Top Ten Miraculous Fictional Head Injuries

Top Ten Miraculous Fictional Head Injuries

Fiction is full of miracles caused by hitting people on the head. Reality is still catching up.

#8. Gaara of the Sand, Naruto

Never has a blow to the head solved more complex, pernicious emotional problems than for the Sand Ninja Gaara in the “people you know secretly watch this because they love it, but they don’t trust you enough not to hate them for it, so they don’t tell you about it” manga/anime Naruto. At a key point, while possessed by the demonic tanuki (or raccoon-dogShikaku, Gaara is viciously headbutted by the protagonist, like so:


This accomplishes a remarkable number of things.

Before the headbutt — Gaara is a sociopath who murders people by strangling them with sand (that he controls withgaara-murder-2-cropped his mind) both so that he can “feel alive” and so that he can soak the sand with blood to appease the demon Shukaku. When he was a baby, Gaara’s father sealed the demon inside of him, then tried to murder him out of fear of his power. He ordered little Gaara’s nanny, the only person he ever loved, to do the deed, and baby Gaara killed her first — so he’s the fulfillment of a brutal cycle of violence, which he lives out every day by crushing people’s flesh and bones and getting all creepy and stuff.

During the headbutt — At one point in the story, the Sand Ninjas launch a surprise attack on the Leaf Ninjas, and Gaara fights several of the protagonists in a nearby forest, overcome by rage and eventually fully possessed by the demonic tanuki inside him (which first takes over his body, then moves outside of him and becomes as big as a mountain). The titular Naruto, with the help of the boss of the frog Yakuza Gamabunta, has no other recourse but to deliver a vicious headbutt (see above).

After the headbutt — Gaara stops murdering people (or even really raising his voice at them), becomes an ally and admirer of those who headbutted him, learns the value of friendship, rekindles new relationships with his brother and sister, and becomes so exemplary a citizen that he is chosen to be Kazekage, the Chief Executive of the Sand Ninjas — all more or less immediately, all before the age of 15.

He’s still the host for the evil one-tailed tanuki monster, but it seems to go from “driving him constantly, murderously insane” to “just kind of chilling out.”


No offense to the many psychiatrists and psychologists who frequent OTI, but such a turnaround would not be possible through psychotherapy or pharmaceuticals. This singular headbutt is notable not for its broader benefit to society, but because of the grand scope of its effect — the number of intractable problems it mysteriously and simultaneously solves.

It might be tough to get it covered by an HMO, but it looks like a pretty great treatment.

11 Comments on “Top Ten Miraculous Fictional Head Injuries”

  1. Ryan #

    The most miraculous thing about Leonard’s injury in Memento is that he is able to remember that he has amnesia. How is it that his head injury stops him from forming new memories, but the doctors were able to inform him of his condition? I haven’t been able to watch the movie since I noticed that inconsistency.
    I think that there’s actually a chapter in the Sacks book that deals with anterograde amnesia. The man with the affliction, when confronted with his reality, becomes horrified for ten or fifteen minutes, then slips back into the time ten or fifteen years in the past just before he developed the brain damage. Great read, btw.


  2. fenzel #

    Yeah, Leonard talks about this discrepancy at some point in _Memento_ – about if his condition is what he tends to think it is, he shouldn’t be able to remember the actual accident, and how therefore it might not be brain damage – he might just have psychological blocks. A software rather than a hardware problem, as it were.

    If that’s true, it potentially changes a lot of the moral implications of what Leonard has done over the course of the movie. But it’s left a bit open-ended.


  3. Gab #

    Oh snap.

    I just remembered _50 First Dates_. Similar memory loss to _Memento_. Imagine being a woman and waking up with no idea why you’re clearly multiple months pregnant…


  4. fenzel #

    If I wake up being a woman, do I have to like _Moulin Rouge_?

    Because that would be a dealbreaker.


  5. Lanthanide #

    I remember Guy Pearce from The Adventures of Prascilla! Queen of the Desert.


  6. Amy #

    It wasn’t Naruto that caused Gaara’s ego death and subsequent alliance with the light side of the force…it was that toad Gamabunta. I think he secretes a hallucinogenic substance from his glands. Gaara embraced his shadow side (Shukaku) and went on to become the Hero. Yep. That’s what happened. Or should have anyway. Most people I know who have experienced head trauma end up worse for the wear. But the toad juice on the other hand…


  7. fenzel #


    Not _To Wong Fu: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar_?

    It’s so weird that that kind of movie also has a movie pair – like you’ve got Armageddon and Deep Impact, Volcano and Dante’s Peak, Valkyrie and Defiance, and a whole bunch of action stars in drag.


    I frickin’ love Gamabunta. All fictional characters should get to drink sake with the giant toad boss of the Yakuza.


  8. Ingrid #

    Very entertaining!!


  9. Ambelina #

    Is this about serious head injuries or just when people bump their heads? Because if it is non seriuos injuries, the scene in Stir of Echoes where Kevin Bacon’s wife goes into the basement to check if the water heater is lit then gets up and bangs her head on…something above her, that really got me i felt it.


Add a Comment