Short-term memories – Chapter 2, Strip 373

Contrary to what the Professor might think, there is a robust psychological explanation for the observed peculiarities of the memories of fictional characters – it’s a condition know as “IESCS”, or “Imaginary Exotic Sportscar Syndrome”. It is, however, nothing the fictional character in question suffers from, but rather the Executive Producer – it’s generally characterized by obsessive ideation about the sportscar the producer could buy from the money they save by not shooting dedicated flashback footage. (This Syndrome used to be known as “Imaginary Porsche Syndrome” in the past – nowadays we know, however, that the specific brand/engine displacement of the sportscar any individual Executive producer is obsessed with derives from a combination of various physical characteristics. Mostly body height and penile length.)

Seriously, though, it’s true – when movie characters see their life flash before their eyes for any reason, they seem to almost exclusively remember things that either happened earlier in the movie, or in (one of) the sequel(s). Nobody ever seems to fondly remember their wedding, graduation, returning home from the war, first time having sex…any of those things you’d normally expect to have left a lasting impression.

From the top of my head, I can’t think of too many exceptions – though, if I remember correctly, that 80’s “Flash Gordon” movie had a few bits of dedicated footage for Zarkov’s memories. And one of the Austin Power movies had a flashback to the past of a character played by Michael Kaine created from footage of an older Michael Kaine movie.

But, while this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to B-productions, B-movies certainly take it to another level at times – in B-movies, a character can actually have ‘flashbacks’ to movies the character didn’t appear in, or in which they were played by a different actor. Boris Karloff was a particularly ‘memorable’ actor in that regard – both in the Frankenstein as well as the ‘Mummy’ franchises footage with him turned up in flashbacks long after his roles had passed into different hands, leading to some strangely distorted memories. So if you’re wondering why the Professor looks totally different in some of those flashbacks, that’s probably the reason – he was played by a different actor in the first movie, possibly Boris Karloff.

More on Thursday.

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