporaneous one), Caesar writes that Vercingetorix was handed over to him by the Gauls defending Alesia, who at the same time laid down their arms before him. The depiction in Asterix the Gaul parodies a well-known 19th-century painting reprinted in many French history school textbooks, which portrayed Vercingetorix as the moral victor by placing him on horseback in a dominant centre position (with Caesar in the background), by taking it up to eleven.
- When the women in Asterix and Obelix's Birthday speculate about Asterix and Obelix's future wives, they all imagine the wives as being slightly altered versions of themselves.
- Inverted in the Doctor Who comic "The Forgotten", where the Tenth Doctor is trying to recall adventures he went on through each of his previous regenerations in order as a Framing Story. During the Fourth Doctor's adventure, he's drawn somewhat Off Model. After the memory ends, the Tenth Doctor moans to Martha that he was sure his scarf was longer than that.
- The twist of Halo: Blood Line reveals the Love Triangle in Black Team's backstory was inverted from what was previously depicted. Black-Four believed he was angry at Black-Three for the latter ratting out his relationship with One, but in reality Four ratted out Three and One out of jealousy towards their relationship.
- Inverted in the Valhalla story The Gifts of the Gods. When Thor and Sif share a flashback on how they first met and fell in Love at First Sight, they each display themselves as bumbling and awkward and the other one as a shining figure of divine perfection. Loki, meanwhile, plays his part of the story entirely straight and has to be goaded into not skipping over all the embarrassing parts by Thor.
- In Those Who Stand for Nothing Fall for Anything while drunk, L relates to Light (and B who is listening in) on how he blackmailed a girl in order to get his current position. B says that when L told him about it earlier L had said he'd won it fair and square.
- Calvin and Hobbes: The Series uses this in "POV", where each character's flashback will have the other characters heaping praise on them, and if one character hates another, then they end up as The Ditz in their flashback. The only exception to this is Calvin's, which starts off as a James Bond parody but quickly devolves into Deranged Animation.
- Syndrome in The Incredibles. While he guilts Mr. Incredible into thinking he was wrong to have rejected him as a sidekick, his flashback conveniently omits all the problems he caused that night.
- In Second Hand Lions, Garth's recollection of saving Hub is tinted in a manner to impress Walter and make him sound badass. The retelling shows otherwise.
- Zombieland: Tallahassee tells Columbus about how he hated to lose his puppy, Buck, with a cute flashback of him doting on this sweet, smart dog. Later on, while stoned, he admits that Buck was really his son. The same flashback plays, replacing the puppy with a little boy, not more than three years old.
- This is the entire premise of Rashomon, where the witnesses all have irreconcilable versions of who killed the victim and why.
- In The Avengers (2012), Loki accuses Thor of throwing him into the wormhole at the end of their movie. In reality, he let go after Odin refused to accept attempted genocide as proof of what a good son he was.
- In The Ref, Caroline has a very strong Nostalgia Filter in place regarding the days when she and her husband Lloyd were a young couple living in New York City, and she'll go on and on about it, especially when she's had enough to drink. Towards the end of the movie Lloyd finally calls her out on said nostalgia, her memory, which is definitely this trope, and the way she more or less blames him for everything that has gone wrong their lives since the New York days.
I told you what moving here could mean, but you were the one who said we should consider it! Not the actual moving, just the considering. The actual moving in part was left to me! Why? Because you didn't know what to do. You were... confused, you didn't know if it was the right thing. But you were sure as hell sick and tired of living in a one-bedroom apartment in New York City, so don't hand me that 'it was the best of times' bullshit! You didn't want to work anymore and you didn't want any help with the baby because you wanted to do it all by yourself! And you hated New York because we weren't as rich as your college friends were to enjoy it! We couldn't afford a bigger place, and you were miserable being around people who could! AND... we were up to our EARS in debt!
- In The World's End, Gary has a "very selective memory" regarding the group's youth.
- In The Hangover Part III, Alan's father's last words to him before he died were to berate him for his immaturity and selfishness. At the funeral, Alan claims his father's last words were, "I'm proud of you, son. Don't ever change."
- In Quick Change, Bob Elliot's highly-ineffectual bank guard character becomes a whole lot more heroic when recounting the events of a robbery to the police.
- In Shark Tale, Angie gives Oscar a pearl heirloom of her's to pawn for the money Sykes needs. Later, when he goes to the racetrack to meet with Sykes to give him the money, he gets the idea to bet the money on a seahorse that's racing there and flashes back to Angie's words to him from earlier, only now she's telling him to bet the money.
- The comedy Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates opens with a montage of the title characters at various events, laughing, hanging about, having a good time and everyone around them enjoying their antics. When their parents tell them of how "you two ruin" every family gathering, they're baffled as they relate how everyone loves having them around. In answer, their parents show a video of the real events where the brothers end up causing massive property damage, ruin the party and often lead to major injuries of guests. Mike and Dave are honestly surprised by this, asking "where are the epic tracking shots of smiling faces" that they remember.
- Harry Potter
- Horace Slughorn revises his memory of telling Tom Marvolo Riddle, a.k.a. Voldemort, about the Soul Jars known as Horcruxes. However, the memory has been artificially and obviously altered. Any that haven't been are treated as 100% accurate. Harry manages to get the real memory later.
- Also, Snape's Pensieve memories in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows conveniently leave out his fascination with the Dark Arts and everything he did with the Death Eater Jr. gang during his time at Hogwarts. Of course, the only other person to ever mention said fascination was Sirius, and the worst he was accused by his crush Lily was associating with said gang, not partaking in the worst deeds, so maybe there was nothing to leave out.
- Fridge Brilliance: His Pensieve memories are his most carefully guarded memories, not the whole thing. He likely wouldn't be worried about anyone seeing the BAD things, since he has a reputation as a villain. He's worried about people seeing his WEAKNESS, and his 'good' traits.
- Possibly too subtle to count, but the second part of C S Lewis's Till We Have Faces shows the first part to be a Self Serving Memoir.
- Eustace's diary in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is replete with such entries, until his Character Development kicks in.
- Grand Inquisitor Zhaspahr Clyntahn of Safehold is notable for having Believing Their Own Lies as his creepiest attribute in-universe. Lampshaded at the end of Midst Toil and Tribulation, as Vicar Rhobair Duchairn notes that while Clyntahn was reasoned down after a devastating loss, he'll inevitably find some way to twist everything he had planned as perfect and failed only in incompetent execution.
- In Pride and Prejudice, Mrs Bennet always retcons her predictions so she was right all the time. She fools no one except possibly herself, but her daughters and husband are so used to this behaviour that they don't bother pointing it out.
- According to How to Be a Superhero, one of the benefits of licensing your exploits to Comic Book companies is that they will whitewash your less-than-heroic moments. For instance, Captain Triton's girly-man faint at a gory crime scene is rewritten as the result of a hidden cache of argonite.
- In the Relativity story "Movie Night", Ravenswood tells a highly-embellished version of how he became a superhero. Fortunately for the reader, the side-story "The Super Secret Origin of Overcast" reveals the truth.
- Given how fallible people are A Song of Ice and Fire it's not odd that this pops up too.
- Olenna Tyrell tells Sansa that when she was young, there was an attempt to marry Olenna to a Targaryen prince but she "put an end to that". We find out in Yandel's The World of Ice & Fire that the prince in question actually was the one who ended the engagement because he was gay.
- More unhappily, Petyr Baelish was so obsessed with Catelyn Tully and so messed up from his past that he spent years at court claiming that he'd slept with her.
Live Action TV
- Natalia from ABC's Cristela thinks back fondly of being a single mother raising two daughters when, in reality, the family struggled immensely.
Natalia: "Your father never held me back!"
Cristela: "He left when I was born!"
Natalia: "And he left me free to do as I pleased!"
Cristela: "So you wanted to be on food stamps and answer the door with a baseball bat?"
Natalia: (Happily sighs) "Ay! Memories..."
- Red Dwarf: Taken to ridiculous extremes. Lister is missing the recently departed Rimmer, and rose-tinting his memories of their history together to such a degree that Rimmer comes of almost like a saint. When Kochanksi tries to comfort him, Kryten (who's afraid that she will replace him in Lister's life) takes a massively different tack; He creates a holographic carnival ride based on Rimmer's own "war diary". Needless to say, Rimmer's recollections are massively divergent from reality, depicting himself as the only competent person on the ship, rather than the cowardly, stupid, tasteless nitwit that he really is. It promotes Rimmer's views, tastes, and interpretations on events which clearly are biased. Lister ends the episode decrying his past with Rimmer.
Lister: I never want to see or hear from that scum-sucking, lying, weasel-headed smeghead in my entire life!
Kryten: Sigmund Freud, eat your heart out.
- Community: In "Investigative Journalism", Jack Black's character has a vivid flashback of Britta and Annie fighting in a soapy pool without bras on in cheerleader's outfits... in the middle of a class.
- In Full House, Kimmy Gibbler wakes up after passing out drunk from a party and accuses DJ of ruining her night. She then recounts her recollection of the night, which shows her being erudite, delightful and charming. DJ tells her what really happened, which was that she was a loud, abrasive, stereotypical Hollywood drunk. Because it's Full House, DJ's version turned out to be the correct one, rather than an exaggeration.
- How I Met Your Mother: Averted (except for the occasional Rule of Funny) by Future Ted (although we only know this because of Word of God — there's no way to actually prove that Ted is telling the truth except the argument that it would be out of character given his cautionary tale approach to his narration), but often occurs in stories and flashbacks told inside of the Whole Episode Flashback of the show, mostly from Barney — e.g., seducing a female cop who pulled him over when she actually arrested him, his friends heaping lavish praise on him for no reason, women telling him his penis is enormous out of the blue, etc.
- The producers have said they use this as the excuse for things like Ted having such a large apartment in New York and other ways he exaggerates, using the excuse of him making it sound better for his kids for the usual sitcom trappings.
- A proper example comes up in the episode "The Ashtray." Ted received a message from the Admiral (whose wife left him for Ted) and recalls the last time they met. He was his usual charming self, and the Admiral was evil and threatening. When Robin hears about it, she corrects him: he was high and the Admiral ignored him in favor of making sleezy passes at her. Then Lilly points out that Robin was drunk and throwing herself at him and he wasn't antagonistic (except for making Lilly feel bad about not accomplishing anything as an artist).
- Yes, Minister:
"It is characteristic of all committee discussions and decisions that every member has a vivid recollection of them, and that every member's recollection of them differs violently from every other member's recollection; consequently we accept the convention that the official decisions are those and only those which have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials; from which it emerges with elegant inevitability, that any decision which has been officially reached would have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials, and any decisions which is not recorded in the minutes by the officials has not been officially reached, even if one or more members believe they can recollect it; so in this particular case, if the decision would have been officially reached, it would have been recorded in the minutes by the officials and it isn't so it wasn't."
- Sir Humphrey sees this as a natural occurrence in government committees, which is why minutes are so important:
- To translate from Sir Humphrey's classic Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness; minutes exist because without them, the parties involved would be so blinded by their own Self-Serving Memory that once out of the meeting they'd insist that the decision reached was the one most favorable to them or that they agreed with, causing confusion. They also exist in order to enable the person writing them — usually a Civil Servant — to ensure that the actual recorded decision is the one most favorable to them, but that's beside the point.
- In Party Down, Ron is happy to be catering the reunion of his high school, telling the gang how he was the beloved class clown. Talking with classmates makes Ron soon realize he was actually the geeky loser everyone laughed at.
- Gossip Girl's Dan Humphrey remembered having a threesome with girlfriend Olivia and friend Vanessa as essentially a bad porno. The girls remember it being more awkward, with him giving The Look to Vanessa.
- Space Cases: During Harlan's trial, prosecutor Catalina recalls being in the process of heroically saving the ship when Harlan pushed his way to the pilot station while Harlan remembers single-handedly saving the ship as the others look on in awe. The kicker is that BOTH remember fellow students Radu, Rosie, and Bova cheering them on when none were in the Command Post at the time.
- Note that Radu and Rosie were the jury and Bova was the judge, as well.
- Desperate Housewives:
- The series is packed with many instances as several of the ladies prefer to remember things in a much better light. Bree, especially, sees her past far more favorably than others do.
- Gabrielle remembers her time as a model as fantastic, well loved and she hated giving it up to marry Carlos. On a trip to New York, she runs into models like Paulina Porizokova who make clear that, even by supermodel standards, Gabby was a terrible diva who would have been kicked out of the business eventually.
- A far more dramatic case is Gabrielle being abused by her stepfather, Alejandro. She told her mother, Lucia, who didn't believe her. In a talk in the present, Carlos is horrified to realize that Lucia has convinced herself Gabrielle was making it all up, not because it's so horrible but that she refused to accept Alejandro would want the young Gabby rather than his own wife. Likewise, a nun Gabby confided in also refused on the idea Gabby was a troublesome child. The worst is when Alejandro confronts Gabby in the present and Gabby is stunned when the man says it's her own fault as she was always flaunting her body in front of him and "was asking for it." He pays for that with his life as Carlos kills him in a fight.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("Storyteller"), when Andrew tries to justify killing Jonathan, we see various flashbacks which differ wildly as he changes his version of events. This prompts Buffy to point out indignantly that he has just completely changed his story.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Court Martial", a verbal version of this takes place — Finney, a crewman who faked his death to frame Kirk, accuses the captain of keeping him down out of jealousy. What really happened was that Kirk logged a dangerous negligence committed by Finney, which put him at the bottom of the list for a promotion.
- In the episode "A Matter of Perspective" of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Riker is accused of murdering a scientist. Riker, the scientist's wife, and the scientist's assistant each use the holodeck to reconstruct their own versions of the events leading up to the scientist's death, in a dramatic example of the trope.
- In the Kenan & Kel episode "I'm Gonna Get You Kenan", Kenan, Kel and Chris tell their versions of how Rigby's was robbed. Kenan and Chris's stories are self boasting as possible while Kel's focuses on how he couldn't open a bottle of orange soda.
Policeman: What does that story have to do with the robbery?
Kel: Nothin'. It's about orange soda. You have to pay attention.
- This is the basis of a hilarious episode of Coupling where we see Sally and Patrick's questionably accurate memories of the day they met.
- Ugly Betty:
Amanda: We met at the Jill Sander party last night. He was totally worshiping me.
[flashback to him ignoring her and then return to present]
Amanda: I mean I get it because I was the hottest girl there, but then there was this skank who was totally trying to horn in and I was as nice as I can be.
[return to flashback]
Amanda: [shoving the girl to the floor] Out of the way, skank!
- Outsourced: Todd had to find out whether Rajiv hit Gupta and gets both their accounts. Gupta's first attempt at telling the story turns Rajiv into professional wrestler The Great Khali before he settles down tell how Rajiv beats him savagely to the point of coughing up blood while employing an Evil Laugh. In Rajiv's version, he asks Gupta to get back to work in an extremely polite (and highly out of character) manner while Gupta snarls back disrespectfully and then starts slapping himself while yelling that Rajiv is hitting him.
- In the episode "The Novocaine Mutiny", Frank has accused Hawkeye and BJ of mutiny, and the court-martial requests their recollection of the event. Frank recalls being a self-sacrificing, awe-inspiring surgeon (he wants two patients at once, "I have two hands"), while Hawk and BJ are whimpering and burning out. Hawkeye retorts, "It was, to say the least, fascinating; it was, to say the most, perjury," and proceeds to recount the more likely scenario: Frank is bumbling and obnoxious, while Hawk and BJ are trying to ignore him and do their job. They are acquitted and the JAG takes Frank down a peg by telling him his record wouldn't make him stand out as a pastry chef.
- A serious example occurs with Hawkeye in the series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen". Hawkeye tells Sidney Freeman of being on a bus with some South Korean refugees, and telling a woman to keep a chicken quiet so it won't give their position away to the enemy. But it's not true. "It was a baby!" (hysterical sobbing) The woman had smothered her child. This is a more poignant example of a similar plotline from an earlier episode, in which Hawkeye had uncontrollable itching for no medical reason. Hawkeye related to Sidney a childhood story of his brother, whom he deeply admired, who saved him from drowning in a lake. It turns out that his brother was the one who pushed him into the lake in the first place, and Hawkeye hated him for it; Hawkeye had repressed his own memory of the affair and turned his brother into the spotless hero.
- In The Flying Nun episode "The Boyfriend", Sister Bertrille tells how she and her ex broke up, with her flashback showing him being cruel and her being meek and fearful of him. Her ex's flashback has the roles reversed. The real way it happened was that they simply agreed to break up.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
- This is mixed with The Rashomon: when the gang attempts to remember what they drunkenly did at a Halloween party, a couple of the memories they attempted to piece together (such as Charlie impressing and making out with the Waitress and Mac's where he's suddenly portraying himself as a sunglasses wearing Badass) are instantly recognized by the others as Blatant Lies.
- Dennis wasn't as popular in high school as he thought he was, mainly because he'd say he was a "golden god" while having nothing to back up his claim. In "Underage Drinking: A National Concern", he is the first (and only) one to tell the rest of the gang they're over-romanticizing their high school experiences.
- Both a regular and present-oriented variation of this are played straight, when the gang dances at the end of "High School Reunion 2". At first, we see a choreographed dance number. Then it cuts to how they're actually dancing and it looks like a chaotic mess. They are later surprised that no one else liked their dance.
- Happens a lot in The X-Files "Rashomon"-Style "Bad Blood". For starters, Scully's flashback has herself as calm and mindful while Mulder is gung-ho and over the top, while Mulder's has himself as a guy who knows what he's doing who is sensitive and polite to Scully despite her being dismissive and irritable.
- Happened in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air one time. Will and Carlton are in court in an argument with Uncle Phil about a pool party. In Uncle Phil's version, the party is a wild rave with everyone wearing bikinis and portrayed as thuggish while he is a calm quiet man who asks them to keep the noise down but is thrown out. In Will and Carlton's version, the party is a classy innocent affair with Uncle Phil as a loud screaming man who yells at everyone.
- 30 Rock:
- Liz Lemon thought she was the geeky bully victim that you always see on TV. She later finds out that she was the bully.
- Liz remembers her "compliments" of Jenna's performances being more convincing. She also remembers them hugging afterwards, each and every time.
- In the Leverage episode "The Rashomon Job", each member of the crew tells Nate how they stole a precious dagger, the twist being that they were each independently trying to steal the same dagger on the same night. Each story plays out differently, with the teller being cast as the hero of their tale. Especially notable is Hardison's story in which he is a suave ladies' man while Parker remembers him as being awkward and uncouth, going so far as to hoard shrimp puffs in his pockets. Interestingly, in that episode, the four thieves remember Coswell, the museum's head of security, as being cunning, ruthless, and somehow able to foil each of them at decisive moments of their respective heists. Nate remembers the same man as being nervous, socially awkward, and silently pining after one of Sophie's characters. According to Nate's recollection, Coswell is really a pretty friendly guy and only foiled the various plots by sheer chance rather than by any sort of skill.
- In Kamen Rider OOO, Dr. Maki's memories of his kind, loving sister who suddenly died tragically. He's deliberately blotted out the truth that she didn't care about him at all and he himself killed her. Being forced to remember what really happened is what pushes him over the edge at last.
- In the Stargte SG1 episode "200", when Martin Lloyd is having trouble with his film's undescribed ending being rejected by a test audience, Jack O'Neil suggests that he end the movie with fishing instead. The episode promptly cuts to the final scene of the Series Fauxnale, "Moebius, Part 2", which eventually Whip Pans to show Vala Mal Doran and Cam Mitchell fishing as well, with Mitchell commenting, "Yep, it's good to be here." The episode cuts back to present, with O'Neil exclaiming, "You weren't there!"
- A big long-range character bit of Royal Pains is doctor Hank dealing with his fiancée dumping him when he lost his New York job and moving on afterward. In the latest season, they meet for a dinner as he expects her to apologize and when she talks about how Hank was the one who broke things up, he laughs at her self-serving memory. However, as he thinks things over, Hank realizes she's right, he was the one who broke it all off and has been refusing to accept that all this time.
- In a Season 3 episode of 'Mad Men, Peggy tells Joan that she wants her to know she doesn't resent her advice, it's just that not every woman can be Joan. Joan replies to Peggy that she likes to think she had a hand in Peggy's success, the past several episodes have shown Joan to be less than supportive of Peggy being more than a secretary.
- Red vs. Blue has Sarge do this at the start of season seven when he recalled how they deleted the record of the Blues from Command's computer, with his modifications including killing Grif and Simmons turning into a motorcycle. When Grif calls him out on this, citing his not being dead, Sarge tells Simmons to transform and run over him.
- In Smashtasm, Super64, realizing he's in trouble, remembers 1337f0x saying "If you ever need me, just call." Link (who is not the actual Link, just a roleplayer convinced he is) takes notice of this and reminds him that 1337f0x said no such thing. Super64 shoots back by pointing out that Link wasn't there at the time, so how could he possibly know what 1337f0x may or may not have said? Link's response ("Duh! I'm the Hero of Time!") doesn't answer anything. And 1337f0x does come to save Super64 anyway.
- Most heels run on this mindset, either whining about losses and complaining about actions that faces took when actions they took were way worse but somehow unsuccessful. For example, after the 2014 Survivor Series, Triple H blamed the loss of Team Authority on the debut of Sting. However, it was clear that Sting wouldn't have needed to get involved in the match had Triple H not interfered on the behalf of Seth Rollins by attacking Dolph Ziggler and numerous referees, and presumably paying off The Big Show to attack John Cena and leave the match. None of these occurrences were mentioned except for Sting's debut.
- Kimberly's short lived tag team with Leva Bates involved dressing up as Things. After a loss to Made in Sin, Kimberly attacked Bates and later took and ripped the head off of one of Bates's Thing dolls. Kimberly then went searching for "her" lost doll and was shocked when she found the doll had lost its head. The doll apparently told her Leva had ripped it off after Kimberly sewed it back on. So Kimberly aimed to avenge it. Leva explained this sequence, along with Kimberly's other "quirks" as being symptoms of delusion, psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder.
- Spider and Web: Part of the gimmick of this Text Adventure. The main game is composed of the PC's retelling of a mission gone awry, but the character is purposefully misrepresenting parts of the story (you take an "important package" item that doesn't really exist, for example: it is made up as an excuse to hide important tools in a nook).
- Sonic Adventure: A bit of a meta-example: in the game, you play as six different characters whose stories are happening simultaneously. At a few points in the game, the characters fight each other and as you'd expect, the one who wins is whoever the player is playing as. The official strategy guide claims that this is because the characters all remember the fights ending differently. This explains:
- Why Sonic runs away from Amy in one version, leaving her to catch up with him at the entrance to Twinkle Park, while in another, he walks her there like a gentleman.
- The line "This plane's cool!" in Tails's version (when he flies by the end of Red Mountain to pick up Sonic) when no such line exists in Sonic's version.
- Tails as a tagalong who always tries to be where Sonic is in Sonic's version of the stages, while Tails always beats him to the goal in his own version.
- Oddly reversed around for Tails in Sonic's story, where he is depicted as more confident and reliable. In his own story, he has dialogue that makes him out to be insecure.
- Varric in Dragon Age II, embellishes obviously enough for his interrogator to see through it and demand the real account.
- The very first mission in the game consists of this. When you first do the mission, Hawke is a curb-stomping, unstoppable beast of a warrior (or mage) that effortlessly beats back waves of enemies...and all the female characters have an "enhanced" appearance. When Cassandra tells Varric to stop bullshitting her, the mission is replayed as a desperate struggle to merely survive, and the female characters look normal.
- There is a Storming the Castle mission that has to be done twice. Once with Varric alone, where he single-handedly kills dozens of mercenaries, and his brother Bartrand comes crawling on his knees to beg forgiveness, and one (the real one) with the entire party battling tooth and nail through mercenaries and demons. Cassandra demands to hear the real story after Varric tells her the first one. There's also a third version he gives in between which is technically correct, but omits a lot of detail: "We found my brother. We talked. It was awkward."
- In Fire Emblem 7, should you choose to have Rebecca and Lowen support one another, it becomes clear that he had left quite an impression on her when he whisked her from her village as it was being attacked by bandits...
Rebecca: Oh, but that's absurd! Sir Lowen, you are a fine knight! Why, I remember it so well... Countless hundreds of bandits had descended on our village...
Lowen: Please... There were ten at most...
Rebecca: In the heat of the moment, it felt like many more!
Rebecca: Anyway, just as their fiendish grip on our village began to tighten, you appeared, Sir Lowen, on your white steed...
Lowen: But... my horse is sorrel.
Rebecca: This is the way I prefer to remember it, milord. Please don't ruin it by correcting me!
- The bonus level of Monsters Probably Stole My Princess shows the Duke's memory of how he met the Princess, and is described as "entirely accurate (probably)". In addition to the bizarre spelling and grammar throughout, it shows the Princess (who is a real Princess this time rather than a waitress) being madly in love with the Duke, before being kidnapped by "the coolest and toughest foe it is possible to imagine". The level is filled with banners proclaiming the citizens' undying admiration for the Duke.
- BioShock Infinite makes use of this as a rather important plot point, and unlike most other examples, it is very much not Played for Laughs. At the end of the game the protagonist Booker is revealed to have completely (albeit unintentionally) fabricated his memories and as a result, his entire purpose for traveling to Columbia. The Arc Words "bring us the girl and wipe away the debt" were not orders from his current employer, but an offer by Comstock from nearly 20 years earlier - Comstock would pay off his gambling debts if Booker sold his infant daughter Anna (later renamed Elizabeth) to him. The subsequent guilt and self loathing, when combined with the disseminating properties of the tears, caused Booker to suppress these memories, and replace them with something much more palatable - like rescuing a girl locked in a tower, for example. Which is exactly what we as the player saw for most of the game. The brilliance lies in the fact that all of this is explained by a quote that appears in the first 5 seconds of game - we just didn't have the context to realize it at the time.
"The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist..." - Barriers to Trans-Dimensional Travel by R. Lettuce
- The end of the demo of The Stanley Parable has the Narrator flashback to all the things that happened during your crash course through the demo. At first it's represented faithfully, but then he suddenly starts talking about you walking up endless stairs, walking across an endless catwalk, riding an elevator and then walking out into the beautiful outdoors, none of which actually took place. He seems genuinely convinced that it really did happen, though.
- The Mass Effect series has two of these for two races, the krogan and the batarians:
Shepard: [responding to a batarian terrorist claiming such actions are necessary because of what the galaxy did to the batarians] You attacked us first. When we fought back, you went running to the Council for help, and when you didn't get it, you ran away and hid. You've got no one to blame but yourselves.
- The krogan fought one of the galaxy's most devastating wars centuries before the games began, and ended up being effectively neutered for it. Nowadays, many krogan attempt to play the victim card when speaking of the genophage that made them nearly sterile (the genophage only allows a 1-in-1000 live birth rate), when they were the ones that started the Krogan Rebellions by colonizing worlds that belonged to other races and then outright dared the Citadel to take them back. Urdnot Wrex, the krogan party member you have in the first game, eventually realizes that the krogan only have themselves to blame and resolves to change that. With your help, he can succeed by the third game.
- The batarians, however, are the opposite. Basically Space North Korea, the batarians began to send pirates and slavers to attack human settlements as they began to colonize the wider galaxy. When the humans eventually got tired of this and launched an assault on a major pirate world that the batarians supported in retaliation, the batarians appealed to the Citadel for help but got none, causing them to retreat behind their borders and instead act through pirates and slavers to attack humans, along with terrorist actions. They claim that the whole galaxy turned against them and forced them into self-imposed exile, but the truth is far less glamorous for them and Shepard can call various batarians out on this multiple times when he encounters hostile members of the species, though with the destruction of their government and society by the Reapers in the third game they might be getting better.
- Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!: The DLC Claptastic Voyage has the characters being digitized and entering Claptrap’s mind, where they have to reconstruct a corrupted memory. When they first enter, the town of Overlook is decorated with balloons and banners, and everyone is singing an upbeat song about how wonderful Claptrap is. The characters repair the memory and find out that Claptrap’s denial subroutine changed the memory to cover up his accidental destruction of the cliffside arena, followed by his further accidental destruction of the clinic tending to the victims.
- Mentioned in Doctor Horrible:
Buddy: You idiot! You almost killed her!
Captain Hammer: I remember it differently.
- In To Boldly Flee, Terl blames The Nostalgia Critic for destroying his home planet Psychlo at the end of the Battlefield Earth review, even though at the time he was well aware that the Critic had nothing to do with it.
- In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Emperor initially considers Astral Knights to be idiotic name and Chapter in general, but when he hears about their Heroic Sacrifice, he claims that he totally created them.
- In TomSka's "First date," Tom remembers his first date as an awesome action sequence, when in reality he spent his first date playing Inversion.
- Early in Goblins, Minmax has a "flashback" to drawing his sword before battle in an attempt to get himself out of a game mechanics joke.
- Girl Genius: Castle Heterodyne wantonly attacks Castle Wulfenbach as it hovers over Mechanicsburg. Agatha scolds the castle for this blatant act of war, only to learn that the Castle remembers getting cheerful permission from Agatha herself. Agatha then recalls what really happened:
Agatha: I'm going to have to think twice about everything I say to you, aren't I?
Castle Heterodyne: It'll be fun!
- Emergency Exit: Eddie has a "visually inaccurate" flashback.
- The Simpsons
- In "The War of the Simpsons", Homer and Marge throw a party, in which Homer gets totally drunk and embarrasses himself by leering at Maude Flanders' breasts, stumbling over furniture, etc. When confronted about this by Marge the next day, he remembers, in a pastel-colored flashback, a witty, sophisticated conversation not a million miles from the Algonquin Round Table of the 1930s.
- In "$pringfield", Homer accuses Marge of being against the casino, when she wasn't, and proceeds to assertively claim: "I have a phonographic memory!" The scene is drastically different from actually happened. Most notably, it shows Homer with ripped muscles accepting a call from the President from something with octopus tentacles. To add insult to injury, he doesn't even correctly remember Marge's hair color.
- In "Bart Gets Hit by a Car", Bart gets hit by Mr. Burns' car. At the trial, they both tell self-serving versions of the story, but Bart's, where Mr. Burns is a lunatic who went out of his way to hit him, was more believable; Mr. Burns' account, where he was on his way to help orphans and Bart threw himself at the car while laughing maniacally, is instantly disbelieved by the entire courtroom for obvious reasons.
- One episode has Homer recalling the previous nights debaucheries in a sepia-toned silent movie titled "Homers Night Out", which starts with him having a beer at Moe's. It then cuts to a panel saying "scene missing" followed by Homer frolicking around a maypole in a summery glade alongside several women in togas. This is followed by another panel saying "scene missing".
- Family Guy:
- Peter Griffin does it to Dr. Hartman after he gave Peter a prostate exam. After hearing the other "horror stories" from the guys about their exams, Peter sues Dr. Hartman. During the trial, Peter gives an account that makes it seem like Dr. Hartman molested him. When Dr. Hartman points out that he also gave the judge a prostate exam, the judge says that he had no problem with his. Peter then tells him to remember the exam again. When he does, the judge has a similar account as Peter and he finds Dr. Hartman guilty. As a result, the judge revokes Dr. Hartman's medical license. In what is perhaps an example of Laser-Guided Karma, Peter actually does start showing symptoms of a serious prostate problem, so he tries to get Dr. Hartman to do a prostate exam on him without admitting that he was wrong, as due to the lawsuit no doctor will go near him.
- Peter fails to secure a registration at Cheesy Charlie's for Stewie's birthday, and tells Lois a story about Satanic Nazis. This is lampshaded when Brian interrupts Peter's story to pull up a chair, saying "These things are always good." Afterwards, he claps and calls Peter "the Spalding Gray of crap."
Cheesy Charlie's Manager: We have many flavors of ice cream - vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, and people.
Peter Griffin: What was that last one?
Cheesy Charlie's Manager: Chocolate.
- King of the Hill: In the episode "A Fire-Fighting We Will Go", Dale, Bill, Boomhauer, and Hank each give their account of what happened at the volunteer fire department before it burned down. Dale's account depicts himself as muscular, with long, flowing hair, while Hank yells at him through a megaphone. Boomhauer's account has everyone else talking in his own Motor Mouth fashion while he himself is perfectly intelligible. Bill's account is an inversion, as he sees himself as being even fatter and balder than he actually is. Hank's account is the truth up until he remembers what actually caused the fire. He ultimately blames the recently deceased Chet Elderson for plugging in his faulty Alamo Beer sign, when in reality, it was Dale who was responsible.
- In The Critic, Jay first tries to remember back when he won his Pulitzer Prize, which involves him poorly dancing on a dance floor and striking out with a woman; Jay then realizes that memory was pathetic so he changes the memory where he dances amazingly, win a kiss from a girl, everybody applaud than a large poster drops down saying "We Love Jay."
Jay: Wow, I got my denial mojo working!
- South Park
- "Fishsticks": Cartman tries to take credit for the fishsticks joke, and flashes back to the actual creation of the joke multiple times. Each time, it gets more and more elaborate, finally ending with him fighting an army of robot Jews as the Human Torch. Kyle calls Cartman out for allowing his ego-influenced memory to create false accounts of real events. Cartman brushes his off. Later on, however, Cartman assumes that Jimmy is the one who has this problem.
- In the Season 2 Clip Show episode, things always ended more pleasantly for the character telling them. And every flashback ended with everyone getting ice cream.
- In the Drawn Together episode "Toot Goes Bollywood", Foxxy's psychiatrist Wooldoor implants a false memory in her mind of her being raped as a young girl in order to make her feel better about herself with the belief that she's a slut because of past sexual abuse, not because she's just a slut.
- Kim Possible: In a Continuity Nod, Ron remembers how he invented a fast-food hit, the naco. His memory is sepia-toned with himself and Kim in period dress.
Kim: That's how you remember it, huh?
- The Sushi Pack episode "So Says Who?" combines this with The Rashomon, as Tako and Maguro try to figure out why they're in a box on an asteroid hurtling toward Earth. Not only do they remember the day's events differently, their versions paint themselves in a positive light while making the other look ridiculous.
- Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy: "One Upon An Ed" has the each of the Eds telling Johnny the story of how they got stuck in his bedroom wall.
- Edd's version is much more sanitized (Jimmy has no braces): Eddy is an even bigger jerkass than usual, both Ed and Eddy are even dumber than usual, Edd is the leader and both Ed and Eddy are submissive to him and easily cowed by his wrath.
- Eddy's version is basically a Marty Stu fanfic that portrays everyone (except Nazz) as grotesque parodies of themselves (Jimmy's braces become Braces of Orthodontic Overkill and he's still wearing diapers, Kevin is a literal Butt Monkey) who all bow down and worship him, because he's rich, awesome, and dapper.
- Ed's isn't self-serving, so much as bizarre. The Kankers become a giant three-headed monster by eating radioactive mashed potatoes, and Ed avoids them with super powers (which sounds and looks a lot like fart-flying). As Eddy puts it, "Ed, your story's getting weird!" Ironically enough, it's the version that has everyone look and sound like their actual selves, except Edd (who only speaks in Blah Blah Blah), the Kankers and, to some extent, Kevin (every sentence Kevin says has "dork" in it, even when he's not talking about the Eds).
- Johnny Bravo has a story in the park involving bees, Carl's robot, Johnny being trampled by a horse (or horse-like creature) etc., as told by Johnny, Carl, and Susie. However, at the end of the episode we see a unicorn and a small robot (which featured in Susie's story) peeking out of the bushes laughing at the inclusion of an Algae Monster.
- Time Squad has three different versions of an encounter with Attila the Hun with only the last one being correct. Though since Otto isn't an official Time Squad member, Tuddrussel and Larry ignore his accurate retelling for a mixed version of both of theirs in their report. Probably on the count that they got beat by the Huns and rather not share that, much to Otto's annoyance.
- The Batman: The Animated Series episode "P.O.V." combines this with The Rashomon. Harvey Bullock's account of events paints him as a brave hero and Batman as a menace, while the animation shows him bumbling around and Batman doing all the work. In a slight twist to this, the rookie cop unintentionally does the same, depicting Batman as a supernatural Badass; for example, he claims Bats took down a fleeing crook just by pointing at him, apparently having missed the Grappling-Hook Pistol in his hand.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
Grim: Oh please, Mandy. That didn't even look like us!
- Grim asks Billy what he's said about playing with his scythe. Cut to Billy's flashback featuring Billy and a camel with Grim's head on a Dali-esq background, with "Grim" saying "Sure thing, Billy! And after that, you can ride on my humps!"
- One of the episodes had Grim and the kids (and Irwin) dangling over a pit with a monster, Irwin asks How We Got Here, only for the group to misinterpret and tell a story about how they met from Billy and Grim's memory of the event (Billy's a fantastical space journey assembling Grim's lost parts, and Grim's about how he went from popular celebrity to a slave to two diabolical children). After they both got their stories out, an annoyed Mandy reminded them how it really happened in about 20 seconds.
- "Twice Told Tale" from Garfield and Friends. Basically, the episode is about how the Arbuckle residence becomes filled with yogurt. Not only do Jon and Garfield blame each other, but they each exaggerate the other's negative qualities (Garfield becomes extra demanding; Jon wants to save money so he can spend it selfishly) and play up their own positive qualities (Garfield is more accommodating; Jon wants to save money for charitable reasons). Each asks Odie if his own version isn't correct, but he doesn't agree with either.
- Lite Sprites: Meadow starts telling the story of how they all got their light wands, and flashes back to all her friends laughing at the hilarious joke she had just made. Bleak stops her short and flashes back to what actually happened: the joke crashed and burned.
- Roger recounts how he lost his first adopted family in American Dad!, he depicts himself as a well groomed innocent young man who is randomly and callously deserted in the middle of nowhere. When he finally confronts them in reality, it is revealed he was in fact left due to being an intimidating, abusive Lazy Bum who refused to pay rent. Dumbfounded, he threatens to cut their face if they don't shut up.
- In the Motorcity episode "Threat Level," Texas, while being interrogated, recounts the events of previous episodes to Tooley. Claiming he's the Burners' "secret weapon," he makes it look like that he was responsible for all of the Burners' accomplishments, instead of Mike Chilton. Tooley becomes very impressed.
- In The Powerpuff Girls, Mojo Jojo tells a sob story of how he was the Professor's loyal assistant Jojo who was cruelly ignored and sidelined by the girls to convince the Professor to give him a dose of Chemical X. Mojo wreaking havoc with his new powers triggers the Professor's memory and he angrily sets the record straight. Jojo was a terrible assistant who wrecked the Professor's lab all the time. The Professor even says that Mojo hasn't changed a bit in that regard. The Professor then recalls that Jojo was responsible for the Chemical X being added to the girls' makeup. Mojo doesn't take this well. This is actually brought up in the movie, as we see Jojo wreaking havoc as the Professor is working.
- Randal has this a couple times in the Clip Show episode of Clerks: The Animated Series. In it Randal winds up getting himself and Dante locked in a freezer. When Jay and Silent Bob later get trapped in it with them as well, Randal explains to them how they were trapped by painting a ridiculous flashback where he's a millionaire philanthropist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and happened to get locked in because Dante, "The Biggest Idiot Ever" let the door get closed by throwing a cat into it.
- In The Fairly OddParents episode "Hassle in the Castle", Timmy goes inside Cosmo and Wanda's fishbowl castle and winds up in the Hall of Infamy, home to the worst godkids they had. One of the kids he meets, Mary Ann, says that Cosmo and Wanda "deserted" her for stealing their wands. When the two fairies intervene, they reveal that she abused their magic, took out Archduke Ferdinand and plunged the world into World War I.
- In the Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode "Curling Flower Space", Space Ghost, Zorak, and Moltar each try to explain how last week's show with Sarah Jessica Parker went, each explaining it self-servingly. Space Ghost recalls Parker wanting to have some of his sex with him before heroically fending off an attack by a sentient ceiling tile. Zorak's is the most believable, featuring Space Ghost bumbling his way through the interview as usual before being hit by a falling ceiling tile and reduced to pitiful sobbing, but through most of it Zorak remembers the rock band Boston showing up to take him on a galactic rock tour as their keyboardist. Moltar really couldn't care less what happened during the interview, but he did recall a talking car entering his room and blowing his mind. When neither Space Ghost nor Zorak believed that, Moltar changed his story such that Michael Myers broke in instead and attacked him.
- In one episode of Rocket Power, Otto and Twister have a falling out over a skateboard trick that Otto did but Twister failed at. At one point Otto tries to end the feud by telling Twister that he forgives him, but this only makes Twister angrier. When Reggie asks Otto what he thinks happened between them, he explains that he warned Twister that the trick was hard and that Twister lashed out at him when he tried to help after he got hurt. When Reggie shows him a video of what really happened, of how Otto mocked Twister for being too scared to try the trick, and continued mocking him after he tried the trick and got hurt when he failed, his response was....
- Otto (stunned confusion): I can't believe I said that.
- Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
- In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Best Hedgehog", both Lucas and Dr. Robotnik have different flashbacks of themselves with their high school crush, Lucinda, which happened thirty years before the events of that episode. Lucas' flashback is much more true to the episode's events, as in Robotnik's flashback, Robotnik is a lot more handsome, Luncinda is in love with him, and Lucas is a lot braver, even going as far as to fight Robotnik for Lucinda.
- The Sonic Boom episode, "Dude, Where's my Eggman?" has Knuckles pull this. When Orbot and Cubot ask him if they did battle yesterday, Knuckles remembers himself as beating Eggman easily with super powers, winning over the girls and being elected governor while Sonic ran away. It overlaps slightly with Believing Their Own Lies as after he tells the story, he begins planning to write his acceptance speech for governor.
- "Fire in a Crowded Workshop", another episode of the same series, is built around this trope. A fire breaks out in Tails' workshop, and Sonic, Knuckles, and Amy each have different versions on how it happened. Sonic's side of the story has him portrayed as an egotistical, tough ladies' man who can do no wrong while underlining his friends' flaws. Knuckles' side is very similar to the one in "Dude, Where's My Eggman", where he is depicted as a brave captain who puts out the fire in Tails' workshop with ice breath, while Sonic is depicted as a coward. Amy's side of the story has her see Perci as a "siren" with a Southern accent who the boys blindly want to do everything for, and despite that, Amy "selflessly" gives her aid. In spite of the differences between everyone's stories, Sticks rattling off a conspiracy theory about Perci being a spy/alien/government agent before running off screaming is the one thing that remains mostly constant.
- Gloriously displayed in Duck Dodgers, where the Cadet, IQ High and an old acquaintance go inside Dodgers' mind to retrieve important codes. Dodgers' memory is self-serving Up to Eleven, such as him as the first caveman making fire, along with being a pharaoh among other things.
- Also hinted at in another episode when the Cadet corrects Dodgers on a recollection before looking through Dodgers' self-serving journals. The Cadet cheerfully admits that some of the stories are actually quite good, for being total fabrication. Dodgers' then comments on his home-movies, making this a potentially Enforced Trope.
- In Hey Arnold!, Curly tries to get Eugene expelled from school because Curly lent him his favorite pencil, only for Eugene to sharpen and chew it up a lot. In Curly's flashback of the event, Eugene—an geeky Nice Guy who was Born Unlucky—does all this with a sadistic smile, a sneering tone and an Evil Laugh punctuated by Dramatic Thunder.