Amnesiac Victor & Hope. CBS

Amnesia storylines in soap operas are about as common as extramarital affairs. Amnesia, the soap opera variety at least, is basically a fairytale, a device employed by television writers, to take artistic license with Amnesia to change a plotline or create a twist where a villain can actually become a hero. Stories about real Amnesia wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. I would think everyone knows TV Amnesia isn’t real and that this is common knowledge, but I make this mistake with people quite a bit. Sort of like when I’m surprised that people don’t know that the way to restore an old yucky cookie is to stick it in the microwave for about 15 seconds. What? You didn’t know that?

Even rarer than soap opera Amnesia is when a person with Amnesia actually gets their memory back after a long period of time after receiving a second blow to the head. That trauma could simply result in death. I remember a “Gilligan’s Island” episode where Gilligan had Amnesia and the Skipper spent the rest of the show trying to whack him in the head so he could have his ‘little buddy’ back. Eventually, a coconut dropped accidentally, striking Gilligan on the skull and restoring his memory. This just doesn’t happen in reality.

Real Amnesia generally occurs due to toxins, including alcohol and can also occur when there is trauma to the head when alcohol is not present. Besides the actual Amnesia there are usually other psychological or physical effects, which can be permanent. Amnesia can occur due to psychological abuse and these memories may be restored via therapy or after the passage of time. Many people who are in serious accidents have no memory of the accident as well as the moments, sometimes days or even years, leading up to the event. These examples describe Retrograde Amnesia, which is the inability to remember some things in the past. Many Amnesia suffers have Anterograde Amnesia, the ability to remember new events. Those people will be unable to recall those new events ever because the main issue is that no memory is stored, thus cannot be recalled.

Soap operas love the use of Amnesia as a plot device, where the victim is more or less normal and can function normally but has no idea who they are or may believe they are someone else. Amnesia in Daytime television can even run in families. On The Young and the Restless, both father and son have had it. Now and then a soap opera character will get pieces of their forgotten memories back tidbit by tidbit. Such is the case with Michael Corinthos (Drew Garrett) from General Hospital. It was bad enough that he pulled a Rip Van Winkle for a year but it had to be shocking to him that he woke up as a 17 year old boy when he’d been just 10 the year before. Even worse, his lost memories are about Claudia’s (Sarah Brown) guilty confessions for placing a hit on his dad (her husband) when he was shot instead, sending him into a coma. I guess it all worked out. He bludgeoned her to death with a bat to save his mom and his born-that-day baby sister, who wouldn’t have been born in the first place without Claudia’s help. Y&R’s Victor Newman (Eric Braeden) as well has his son, Nick (Joshua Morrow) suffered from Amnesia – only to gain their memories back. Nick didn’t remember that his daughter was dead and he was now married to Phyllis (Michelle Stafford) instead of Sharon (Sharon Case) which started a painful continuation of that love triangle that frankly, I can’t bear to watch anymore. Nick’s brother, Adam (Michael Muhney), better hope he gets ‘Newman Amnesia’ because it may be the only way he finds his way back to being a ‘good’ character. Maybe Katherine Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper) is related to the Newman’s too as she had a very long experience with Amnesia, believing she was Marge and finding her current husband (Michael Fairman) during her memory loss period. He’s a nice guy, so I liked how that turned out much more than Nick’s Amnesia.