When James Darrell Edwards left the NYPD to join the Men in Black, his prior identity was erased from all databases.

You are no longer part of the system. You are above the system—over it, beyond it.
Zed | Men in Black

But you can't just have a man disappear without people asking questions. Are ex-citizens considered dead or is their disappearance just kind of handwaved in-universe? For example, was NYPD notified of James's new job or (at the very least) his departure? What about his family?

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    How the MiB handle "questions" : upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6b/Neuralizer1.jpg ;)
    – NKCampbell
    Feb 27, 2017 at 14:58
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    The montage shows the person being deleted from multiple official databases. It stands to reason that anyone connected to the person will be neuralized.
    – phantom42
    Feb 27, 2017 at 15:14
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    Are you asking about the movie or the comics or what?
    – jpmc26
    Feb 27, 2017 at 20:13
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    This must be what happens when in TFTS when someone says "our database caught fire, and so did our backups."
    – JFA
    Feb 27, 2017 at 22:30
  • @jpmc26 - In the comics, there's very little about the private lives of the MiB.
    – Valorum
    Feb 28, 2017 at 0:19

2 Answers 2


According to the official novelisation, when you join the MiB you simply remove yourself from your old life. One assumes that a general cover story is given to work colleagues ("I heard he went to work for the FBI or something") and that any close friends/family members are neuralysed to stop them from coming to find you.

He looked at Edwards. "Not that you're gonna have to worry about people who don't know our little secret. Thing is, if you join us, you won't have an outside life. No wife, no kids, nothing. You cut off contact with everybody you know outside the Black. In your case, it shouldn't take too long. And what you get for a prize is long hours, dangerous days, and no recognition. You don't even get a favorite shirt—unless you like white."

MiB: Official Novelisation

That all being said, it would appear that not having close ties/family to miss you, etc. is a positive selling point for any potential MiB candidate.

And to lower the chances of anyone bumping into you

Behind him, Zed said to the kid, "You'll conform to the identity we give you. You eat where we tell you, live where we tell you, and you get approval for any expenditure over a hundred dollars. In writing. In triplicate."

MiB: Official Novelisation


Kay said, "You just quit the force, paid your rent and gave up your lease—"

"Man, that's a rent-controlled apartment!"

"—you don't exist at the DMV any more, you never got a library card, a passport, or a season ticket to see the Yankees. Your credit card records went away, and your schools have no official records of you ever attending them."

MiB: Official Novelisation

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    I went back and forth on posting my own answer, but I ended up feeling like I couldn't support my point well enough. This answer is missing addressing some basic facts. E.g., Zed says, "You don't exist. You were never even born," while K deletes major records of existence like Social Security. K also warns him that, "The catch is that you will sever all human contact. Nobody will ever know you exist, anywhere. Ever." I don't see how this is possible without some kind of memory erasure.
    – jpmc26
    Feb 28, 2017 at 2:47
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    There's the issue of the tabloid at the end where K reunites with the woman he left to join MiB, though.
    – jpmc26
    Feb 28, 2017 at 2:48
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    This can't be healthy for agents, though. Granted, no family or social ties must make it easier to do their jobs, but the emotional stability that such ties provide are also blown away. And MiB personnel isn't even "allowed" to fraternize with each other, or with alien visitors. This must take a toll on even the best Agents, over time. Besides, what happens when an Agent is "retired" then? They are given a new identity and neuralized to forget everything, with SS numbers, bank accounts and history just made up on the fly? Or are they "put back" their old identity with no questions asked?
    – Russhiro
    Oct 19, 2019 at 21:51
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    @Valorum I know, but that Still doesn't explain how there are no medical records and such for the 3 decades he was an agent! And it goes against the "Erasure" of all the previous records stated before. And they took away his finger prints, a key identifying factor! There are so many inconsistencies with this that it boggles the mind!
    – Russhiro
    Oct 19, 2019 at 21:56
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    @RussRainford - You don't need to generate 20 years of medical records. You just flashy-thing the hospital staff and say "He's been in a coma for 20 years but you've recently lost his records"
    – Valorum
    Oct 20, 2019 at 7:44

I have nothing but assumption, but given the next, next, next level tech that MIB has, they probably have zero problem hacking into government computers and erasing all digital evidence of your existence. They also have agents EVERYWHERE, and one would assume they are embedded into all government agencies, banks, and record keeping institutions. They have the nuralizer and plenty of man/alien power to just flash all memories of your existence away over a short time. In the novelization, K makes a remark about how cutting personal ties should be very easy for J, insinuating that J has almost no life anyway, and no close family. This would seem to be a plus for recruiting purposes. Less effort and time erasing your existence, and less of a chance of you balking later on. MIB has been around for about 35-40 years or so by the time J gets recruited, so they probably have it down to a science.

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