Since you’re reading this, I feel I’m safe in assuming that you’re at least a somewhat regular consumer of the Internet. As such, you’ve probably encountered at least a couple listicles featuring examples of a specific type of false memory known as the Mandela Effect. Just in case you’ve missed the internet’s fascination with it, I’ll quickly summarize: The effect is named after the phenomenon where a lot of people recalled news coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death decades before he actually died. False memories have been documented, observed, and exploited for ages, but when a group of people share the same false memory you have the Mandela Effect. Some of these lists may have made you question your entire reality (“Have they really been the BerenSTAIN Bears this whole time? I swear they used to be the BerenSTEIN Bears!”). Others may have made you pity the list compiler and their general lack of awareness of their own reality (“Anyone who thought they were Oscar Meyer wieners just wasn’t paying attention in life!”). Not all examples of the Mandela effect are unnoticed spelling differences (although a lot of them are). Misremembered logos are frequent guests on such lists, as are movies with misidentified starring actors.
Some have argued (with varying levels of seriousness, depending on how deeply you delve into the crazy parts of the internet) that the Mandela Effect is evidence of multiple alternate realities occasionally spilling over into one another. So I guess that’s one theory for what happened to me this weekend.
I had the entirely disarming discovery that a minor, unimportant memory does not agree with all the facts that I find true. I don’t suppose it can truly be classified as a Mandela Effect, since I don’t know anyone else who experienced this one, but it was more than a little unsettling, regardless. I’ll elaborate.
Kalen and I began watching Key and Peele on Hulu last week. It’s a comedy sketch show from some number of years ago. As a previously-established regular consumer of the internet, you’ve probably encountered at least one of their sketches in your surfing (the most famous one seems to be the one with the substitute teacher and A-A-Ron, but I think President Obama’s anger interpreter made good rounds for a while too). It’s funny stuff and we’re enjoying it. We’re only just now watching it, though, because finding a few more sketches as we scrolled through funny videos online finally prompted us to see if it was available on any of the (frankly too many) streaming services we have.
Kalen hadn’t heard of it, but I remembered a classmate of mine in college mentioning it in class. I don’t remember which classmate it was, someone I wasn’t close with, but she was in my French I class, where we were allowed to still speak some English occasionally, and she usually sat a little ways to my left. For some reason, she had referenced some Key and Peele sketch and said it was a funny sketch show. Her friend who sat next to her agreed. They watched it all the time. The teacher hadn’t heard of it. I hadn’t either, but I’m always on the lookout for comedy, and I made a mental note.
The episodes are short though, so I pulled up IMDb on my phone to see how many seasons the show ran for, and that’s when everything fell apart. The show ran for five seasons beginning in 2012, a full five years after my French class. I wasn’t even still in college at all when this show started.
Where then is the truth? I’m faced with a few options:
1) Those girls in my class are time travelers who watched Key and Peele at some point after 2012 and then went back in time to attend college and forgot they were talking about a show they watched in the future;
2) They (or possibly my whole college experience) were from a different dimension where Key and Peele began earlier and that dimension crossed over with this one, where the show didn’t begin until later;
3) Either they or I had a very precise premonition about the future of television with lots of details including title and stars, but, inconveniently, not the date;
4) I entirely fabricated the memory of that day in French class for no apparent reason when I encountered the name of this show somewhere else in my life.
All of those options are pretty unsettling and I still am completely stumped, so if you see me scowling at nothing in particular, don’t mind me. I’m just trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not.