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In Buffy, most people who see supernatural things forget about them shortly thereafter. However, there is a fair number of people who do remember. What is the key to remembering/forgetting in Buffy?

4 Answers 4

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Do they actually forget? Or do they just not talk about it?

At the prom in Season 3, when Jonathan gives Buffy her Class Protector award, he says something like 'a lot of strange stuff happens here, and most of the time we don't talk about it'

I think the majority of the Sunnydale populace adopt an 'out of mind, out of sight' attitude, that they just don't acknowledge the supernatural happenings.

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  • The end of "Gingerbread" doesn't really make sense if Willow's parents haven't actually forgotten about what they did during the episode. I think it's pretty clearly a combination of the two.
    – Micah
    May 28, 2012 at 20:06
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    @Micah: "Gingerbread" is probably an exception; the characters in that episode haven't just witnessed the supernatural but are actually under demonic mind control. How they remember that incident probably isn't typical.
    – Tynam
    Feb 18, 2013 at 20:35
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    @Tynam Doesn't Joyce remember it, though? Willow makes an explicit comment in that episode about her parents doing the selective-memory thing that Joyce used to be so good at.
    – Izkata
    Sep 21, 2013 at 6:31
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    @Izkata: Correct; good point. Willow's parents seem pretty repressed at the best of times... so maybe Willow's wrong and they're just really good at pretending not to remember. (They conveniently remember the boyfriend part, after all...)
    – Tynam
    Sep 21, 2013 at 8:47
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I seem to recall Giles making a comment at the end of the Harvest (1.02) that people will rationalize what they can and ignore the rest. The only people who don't seem to do this are blatantly aware of the supernatural -- usually because they see something supernatural and are given the correct explanation before they've had time to come up with another one in their mind.

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I seem to remember that this is called the “Sunnydale effect”, but the best reference I could find is from some fanfiction:

We used to call it the ‘Sunnydale effect’ - people were so unprepared to deal with the realities of the situation that they ignored the evidence around them.

I remember something along those lines being said in the show too.

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  • That explains how people forget, but not why some remember... May 28, 2012 at 14:29
  • I guess some people are prepared to deal with it?
    – svick
    May 28, 2012 at 14:31
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This isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.

Like a cult, if all the people around you accept a given reality or truth, you are much more likely to accept it as well, particularly if you want to believe that reality. If everyone else who was at "The Prom" (or whatever event is in question) tends to repeatedly deny whatever trauma transpired there, you are likely to actually modify your memory of the event over time.

Those who did remember were those who were around groups who discussed and acknowledged the events or individuals who were particularly strong-willed. You would also be immune to the shared unreality/denial if you were otherwise "in the know"--for instance if you were practicing witchcraft yourself, you might be less likely to believe that the werewolf attack you just saw was really just a bunch of large dogs.

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