Anosognosia on the Big Screen
Medically, Anosognosia is the lack of self-awareness (or in other words being unaware of what you don’t know). These unknown unknowns affect us everyday and combating them is crucial for not only self improvement but how we interact with others. It is also at the forefront of many of our popular stories, legends, and movies. Many of our favorite movies integrate anosognosia for plot development, to add depth to the film, or for characterization. Here are some brief examples:
Yes, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” anosognosia was used for both plot and characterization. Probably the most popularized instances of it comes from one of the franchise’s most iconic moments, the revelation of Darth Vader as Luke’s father in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Before the revelation, Luke had just known that he was to fight against the Sith and that Vader was his enemy. He knew that Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire were planning devilish schemes to gain dominance in the galaxy. After all, Vader built the Death Star, which was capable of destroying entire planets (poor Alderaan) and Luke thought Darth Vader had killed his father. However, knowing that Vader is his dad changes everything. It changes how he views his enemy, and makes him question himself along with the Odyssey he is on.
Another moment from the original (and really the only) trilogy comes from the Empire Strikes Back as well, when Luke and Leia kiss. Now at the time they did not know they were brother and sister, but it does change the plot and how the characters interact as Han also had a thing for Leia. Later when they figure out they are related, it makes it all the more dramatic and things between Luke and Han start to mend a little more.
The plot of Jurassic Park is heavily centered around anosognosia, as the unknown unknown to Mr. Hammond and his staff is the affect of the frog DNA on the dinosaurs. John Hammond creates Jurassic Park as a tourist attraction/living museum by bringing dinosaurs back to life from preserved “Dino DNA” found in mosquitoes in amber. Due to deterioration, there are gaps in the gene sequence so the scientists decide to fill it in with DNA from frogs. It is later revealed by Dr. Grant that some species of frogs are capable of changing sexes when there are not enough of one sex, prompting some of the all female dinosaurs in the park to switch genders. All of this confirms Dr. Malcolm’s chaos theory ideas on how “Life finds a way.” The scientists were unaware of how they did not anticipate the frog DNA would allow the dinosaurs to eventually breed. This was out of both greed from Hammond, for wanting to recreate dinosaurs as quickly as possible without regards to how, and also from his ethics.
Fight Club *spoiler alert*
For those of you who have not seen Fight Club, it is an excellent movie and I wouldn’t want to spoil the whole premise of the movie for you, thus I have put the spoiler alert. For those of you who have, I shall continue speaking of Fight Club (breaking the First Rule).
Now the first time I watched this movie, the revelation at the end was indeed mind blowing, to be honest I didn’t expect it. Watching it again, I kept my eyes open for any hints about the identity of Tyler Durden and how he relates to the narrator. The very beginning of the movie points out the narrator has insomnia but he doesn’t know it affects him to the degree that it does. The unknown unknown for the majority of the movie is Tyler Durden’s identity and that Tyler and the narrator are the same person. The narrator, including the audience, do not know the narrator and Tyler are the same person, Tyler just being his figment of his imagination. The whole movie focuses around the interactions between the narrator and Tyler and how they affect each other. Not knowing that he is making up a whole part of his life subconsciously, the narrator believes he is just living out his normal life with a new friend he has made. When he finds out Tyler is not seen by anybody else and that he is Tyler, it completely changes his perception of life.