We all lie to ourselves to be happy

Memento asks some tough question of us. Can we trust our memory? What gives us purpose to keep living? Do we lie to achieve our ends? Will we recognize ourselves when we look in the mirror? I think these are all very good questions and ones that should be explored over and over again. Memento tries to get you to do that, over and over again, through it’s use of constant repetition of events and dialogue.

My thoughts on this narrowed in after seeing these two tweets by Grayson:



The picture in the first tweet of Leonard’s “I’ve done it” tattoo is from a very brief (few seconds long) shot at the end of the movie when the final reveal and set up happens. The second tweet though is the one that I thinks hits right on an issue Memento wants you to think about. Where was this tattoo? When did he get it? Who is Leonard with it vs. without it? Who does Leonard want to be?

Leaving that tattoo off of Leonard shows that Leonard is in control of what he wants to remember. He gets to control who he is, what his purpose is, and when he gets to stop living for that purpose. Leonard needs his quest for John G. He has dedicated his whole life after his wife died to revenge and that has given him his purpose to keep living with his condition.

Multiple times Leonard and Teddy have a conversation similar to this one:

Teddy: You don’t have a clue, do you? You don’t even know who you are.
Leonard Shelby: Yes, I do. I don’t have amnesia. I remember everything right up until the incident. I am Leonard Shelby, I am from San Francisco…
Teddy: That’s who you were. You do not know who you are. What you’ve become since…the incident.

Teddy, who is burdened with remembering everything Leonard has done, sheds light on the fact that without his memory Leonard no longer can see himself for who he is. Without memory Leonard does not know himself. He can look in a mirror and see who he used to be but he can not see who he is. Every time he looks in a mirror he is lied to by himself.

Leonard wants to believe so hard that his system is foolproof. The he operates only on the facts because they were written down in his handwriting. Memory is useless and can be tricked but facts are facts no matter what. He even tricks his own system though. We see him write down something on Natalie’s picture in a different script so that he won’t trust it later because it does not match his own hand.

Then, at the end of the movie, Leonard decides that lying to himself is better than the truth. he might not have all his memory but that doesn’t mean that his facts can’t be faked. Leonard decides that that’s okay with him as long as he still has his purpose, his reason to live. He’ll lie to himself to be happy.

“Will I lie to myself to be happy? In your case Teddy… yes I will.” – Leonard Shelby

(photo by Les Chatfield under Creative Commons Liscense)

Leave a Reply

Privacy Preference Center