Prosthetic memory Chapter 2 draft 1.2 pt2

prosthetic memory

Prosthetic memory in Science Fiction genre films, continued.

Ghost in the Shell
Ghost In The Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell (2017) The live action version of the anime film of the same name, Ghost in the Shell (1995) and shared similarities with the film, Alita: Battle Angel (2019) analysed in chapter one. Consider for example the main protagonist, like Alita, Major Mira Killian is also a cyborg with no memory of her previous life. She only has memories from the time that she was first activated as a cyborg, her previous life as a human is blank with the exception of the false memories that is the prosthetic memories created by the Hanka Corporations scientists. These prosthetic memories were inserted to create a past she never experienced. The prosthetic memory of losing her parents in a terrorist attack on a refugee boat which left her body badly injured with only her brain salvageable following the attack. The brain living on in a mechanical body, which is called a shell, hence the title of the film Ghost in the Shell. In a future where the enhancement of the human body and brain is embraced and normalised, a prosthetic culture as described by Celia Lury in her book of the same name, she states “[h]owever, in post plural society or prosthetic culture, stable or reproducible context has disappeared and is no longer a natural part of every experience, but an artefact that can be altered at will” (Lury, 2013: 31). Major experiences random memories as flashbacks which are described by the Hanka scientists as glitches in her program, for which she takes drugs to repress these memories, in effect Major is the artefact that can be altered at will by her programmers, the Hanka scientists. Major sees images of locations and objects flash into and out of existence, but rather than glitches in her program these are her true memories from her past that are leaking through the chemically induced memory blocks and prosthetic memories created by the Hanka scientists, these are memory flashbacks preceding events before Major became a cyborg.

prosthetic memory ghost in the shell geisha
ghost in the shell geisha

The flashbacks appear randomly throughout the film and unlike other films using flashbacks conventions there appears to be no obvious triggers, for the spectator the identification of the flashback sequences are the visuals, that is the glitching images, image pixellation and colour shifts to indicate these are flashback memories. Major is captured by Kuze who connects her to his cyber network to access her memories and control her but then releases her. At this point she sees the image of the shrine, the identical one from her memories revealed in flashbacks blazoned on his chest, visually linking Kuze to Major’s past. Kuze reveals he is also a product of the project 2571 to create a living, functioning Cyborg, his experiment a failure, one of 98 such failures and he is now seeking revenge for what they did to him by killing all of those involved. Major begins to question her prosthetic memories, her only memories of a past life as a human, which as Landsberg states “[p]rosthetic memories originate outside a person’s lived experience and yet are taken on and worn by that person through mass cultural technologies of memory.” (Landsberg, 2004: 19).

ghost in the shell
Ghost in the Shell skinny man interrogation

The prosthetic memories of the captured assassin is revealed In the interrogation scene with the driver of the refuse truck, sent to assassinate one of those involved in Project 2571, Dr Oulet. The driver is revealed to have prosthetic memories of a life he never had. A family and daughter that do not exist. His memories replaced by the prosthetic memories inserted into his mind by Kuze, who activated him while seated in his truck and directed to crash into Dr Oulet’s car and assassinate her. After the failed assignation attempt and Kuze’s revealing his direct involvement by speaking through the body of the truck driver. Major confronts Dr Oulet about her past life, Project 2571 and the false memories, Dr Oulet who is now under orders from Cutter to terminate Major who he now considers to be a danger to his project. However, she disobeys Cutters orders and assists in her escape and giving Major an address to go to in the attempt to regain her true memories and overriding the prosthetic memories inserted by the corporation. However, Dr Oulet pays for this disloyalty and is killed by Cutter. Major breaks free from the laboratory, steals a motorcycle to the address where she finds the shrine that appears in her flashbacks. This location also triggers a flashback to the events before the prosthetic memories were inserted, back to before the start of it all. The images of Cutter and his men attacking and dragging away the children, for use in their experiments to create the perfect weapon, a cyborg, the conjoining of the human brain to a bio mechanical body. This is Major’s true origin, not a survivor of a terrorist attack but abducted by Cutter for his experiments through the Hanka Corporation. Kuze joins her at the shrine and he reveals her real name as Motoko Kusanagi, that they were friends and abducted together. (Opam, 2017). The truth is revealed in flashbacks not using conventional triggers (see chapter one) to initiate the flashback scenes. However, the spectator is aware that they are watching a flashback as visually the images are fragmented like a corrupted data file with some of the data missing, creating an imperfect image that eventually breaks up and disappears. Identity and memory are called into question as Major narrates in the final scenes “My mind is human. My body is manufactured. I am the first of my kind, but I won’t be the last. We cling to memories as if they define us, but what we do defines us. My ghost survived to remind the next of us that humanity is our virtue. I know who I am, and what I’m here to do.” (Anon, 2017).


Anon (2017) Ghost in the Shell (2017) – Quotes – IMDb. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2020).
Bordwell, D., Thompson, K. and Smith, J. (2016) Film Art: Creativity, Technology, and Business, Film Art: An Introduction.
Hayward, S. (2018) Cinema Studies The Key Concepts. Fitth, Book. Fitth.
Landsberg, A. (2004) Prosthetic Memory : The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. Available at:,shib&user=s1523151.
Landsberg, A. (2009) ‘Memory, empathy, and the politics of identification’, International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, 22(2), pp. 221–229. doi: 10.1007/s10767-009-9056-x.
Landsberg, A. (2016) ‘Prosthetic Memory: Total Recall and Blade Runner’, Body & society. SAGE Publications, 1(3–4), pp. 175–189. doi: 10.1177/1357034×95001003010.
Lury, C. (2013) Prosthetic Culture, Prosthetic Culture. doi: 10.4324/9780203425251.
Opam, K. (2017) Ghost in the Shell review: a solid film built on a broken foundation – The Verge. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2020).
Radstone, S. and Hodgkin, K. (2003) Regimes of memory, Regimes of Memory. doi: 10.4324/9780203391532.
replicant, n. : Oxford English Dictionary (no date). Available at: (Accessed: 22 April 2020).
Sloat, S. (2017) False Memories in ‘Blade Runner’ Could’ve Been Solved with Science. Available at: (Accessed: 16 March 2020).
Warner Brothers (2017) Blade Runner 2049 (2017) – IMDb. Available at: (Accessed: 5 May 2020).

Prosthetic Memory – Chapter 2 draft 1.2