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Memory Wipe Exploitation

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Richter: Excuse me, Doctor. Is [Quaid] gonna remember any of this?
Doctor: Not a thing.
Richter: Oh really? [punches Quaid in the face]

Someone has something they've always wanted to say or do to another person and thanks to a mind wipe or amnesia they finally have the opportunity. They usually do this either because they want to get something off their chest or they're just curious what would happen. Occasionally the amnesia ends up not working, leading to much awkwardness. Another version of the trope is when a character tricks the amnesiac/mindwiped person into believing a lie about what happened before they lost their memories.

Compare Trial Balloon Question.

See also Criminal Amnesiac when the amnesiac character gets manipulated into being the villain and Amnesiac Villain Joins the Heroes for when a villain loses their memory and thinks they were a hero. Not to be confused with Memory Gambit.


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    Comic Books 
  • Bart Simpson: One issue had Lisa get amnesia after being hit on the head with a stray Wii remote, and Bart promptly took the opportunity to convince her that she was a bad kid like him.
  • Supergirl story arc "The Super-Steed of Steel": When some bank-robbers find an amnesiac Comet the Super-Horse, they claim they are his friends and he must help them escape from some "bad men" who are chasing them.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: When the Steve Trevor of Earth-One (seemingly) died a second time Hippolyta sought out a version of him from the multiverse who had suffered brain damage due to injury and brought him over and implanted false memories and patched him up to appear to be the local Steve so that her daughter would not mourn him.

    Comic Strips 
  • Foxtrot: During one arc where his mother is whacked out of her gourd on cough medication, Jason repeatedly goes up to her to say she forgot to give him her allowance for the week.

    Fan Works 
  • Amalgamate makes this one of the mastermind's favorite tactics. They erase, manipulate and gaslight the survivors so much that Kokichi eventually realizes he can't even recall what his favorite color is anymore.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: In "A Small Deception", a memory wipe is exploited to keep experiences fresh. They were actually just unconscious:
    "What did I do to you?" Ami asked, smiling evilly. Getting the smile right had taken quite a bit of time in front of the mirror, not to mention a lot of teasing from Cathy and Jered until she managed to combine the frown and the curvature of the lips correctly. "Can't you remember?"
    Both he and Isolda shook their heads.
    Ami's smile widened. "Good. I could tell you, but that would make me wiping your memories a waste of time. I'd hate for my methods to get out and ruin the surprise. Besides, this way, every time can be as horrible as the first!"
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf series, the Psyche Master erases Empath's memory with a Mind Rape as an infant so that he would make Empath believe that he was a Psyche. However, the memory wipe wasn't complete, as Empath still had a memory of being left behind by his biological father Papa Smurf in Psychelia only to soon have his memory erased.
  • Flawed Crystals: During a confrontation with Jasper, Steven accidentally wipes her memories. At the moment when it happens, he's sorely lacking allies, as all of the Crystal Gems have been corrupted. As he, Connie and Jasper gradually make progress on their quest to restore the others, however, the question of what exactly to do about Jasper's condition looms large.
  • In the Discworld, the Magitek supercomputer HEX is developing more and more sentience and more and more of a Snark Knight sense of humour. In The Many Worlds Interpretation, HEX is part of an exoplanetary survey team sent to make contact with intelligences on Roundworld, based at a place of learning called Caltech. When it becomes necessary to explain to the local representatives why they have been visited from another planet, HEX opts to explain in full why people like Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter are vital to the survival of the human race. His strategy is to explain in absolutely full detail, leaving nothing out, and then to wipe Leonard's memory of all the detail.note . Leonard Hofstadter, as HEX anticipates, absolutely insists on a Brain Bleach at the end. This is after hearing that Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah-Fowler will work out the sex thing and in fact go in to have a large family. HEX has told him so. In possibly un-necessary detail.
  • In the Nice Kaachan AU series of fan comics by CharlotteSketches, the normally belligerent and arrogant Bakugo gets his memories temporarily wiped by a villain's Quirk, leaving him naive, sweet, and goofy. His classmates pounce upon the opportunity to be able to make friends with him, even though Midoriya is understandably concerned about Bakugo's rage when he gets his memories back. Bakugo himself is horrified at the "real" him once Mineta shows footage of him from the Sports Festival and feels used and hurt by his classmates' manipulation of his condition.
  • To The Night Sky: Emerson forcibly erased Roy and Edward's memories as part of a plan to make them more suggestible and willing to follow his orders. When this didn't work as effectively as he'd hoped, he turned to medical torture.
  • What If Sonic Lost His Memory?: Eggman naturally takes advantage of Sonic's memory loss by convincing him that he's actually an android he built to be the "ultimate battle life-form". He also intends to restore his memories after he's gotten the hedgehog to do all his dirty work for him, just for the sake of seeing him hit by the horror of what he'd done before disposing of him.
  • X-Manson: Psychics in Xavier's cult use their powers to hollow out the minds of their victims in order to effectively use them as puppets, in a process called "coring". Betsy Braddock was one of the victims of this process.

    Films — Animated 
  • Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension: Carl and Major Monogram are prepping to wipe the group's memories, with their permission, so Perry won't be forced to move away. Isabella takes the opportunity to pull Phineas in for a kiss, then tells Carl to fire before Phineas can interject.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Groundhog Day: Phil seduces Nancy by asking her questions about where she went to school, her teachers, etc. then on the next iteration of the "Groundhog Day" Loop pretending to be an old classmate of hers. He attempts to do something similar with Rita, learning her likes and interests on one iteration and pretending to have similar interests on the next. However, this never works with Rita.
  • At the end of Jumanji, after Alan and Sarah finish the titular board game and everything returns to normal (read: the timeline shifts back to when they first started the game), Sarah kisses Alan, saying that she wants to do it before they forget everything that happened when they played the game.
  • Happens several times in Memento. Leonard has no short-term memory, so he can only hold onto events for a few minutes at a time, then he has no idea that they happened. The landlord tricks Leonard into playing rent multiple times, Natalie tells him to his face that she's doing it, leaving him desperately (and unsuccessfully) searching for a pen to write that down before it fades.
  • In Men in Black II, after Agent J saves the subway passengers from being eaten by a giant worm and the train stops at the next station, he neuralyzes them and starts chewing them out for ignoring his warnings and only evacuating to the next train car once the worm had started eating the train. He then reneuralyzes them once he realizes that he's carried on for far too long and tells them a story requesting that they enjoy using new space-efficient, energy-saving cars.
  • Overboard: After Rich Bitch Joana falls off her yacht and gets amnesia, single father Dean convinces her that she is the stay-at-home mother of his kids.
  • The Overboard remake had a Gender Flip version, where a Mexican billionaire playboy rips off a carpet cleaner in Oregon, and after he falls off his yacht off the Oregon coast and loses his memory, the carpet cleaner takes him home and turns him into a House Husband that is also a day laborer.
  • At the beginning of Paycheck the protagonist has a brief affair with an executive while working on a project. They both know that his memories will be wiped once the project is complete, so it can be treated as an inherently short-term thing.
  • This is used in Purple Storm where the Hong Kong Police Force's Anti-Terrorist Force is trying to interrogate Todd Nguyen, a Cambodian terrorist of Chinese heritage after the ATF realizes that he's got amnesia. Despite objections from psychologist Shirley Kwan due to moral and ethical reasons, ATF officer Ma Li takes advantage of Todd's memory loss by telling him that's been too deep with the terrorists from Cambodia as a long-term operation from the HKPF. This works in the long run since the amnesiac Todd is able to stop the terrorist plot to use a WMD weapon named Ricin-X.
  • In The Tooth Fairy, Derek repeatedly uses amnesia dust on his girlfriend so he can insult her and her kids and get away with it. A man watches as this is going on, wishing he had some of that stuff.
  • Total Recall (1990): Quaid has spent the entire film with (possibly) false memories, and in constant conflict with Richter. When he's finally caught, he's about to have his previous memories restored, and Richter takes the opportunity to take out his frustration on Quaid.

  • In Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, Artemis and his associates agree to be mind-wiped of all fairy-related memories. Right before the mind wipe begins, Holly tells Juliet if she wants any of Juliet's memories of her to survive, it should be Holly telling her that she isn't cut out to become a bodyguard. Juliet promises to try to cling to that thought, and one of the first things she does after the mind wipe is drop out of bodyguard academy and sign up with an all-female wrestling troupe.
  • In The Ship Who... Won, the mages and magesses of Ozran control the underclasses who farm and labor for them by feeding them heavily drugged meals that have serious deleterious effects on their minds and memories, making it difficult for them to remember thing that happened earlier in the day, let alone make plans. One character who missed a few meals due to illness noticed the change in his thinking and switched to scrounging raw food - and grew stronger and heartier for it as well as being better able to think and remember.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock:
    • A social worker comes to inspect Liz's workplace to ensure she is fit to raise a child. It goes disastrously wrong, and the woman deems Liz unfit to adopt before receiving a concussion. She forgets the entire day, which Liz uses as a second chance and gives her the perfect tour of the studio... only for the woman to be so banged up she forgets that as well.
    • In another episode, Liz's brother (who suffers from short-term memory loss due to an accident and who thinks he's still a teenager in the 1980s) meets Liz's co-workers; Cerie tells him that she'll meet him "later" in the hot tub, knowing he'll have had another memory lapse by then.
  • This is taken to a policy level as part of the twist in the Black Mirror episode "White Bear". Every day, Victoria Skillane wakes up with no memories and is chased through the streets by maniacal mask-wearers who will only commit horrific acts of violence and seemingly "ordinary" civilians filming on their cell phones who will never attempt to stop them, no matter what happens. It's eventually revealed that this is Victoria's punishment for assisting in the abduction, torture, and murder of a little girl and that every night her memory is wiped after she is forced to remember. This is specifically so that the "amusement park" visitors can engage in the exact same torture, knowing that Victoria has no idea why any of this is happening and is experiencing the same terror as her victim.
  • A more benign version shows up in Brooklyn Nine-Nine when Pimento's memory resets every five minutes or so. Jake has been forbidden by his wife Amy to tell anyone they're trying for a baby, but he's excited and is going crazy not telling anyone, so he tells Pimento, since he won't remember anyway. Except this backfires when he does remember just long enough to blurt it out in front of Jake's best friend Charles — who is pissed Pimento was told before him.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • In a first season episode "The Truth Is Out There And It Hurts", the three sisters have cast a spell on themselves where anyone whom they question will answer truthfully. Prue takes advantage of this to be honest with her Friend on the Force boyfriend Andy — she tells him the truth about her family's powers and their fight against evil and asks him if she could still have a relationship with him under those circumstances. He answers "No", and then immediately forgets the conversation when the spells wears off. He calls her out in a later episode for making a final decision based on how he reacted with only a few minutes to process it.
    • In a fifth season episode "Necromancing The Stone", Paige casts the same spell on her boyfriend at the time to find out how he would react to dating a witch. He was fine with that part, but then revealed that he has a wife and two children. Paige then had to figure out how to keep him contained for the next twenty-four hours so he wouldn't out her as a witch.
  • In The Flash (2014) season one episode "Out of Time," Barry reveals his secret identity to Iris and they share their first kiss. Afterward, to save Central City from a tsunami, Barry runs back and forth across the coastline to create a barrier, but he runs so fast that he travels back in time to the day before, erasing Iris' memory of the event.
  • In the Grand Finale of Full House, Michelle suffers Trauma-Induced Amnesia. Her cousins Nicky and Alex manipulate her into thinking she let them keep a Rigby the Rhino doll before the accident. After regaining her memories, Michelle catches Nicky and Alex with the doll and makes them give it back to her.
  • Played for Drama in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a famous football player, Lincoln Haver, is accused of killing his common-law husband is manipulated into confessing to the murder, which he does, leading to a conviction. It's later discovered Lincoln was diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephlitynote  and had no memory of the night the victim died; the truth is revealed when his agent Gary makes a comment contradicting his earlier statement that he had no idea Lincoln was gay, making it pretty clear he had something to hide.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • In the episode "White Hole", the Dwarfers have to deal with the opposite of a black hole, a celestial phenomenon leaking time into the universe. Having dealt with the anomaly, they realise that the timeline they're in will shortly erase itself, leaving them with no memory of what happened. Kryten takes the opportunity to insult Rimmer.
      Kryten: And as these events never happened, we'll have no memory of them. In which case, Mr. Rimmer, sir, I should like to take this opportunity to say that you are the most obnoxious, trumped-up, farty little smeghead that has ever been my misfortune to encounter!
    • In "Fathers and Suns", we find out Lister's Father's Day tradition: as he's his own dad, after opening his Father's Day card, he makes another card to be delivered to himself next year, first getting blackout drunk so he won't remember what he's got. Later, he decides to be a better father to himself and, with the help of the ship's computer and her behaviour-predicting software, he repeats the blackout routine, this time creating a video giving himself instructions, with added punishment for not obeying said instructions. Unfortunately, the computer manipulates the situation to get Lister off the ship so she can destroy Red Dwarf.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Window of Opportunity" Jack and Teal'c are caught in a "Groundhog Day" Loop and eventually decide to take advantage of the lack of consequences. Ranging from using the stargate as a driving range to Jack violating the fraternization rules with Carter.
  • Invoked in Torchwood when Gwen gives her boyfriend a dose of an amnesia-inducing sedative right before she reveals to him that she's been having an affair with one of her colleagues at her new job. She tries to get him to forgive her as the sedative takes hold, but he passes out before she gets him to say it.
  • One episode of Weird Science gives Gary a remote control that lets him fast forward, rewind, or pause time. Unfortunately the remote breaks and he and Wyatt get stuck in a loop. Wyatt figures it out and rushes to fix things, but before doing so the last time he takes a moment to kiss his French teacher.

    Video Games 
  • In Get Even (2017), a scientist named Robert "Red" Ramsey takes advantage of Cole Black's memory loss by helping him investigate the kidnapping of a girl named Grace. Prior to his memory loss, he knows about the kidnapping and was involved in it before things changed.
  • After defeating the Improbability Drive in Improbable Island and being permanently changed by the resulting explosion of Improbability, the Watcher suggests that the best way to handle this would be to alter your memories so that you had always been that way. When you agree, she takes the opportunity to let down her facade as The Dreaded and admit that you were always her favorite contestant, and kiss you, admitting that she's only doing this because you won't remember it anyway.

    Web Comics 
  • In 8-Bit Theater, Garland knows that Bikke is planning to hold a meeting with the other Dark Warriors, as they are unhappy with Garland's leadership. Garland not only supports the idea - he even offers to cater them lunch. Just after serving lunch, Drizz'l approaches Garland and asks why Garland is being so supportive of Bikke's efforts to overthrow him. Garland has two reasons: the first is that he wanted a chance to try out a new taco recipe he found. The second is that he views the plot as a non-issue, because Bikke is grossly incompetent, Vilbert is a poser, and Drizz'l has been a broken shell of a Dark Elf ever since Fighter beat him and took his swords. When Drizz'l points out the possibility that Garland might be overconfident, Garland reveals his secret third reason: he put amnesia peppers in the tacos, meaning he can freely mock the attempts to depose him. In an hour, everyone will have forgotten the entire affair anyway.
  • In Goblins, Minmax's party is about to undertake a dungeon, only to realize that they've tried and failed 1,982,770 times already and the failed attempts have been wiped from their memories. Forgath makes a comment about how nothing they do will matter because they'll probably fail again and they'll forget this attempt like all the others... Minmax promptly kisses him, thinking it's funny.
  • Something*Positive: While watching over a conked-out Davan, Kim's fetish for completely passive partners takes over and she rapes him, figuring he won't remember. When Davan finds out from Faye (who caught Kim in the act), he doesn't hold a grudge, and it even leads to a Call-Back during a later Sexy Discretion Shot:
    Kim: Davan, you're doing something different than you did last time. What's it called?
    Davan: Consenting.
    Kim: Intriguing.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: "My Big Fat Spy Wedding" has Jimmy confront seemingly reformed criminal, Beautiful Gorgeous, after her groom, Jet Fusion, attacks Sheen when the latter says "I have the ring." Beautiful quickly overpowers Jimmy, confesses her Evil Plan, then uses Jimmy's own Hypno-beam to erase the last 30 minutes of his memory. If Carl and Sheen hadn't witnessed everything, Beautiful actually would have gotten away with her plan.
  • Numbuh 86 takes a moment to admit that she has a small crush on Numbuh 4 in the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: E.N.D." just before having all of Sector V's memories wiped.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: At the end of "Channel Chasers" Timmy's parents have discovered Vicky is evil and, after verbally chewing her out, fire her. After watching Vicky suffer for a bit, Timmy wishes the day's events never happened, because without Vicky, Timmy wouldn't be miserable enough to have fairy godparents.
  • Glitch Techs: In a Pet the Dog moment at the end of the first episode, Phil (the perpetually grumpy manager of The Men in Black-esque organization) takes the time to assure Miko's parents that her crazy story about a monster coming out of the TV was actually true. Once they apologize for doubting her and express how proud they are, she tells him he can go ahead and erase their memories. He also gives them positive, condensed version which they are allowed to remember.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode, "Society of the Blind Eye", the titular society's leader, Blind Ivan, reveals both his identity and the society's mission to the twins, Wendy and Soos as he is about to wipe their memories anyways.
    • In the same episode, just before Blind Ivan tries to erase their memories, our heroes take the opportunity to get some grievances off their chests; namely how for the first half of the summer Soos thought Mable's name was Maple, Mabel only loves some of her stuffed animals, Dipper uses big words he doesn't understand to seem smarter then he actually is and how Wendy is more stressed out then she let's on.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: Po learns a technique called "Fluttering Finger Mindslip" that causes short-term memory loss. Po starts using it to get out of doing chores and being lectured but uses it so many times that it ends up causing full amnesia on the Furious Five.
  • Reality Trip: Danny's ghost powers are revealed to his family. Before he rewrites reality to make them forget, he takes the time to have a conversation with them where they assure him they're proud and don't hate him (despite formerly believing ghosts were evil).
  • In an episode of Recess, Principal Prickly ends up with the mind of a kid after being hypnotized, T.J. and the gang uses this as an opportunity to manipulate him into mischief, even making announcements about the lunch menu on the school PA system.
  • The "Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind" episode of The Simpsons has Homer, hoping to forget the memories of an odd day that led to his family apparently hating him, ordering a drink called the "Forget-Me-Shot" and asking Lenny, Carl and Moe to make Brutally Honest comments towards him that he won't remember. Lenny says that blue pants make him look fat, Carl admits that he finds his small hands attractive and Moe proudly proclaims that he's spat in every one of his drinks (including the drink he serves him to wipe his memory.)
  • In The Venture Bros., knowing that SPHINX was gonna wipe the last few moments of Hank and Dean's memories, Dr. Venture with sadistic glee reveals to his sons that they're clones and the identity of their Missing Mom (Off-screen of course).