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Bad Memories, Good Decisions, and the Three Joels


The purpose of life is majorly based on evolution which is centered on the memory of the human body. Memory is a significant tool in the human body as it keeps records of the things happening in our lives and is a great tool in the human experience. The human experience is crucial as it helps in evolution through adjusting and improving our last experiences hence becoming better versions of ourselves. Memory helps individuals in personal identification, learning, and acquiring knowledge, giving them a sense of time and continuity, making decisions, and building social relationships. However, on the negative side, memory can be detrimental to emotional and mental well-being as it can cause anxiety, depression, trauma, rumination, increased probabilities of dementia, and interpersonal conflict. The film, ‘’Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” cast in 2004, explores the theme of memory loss through its protagonists, Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski, who both perform memory loss operations to forget about their memories of their past romantic relationships. The film revolves around the idea of scientific memory erasure which was greatly due to the heartbreak of Joel and Clementine. Clementine initiates the memory deletion procedure as she is tired of the relationship after a fight and opts for memory deletion at Lacuna Firms to forget about her boyfriend, Joel, completely. Heartbroken by the clementine’s memory erasure, Joel decides to perform the same operation on Clementine memories, although he struggles to keep her memories during the erasure process. However, the two meet up again and fall in love afresh despite learning about the ill actions of deleting each other’s memories. This paper examines the critical analysis article by Tiberius and provides argumentative fact-based concepts to his work in reference to the effects of the memory-erasing process.

In his article, ‘’ Bad Memories, Good Decisions, and The Three Joels,” Valerie Tiberius argues that painful memories create a foundation for making better judgments; hence, retaining them rather than memory deletion is good. The author argues that erasing negative memories is unethical and immoral as they can hinder self-development in decision-making, self-identification, and development (Tiberius, 76). He affirms that the memory deletion process raised multiple ethical and moral concerns suggesting that such processes can hinder individuals’ reality perception and affect their self-identification; Tiberius claims that memory deletion is unethical no matter how safe the process is conducted and conflicts with the ” Eternal Sunshine” title parts of the movie suggesting that the memory-erase process do not provide the positive effects as depicted by that part of the title. Painful and negative memories play a significant role in our lives, as Tiberius explains that such memories have a good reason for staying in people’s minds. Tiberius claims that painful memories help in improved preparedness for the future as one may learn from them hence better handling of such situations when they happen in the future.

Additionally, Tiberius claims that an individual can be hurt by something they do not know or understand. He tries to bring out the idea of self-identification and learning through experience as solid weapons to be used in facing the reoccurrence of similar challenges in the future. Keeping memories improves understanding of certain issues; hence, one can effectively handle a similar challenge later. Lastly, the author criticizes the film based on Emmanuel Kant’s proposal on the duties to oneself. The proposal aims to strengthen the sense of self and develop fairness. Overall, the article is thought-provoking, which requires deep analysis. However, her arguments in the article can be challenged in the following ways.

My Argument

The author does not consider the extent to which these negative thoughts can cause suffering to the individual. Such negative and traumatic stresses can be a free influencer in youths indulging in drug abuse to relieve themselves from the suffering caused by these thoughts. Moreover, Tiberius contradicts himself by portraying utilitarianism conduct, which upholds that the right action is the one that results in overall happiness, regarding happiness as a sense of pleasure and avoiding pain. According to this statement, Tiberius contradicts himself as he strongly opposes the idea of memory erasure, saying that it is unethical and hinders self-identification and development; however, Mary, Clementine, and Joel underwent the procedure to avoid the suffering caused by the memories of their failed relationship and hence relying on the memory-erase technology to forget about their partners and be happy with their new ‘spotless mind.’

Moreover, the author explains that the actions must be morally upright to suit practical conduct. Morality comes from the perception of society towards certain actions or behaviors. Behaviors are considered morally upright if they bring positivity, promote mental well-being, and cannot harm society in any way, and the reverse is true for bad morals. The protagonists’ actions did not affect the community and showed no negative impacts on the individuals. Moreover, the memory-erase process freed Joel and Clementine from their suffering and made them happy again, making them fall in love again. If not for the process, the couple would not have engaged again, portraying the memory-erase process’s vital role in bringing them together again.

Grau argues that the memory-loss process may hinder the individual from living morally in society. Often, most negative memories greatly contribute to a person loving immorally in society, as depicted by interpersonal conflicts. The deletion relieves the individual from hate and grudges, making people live peacefully like before, as Joel and Clementine did when they reunited again after the deletion of their memories despite fighting during the breakup. Moreover, the erasure does not affect the mental ability of an individual as the process involves the deletion of only the undesired memories,

The writer did not explore the negative side of staying with painful memories. Such painful memories can be great trauma sources, and as recent research shows, repetitive thinking of such memories can lead to dementia. Rumination can also lead to cognitive deterioration and experiencing memory problems. Moreover, these memories can significantly impact the individual, making them depressed and sometimes causing suicide. The introduction of drugs like propranolol aids in reactivating memory during Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and PTSD and helps in stabilizing the reoccurrence of ill memories. Such treatment indicates how effective memory-erase treatments are beneficial in maintaining an individual’s mental well-being. Similarly, the author’s arguments are majorly based on the negative side of the memory-erasing process but not exploring the beneficial aspects of the process. Memory loss can be used in the treatment of people living with PTSD, improving individuals’ mental well-being.

Grau explored the beneficial reasons for negative memory retention but could not address the issue of the negative interpersonal conflict such memories can have on an individual. Such conflicts include individuals holding grudges against whoever person the memory triggers based on past events. This can lead to fights, injury, misunderstandings, and seeking for revenge,

Human beings are very complex and unique people and therefore have different traits. Similarly, in the love context, different individuals have varying expectations of love. Therefore, it is untrue that what you know cannot hurt you because people are different, and their romantic expectations vary greatly. Taking the school context as an example, in preparation for exams, the teachers impart the students with knowledge that the same teacher will test in the exam. There is a direct relationship between what is taught and what will be in the exam. In contrast, one cannot rely on what they experienced in their last relationship to build on their next relationship; romantic perfection only occurs with a greater understanding of people’s traits to identify what they do not like and like. Romantic relationships are complex, and to avoid being hurt, one must completely understand their partner to avoid hurting them and not rely on previous relationship experience to produce a healthy relationship.


In conclusion, Tiberius’ essay is thought-provoking, inspiring the reader to think deeply and develop arguments contradicting her perceptions. Painful memories have negative consequences, including poor mental health involving anxiety, depression, and interpersonal conflicts. Moreover, painful memories do not always make us better judges as people and situations are different, and hence a certain experience from someone cannot be used to generalize other individuals or situations. Bad memories can also retain grudges and hate among people. My argument reflects on the negative sides bad memories can have on the individual and society. It is significant to consider these arguments as society has been experiencing such victims.

Works Cited

Tiberius, Valerie. “Bad memories, good decisions, and the three joels: Philosophers on Film.” Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Philosophers on Film. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2009. 62-79.


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