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Reminder Failure

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A character has something very important to memorize and they don't want to forget it or mess it up. They try any means of reminding themselves: repeating it to themselves, tying string around their fingers, writing it down, or recording it somehow, but one way or another, their attempts to remember inevitably end in failure.

Super-Trope to Repeated Rehearsal Failure. Any examples of verbal repetition devolving into nonsense go there.

Any examples where the cause of forgetting is a Tap on the Head or some outside sabotage like that belong on Laser-Guided Amnesia.

Compare to Flashback Fail, when someone tries to recall something but gets the basic details wrong.


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  • A 1970s ad for Wise Cheez Doodles has a little girl walking down the street repeating to herself in a sing song voice: "Save some Cheez Doodles for grandma" But she's also nibbling away at the snack as she goes. When she gets to her grandmother she proudly announces "Grandma! Guess what I brought you!" Grandmother says "Let me see!" The little girl looks down and realizes the bag is empty. She gasps in dismay, then hides the empty bag behind her back and smiles up at her grandmother, "Me!"

    Comic Books 
  • Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe: At the end of "Deadpool Killustrated" (in which Deadpool is unsatisfied with killing off his home 'verse and has moved on to all of fiction), Sherlock Holmes is in a limbo between worlds, forcing himself to remember fictional characters so that they'll continue to exist. He's clearly having difficulty in remembering all of them.
  • The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers are alarmed to hear the police can break into homes without knocking, so they booby trap the apartment with falling bowling balls, high-voltage wires - then they have Fat Freddy go to the store, telling him "Don't forget to be careful coming back in". He walks along repeating the mantra...then forgets what he was going to get. He rushes back in to ask and sets off the traps.

    Films — Animation 
  • This is a running theme with Dory in Finding Nemo, who suffers from short-term memory loss and repeats words or sentences to herself in an attempt to retain information.
    • When told by some friendly mackerel to go "through a trench, not over it", she repeats the phrase to herself a few times but immediately forgets it (mostly) when they encounter the trench. Although she has a nagging feeling that they should go through the trench, she is easily convinced to go over it.
    • Whilst travelling with Marlin she continuously repeats the phrase "P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney" and manages to remember it the entire journey — even using it as a Survival Mantra while stung to near-unconsciousness by jellyfish. But after Marlin tells her to leave after believing Nemo was killed, Dory becomes so upset she tries to say the address one more time and fails to remember past the number 42.
    • Dory keeps misremembering Nemo's name. Over the course of the film, she manages to call him Chico, Fabio, Bingo, Harpo, and Elmo. Marlin keeps correcting her but it never sticks until the sequel where it does stick.
  • Sulley in Monsters, Inc. tries repeating to himself where he should deliver Mike's paperwork. He corrects his own verbalized mistake on which colored copies go where, but he never actually gets around to delivering them, forgetting because the human child Boo gets out.
  • Treasure Planet: When Jim meets B.E.N., Ben tries to tell him everything he knows about Captain Flint's treasure but can't remember a certain important detail. Justified since his mind was removed by Flint so he couldn't tell anybody. The moment Jim finds and reinstalls Ben's mind, he immediately remembers everything, including the fact that Flint set the planet to self-destruct.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A variant shows up in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; Henry Jones Sr. kept a notebook so he wouldn't have to memorize everything, so retrieving his notebook was a major plot point.

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has a magical Remembrall that Neville Longbottom's grandmother mails him, a glass orb which glows red if the holder has forgotten something. Cue the obligatory joke where it turns red immediately and Neville is stuck for the rest of the scene trying to figure out what the Remembrall is trying to remind him of. In the movie he even points out how useless an object is that only lets you know you forgot something, not what it is you forgot.

    Live-Action TV 
  • House of Anubis: As Fabian, struck with the amnesia curse, gradually begins to forget more and more about his life, he starts making notes to himself whenever he needs to remember something, only to forget about the notes he wrote immediately after writing them.
  • Lab Rats: Adam needs to remember one line for the school play. The line is, "Ma'am, you're standin' in it." He rehearses the line at least thirty-seven times. When the time comes for him to actually say the line, he can't remember it at all. When someone offstage prompts him, he shushes them and says he's trying to remember what the line was.
  • The Cheers episode where Cliff went into the hospital had the gang miss a chance to visit him. Sam was busy and Norm claimed to feel nauseous when he entered a hospital. Woody, on the other hand, tied a string around his finger to remember and forgot why he tied it. However, we never find out what he tied the other string for.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street:
    • In the picture book Don't Forget the Oatmeal!, Bert and Ernie go grocery shopping, with Bert remarking at the beginning that it's particularly important that they remember to get more oatmeal. At the supermarket they get distracted by a Cookie Monster rampage, and when they get home they discover that they've bought everything on their list except the oatmeal.
    • A classic animated sketch has a young girl being given directions about what groceries to pick up for her mother. She walks all the way to the store repeating the three items she has to get only to momentarily forget the third when she's actually in the store. After a few second of being puzzled, she does remember the right thing to buy, however.

  • The Navy Lark: Seaman "Fatso" Johnson once went around for an episode with a bit of string tied around his finger, unfortunately he couldn't remember tying it there so all it did was remind him he had forgotten something (at the end of the episode it was revealed: It was to remind him to buy string).

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, Weiss mentally tells herself to charge at an enemy with the right foot first. She ends up running with the left foot first.

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes: In "The Film Fan", Porky is being sent out to the store by his mother and repeats her instructions to himself, but he gets sidetracked when he passes by a movie theater and notices a sign saying that kids are admitted free.
  • Kit Cloudkicker from Disney Television's TaleSpin episode "Vowel Play" helps Baloo skywrite the message "Weight until dark" [sic], but remembers only half the spelling mnemonic of I before E except after C. The message appears as "Wieght until dark," which would be the code for "bombard City Hall." Fortunately, Kit remembers the second half of the mnemonic in time: "Or when sounding like A, as in neighbor or weigh." Baloo deftly corrects the fault in time.
  • An episode of The Simpsons has Homer waking up to find a string tied on his finger and "DON'T FORGET" written in various places, but he doesn't know what he was supposed to remember. When Marge says the family are going to watch Grandpa at an Olympics-type event, Homer mistakenly believes that's what the reminders were for but they weren't; he was actually supposed to be going fishing with Moe for his birthday.
  • In the South Park episode Toilet Paper, Cartman come up on the spot with an extremely detailed alibi for where they were on the night that their teacher's house was toilet-papered; however, none of the others are able to get the "facts" straight because the alibi is too long:
    Cartman: Okay. Last night, all four of us were at the bowling alley until about 7:30, at which time we noticed Ally Sheedy, the Goth chick from the Breakfast Club, was bowling in the lane next to us, and we asked her for her autograph, but she didn't have a pen, so we followed her out to her car, but on the way we were accosted by five Scientologists who wanted to give us all personality tests, which were administered at the Scientology Center in Denver until 10:45, at which time we accidentally boarded the wrong bus home and ended up in Rancho de Burritos Rojos, south of Castle Rock, and finally got a ride home with a man who was missing his left index finger, named Gary Bushwell, arriving home at 11:46.