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promotional poster for the film kazaam

Kazaam – Starring Shaquille O’Neal

In 1996, a movie called Kazaam was released starring Shaquille O’Neal playing the role of a genie-esque figure who emerges from a magical boombox to grant wishes. The movie was a critical failure, boasting a laughable 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 2.8 IMDb score. Why then, is the movie not only remembered fondly, but remembered as a movie entitled Shazam starring Sinbad in a similar genie role?

Legions of people claim to remember the movie Shazam as opposed to Kazaam. This phenomenon isn’t limited to this movie. A few years ago, the internet was torn asunder by a similar instance of misremembering, except in this case rather than one vocal minority claiming to remember Shazam rather than Kazaam there were two parties in disagreement over one minor detail regarding a children’s book. Some remembered the beloved Berenstein Bears spelled with an “e” while others were convinced it was spelled with an “a” instead. The uproar that ensued caused people to question whether there were parallel universes overlapping or whether it was simply an extremely ubiquitous instance of human error.

While misremembering details is common to the human experience, there are sociological truths to be gleaned from these mass errors in recollection observed from these occurrences. When a group of people make a decision counter to what each of them thinks or desires individually, this is known as the Abilene Paradox. This variant of groupthink is focused on maintaining a sense of group harmony from the perspective of the individual attempting to appease the aggregate. While Shazam vs Kazaam and Berenstein vs Berenstain are fairly harmless examples of this, it illustrates the propensity of misinformation to spread like wildfire in the interest of wanting to be in on an idea, even when there is ample evidence to the contrary.


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