What is The Mandela Effect?: A Critical Analysis

For the past couple of months a phenomenon known as the Mandela Effect has taken the
internet by storm.
To put it briefly, the Mandela Effect refers to a conflict between the past and people’s
memory of the past.

The term was coined by self described paranormal consultant Fiona Broome in late 2009

and refers to a widespread misconception that former South African President Nelson Mandela

died in the 1980s while he was incarcerated.

In reality Mandela was liberated in 1990, very much alive, and eventually passed away in 2013.
Many thousands now firmly insist on remembering Mandela’s death in prison complete with news
coverage of his funeral and a heartfelt speech by his widow.
The term has since expanded to include many hundreds of similar collective fallacies and
theories as to their nature and cause are quite imaginative.
Fiona Broome and many others are of the belief that these misconceptions are the result of
“alternate realities”.
In other words, they are memories from parallel universes in which history transpired exactly
as you remember it but at some point between then and now you allegedly drifted into a
parallel universe with an alternate history and thus some of your memories misaligns with
the reality you currently inhabit.
Naturally, many dismiss the Mandela Effect as mere misremembrance and point towards the
mountains of research on the unreliability and limits of human memory.
For example, the misinformation effect is when a preexisting memory is retroactively
replaced or corrupted by misinformation.
Inaccurate eye witness accounts are prime examples of this.
In short, opponents of the Mandela Effect posits that the human brain is capable of
falsifying memories so convincingly that you may come to believe them to be true
while proponents argue that the memories are true and that it is reality itself that has been altered.
Their main argument is that false memories alone cannot account for the sheer number
of unrelated people misaccounting the same event or fact.
How is it that thousands of individuals who’s never met, spoken, or even known of each others
existence came to develop the exact same anomalous memory?
In the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker there’s a short sequence in which the villain named
Jaws and his love interest Dolly have a heartfelt moment.
The character Jaws is known as such as his teeth are made out of metal and as they both
smile upon one another, many viewers recall how Dolly wore braces as if to complement
his metal teeth.
In reality Dolly is totally braceless throughout the film.
Proponents claim this is a clear example of how history has been altered, either through
paranormal means or by retroactive tampering of the movie.
Many have since tracked down various articles, comments, videos, etc. that do in fact describe
Dolly as having braces which they claim to be residue from this alternate reality that they remember.
For example, a Finish commercial from 2006 is alluding to this scene and the actress
portraying Dolly is indeed wearing braces.
Another example is a website from 2004 that describes Dolly as:
“A short blond girl with pigtails, glasses, and braces.”
On the other hand, this could merely be examples of the misconception’s extensiveness.
After all, this delusion has likely been around for decades and the author of a Usenet post
from 1999 expressed the exact same confusion.
I did some digging of my own and it didn’t take long until I found this.
It’s a review of Moonraker, published on the day of the film’s theatrical release in the US
and in reference to Jaws’ and Dolly’s relationship, the author writes:
“It would be a relationship made in heaven if only she wore braces.”
So on the day of the movie’s release someone already thought braces
would have been idiosyncratic of this character.
Is it not more likely that because it would have been fitting for her to wear braces
many came to believe and, by extension, misremember that she actually did.
One of the most frequent examples of the Mandela Effect is the The Berenstain Bears.
It’s a children’s book- and animated TV series popular in the US and features a family of
anthropomorphic bears.
However, many remember the name as Berenstein and not Berenstain.
I also find it to be the most simple to explein.
First of all; I actually had to rerecord this segment multiple times as I found myself pronouncing it
Berenstein even when I should be saying Berenstain and I’ve never even heard of the
franchise.
Secondly; in their autobiography, one of the creators of The Berenstain Bears mention how
an elementary teacher did not believe Berenstain was a real surname and instead called him Bernstein.
Thirdly; the son of the creators has said that barely anyone pronounced it correctly
when he was growing up and that he was most frequently called Berensteen or Bernstein.
Fourthly; the cartoons use an ambiguous pronunciation at best.
Fifthly; surnames with the suffix -stein are far more common than -stain.
Mirror mirror on the wall is a quote commonly associated with the 1937 animated film
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Except, that is not the correct quote.
This would be strange if it wasn’t for the fact that this is an adaptation and the original source material reads:
“Mirror mirror on the wall.”
Nearly everyone seems to have favored the original version so naturally that is what
most will adapt and remember.
Even official Disney material has opted to use the original version.
Perhaps for the sake of familiarity and preference or, you know, alternate realities.
Besides magic mirror was in turn taken from another cartoon.
Many are surprised to learn that C-3PO from Star Wars has one of his legs painted silver.
Exactly how much of his leg is painted silver depends on the movie.
Knee and lower leg.
Shin.
Knee and shin.
Naked.
Metallic.
And all gold.
The thing is, his silver leg is never really in focus.
It’s often just off-screen, in the background, too far away, or seen for a split second.
When it is in view the color variance is often barely noticeable.
I skimmed through the movies and in the vast majority of scenes featuring C-3PO he truly
is all gold as the silver leg can’t be seen.
When asked about the silver leg the actor had this to say:
ANTHONY DANIELS: He always had silver.
ANTHONY DANIELS: And even the stills photographer John Jay came up to me one day and said:
ANTHONY DANIELS: “Why are you wearing a silver leg today?”
ANTHONY DANIELS: Now, he was the stills photographer.
ANTHONY DANIELS: *Clickety* *Clack*
ANTHONY DANIELS: All the time and he hadn’t noticed so…
So if a photographer literally taking photos of the C-3PO suit can miss it I find it difficult
to argue that audiences can not.
Especially when you factor in the supreme quality of VHS tapes.
And this confusion is likely as old as the movies themselves.
Here’s a Usenet post from 1993 wherein the author tiredly explains that, yes, one of
C-3PO’s legs is indeed silver.
Indicating that it is frequently overlooked.
Then again, I honestly don’t remember a silver leg and it does seem a out of place.
I guess I’m just dumb enough to place empirical evidence above the fallibility of my own memory.
A lot of people remember the logo of the company Ford as looking like this.
In reality, it looks like this.
Proponents of the Mandela Effect claim the loop on the F did not exist in the previous reality.
To support this claim we have spooky photographs like this one.
It was taken around 1918 and the logo on the far left is mysteriously loopless while the
logo near the center ain’t afraid to show them curves.

But again, isn’t this merely evidence of how common this misconception truly is?

The painter of this billboard may have possessed
the exact same false memory and thus mispainted the logo.
This confusion may stem from the fact that Henry Ford’s signature does not contain a loop.
The mascot of the popular board game Monopoly is named Mr. Monopoly and he looks like this.
Except he does not wear a monocle and never has.
A traumatizing realization, no doubt.
But I feel like I’ve seen this outfit before.
I mean, tuxedo, monocle, and top hat is undeniably an original attire but I can’t escape the
feeling that once upon a time, people actually dressed like this only for an endless series
of fictional characters to celebrate and reference this time period.
But that’s probably just a memory from an alternate reality.
This movie does not exist, yet many claim to have seen this nonexistent movie.
It is supposedly titled Shazaam, stars stand-up comedian Sinbad who plays a genie,
and it was released in the 1990s.
But no trace of this movie has been uncovered and Sinbad himself has repeatedly stated he
never played a genie in a movie.
He did however host a movie marathon on the TV channel TNT in 1994, in which he dressed
up as a pirate that could be easily confused for that of a genie.
Another potential source of this misconception is the 1996 movie Kazaam
starring Shaquille O’Neal as a genie.
In 1997 both O’Neal and Sinbad starred in the movie Good Burger which could have aided
in this a potential mix-up.
Furthermore, the VHS tape for Kazaam features a preview of the Sinbad movie First Kid
much like the VHS tape for First Kid features a preview of Kazaam.
So there where plenty of opportunities to conflate the two.
Though many still claim to remember both Kazaam and Shazaam as being separate movies.
Then there’s the fact that Sinbad has starred in a bunch of movies and TV shows in which
he wears clothes that could be confused for that of a genie.
Between 1993-1994 He had a short-lived series called The Sinbad Show where he dressed in
a range of genie-esque outfits and in 1996 he guest-starred on a show called All That looking like this.
Then there’s the animated show Shazzan that’s also about a magical genie.
Not to mention that the name Sinbad is strongly associated with genies thanks to the story of
Sinbad the Sailor and its numerous adaptations.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, people have misread the title of the
movie Kazaam as Shazaam from the moment of its release.
The fact that groups of people develop the same or similar false memories really shouldn’t
be cause for confusion.
We live in a highly interconnected world where two wholly unrelated individuals may have
the exact same experience even though they lack any knowledge of one another.
And unless you presume human memory to be infallible, some of these experiences will
inevitably result in the development of false memories.
From this we can conclude that groups of people will occasionally develop the same or similar
false memories as they share the same or similar experiences.
And it doesn’t necessarily have to be one singular event.
A memory could become corrupted over the course of many months, years, or decades.
Which makes it all the more difficult to pinpoint exactly how, when, and by what your memory was influenced.
Take the namesake of this phenomenon, the death of Nelson Mandela, as an example.
Throughout the 1980s news of Mandela’s situation in prison and his worsening health headlined
newspapers across the globe.
He suffered from tuberculosis and he himself feared he would die in prison
like so many others before him.
One American newspaper wrote:
“Some have raised the possibility that he might die in jail.”
“It is not clear how ill Mandela is at this point, but the idea that he could die is not farfetched.”
The funerals of many other South Africans fighting for the same cause as Mandela was
frequently broadcasted across the globe.
A movement known as Free Mandela grew in popularity and held various demonstrations that received
international news coverage.
His wife, Winnie Mandela, often appeared on the news as well.
Meanwhile, commemoration pieces like these where published and could easily be misconstrued
for his death.
Various conferences and events could also be misperceived.
But then there’s a South African book from 1991 containing this enigmatic passage:
“The chaos that erupted in the ranks of the ANC when Nelson Mandela died on the
23rd of July, 1991, brought the January 29th, 1991, Inkatha-ANC peace accord to nothing.”
So, is this undeniable proof of a parallel universe?
Not really.
The book is merely a collection of poetry and fictional stories written by high-school
students as part of various assignments.
Not exactly an historical account.
Then again, if we’re shifting between alternate realities anything’s possible, right?
I think a paper titled False Memories and Confabulation put it very succinctly.
“The feeling of remembering is important to our well-being, but so is the feeling of not remembering
that accompanies vague, inconsistent, or implausible recollections.”
“Accurate memory is knowing when we do not remember as well as knowing when we do.”

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