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December 15, 2012 6:45 PM   Subscribe

There's only so many faces in the world.
posted by griphus (182 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's eerie.
posted by Autumn at 6:49 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is the 7th picture showing the new Kraftwerk backing duo?
posted by Wordshore at 6:51 PM on December 15, 2012


Yes! This!

I've been to Australia a couple times in the past 12 years and I swear every time I'm there I see doppelgängers for nearly all my friends. My own pet hypothesis about why this is is that maybe there are about 500 basic face shape/size combos and you can only have so many people without some of them starting to look familiar.
posted by mathowie at 6:51 PM on December 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Aren't all modern humans descended from a small group that survived in Africa after a catastrophe of some sort?

I have definitely noticed "types" of faces in people I meet, sometimes eerily similar for nonrelated folks. But of course, we are all related, if distantly.
posted by emjaybee at 6:53 PM on December 15, 2012


nah, the 3d modelers just got tired of making new faces
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:53 PM on December 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sometimes, when on a public bus, I'll play a game where I "cast" the movie of my life. It's funny how easy it is to find people who look like my friends in any given crowd of people.
posted by elwoodwiles at 7:02 PM on December 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


The running joke between me and these friends is that we all look related, despite not being at all, and I look way more like then then I do my actual flesh and blood brother who is 6'5 and olve skinned and roman nosed.

That Celtic gene pool man, it's *consistent*.
posted by The Whelk at 7:03 PM on December 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


I've uttered that very phrase!

I've worked with thousands of people in my life. I used to work at an outdoor education facility where we had a different school group of about 100 kids for a week every week. They came from all over New England and the Mid-ATlantic - they were urban/rural, all races, etc. So over the years I worked there, I worked with well over 10,000 different kids. And we , the staff, often remarked on how there are only so many faces. There were kids we'd swear we had had before, because their faces were so familiar, even though we never had the same kids twice. It's not their clothes, hair...it's their facial structure and features.

I notice it a lot...there are certain kinds of faces. I recall one time having a boss who said something to me like "wow, you look a lot like my friend Melanie," which I ignored, because everyone thinks you look like someone. Then one day I met Melanie, and she looked almost exactly like me. It was totally eerie. Both of us were like wow, this is weird.

Maybe you just have to conclude there are only so many facets on the dice.
posted by Miko at 7:06 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Aren't all modern humans descended from a small group that survived in Africa after a catastrophe of some sort?

That would probably be the Toba event some 70,000 years, where there's strong (but not conclusive) evidence that the human race was reduced to a tiny number of breeding pairs, and very nearly died out.

It's interesting to also speculate that the conscious memories of the aftermath of that event was heavily adapted into what is now the Bible and some other religious texts, but that's a meta-derail and flame-war for somewhere else.
posted by Wordshore at 7:07 PM on December 15, 2012 [16 favorites]


My mother has a foto from the 1970s, showing a 16 or 17 year old girl sat on some grass with her friends. The person in the foto looks exactly like my mother at that age. It was taken by a friend who was traveling and amazed to see my mother far from home...only to find out it wasn't her. It's really spooky, as the likeness is so complete. I mean she looks so utterly the same that I doubt anybody could pick it out of a hundred photographs of my mother, not even her parents or siblings. You have to be told that it's a doppelganger or else you simply wouldn't know.
posted by Jehan at 7:07 PM on December 15, 2012


I am consistently told I look just like the lead singer for Arcade Fire. A girl took a picture of me with her phone today because the resemblance was supposedly so striking.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:08 PM on December 15, 2012


The ones shown aren't particularly good examples, but I think there is a certain amount of phenotypic repetition with genetic subgroups, for sure. The most striking to me are when I see some from the other end of the Indo-European language group (i.e., Iranian or North Indian) which has a lot of genetic correlation with the language group, where I think, hey, that person looks just like _____ (really white person) from my home town, only with brown or tan skin and black hair.

It really shouldn't be surprising, when you consider that going back more than a few generations you start to have a lot of repeat appearances, i.e., that person who is your 24x-grandparent in this line is also your 24x grandparent in that line (and maybe in a few others as well.) Otherwise, if you just counted each generation back as unique individuals in each slot, you'd very quickly be counting the number of human ancestors in the tens and even hundreds of billions, more and more as you went back each generation. (And then there's the possibility of genetic bottlenecks in our paleohistory, which would further constrain the number of Nx-grandparents who would then have to be the progenitors of many more lines that diverged and then recombined.)
posted by Philofacts at 7:08 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


My own story with weirdly accurate lookalikes was when Look At This Fucking Hipster posted this photo, and I fielded a number of IMs and emails asking if it was me. The first time someone asked I actually had to think about it for a while.
posted by griphus at 7:09 PM on December 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


Ooooh ooh! Two of the authors of The Elf On The Shelf!
posted by dunkadunc at 7:09 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Emjaybee, humans seem to have experienced a population bottleneck (I've always heard down to ca 10,000) although I don't think the causes are well understood. It's based mostly on genetic data; if you look at genetic variation, a lot of genes seem to coalesce (ie, they were the same thing) at about 70,000 years ago, in a way in our models which would be consistent with a population bottleneck of such and such size. It all seems very speculative and not robust to slight changing of the model, though.

I want to shoot an unscientific question to y'all mefites. I think that I can tell the difference between resemblance of kin and the chance resemblance (however strong) of unrelated people. It seems to me that when you look at two people who look alike by blood, there are certain things in common that seem natural, but when you look at two people who are unrelated but happen to look alike, there are some jarring contrasts that immediately suggest they aren't *really* relatives. It's as if there is an expected set of traits that is generally conserved that both relatives will have, and a generally variable set that you aren't surprised to see different between two relatives. But then when you look at two unrelated lookalikes, they have a random combination of similarities and differences among the two types, and even though they look similar you know they aren't actually related. Does anyone else know what I'm talking about, or am I just full of crap? Note that this might not apply so much to these extreme cases as normal crappy lookalikes, but I think you can even see it here.
posted by Buckt at 7:09 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


To the person who looks like me: I'm so very sorry about the nose.

I blame my father's side of the family, feel free to do the same.
posted by arcticseal at 7:12 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


dunkadunc: "Ooooh ooh! Two of the authors of The Elf On The Shelf!"

OWNED. They're twin sisters.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:12 PM on December 15, 2012


On the other hand, I'm beginning to look a lot like my dog.
posted by HuronBob at 7:12 PM on December 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ooooh ooh! Two of the authors of The Elf On The Shelf!

They're actual twins at that link. Says so in the bio. Mother, twin daughters.
posted by eyeballkid at 7:13 PM on December 15, 2012


There's someone on my Twitter feed that looks eerily like me. Every year or so we point it out, laugh, and go back to watching each other *very* carefully.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:14 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Some faces go in and out of vogue, hard to find the thick browned, vaugely Anglo-Germanic 50s Hollywood leading type anymore on the screen. Dennis Quaid, maybe? that's it? But it used to be the go-to face for casting directors.

We wear our chins differently these days.
posted by The Whelk at 7:16 PM on December 15, 2012


About ten years ago, many people would insist I was a perfect doppelganger for Vincent D'Onofrio. Then he got fat and old and people stopped saying that. Then, a couple of years ago, people started saying it again. I cannot help but notice he has not gotten any younger or thinner.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:25 PM on December 15, 2012 [127 favorites]


I've been in Japan long enough that my default image of a human face is Japanese. It's hard to explain, but I guess that momentary recognition of a face that you aren't used to gets a kind of 'other' categorization in a totally involuntary reaction. For me, that 'other' response is triggered by seeing other non-Japanese people, which makes trips home kind of weird for the first couple days.

On the other hand, given the historically closed nature of Japanese society, it's absolutely amazing how easy it is to facial types here. I'd love to sit down with a pile of pictures someday and just start to catalog facial types. There are students I had ten years ago, and every year, I see new students with almost the same features. I'd argue that there are about twenty or so standard male face types here, and a similar number of female faces. Not that all people fit these face types, just that there are a lot of people whose faces match those types. It's kind of cool.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:27 PM on December 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


So that's why everyone in all those Bethesda open world games looked the same!

Missile wounds to the knee still being ucommonly common, though.
posted by porpoise at 7:31 PM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


oes anyone else know what I'm talking about, or am I just full of crap?

I'm going to go with "full of crap" only because it's impossible in regular life to filter out the power of suggestibility (I see an adult pushing a child in a stroller, the adult must be the child's parent, I will now interpret all visual cues as if that were true) and the strong desire we seem to have to read genetic relationship in the faces of people we know or think are related.

And I have seen this show itself many, many times. For instance, one of my cousins has a big family of kids, some her own, some adopted. They often got "lookalike" comments about kids that aren't genetically related to each other or to the parents. It happens in blended families too. It happens to my friend, who had her son by a surrogate and egg donor. People really have a strong desire to try to see genetic traits across individuals in a family; even when they know intellectually that those traits can't be there, they sometimes stumble and blurt out one they've imagined.
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not that all people fit these face types, just that there are a lot of people whose faces match those types.

I like the way you put this; it accords with my experiences with the 10,000 or so kids.
posted by Miko at 7:35 PM on December 15, 2012


I'm an identical twin. One day I was at a random fast food restaurant, and the person behind the counter refused to take my order, claiming that I was someone named Jeff and was joking around. My twin is not named Jeff.

When I finally convinced him that I was not Jeff, he called everyone in the restaurant over to look at me and they all agreed that I was the spitting image of Jeff.

So somewhere in Southern California there is a man who looks very much like my twin and I.
posted by blob at 7:36 PM on December 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I have noticed too there seem to be about only so many "types" of faces. I'd put the number at about 200ish. You could line up a group of 10,000 people and put them into groups of similarity, and you'd end up at about 200 groups very similar.

When I was in college I sat in a large physics hall and noticed a kid a few rows in front of me. That kid looked exactly like me. I was floored. As the semester progressed I was just drawn to him, and always sat behind him. He hadn't noticed me, I was sure. Then one day he turned around and looked behind him, just glancing. Then he looked again, right at me. We shared this sort of weird doppleganger moment. Sizing up the minutia of eyebrows and chin cleft and ear lobes and whatnot. Then he turned back around, and that was it.

A few weeks later my roommate, who was my longtime family friend and had been my best friend since we were in kindergarten told me a story. He was going to meet me outside the physics hall to go to lunch with me one day. He got there a bit late and saw me walking away. Of course he met my doppleganger. He was just as amazed as I was. He said the guy not only looked exactly like me, but he walked and maneuvered through crowds exactly like me.

He kept yelling my name and telling him to stop, but he wouldn't. When he finally caught up and grabbed this guy's shoulder and turned him around he still thought it was me. He asked why he didn't stop and began conversing, and there was this awkward sort of recognition that slowly crept over him that he was talking to me, but that he wasn't talking to me.

I really kind of wish I had met up with that guy later. I'm sure in this day and age of cell phone cameras and facebooks and whatever that we would have exchanged some information and creeped people out in some way.
posted by sanka at 7:39 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've worked at a fairly large university campus with a very diverse student body - there have been a bunch of times I've remarked, "Hey, I just saw the $ethnicity version of $name at the bus stop, dead ringer!"

Archetypes. I guess they're really a thing.
posted by porpoise at 7:39 PM on December 15, 2012


The important thing to remember is, when having just smoked a large-ish joint and you're walking down the street and you see one of your best friends, who moved away 3 years previously and who you just spoke to that morning and they were still in that faraway place, don't run across the street with your arms open wide for a hug. You will be embarrassed.
posted by mannequito at 7:41 PM on December 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


People continually tell me they've met me before when I know damn well they haven't. The only look-alike I have that I'm aware of is the singer of the Surfin' Lungs, and I know damn well they haven't met him either.
posted by unSane at 7:45 PM on December 15, 2012


I've noticed this as well, but for cats.
posted by maryr at 7:49 PM on December 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


It's been awhile, and probably has something to do with no longer living in an area with a lot of other Caucasians, but nearly everyone I met, up until maybe a couple of years ago, told me that I looked exactly like a person they knew. Just something that always came up, and really, how can you respond to that other than, "oh, that's nice."
posted by Ghidorah at 7:52 PM on December 15, 2012


A friend of mine is gorgeous and distinctly mittel-European in her features. I was somewhere over by Herald Square once when a bus of tourists stopped and a dead ringer for her got out. I knew my friend was in another city at the time but I had just enough of that disassociative/senses-don't-square-with-reality feeling that I shot her a text message to see what she was up to.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:53 PM on December 15, 2012


I also have several dopplegangers around the country/world. People are constantly telling me that they know me, or grew up with me, or used to work with me. When we lived in Michigan there was another woman living in town who got stopped several times by people that assumed it was me. (I got to hear about this later.)

I always assumed my mother was part of some huge cloning experiment in the 60s. I and my sisters were implanted into unsuspecting women all over the world. Some day we will all come together and take over the world. For now...we wait.
posted by blurker at 7:54 PM on December 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


I did not run into very many 'look a likes' until I went to Sarajevo. For whatever reason, they were all over the place. Then I found out some of my dead ancestors lived there, and a few of them could have been related.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:55 PM on December 15, 2012


I don't resemble many North Americans because I'm mixed race in a way that is not common here. When I watch media from, say, Columbia, it's like it is a family reunion.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:57 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would be interesting to have whole groups of people photographed together who look alike, or maybe groups where each individual looks like the same person, but don't resemble each other as much.

One thing I noticed looking at these photographs is that tiny differences in features are huge. People can look very much alike and there can also be a huge disparity in how attractive they are or the kind of overall effect their face has in terms of character. In other words two people may look very similar but if I were casting a movie, I would audition them for entirely different roles.
posted by timsneezed at 7:57 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to get this a LOT while at school, and with some regularity now that I'm elsewhere. Usually, though, what they really mean is "I saw someone vaguely South Asian! Must be you!" because all South Asians look the same. I get compared to random Bollywood actresses all the time and I bear no resemblance to any of them. Hell I get compared to random *Indigenous Australians* because being brown and living in Australia (at the time) must mean you can only be one thing, ever.

I thought I saw a photo of my doppleganger on a graphic Savage Garden used for their website circa 1999-2000, a face in the crowd of a gig. Considering that I had been hankering to watch them live for AGES, seeing that face really spooked me.

I'll be surprised if someone finds my actual dopplegangers- as in, not the random-South-Asian variety. I still have a long-running suspicion that I have an identical twin missing somewhere, so.
posted by divabat at 7:59 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The people in the link didn't look like each other as much as I thought they would.
posted by bleep at 8:06 PM on December 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


My office used to be over a Starbucks. Not having to leave the building was too convenient so I was often too lazy to go get good coffee somewhere else a block or two away. Needless to say the staff knew me pretty well. One day they started telling me there was a guy who was a total ringer for me who came in now and then. Kind of like "somehow we knew he wasn't you but he's so like you it's eerie!" This went on for the better part of a year. Sometimes they'd tell me I had just missed him, but I never saw him. I'm glad of it, not least because I suspect it wouldn't have been good for my vanity: "wait, you think I look like *him*? Well F you very much!" sort of thing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:07 PM on December 15, 2012


These doppelgänger sightings will continue to increase in frequency and number as we get closer to the generally accepted invention date of the first universal time travel device.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:11 PM on December 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


I keep seeing people who look like Klaus Kinski and thoughts of a German but supposedly Spanish conquistador go through my head.

I saw one person outside of the family circle who resembled myself and therefore my father on the news once, but that's it. Been told I resemble:

Gary Sinise
Bernard Sumner (or Albrecht)
David Letterman
Colin Mochrie

I remember only because none of these people resemble the other. Also been mistaken for a German and and Italian which is rare since most people associate gingers, not surprisingly, with Scots and Irish.

I myself tend to see structural resemblances in people that others contest vigorously.

Three times I've seen women that look amazingly like either a current (at the time) or past girlfriend and it freaks me out. The incident where I saw someone that looked like the woman I was dating at the time ended with my girlfriend telling me that "that girl is a Filipina." I thought to myself, no shit, she's your double. She didn't see it.

Archetypes. I guess they're really a thing.

Most definitely. Pulls out Anatomy of Criticism.
posted by juiceCake at 8:11 PM on December 15, 2012


Only some of these people look similar enough to be worth mentioning. Some of them look completely different to me. I think this photographer must have mild face blindness.
posted by dis_integration at 8:11 PM on December 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


You ever notice that if you go to a supermarket in a new city you will see a lot of people that seem familiar. Maybe people you don't know well, but walk past at school or work. Or am i just nuts?
Never mind.
posted by cccorlew at 8:17 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


One time my sister met someone in a bar who supposedly looked exactly. like. me. My sister went on and on about how exact the match was--not just looks but voice and mannerisms. For the longest time she thought it was me, playing a joke. Her description of the supposed eerie match was so forceful and disconcerting that I have never set foot in that bar again, from that day on.
posted by LarryC at 8:22 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The people in the link didn't look like each other as much as I thought they would.


I noticed that a lot of the similarities were very superficial- hair, eyewear, things of that nature. Either that or some very prominent feature was somewhat the same, but there were other differences that were important enough that they really look quite different.

Similarities are most striking to me are most noticeable when people are in motion. It's not enough to physically resemble a person- if two people have the same mannerisms, facial expressions, or movements, that is when it gets remarkable.

A few months ago I was at a Twins game and noticed a woman sitting in front of us that HAD to be my sister. My own sister! She was even using Elizabeth's patented Exaggerated Jaw Drop of Disbelief ™. But... Liz must be elsewhere, and she would never wear a jacket that ugly. Nevertheless, I had to text both of my sisters to confirm. No, she was at home, but would have loved to have been there to have a word with her doppelganger about fashion.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:24 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've noticed this as well, but for cats.

Do you mean cats who look like other cats, or cats who look like specific people?
posted by Wordshore at 8:29 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


> the strong desire we seem to have to read genetic relationship in the faces of people we know or think are related

Indeed. I have a good friend whose three kids are all adopted, and aren't biologically related. I still find myself thinking "oh, she looks just like her big brother when she smiles!" and the like, even though I know it's just coincidence.

I used to get a lot of "You look just like someone I know / a friend of mine" comments -- not from people trying to flirt -- when I was in my twenties. As in, a few a month. They've gradually slowed down, to a few a year now that I'm in my forties. I wonder if I'm more distinct as a I age.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:31 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


mathowie: "Yes! This!

I've been to Australia a couple times in the past 12 years and I swear every time I'm there I see doppelgängers for nearly all my friends. My own pet hypothesis about why this is is that maybe there are about 500 basic face shape/size combos and you can only have so many people without some of them starting to look familiar.
"

We have noted your perception. We are sorry that the simulation is breaking down. Please remain where you are. Please remain where you are. Our team is on the way. Our team is on the way. Feel happy. Be happy. Our reprogramming will cause no pain. No pain. Pain....
posted by Splunge at 8:32 PM on December 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sometimes when we go out, my wife will point out people that she thinks look like our friends. Other times, I will do the same. "Hey, doesn't that person look just like Jeff?"

The funny thing is, we don't often agree with each other. "Um, not really. I don't think he looks like Jeff at all."

I've come to the conclusion that we must look at faces in different ways. Perhaps I take notice of the overall shape of the face, and pay attention to the eyes, while my wife looks at the hair and the nose and mouth. Or something like that, because we often have completely different judgments about what people look like.
posted by mokin at 8:37 PM on December 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am constantly getting stopped in the street by people who say things like "I loved your speech!" when I have given no speech, or "Hey, don't you remember me from Jane's party last night?" when I don't know Jane and haven't been near a party in months.

I've come to the conclusion that I have One of Those Faces. Or at least, I'd rather believe that than worry about whose evil twin I am.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:42 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Been told I resemble:
...
I remember only because none of these people resemble the other.


I also get the "you look like…", constantly, my whole life. The famous and not famous, people who look nothing alike.

BUT, I’ve also come to realize that people simply don’t recognize me. And if I change anything about my features even people I know well don’t recognize me. I once got haircut before I went to pickup a friend of many years at the airport. I walked right up to him, looked straight at him, sat down beside him, and he still didn’t recognize me. He jumped out of his skin when I said "are you ready to go?".

Conclusion; I am a shapeshifter.
posted by bongo_x at 8:46 PM on December 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


Usually, though, what they really mean is "I saw someone vaguely South Asian! Must be you!" because all South Asians look the same.

divabat, I know exactly what you mean, growing up as one of the few East Asian people in my hometown. It wasn't until I moved to NYC that I had an "oh shit" moment when I saw a guy who not only looked like me and dressed like me but had the same mannerisms and walk.
posted by pravit at 8:48 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh! My husband and I each have a friend who looks incredibly like the other. They were both visiting at the same time, and we all four went to a museum, and one of the guards asked, "Are you two twins?" and they said, "Oh, no" and the guard said "Just regular sisters, then?" and they said "We met for the first time yesterday."

They have since become good friends, and their unrelated twindom freaks people out. They look much more like each other than either one of them looks like their actual sister(s).
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:48 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Conclusion; I am a shapeshifter.
I read that as "I am a shoplifter" and it worked.
posted by mhz at 8:51 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and the people in those pictures don’t look that much alike to me. Which is weird, because I was convinced I was face blind for a while. Then I took some online tests and scored way higher than average at facial recognition. Yet I have a really hard time watching movies and following the actors. If Clark Kent puts on glasses I am fooled. I watched The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and didn’t realize it was different actors playing the part.

I don’t get it. Is there a name for being face blind only when watching movies?
posted by bongo_x at 8:51 PM on December 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


I read that as "I am a shoplifter" and it worked.

I was thinking bank robbery might be something to get into. "He looked like my friend Dave, or Billy Bob Thorton, kinda, I’m not sure…"
posted by bongo_x at 8:53 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The most striking to me are when I see some from the other end of the Indo-European language group (i.e., Iranian or North Indian) which has a lot of genetic correlation with the language group, where I think, hey, that person looks just like _____ (really white person) from my home town, only with brown or tan skin and black hair.

There's a guy in Love Actually who looks exactly like the guy who plays Tony in Bend It Like Beckham, except one's white and the other's South Asian and the guy in Love Actually has curlier hair. Trying to convince people of this is an uphill battle because they always get stuck on "One of them's Asian." (And, no, I'm pretty sure my former roommate and I aren't just crazy.)
posted by hoyland at 8:58 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


> we must look at faces in different ways.

That has been my experience as well. I'll point out a similarity, and my sister just can't see it, or vice versa.

I do think the level of familiarity plays into it, though. If I thought someone looked like one of her friends, she'd almost never agree with me, but if I thought they looked like a mutual acquaintance, she was far more likely to see the similarity.
posted by yuwtze at 8:58 PM on December 15, 2012


mathowie: My own pet hypothesis about why this is is that maybe there are about 500 basic face shape/size combos and you can only have so many people without some of them starting to look familiar.

Which may well be why forensic facial-composite kits are possible.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:58 PM on December 15, 2012


Which may well be why forensic facial-composite kits are possible.

I've always assumed there were far more than 500 possibilities with those, though. Anyone know how many choices there are for each facial feature?
posted by hoyland at 9:00 PM on December 15, 2012


It would be interesting to have whole groups of people photographed together who look alike, or maybe groups where each individual looks like the same person, but don't resemble each other as much.

You can find examples of both from this sort of event.
posted by Songdog at 9:03 PM on December 15, 2012


Bah, the photographer doesn't have face blindness or anything of the sort. I think mokin must be right about there being at least two different ways to look at faces, because I'll often point out that I think X person looks like Y other person, only to have my girlfriend or whoever go, "Hmm...I guess the nose is similar..." or something of that nature, whereas I would never think of someone in terms of individual facial features unless pressed. For me it's clearly like recognizing overall word shape rather than individual letters, and I'll bet this photographer is the same, because I thought all of these people looked quite similar at first sight despite their often quite disparate individual features.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:05 PM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


For about three years, I was mistaken at least twice a month for a student in my department named Pedro. I'd be walking down the street and random people would yell out "Hey Pedro!" out of their apartment windows. It was really weird talking about this with Pedro; he occasionally got mistaken for me, too, but nowhere near as often.

Then I cut my hair, Pedro graduated, and the "Hey Pedro"s stopped.
posted by erniepan at 9:06 PM on December 15, 2012


I have a solution to your doppelganger problem. I was in a pharmacy yesterday where someone tried to sell me face cream that would, and I quote, "remove all your melanin". She refused to confirm as to whether that would make you invisible or just with see through skin. (In fact, she didn't really want to talk to me after that). So provided your doppelganger doesn't use the same skin cream...
posted by b33j at 9:11 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Huh. Just today someone told me that they see Seth Rogen just about every day and that he is my doppelgänger, but only in person - not on screen. When I was younger, people told me I looked exactly like two specific famous people, both of whom are widely considered to be more handsome than Seth Rogen. Nevertheless, having not heard such comparisons in many years, and knowing my physical appearance has declined substantially in the last decade, I was quite relieved to be told I look like someone who is a lot younger than me - particularly when they clarified that I only look like him now that he has lost weight.
posted by The World Famous at 9:15 PM on December 15, 2012


When people talk about different ways of recognizing faces, it might be configural vs featural that you're considering. Configural takes into account not only features, but the relationships between them and how they work together. Featural is, well, just individual features in a piecemeal fashion. Typically configural processing is something that we use more with things with which we have expertise, like faces, although that's for recognition. In this case if you're trying to match people up I would think at least some people would go with featural for that.
posted by bizzyb at 9:22 PM on December 15, 2012


I wonder if the two subjects in the photos have similiar personalities, interests or life experiences at all?
I also wonder if there was anyone who is so unique a good match could not be found?
posted by EatMyHat at 9:24 PM on December 15, 2012


So somewhere in Southern California there is a man who looks very much like my twin and I.

Imagine how Jeff must feel, knowing he has two doppelgängers.

Years ago I was introduced to a fellow named Rob by a mutual friend. Rob and I got along well, and spent some time socializing. After a few months, he said, "It's been driving me crazy -- where do we know each other from?" I replied that I didn't think we did know each other, but he was adamant. We compared biographies: we hadn't gone to the same school or worked at the same place; he had never seen a band I played in or been to the movie theatre where I had worked years earlier; he had never worked in customer service anywhere; we had no friends in common save the one who had introduced us (Rob did share a last name with a cousin of mine, but claimed no connection there -- "I think we might be distantly related, but I think at best I shook her hand once at a family reunion.". We had grown up half an hour apart, and I had no recollection of ever meeting him, so it stayed a minor mystery.

A year or two later a minor family secret came out: when my aunt was a teenager in the sixties, she had become great with child and given up the resulting son for adoption. Now, some 35 years later, said Alm had contacted her and they were in touch again. By purest chance, the couple who adopted him would have a biological son a year of two later, and name him Robert -- Rob had grown up with my biological cousin in his house -- a guy who looks and talks like the rest of his birth family -- and base on that, Rob had recognized me.

The odd thing is that a year or two after my aunt had given birth to this baby, another aunt (her older sister) had gotten married, and her new husband was first cousin to the guy who along with his wife had recently adopted a baby -- the baby bring her biological nephew*. The commonality of name between Rob and my cousin was not random -- the adopted boy is first cousin to her by birth but second cousin to her through his adoptive family.

The upshot of all this is when I was twenty or so and living in Toronto, I used to he told regularly, "I saw this guy on the subway last week who looked exactly like you!". Now I can hazard a guess as to what was happening there.

*She saw said biological nephew at a reunion of her husband's family once, and immediately knew he was kin without even asking about the adoption. The kid was then about four; I have seem pictures of me at four and of my dad at four; I remember my little brother at four and look at his son, who is now four, and we all have the same features. No wonder even embedded in another family we stand out.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:26 PM on December 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


As I scrolled through these I kept thinking "father, sisters, father, father, sisters, brothers . . ." and had to keep stopping to remind myself. So I guess in that sense it's working.

Also, general affect and presentation helps a lot, doesn't it? The men in #6 look much less alike than they could because of the differences in their clothing and grooming, while the women in #4 look so alike partly because they both look like grad students. (Actually, I bet anybody under 40 who lives in a college town or large East Coast city knows at least one woman with that face.)
posted by ostro at 9:27 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


This photographer's work totally looks like totally looks like.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:50 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The third picture down smacks of time travel.
posted by BiggerJ at 9:51 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you are from melting pot North America it can be a true mindfuck first time back in your genetic homeland. I have only been to Denmark once, but almost everyone looked like my cousin.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:01 PM on December 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I presume that to an alien we would mostly look very similar, as similar as (e.g.) two random fish of the same species look to us. The fact that we can generally distinguish people's faces is because our brains are wired by training or structure to recognise and magnify particular small differences. The amazing thing isn't that we can find people who look alike but that this isn't commonplace.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:05 PM on December 15, 2012


I just hope that these two took the extremely rare opportunity to make out with themselves right after the photo session was over.
posted by MrVisible at 10:10 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just remembered that there was a sushi bar in SF (been too long for me to remember which one) with a chef who looked exactly like Peter Lorre (who was Hungarian Jewish.) It was uncanny. If Sidney Greenstreet had walked in and started conferring conspiratorially with the guy, I wouldn't have been at all surprised.
posted by Philofacts at 10:14 PM on December 15, 2012


An uncle of mine bears an uncanny resemblance to Mark Hamill, and was a teenager when Star Wars came out. I don't know what all those high school girls thought the hottest new Hollywood star was doing working at a Long John Silver's in suburban Houston, but apparently it was a really big deal.
posted by Sara C. at 10:21 PM on December 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you are from melting pot North America it can be a true mindfuck first time back in your genetic homeland. I have only been to Denmark once, but almost everyone looked like my cousin.

Me doing doubletakes in Scotland cause seriously aren't you Patty's kid?

confusing.

Dublin was recommended to me with "Everyone looks and drinks like you."

o_O
posted by The Whelk at 10:24 PM on December 15, 2012


People really have a strong desire to try to see genetic traits across individuals in a family; even when they know intellectually that those traits can't be there, they sometimes stumble and blurt out one they've imagined.

A couple years ago I was traveling through Europe with a friend of mine who I am thoroughly not at all related to. We were going to be close to the Slovenian border, and she is of Slovenian ancestry and has long-lost Slovenian cousins. We arranged to meet said cousins on the trip. It should be said that I am pretty vehemently NOT of Slovenian ancestry, or any ancestry that is anywhere near that part of Europe.

So we arrive at the meeting place and walk up to her long-lost relatives together.

All of them guessed that I was their cousin, not her.

It was awkward.
posted by Sara C. at 10:33 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know who you remind me of?

"You remind me of a very young Yippy, Yappy, and Yahooie."
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:39 PM on December 15, 2012


Can't believe I have to post this again:

WHAT TO DO IF YOU MEET YOUR DUPLICATE:

DOPPLEGÄNGER
Exists only to kill you and take over your life. Kill them before they kill you.

FETCH
Portends your death, but will not cause it. May be used as a patsy or stalking goat to decieve would-be murderers. General recommendation: kill.

TIME-TRAVELING YOU
Interrogate for personal history details, stock tips. Kill. (See: GRANDCHILD: PROBLEM OR OPPORTUNITY?)

CLONE(S)
Make out and/or kill, harvest organs.

CLONE(S), EVIL
Make out and then kill, harvest organs.

PARALLEL EARTH YOU
Interrogate for personal history details, neat other-earth gadgets. Kill.

GENDER-FLIPPED YOU
Make out.

posted by sebastienbailard at 10:47 PM on December 15, 2012 [25 favorites]


this ties into the Fringe thread nicely.
posted by The Whelk at 10:52 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have just discovered that I am unable to read the phrase "face blindness" without saying out loud: "Blace findness. Bace flindness. Nace findbless."
posted by narain at 10:55 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I look like a total mix of both parents. Dad's face and Mom's body, pretty much. I don't really look like Mom's side enough for that to stand out amongst those people, and while I have Dad's face, the body and hair and coloration are totally different from his side. In short, I think I'd be hard to clone. Also, I have blonde/brown hair and hazel eyes and there's not too many chicks with that coloration either. I can think of about a handful I've met IRL.

Many yonks ago, a boyfriend of mine was drunk and at a party, and called me up to swear to god he'd met my doppelganger and how everyone at the party thought we looked soooooo much alike. I eventually met her. She was blonde, had brown eyes, and wore glasses. In short, no, she wasn't my doppelganger, that was booze glasses thinking that blonde + glasses = clone. I was disappointed.

But seeing this thread, maybe there's hope? I still think it'd be hard to do, though. Especially with moles and the like that would be hard to replicate.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:05 PM on December 15, 2012


I went to a uni as a student about 2000kms from my home town. First year, first tutorial, new lecturer. After the tute, the lecturer came to me and said: "oh, you are a lookalike!" I asked her what she meant and she talked about a woman she was in a theatre play with a few years earlier and 1000km south. "And you even have the same lastname!" (think, Jones). I thought for a moment and then said: "that's not surprising, she's my sister."

Dopplegangers are surprising, if not fun. Except for when you lose someone close to you suddenly. Then dopplegangers become heart beats in a rush, followed by embarrassment and a renewed wave of grief.
posted by Kerasia at 11:13 PM on December 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


There must be something in nurture and similar circumstances. Friends adopted a toddler who looked nothing like them. Now the toddler is 16 and does look like a natural child. You can see the shape of her dad's face, her mother's eyes, etc.
posted by Cranberry at 11:15 PM on December 15, 2012


Huh. Nobody's ever told me I looked like anybody they knew, in my life, and I've never met anyone who looked like me, except for one of my aunts and my own father.

My husband, on the other hand, has gotten "Asian Matt Damon" from a couple of different people. I don't think it's an entirely inapt comparison to make.
posted by town of cats at 11:15 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to get this all the time. My standard response was, I've got a million twins in the world.

Not much anymore. As mentioned upthread, maybe we age out of this phenomenon somewhat.

I never saw anyone who struck me as resembling me all that much. I did get a card once, though -- dead fucking ringer except for the nicer bod on the card guy. I kept it for some weird motivational "I can look like that" thing. Yeah, that worked out.
posted by wallabear at 11:23 PM on December 15, 2012


I've just been using the facial recognition stuff on iPhoto. I asked it to find pics of me in the files and it returned lots, mostly of my partner's niece.
posted by Kerasia at 11:24 PM on December 15, 2012


GENDER-FLIPPED YOU
Make out.


Hahahah as if
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:25 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


i have the face of a person who can give strangers directions to anywhere in any town. i think i got the "please harass me with questions!" gene, but god only knows from where.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 11:30 PM on December 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


My standard response was, I've got a million twins in the world.

"Even if you're one in a million, that means there's 7,000 people in the world exactly like you."
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:03 AM on December 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


LETS FORM AN ARMY OF INDESTRUCTIBLE POWER
posted by The Whelk at 12:10 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have never experienced this, nor have I heard anything similar from any of my friends, so I think, for example, ~200 face types is waaaaaay too small a number. Lots of "positives chiming in" here, it seems.
posted by 3FLryan at 12:16 AM on December 16, 2012


LETS FORM AN ARMY OF INDESTRUCTIBLE POWER

Only if the uniform is sweats and a can of beer. And a recliner.
posted by wallabear at 12:20 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


LETS FORM AN ARMY OF INDESTRUCTIBLE POWER

His mouth said "LETS FORM AN ARMY OF INDESTRUCTIBLE POWER", but his eyes said "We're going to make out, and then I'm going to kill you and harvest your organs."
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:24 AM on December 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yet I have a really hard time watching movies and following the actors. If Clark Kent puts on glasses I am fooled. I watched The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and didn’t realize it was different actors playing the part.

I don’t get it. Is there a name for being face blind only when watching movies?


I don't know bongo_x, but I have the same problem. Was I ever confused when I started watching Game of Thrones. It was ages before I realized that Robb, Jon, and Theon were three different people. Of course now I see that they look nothing alike, but I had to re-watch the first season to sort out the plot line once I realized that I was jumbling up all the young male Northerners with dark hair. And Cloud Atlas... oh my god.

Yet, my husband, who is very good at recognizing actors in movies, sees resemblances between people all the time, resemblances that I don't see at all. He's convinced that a friend of his is a dead ringer for a young Hugh Grant. He loves to watch Urban Suburban because he thinks the female real estate agent looks exactly like Amy Poehler and the show became instantly hilarious to him.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:29 AM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the topic of adoptees looking like their adopted relatives, I think we pick up a lot of mannerisms and microexpressions from people we spend significant time with, and develop strong attachments to. So it's not so much a "looks like", as a "moves, smiles, and has mannerisms like", and that is a big part of how we recognize people, especially at a distance.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:59 AM on December 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


GENDER-FLIPPED YOU
Make out.


Oh gods no. I already have a gender-flipped me and he's my brother. That would be way too uncomfortable.

All my non-flipped mes would get made out with, though!
posted by daisyk at 1:10 AM on December 16, 2012


TIME-TRAVELING YOU
Interrogate for personal history details, stock tips. Kill.


You might regret that last step.
posted by tykky at 1:23 AM on December 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


I've got a doppleganger floating around Milwaukee. I've never met her but I've had so many people say they've seen me somewhere I wasn't. A few strangers have also come up to me and started to talk to me like I knew them. At first I thought it was a poor attempt at a pickup line. I wish I had realized it at the time, because I would have loved to have asked who it was. But when friends started telling me they saw me for example, jogging in a part of town when I don't jog and I wasn't anywhere near there any time recently, I started to figure that there must be someone living in the same area that looks like me.

It's going to be a strange day when I finally run into her.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:24 AM on December 16, 2012


Has anyone compiled a comprehensive list of all facial features that vary along one axis? For example, length of nose, spacing between eyes, height of ears, etc?

I've been told I look like Tom Green.
posted by Joe Chip at 1:48 AM on December 16, 2012


I have met my doppelgangers girlfriend. She ran over and hugged and kissed me. Then she was cross at me for "being weird". Then she was a bit embarrassed.
That was a strange day.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 1:49 AM on December 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


Eponysterical
posted by roboton666 at 2:27 AM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


“It's funny, but certain faces seem to go in and out of style. You look at old photographs and everybody has a certain look to them, almost as if they're related. Look at pictures from ten years later and you can see that there's a new kind of face starting to predominate, and that the old faces are fading away and vanishing, never to be seen again.”
-Alan Moore (Watchmen)

Look at old civil photos and this strikes me as true. Then again, look at those famous Amish mug shots and tell me they don't similar. I think it's something more than hair cuts.

Maybe something to do with lowered testosterone levels, but I've definitely heard that male faces are becoming more androgynous. Not sure if this was mentioned up thread.
posted by Telf at 3:07 AM on December 16, 2012


Even more interesting to me is how this phenomenon transcends race and gender. I knew an 18-year-old Korean girl who looked just like Edward Norton. And when she smiled, it was Edward Norton's smile. Just an uncanny resemblance.
posted by zardoz at 3:47 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I came across this photo of Leatrice Joy on Mlkshk and immediately thought of Billy Corgan.
posted by Sailormom at 4:24 AM on December 16, 2012


I was once told I look like Kevin Pietersen, the cricketer. I don't think I look like him, but I do think that he's kinda hot. Quite what that says about me, I'm not sure that I really want to know.
posted by Solomon at 4:59 AM on December 16, 2012


In basic training, everyone said a guy in my squad and I looked alike. Neither of us thought so.

One day (years later), I was walking around Walden Pond, and a woman looked at me and said "David?" She insisted I was her ex-husband. Now, my brother's name is David, but he doesn't look much like me, and this woman was certainly not his ex-wife. I eventually convinced her I wasn't her ex, but she seemed pretty freaked out by the whole thing.

Speaking of wives, mine consistently misidentifies a group of Hollywood actors, because they all look alike to her. Nicolas Cage, Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford - they're all interchangeable white guys to her. Of course, she used to say I looked just like Robert Duvall, which I do not. It was when the movie where he played Stalin came out, and I had a moustache. Later, I showed her pictures of Duvall not being Stalin, and she admitted there was no resemblance. I don't look like Stalin, either.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:16 AM on December 16, 2012


I was walking downtown in an Edmonton winter once when a car pulled up on the other side of the road, and a woman got out and started yelling something at me. I couldn't quite make it out — it was windy — so I made a gesture to say, "hold on", walked down to the corner, crossed the street, and walked back to the car. At that point she said, "You're not my son." I concurred. "Well," she said, pulling the lapels of my coat closer together, "button up anyway." And she got back in the car and drove away.
posted by stebulus at 5:45 AM on December 16, 2012 [45 favorites]


The first time I visited Japan, I got called Bob Sapp pretty much constantly for the whole trip. He had done a bunch of advertising endorsements, and his picture was everywhere that entire trip.

Not that we look alike facially at all (not to mention my lack of ginormous muscles), but I can imagine that to a Japanese person not used to seeing lots of us on a regular basis, "Big, bald, black guy" is enough of a similarity to remark upon.

What was most surreal about the whole thing is that I happened to have met Bob Sapp through a mutual friend earlier that year, and had no idea that he was the most famous black man in Japan, or even that he was anybody notable at all other than "that huge dude my friend works out with".
posted by billyfleetwood at 5:52 AM on December 16, 2012


Hm. Is it just me, or do the guys in the first picture look a lot like Murray from Flight of the Conchords.
posted by Kevtaro at 6:30 AM on December 16, 2012


Let n be the number of different faces you're capable of distinguishing. Then, when you meet the n+1st person, you will have met 2 people who look alike.

For prosopagnosiacs, is the value of n very small? Or very large? I think the latter.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:36 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Years ago, in another country I had a childhood friend with the same first name (let's say its Jane and she was known as Jane B). Although I was blonder and she was more brunette - we used to be mistaken for each other by strangers but not by people who knew us.

A few years later, back in that country I had a different childhood friend also with the same first name, Jane, and also the same initial of the last name (let's say R). This time we both had long blond hair, wore similar glasses and we could see the resemblance but she was also taller and our bodies were different.

Now flash forward 20 years and one of my coworkers always said I reminded him of someone. Well, we were both military brats but he's a couple of years younger and although we both had spent time at the same base in Texas, he was pretty sure he had actually known the person I reminded him of and it wasn't just a face in the crowd situation. He recently remarried and found some old year books, was going through them with his new wife and ran across the other me. It was the other Jane R - who had been a senior when he was a freshman and had been a student aide in one of his classes so he'd seen her almost every day. (not that much of a coincidence since the military is a small town really but he was surprised when he showed me the picture and I said: "And her dad was your principal right?)

What about Jane B? Well, I ran into one of our old teachers (the unofficial school photographer who kept negatives or copies of all his pictures) on facebook and he said, "oh, I probably have pictures of you and your siblings . . I'll email them to you." He sent through 10 or so pictures and one of the pictures labeled with my name was actually a picture of Jane B. I pointed that out to him and he sent me pictures labeled with her name and sure enough, one of her pictures was actually of me.
posted by jaimystery at 6:40 AM on December 16, 2012


My best friend used to be this slim, athletic, 6'-5" East African man. This was someone I used to see daily for years. One day, he saw me in the aisles of the supermarket, and decided this was an opportunity for a surprise. So, he crept up behind unnoticed until he was close enough to reach out and grab my ankle.

When he did, the woman screamed and screamed. That was when my dearest friend realized it wasn't me.

This doppelganger lived in the same city for years, and I never figured out who it was. Other people saw her but I never did, though once I was yelled at by someone I didn't know for being stuck up for not saying hello to them. Um, I don't know you and you've mistaken me for someone else? They wouldn't believe that.

Awkward.
posted by vers at 6:42 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eigenfaces for Facial Recognition
posted by jeffburdges at 7:01 AM on December 16, 2012


In high school there was a guy who was exactly like me, a year ahead of me, but worse. I don't mean that arrogantly; I was repeatedly told that he looked exactly like me, but "slightly uglier;" ("uglier" is great for self esteem by the way); and he was a little shorter; and a little less academically successful. My friends took to referring to him as "the prototype."

"I saw the prototype the other day and thought it was you until I saw he had glasses on."

It was odd.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:20 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Going back to François Brunelle's work – he's good, but Quebec has a population of roughly 8 million people many of whom are descended from a relatively small number of French migrants back in the 16th and 17th centuries. Almost all his types are drawn from that background so a certain convergence of facial types is almost a given.
posted by zadcat at 7:21 AM on December 16, 2012


If you are from melting pot North America it can be a true mindfuck first time back in your genetic homeland. I have only been to Denmark once, but almost everyone looked like my cousin.

True enough -- tying in with the the tale above of my buddy Rob's brother being my biological cousin, I would point out that a few years before all that happened, I went to Ireland for the first time (my great-great-great grandfather and his family had emigrated to Canada during the Famine, and none of us had been back since). My grandfather, forth-generation Irish-Canadian Grandpa Biscuit, had been quite interested in the family genealogy and had instilled some of this love in me. He of course never got a chance to visit the old country, but a year or so after his death I was going there so I went off to Gram's house and looked over his notes. I had discovered that one of his correspondents had recommended getting in touch with a distant cousin of ours, a Catholic priest in the tiny village in County Kerry we had left from. Grandpa had become ill not long after that and had never had a chance to do so, as best I could tell.

Months later I was in Co. Kerry and went to the ancestral hometown. I made my way to the church and inquired politely after Father Biscuit, only to be told, "Oh, he is in America for a visit...." Argh. "... but if you are after the family history, his brother Padraig knows it quite thoroughly as well, and he lives five minutes from here." I went off to the designated house and knocked on the door, but no answer. I popped into the pub next door to warm up and to write Padraig a note to explain who I was, why I was looking for him, and where he could get in touch with me. As I finished the note and my Guinness, I checked with the barmaid to verify that Padraig Biscuit lived next door. She said, "he does, and there he goes now." I spin around to see someone just passing the window, but I didn't get a good look at him. I thanked her and stepped briskly outside to see an older man heading down the street; I tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around. I found myself looking at my grandfather Biscuit, whom we had interred a year earlier, but who now turned out to be alive and well in Ireland. For his part, he at first thought I was his nephew from England turning up for a surprise visit.

tl;dr -- between the adopted cousin, the distant relations in the old country, and the photographic evidence of various members of the family as indistinguishable little kids, I can assure you all that the Biscuit family genes are powerful. As we spread out and intermarry with others, our indestructible chromosomes will conquer all before them and eventually, millennia hence, everyone on Earth will look kind of like me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:24 AM on December 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


This fall I had three different people tell me I look just like Annie from the tv show Treme. I haven't seen it, but I looked her up because I was curious. Now that I know what she looks like, I'm super flattered, but I don't see the resemblance. I think half-Asian people just aren't that common in US movies and shows, so when one pops up, we are perceived as looking alike... even if we don't.
posted by Marit at 7:29 AM on December 16, 2012


People often tell me that I look like Metafilter's own Adam Savage. It doesn't help that we're graying in the same places.

Oh well, at least it's someone cool.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:31 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Going back to François Brunelle's work – he's good, but Quebec has a population of roughly 8 million people many of whom are descended from a relatively small number of French migrants back in the 16th and 17th centuries

The relatively small gene pool effect in Quebec is absolutely true. I have met thousands of people in English Canada and so far as I know, the only time two people have had identical names -- first and last -- is when either (a) they are second cousins or something relatively close, (b) when they have married into the same family (two women, each one named Patricia, married brothers of my acquaintance) or (c) the name is exceedingly common (I have known two Dave Smiths, for example).

I have many Quebecois friends and find that all three of these factors are played up: I know three totally unrelated Pierre Tremblays, for example.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:33 AM on December 16, 2012


This doppelganger lived in the same city for years, and I never figured out who it was. Other people saw her but I never did, though once I was yelled at by someone I didn't know for being stuck up for not saying hello to them. Um, I don't know you and you've mistaken me for someone else? They wouldn't believe that.

I used to work with a pair of sisters who were actual twins, but who seemed blissfully ignorant of the fact. I mean, of course they knew they had grown up together and shared a birthday and all that, but I asked them over lunch once if they had ever pulled any twin-based pranks -- you know, one of you has a high school math exam but is unprepared, so the other one goes and takes it, or one is about to get a driver's license photo done that day but has a blemish, so the other one subs in, but they seemed baffled; one said, "No. Why would we?" Well, because you can -- most of us do not have the option*.

Anyway, I was reminded of them when I read your comment because one of them came into work one day and was telling me about a strange experience she had had on the weekend -- "I was walking down Wellington Street and there was this group of three or four people across the street who were waving and shouting at me, trying to get my attention. I had no idea who they were, so I ignored them and kept on going."

I ventured, "Do you think they might have been friends of Helen's?"

She thought about it and replied, "Yeah, I guess that is possible, but I guess it did not occur to me." How could it not, when you lived for twenty years in a house with someone identical in appearance?


*My apologies to any mefites who are twins and who believe I am being insensitive. For you it is day-to-day, but for the rest of us it seems like magic. Although this is manifestly the wrong thread to say that.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:45 AM on December 16, 2012


Up until about 5 years ago, I had long hair. I discovered when you're a white dude with long hair, you look like many unrelated famous white dudes with long hair.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:06 AM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I frequently get asked, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" Turns out that our paths have never crossed anywhere. I have come to the conclusion that I don't really look like anyone else in particular; I just have that sort of generic face that people think that they should recognize.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:22 AM on December 16, 2012


Been told I resemble:

Gary Sinise
Bernard Sumner (or Albrecht)
David Letterman
Colin Mochrie

I remember only because none of these people resemble the other.


That is generally true, but occasionally tricks of facial expression or the light can alter that. Years ago I was watching Code 46, a minor sci-fi flick with Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton. I paused it to leave the room for a moment and by pure chance it froze during a close-up of Robbins while he was breaking into an amused expression -- one eyebrow slightly raised, grin widening -- and in that freeze frame there was zero doubt that he was Greg Kinnear. These guys do not look especially like each other in general in my view, and a casual Google search finds no evidence online that anyone else has ever posted pictures of the two of them and marveled at the resemblance, but it was uncanny. I took a screen capture and showed it to a dozen people, asking who it was: all of them said either "Kinnear" or "dunno" (and these were ones who turned out to be unaware of Greg Kinnear -- not one said, "Oh, that is Tim Robbins."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:24 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cue the doppledeaner.
posted by quadog at 8:26 AM on December 16, 2012


SO was at Langan's when he was younger when someone drunkenly tapped on his table and said " aren't you somebody's son?"

He said yes because that was technically accurate.


the man tottered off and his meal was comped. He never did figure who's son he was supposed to resemble.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 AM on December 16, 2012


Another people-who-look-alike site: Daily Dopple. King Joffrey and Paul Ryan are making me laugh. And whoah, my husband is definitely of the Gabriel Byrne / Bryan Ferry pod.

And speaking of old photographs and faces, check out the time-travelers Nicolas Cage and John Travolta here.
posted by taz at 8:35 AM on December 16, 2012


Does anyone else see Clark Gable == Will Smith?
posted by alasdair at 8:55 AM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


> If you are from melting pot North America it can be a true mindfuck first time back in your genetic homeland

In 1991 I saw a photo of a crowd of protestors in Lithuania and my first thought was "My people!" I'd never thought of myself as looking particularly Lithuanian, but I guess I do.

I also have the "please give me directions" gene, as well as the "You must be a librarian and I will ask you librarian questions" gene.

Also the "Will you please get that can of soup off the high shelf for me, fellow shopper" gene, but that one makes more sense.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:01 AM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


i have the face of a person who can give strangers directions to anywhere in any town. i think i got the "please harass me with questions!" gene, but god only knows from where.

I do too! Some friends of mine say they have a constant 'bitchface,' while I just have the kind of face that makes people want to tell me they're having a really nice time or, often, ask for help. There are worse problems to have. I totally believe that this ties in with how often I get told that I look just like someone - never a famous person, always someone they know, but they just can't put their finger on who.... I think my face has enough common pan-European white chick features to make me generically familiar and, thus, "okay."
posted by troika at 9:07 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like for this photoessay to be mandatory for anyone who is about to view a police lineup with the intention of identifying a person who committed a crime. I would also like for it to be mandatory for judges and juries about to sit on cases involving eyewitness identification.
posted by decathecting at 9:25 AM on December 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've thought for a long time that Joaquim de Almeida looks like Phil Hartman.

I've also noticed that some people are really, really awful at "x looks like y". They pick one feature, like eye color, and decide that that means two folks look exactly alike, who really look nothing alike whatsoever. Not in features, or overall face shape, or anything, except that one superficial feature. What's up with that?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:36 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of wives, mine consistently misidentifies a group of Hollywood actors, because they all look alike to her. Nicolas Cage, Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford - they're all interchangeable white guys to her.

I have found many people have actors who blur together in their minds. There are the ones everyone knows about (who can really remember which one is Dermot Mulroney and which one is Dylan McDermott?), and a few that only I seem to have trouble with: for example, it’s only in the last ten years I’ve been able to distinguish Kurt Russell from Jeff Bridges. And until Ronald Reagan’s funeral, I had never realized that the 1940’s actresses Jane Wyman and Jane Wyatt were two different people. The first was Reagan’s first wife, the second played Spock’s mother in Star Trek. Who knew?

My dad has trouble to this day telling Kurt Russell and Patrick Swayze apart. For myself, I figure Patrick Swayze, after a brief Dirty-Dancing/Ghost career spike, settled uncomfortably into a Hollywood ecological niche which he shared with his near-double David Keith, whose own Q-rating is in turn not much helped by the career of Keith David.

However, I have my own set of confusables that revolve mostly around those two senior all-purpose Irish madmen and full-service rogues, Peter O’Toole and Richard Harris, two guys both notable for angelic good looks gone to seed through decades of hard living, and both of whom have had career arcs best described as inverted bell curves. I can barely tell the one from the other. I know vaguely that both had career resurgences in the early ‘90s, but at gunpoint I couldn’t tell you without checking IMDB which one was in The Field (1991) and which in Unforgiven (1992), or even if it may have been the same dude in both; as far as I’m concerned, it would require a physicist to measure any difference between the two. Note that my troubles distinguishing them are hardly affected by Harris being several years in his grave now. A large part of the problem is that they both were in this cluster of classically-trained actors who mostly began becoming famous around the time I was born, so they’ve always been there, playing kings and princes.

So:

Never mind Lawrence of Arabia (1962); for me, Peter O’Toole’s great role was as King Henry II in The Lion in Winter (1968). I trust you’ve seen it. If not, get away from the damn computer and get to a video store. Henry II had three sons: Richard (later King Richard I, the Lionheart), Stephen, and John (later King John). Richard Lionheart is probably the most mythic of the kings of England, being a remote, offstage symbol of justice in many Robin Hood stories (1). In these stories, noble Richard is usually held up in contrast to the villainy of Prince John. James Goldman, who wrote The Lion in Winter (1968), also wrote one of the great Robin Hood stories, Robin and Marian (1976), featuring Richard the Harris as the Richard the Lionheart. Richard Harris was probably best known at that time for playing that other legendary king of England, King Arthur, in Camelot (1967). It’s something of a twofer for Harris, being involved in screen depictions of the two great medieval English myths, Arthur and Robin Hood (2).

Here’s where it begins to get convoluted.

The next time that I can recall after Camelot (1967) that King Arthur lit up the movie screens was with Excalibur (1981), in which Nigel Terry played Arthur. Nigel Terry’s first (and in 1981, only previous) screen credit was as the teenaged Prince John, in The Lion in Winter (1968). For what it’s worth, one of Terry’s later screen credits was for a small role in Troy (2004), which also has Peter O’Toole as King Priam.

Excalibur (1981) also featured Nicol Williamson as Merlin; five years previously, Nicol Williamson had played Little John in Robin and Marian (1976). The title roles in Robin and Marian (1976) were played by Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. For many years I assumed Audrey Hepburn was related to Katherine Hepburn, who, by the way, played Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter (1968). Turns out she’s not. Anyway.

Sean Connery is the iconic James Bond, of course, but like Richard Harris has also played King Arthur – in First Knight (1995) – and Richard the Lionheart, in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). The role of James Bond later was in the hands of Pierce Brosnan, who, incidentally, narrated a 1991 promotional special for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves called Robin Hood: Man, Myth and Movie. Brosnan also provided the voice of King Arthur in a 1998 animated movie called Quest for Camelot, which also gave us the voice of Sir John Gielgud as Merlin and Gabriel Byrne in another role.

Byrne had had his first screen role in Excalibur (1981), playing Uther Pendragron, Arthur’s father. Despite himself carving out a niche as a full-service Irish rogue, mercifully, he now disappears from this list.

Gielgud had been acting since the dawn of time (3), before finally expiring in 1998. Curiously, he was involved in the final year of his life in two films featuring Merlin , the other being the TV movie with Sam Neill in the title role. The final role I saw Gielgud onscreen in was in a small role in Hamlet (1996), where he played King Priam of Troy in a flashback (4). Priam was of course, more recently played by Peter O’Toole, in Troy (2004).

One of the other featured actors in Merlin (1998) was Nicholas Clay, who had previously played Lancelot in Excalibur (1981).

In any event, Gielgud also played King Louis VII of France in a 1964 film called Becket, in which Richard Burton played the title role of Thomas à Becket. The other featured actor in Becket is Peter O’Toole, in his first outing as Henry II, four years before he plays the role again in The Lion in Winter (1968). The same year as Becket, Gielgud played the ghost of Hamlet’s father in Hamlet (1964), with Richard Burton in the title role.

Coincidentally, Richard Burton grew up in the same small Welsh town as Sir Anthony Hopkins, whose first major screen role was as Richard (not yet Lionheart) in The Lion in Winter (1968). His next major role was in Hamlet (1969) playing Claudius to Nicol (Merlin) Williamson’s Hamlet.

The Lion in Winter was staged in 2003 as a TV movie with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close in the leads. One of Patrick Stewart’s first movie roles was as Guinevere’s father Leondegrance in Excalibur (1981). He also, by the way, played King Richard the Lionheart in the Mel Brooks spoof, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1992). The lead there was Cary Elwes, who also provided voice work for the animated Quest for Camelot (1995). The year before Excalibur (1981), Patrick Stewart also played Claudius, in a TV production of Hamlet where he was Claudius to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet; Jacobi would, in his turn, play Claudius in the 1996 film of Hamlet, wherein the role of Hamlet’s father is played by Brian Blessed, who had four years previously played Robin Hood’s father in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1992).

Anthony Hopkins was not the only new face in the 1968 The Lion in Winter – the other actor who had his screen debut was Timothy Dalton, later Pierce Brosnan’s immediate predecessor as James Bond. Dalton is thankfully not much given to playing English kings, and need concern us no further today. For what it’s worth, though, I have trouble telling him apart from the aforementioned Sam Neill, who played Charles II in Restoration (1996) and who was at one time touted as a possible new Bond.

Patrick Stewart’s queen in The Lion in Winter (2003), Glenn Close, had also been involved in a film version of Hamlet; in the 1990 production, she played Gertrude. Opposite her was Ian Holm as Polonius; Holm had previously played King John in Robin and Marian (1976) (5).

Around and round it goes, with the same twenty or so British and Irish actors playing the same half-dozen kings of England (and occasionally Denmark). Note that I have avoided a dozen more who are on the periphery of this ragged band: guys like Liam Neeson, who had his debut in Excalibur (1981) but also had a role in the 1985 TV movie Arthur the King (which also starred Edward Woodward, who had previously had a role in the 1964 Becket). Liam Neeson was the lead in one of the two 1995 battling Men in Kilts movies, Rob Roy (1995), the lead in the other flick – Braveheart (1995) – being Mel Gibson, previously Hamlet in the aforementioned 1990 film version. Curiously, both Neeson and Gibson had been crewmen under Anthony Hopkins’ Captain Bligh in The Bounty (1984) (6). And the only actor to appear in both of those dueling Scotsmen films is the inescapable Brian Cox, more recently on screen in Troy (2004) with Peter O’Toole and Nigel Terry, but also noteworthy for playing Hannibal Lecter (well, Lecktor) five years before Anthony Hopkins did, in Manhunter (1986).

The first time I saw Brian Cox was in King Lear (1984), with Sir Laurence Olivier in the title role; Olivier, as well as being the lead in Hamlet (1948), also starred in Othello a couple of years later, with a young Derek Jacobi as Cassio. Furthermore, Olivier plays the lord of the Admiralty who hears the case against Hopkins’ Bligh in The Bounty (1984). Eight years later (and well after Olivier’s death) Hopkins ended up dubbing in Olivier’s voice in some restored footage (7) in the re-released Spartacus (1960). Olivier has a role in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), released fifteen years after his death. Bizarre.

Anyway, the real star of Olivier’s version of King Lear, I always thought, was John Hurt as Fool; while apparently Hurt has miraculously steered clear of playing any kings of England, he’s skirted close. He’s also in that OTHER Becket biopic, A Man For All Seasons (1966) alongside Vanessa Redgrave, who played Guinevere in Camelot (1967), and Robert Shaw, who later went on to play the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin and Marian (1976) (8).

John Hurt also appears in Rob Roy (1995), as well as in non-sword-wielding roles in Alien (1979) with Ian Holm and 1984 (1984, if you will) with Richard Burton. I was a little surprised he had escaped the gravitational pull of this little group, but then I recalled his role as Caligula in I, Claudius (1976) (or I, Clavdivs as I prefer to think of it). I, Claudius also had roles for among others, Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart, Brian Blessed, and the little-known John Castle, who played the middle son Stephen in The Lion In Winter (1968).

Of course, Caligula was the title and subject of a freakish 1979 movie (featuring, by the way, Peter O’ Toole and Sir John Gielgud) with Malcolm MacDowell in the title role. This would be the same Malcolm MacDowell who later played King Arthur in the aforementioned Arthur the King (1985). The female lead in Caligula (1979) was played by Helen Mirren, who also played Morgan Le Fey in Excalibur (1981); the Morgan le Fey role was undertaken in Merlin (1998) by Helena Bonham Carter, who had previously played Ophelia in Hamlet (1990).

What can we learn from all this? Well, first of all, it’s only a matter of time before the words “And Patrick Stewart as King Arthur” appear in the credits of a movie. And, as might be growingly evident, I fancy myself a moderately good player at those Kevin-Bacon-type connect-the-actors games. It seems to be truism that JFK (1991) is an inevitable step in those connections, the same way any flight inside the USA requires you to change planes in Atlanta. For me, however, I can connect anybody to The Lion in Winter.


(1) In real life, Richard spent barely two months of his ten-year reign in England, preferring to be off being kicked in the ass by Saladin in the Holy Land.

(2) We’ll skip the dozens of times all these guys have played the more modern English myths, like Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper. However, I have snuck in the connections to the still more modern mythical hero, James Bond. So sue me. I’m the kind of guy who annotates his MetaFilter comments.

(3) I will forbear to mention that in the midst of all this Arthur stuff, Sir John Gielgud won an Oscar for his role in Arthur (1981), in which he was billed below Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli. How embarrassing.

(4) Playing Hecuba to his Priam was Dame Judi Dench, who has played M in several Bond movies and who has herself played Queen Elizabeth the First, for whom most of these plays were written.

(5) And between the BBC radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and Peter Jackson’s films, has also played both Frodo and Bilbo. Nice one. Orson Bean has done this too, but we have to draw the line somewhere.

(6) In Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), Bligh was played by Trevor Howard, who later went on to play King Arthur in The Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1984) opposite Sean Connery as the Green Knight. Incidentally, the third-billed star of the 1962 Mutiny on the Bounty was Richard Harris, who among other things starred in Tarzan the Ape Man (1981) which introduced the world to Miles O’Keeffe as Tarzan. Three years later, O’Keeffe played Sir Gawain in The Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

(7) The restored footage had no sound track, and Olivier having gone to glory two years earlier, he was unavailable for dubbing work. Of course, the other actor in the scene did his own: this would be the inexplicably familiar Tony Curtis, whom I cannot recall ever being unfamiliar. So far as I know, the first thing I ever saw him in was Spartacus during its re-release in the early nineties. I knew who he was already, but I have no idea how. From his part as Stony Curtis in an episode of The Flintstones, maybe.

(8) The star of A Man for All Seasons (1966) is Paul Scofield, who would later play the ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father in Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990). Scofield took the role of Becket after Richard Burton turned it down. Twenty-two years later, A Man for All Seasons was remade for television with Charlton Heston in the title role (and with Sir John Gielgud as Cardinal Wolsey). Although it’s a bit of a stretch, Heston’s arguably most iconic role was in Planet of the Apes (1968), wherein Dr. Zaius was played by Maurice Evans, who was the first actor to play Hamlet in a televised version of the play in the USA. Also appearing in the 1988 A Man for All Seasons is Vanessa Redgrave, and also Martin Chamberlain who, ten years later, would appear with Ian Holm in a film of King Lear, in which Holm played the title role.

posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:44 AM on December 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


My own pet hypothesis about why this is is that maybe there are about 500 basic face shape/size combos and you can only have so many people without some of them starting to look familiar.

My theory was that there's only about 16,000 people on the planet, and they all follow me around. "No matter where you go, there they are."

And there's a situation that arises pretty much every time when you bring two people you think look eerily similar together - they look at each other and say 'nahhhh, I don't see it.' However, one day at my local pho joint I was sitting and enjoying a hot bowl of wonder when in walked through the door... my own doppelganger. Face, hair, beard, *everything*. It stopped me dead. I couldn't do anything until he picked up his take-out order and left... whereupon I turned to my associate and said "Mother FUCKER. He's exactly like me except two inches taller and in better shape.... *I'M* the bad copy! I feel like Danny Devito in 'Twins'."
posted by FatherDagon at 10:21 AM on December 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Quebec has a population of roughly 8 million people many of whom are descended from a relatively small number of French migrants back in the 16th and 17th centuries

Yeah, as a Cajun, wandering around Montreal is fricken weird. Everyone looks just like everyone you grew up around, dopplegangers everywhere, same last names. Speaking of long-lost cousins.
posted by Sara C. at 10:29 AM on December 16, 2012


Interesting, I'm another person who has never been mistaken for anyone else in my whole life.

I was once told that I had an unusual face, and people in real life have said I look like Bjørk, Mariel Hemingway, Nastassja Kinski, or Grace Kelly, none of whom really resemble each other at all. I would not have grouped them together as similar types.

Computer analysis says I look most like Bjørk, then a Hispanic actress whose name I can't remember, Denise Richards, Romy Schneider, Teri Hatcher, Grace Kelly, and Scarlett Johansson. Male celebrities I supposedly resemble are David Duchovny and Oscar Wilde.

I was handpicked for a job last year from the books of pretty much every agent in the country. I was in a group of six, and the other five had no features in common but they all had very unusual faces.

Maybe some people don't have a commonly discernible facial type?
posted by tel3path at 10:33 AM on December 16, 2012


Eh, I think those computer programs are useless. I think the last time I did it I got Barbra Streisand, who I look nothing like except that we're both white women with brownish hair.
posted by Sara C. at 10:38 AM on December 16, 2012


Yeah, but I do kind of look like all of those people. I even agree that Scarlett Johansson is the one I look least like, and yet there are moments when I could swear I do look like her.

But none of the people I listed really look like each other.
posted by tel3path at 10:40 AM on December 16, 2012


I have also never seen anyone who looked like Lily Cole, except Lily Cole.

I walked past someone who resembled her in Cambridge one evening, but I figured it must just be someone who looked like her.

Later I realized that I'd never ever seen anyone in my life who had a similar face, and that the odds of walking past a Lily Cole-a-Like in Cambridge of all places were slimmer than the odds of walking past Lily Cole herself.
posted by tel3path at 10:57 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pro Tip don't do the what celebrity do I look like game with friends unless you're willing to hear yourself compared to a fat James McAvoy.

Which is totally wrong I'm fat Jake Gynthall damnit.
posted by The Whelk at 10:58 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


tel3path: Yeah, but I do kind of look like all of those people. [...] But none of the people I listed really look like each other.
If I am not mistaken, the heterogeneous pieces I have enumerated resemble Kafka; if I am not mistaken, not all of them resemble each other. This second fact is more significant. In each of these texts we find Kafka's idiosyncrasy to a greater or lesser degree, but if Kafka had never written a line, we would not perceive this quality; in other words, it would not exist. [...] The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.
Kafka and his Precursors, Jorge Luis Borges.
posted by stebulus at 11:17 AM on December 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


My brother, who is white as am I, is the spitting image of a well-known African-American sports star. When I met the sports star on a plane, I apologized for looking at him closely by explaining the resemblance, which encompasses ears, teeth, etc.. "Is one of you adopted?" he asked. "No" I replied and used my phone to show him photos of my brother. He was really freaked out.

Growing up I had a friend with a common name who had a doppelganger residing in the area. Making it even worse, they shared the same first name and their last names were near homoynyms (think McDonald and MacDonald). Eventually someone got them together... and they didn't like each other at all.
posted by carmicha at 11:28 AM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, this thread is perfect! (though the photos in the actual FPP, not always so convincing):

I have a real life doppelganger, who I went to high school with. Having met her, the resemblance really is uncanny. I freely confess that I occasionally pretended to be her when I wanted off campus early for lunch (she was much nicer than I, and had charmed all the campus safety folks).

People frequently mistake me for a cousin, long lost friend, or someone that they just can't put their fingers on. This used to happen frequently, to the point of irritation.

I often get stopped and asked for directions in cities I don't live in. This is despite the fact that I lived in LA for several years and have perfected my 'leave me the fuck alone' face. It stops the Greenpeace people but not the innocent tourists.

I am not infrequently asked reference questions outside the library by complete strangers, sometimes in strange cities even (and I was asked library questions more than once when I was still a teenager--frequently while standing next to my mother, who actually worked at the library).

I can only conclude that not only do we all have the generic pan-European friendly and helpful face, but that the Great Euro-type Cloning Experiment, XX version, of 1981-1987 was a roaring success.
posted by librarylis at 11:31 AM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's been awhile, and probably has something to do with no longer living in an area with a lot of other Caucasians, but nearly everyone I met, up until maybe a couple of years ago, told me that I looked exactly like a person they knew. Just something that always came up, and really, how can you respond to that other than, "oh, that's nice."

By drawing a broadsword and demanding your doppelganger's address.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:55 AM on December 16, 2012


I am often told I resemble Liz Minelli. Heard it for years, mostly when my hair is pixie short like hers. Got it extra from strangers when I was ultra-pregnant; even heard it from the anesthesiologist in the labor room (focus, lady!). I can't decide if that's because a rounder face made me look more like her, or people are just more likely to talk to a pregnant lady.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:06 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am often told I resemble Liz Minelli. Heard it for years, mostly when my hair is pixie short like hers. Got it extra from strangers when I was ultra-pregnant; even heard it from the anesthesiologist in the labor room (focus, lady!). I can't decide if that's because a rounder face made me look more like her, or people are just more likely to talk to a pregnant lady.

Maybe people are just more likely to talk to Liza Minelli.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:21 PM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


My boyfriend has a lot of features that totally duplicate those of Adrien Brody, so sometimes watching his movies can be really eerie.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:38 PM on December 16, 2012


mathowie: "My own pet hypothesis about why this is is that maybe there are about 500 basic face shape/size combos and you can only have so many people without some of them starting to look familiar."

I'm not so sure that there's some basic set of faces. But maybe your 500 number is significant in another way. Perhaps 500 combinations is the most people can easily distinguish between. This might explain why Ghidorah sees a lot of facial variation in the comparatively small genetic pool of Japan.
posted by pwnguin at 1:10 PM on December 16, 2012


My boyfriend has a lot of features that totally duplicate those of Adrien Brody, so sometimes watching his movies can be really eerie.

I also wonder if this is why I know so many people who have claimed to see celebrities in random places and I never have (in NYC, Susan Sarandon seems to be one everyone except me has seen for example). But then again, I don't think I'd recognize actors in public anyway since I have the same problem of being unable to differentiate actors within movies described above.
posted by pravit at 1:42 PM on December 16, 2012


I am told quite regularly that I look just like Joakim Noah except a foot and a couple of inches shorter. I don't know that I can disagree with them.

Also, I apparently have a doppelganger who lives in St. Louis with me. Every week I have someone ask me if I am so and so or INSIST that yes I know you, stop playing etc. It gets tiring when I have to respond that no I don't know them and no seriously I'm not this person.

It's weird because I have spotted two people in St. Louis one of which is a striking image of my brother who I KNOW is in Puerto Rico and another who looks exactly like my Puerto Rican friend.

I definitely have movie face blindness unless I try really hard. I just counted it as supreme suspension of disbelief.
posted by lizarrd at 4:19 PM on December 16, 2012


Makes me think of physiognomy- ths kind of phenomena could be what got those ideas started, even


My mom's a twin, and I would get her confused with my aunt when I was young. There's no childhood memory quite like running up to a lady going "mom, mom" and pulling on her pant leg, and her saying "I'm not your mom," even though she is clearly your mom.

Luckily I can tell them apart now.
posted by windykites at 4:42 PM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


My mom once asked me when I had done a photo shoot for the cover of Newsweek. I'm on the right. (Sorry, that's the largest image of that cover I could find.)
posted by IndigoRain at 7:57 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


My wife and I were served at dinner by a woman who was the spitting image of Gillian Jacobs(if she was in Seattle in the 90's) a few days ago. Like to the point that when she approached the table and I looked up, my heart raced a bit and I thought "Holy shit, is a famous person about to bring me pizza?"

I don't like to say anything to a stranger about that kind of resemblance, because a) they've probably heard it before, and b) what is there to say besides "Um.. thanks? ... [uncomfortable silence]"?

As an aside, when my dad was still around, he was frequently mistaken for any of a number of classic rock musicians. I think it's more because he looked the part than a likeness to any specific person, though.
posted by owtytrof at 8:30 PM on December 16, 2012


Oh man.

This reminds me of one night I spent 3 years ago in London. In the span of about 15 minutes, I was approached by no fewer than 8 people, each of whom was completely convinced that I had drugs to sell to them.

Outside of those 15 minutes, this has never happened to me. I've always been curious about why the stars briefly lined up on that night to convince numerous passersby in Camden Town that I was a drug dealer.
posted by schmod at 9:16 PM on December 16, 2012


to be fair there was/is a time period where just asking random strangers on the streets of Camden Town for drugs would've paid off.
posted by The Whelk at 9:21 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


you guys i totally just came across someone on tumblr who looks EXACTLY like me wtf
posted by ninjew at 10:49 PM on December 16, 2012


But, is it art?
posted by roboton666 at 11:49 PM on December 16, 2012


I am consistently told I look just like the lead singer for Arcade Fire.

Whereas I look like Mikey from American Chopper, only somewhat older.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:47 AM on December 17, 2012


When I was in my 20's some friends used to cut photos out of magazines when they saw one of my doppelgangers. I liked the bondage one. The fellow who had my face was better looking than me though, which was disturbing.

When I was 16 I stayed at a friend's place. I hadn't known her for all that long and she lived with her father. When I met him he was gobsmacked. I was the spitting image of a treasured girlfriend from long ago (he showed me the photo and it was uncanny) and he spent the night staring at me and getting drunk. When my friend and I went to bed, her dad came in and gave her a kiss goodnight and then kissed me too, but with full tongue. LAWDY.

I rang my dad the next morning and got the hell out of there. Having a twin across space and time can be weird.
posted by h00py at 3:41 AM on December 17, 2012


I'd been told I look a lot like Rachel Maddow. For a while, there was a trend on Facebook of people changing their profile photos to those of their celebrity doppelgängers, so I thought, huh, I'll give it a whirl. Found a picture of RM, put it up, and got several comments to the effect of, "Hey, if your hair were slightly different or you had different glasses, you'd look exactly like Rachel Maddow!" (It wasn't that they were seeing this picture and realizing it was Rachel Maddow and that I did indeed look like her, but rather that they thought it was a photo of me and that I could make adjustments to my [her] appearance to look more like her.)

That convinced me that, okay, sure, we look alike. I'd still never seen anything but a still picture of her, until very recently when I saw her in an ad. We have the same style of speaking and identical neck moles.

So now whenever I wake up from what should have been a restful sleep but still feel tired, I become convinced that I somehow sleep-hosted a top-rated MSNBC show.
posted by coppermoss at 5:47 AM on December 17, 2012


That is an incredibly creepy story, h00py.
posted by Miko at 5:47 AM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


h00py's creepy story about doppelgangers through time and space reminded me of a situation with my grandmother. Her oldest daughter died at around age 6 and I looked just like her, as confirmed by photos. When I was young my grandmother would get a little misty around me sometimes but as I grew up the resemblance became less and less emotional for her. Fast forward three decades and I'm in my mid-thirties and Grandma is suffering from dementia. It all happens again, only now she looks at me, sees her daughter and wonders why she/I have been gone all these years (never mind that her daughter would have been about 60). She's happy I seem to be ok but very confused as to why I left and wants to know if something awful happened to make me leave, if she did anything wrong, etc. I tried explaining who I was (with help from other family members) and just going with it and reassuring her that I'd had a good life and that I love her, but either way it was terribly upsetting to her. Ultimately, I just kind of stayed on the periphery of family gatherings. Very weird.
posted by carmicha at 7:11 AM on December 17, 2012


Speaking of wives, mine consistently misidentifies a group of Hollywood actors, because they all look alike to her. Nicolas Cage, Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford - they're all interchangeable white guys to her.

A lot of actresses seem interchangeable too. Lauren Hutton, Faye Dunaway and Jessica Lange, for instance.
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:56 AM on December 17, 2012


That's funny because to me, those three actresses are very dissimilar types.
posted by tel3path at 9:22 AM on December 17, 2012


My husband and I moved from the incredibly varied population of Northern Virginia to Lincoln, Nebraska. Since then, we've played the game of "spot the Nebraska face," because we swear there's a type of look that many people in the area have. Not everybody has it, it's just a facial type that seems to occur more frequently based, we assume, on the European countries that many people's ancestors came from. I tried to describe it to a native Nebraskan and got a puzzled look.

Me, I don't seem to look like anybody except my sister, who is ten years younger. When we were kids, we looked very different, and then sort of grew into resemblance (to the point where occasionally we'd get asked if we were twins) and now I think it's mostly mannerisms.
posted by PussKillian at 9:25 AM on December 17, 2012


Coppermoss, will you marry me?

(I'm actually now questioning the time I saw Rachel Maddow on the street, in the West Village in NYC, in gym clothes, and felt very proud of myself for not enveloping her in some kind of queer lady fangasm. Care to shed some light there?)
posted by Sara C. at 10:08 AM on December 17, 2012


I've always been under the impression that everyone has a celebrity doppleganger, but I'll be damned if I've ever found anyone I bore more than a passing resemblance to...
posted by stenseng at 10:12 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't have any visible doppelgangers but I did get three different people asking me after Scott Pilgrim came out how Kirean Culkin was doing such a dead on Whelk impersonation.
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 AM on December 17, 2012


It's funny how frequently you'll run into someone on the street who is the spitting image of an ex, or an old friend who's been on your mind, or a teacher from hell. Sometimes I wonder whether the way we externally perceive people is mostly rooted in subjective state of mind. It's certainly true of how we look at ourselves in the mirror, so why not others as well?
posted by naju at 10:32 AM on December 17, 2012


I discovered when you're a white dude with long hair, you look like many unrelated famous white dudes with long hair.

When I was working in the Olive Garden in Philly, I got a lot of "OH, you now who you look JUST LIKE" from black customers, which I found fascinating, as it was often celebrities who were white twentysomething-ish males but who otherwise bore no great resemblance to me. White customers never seemed to think I looked like any particular celebrities.

Most interesting was the fact that I would frequently get both Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Dustin Diamond: Zack and Screech from Saved By The Bell. I would just roll with it, no bigs, not entirely sure which was the more complimentary of the two.

So one day this woman came in, and she was like, "OH! You look just like that guy!"
"Ha ha ha, yeah," I said.
"You know who I'm talking about -- that guy from Saved By The Bell!"
"Yeah, I get that a lot."

and to this day, I still do not know which "that guy" it was. For all I know, in fact, it might have been Slater or Mr. Belding.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:34 PM on December 17, 2012


i have one of those familiar faces too, as i'm constantly being told i look like just like someone they know - or worse, actually being confused for that someone (i'm borderline faceblind and whenever this happens it sends me into a brief panic - i could very well know them and just not recognize them).

i worked as a cashier through college and i would get a different celebrity comparison every week. i don't know if it was just people making conversation or if they actually thought i looked like these celebrities, but they were all over the map - winona ryder, ann-margaret, sara gilbert, the girl from "father of the bride," "the slutty one" from sex and the city", the lady villain from superman 2, etc etc. they seem ridiculous to me, but maybe it is because i'm kinda faceblind that i really don't get it.
posted by marshmallow peep at 1:00 PM on December 17, 2012


Sara C., That was not me, so I'm guessing you saw her for real. Though if a strange woman approached me and started gushing about how wonderful she thought I was (however erroneously), that would be an awesome thing. I'm guessing celebrities tire of it quickly, though.
posted by coppermoss at 2:42 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sometime around when I was 22 in 1994ish, a woman thought I was Chelsea Clinton. Like seemed really impressed and nervous about approaching me. She barely seemed to believe me when I said I wasn't her. Yes, the 14 year old daughter of the president wanders around the New Orleans mall alone, looking at frying pans. Then, in about 1998, a guy I worked with used to go on and on about how I looked just like Monica Lewinsky. I don't think I look like either one of them, and it seems like it'd be pretty hard to look like both of them.

Someone I know married a girl who looks exactly like him. I've never met her, but looking at their facebook pictures is always fun.
posted by artychoke at 9:30 PM on December 17, 2012


OK ricochet biscuit, you are on the pub quiz team! I have a friend who knows about sport and music, so we just need politics and contemporary culture covering.

I have a familiar face and am pretty bad at remembering where I know faces from. The results is a number of conversations where somebody thinks they recognise me from somewhere, and I can't tell them from where that might be or get too excited about it as there is a good chance that I am not that guy. Generally I just agree with them to avoid upset.
posted by asok at 5:58 AM on December 18, 2012


Wow, all these comments and no one yet has mentioned how exactly alike Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman look? I can almost never guess which is which in still pictures, and in video I still have to work at it.

I've never been told I look like anyone else, but apparently my voice is indistinguishable from my mom's.
posted by Night_owl at 12:56 PM on December 18, 2012


(I'm actually now questioning the time I saw Rachel Maddow on the street, in the West Village in NYC, in gym clothes, and felt very proud of myself for not enveloping her in some kind of queer lady fangasm. Care to shed some light there?)

That was Matthew Perry.
posted by The World Famous at 1:31 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the left is a picture of Sinead O'Connor. On the right, a picture of the young to-be Pope John Paul II. I was in a bookstore when I saw the book about John Paul pulled out just as pictured. I thought it was a book about Sinead, and was rocked back on my heels when I saw the real subject of the book. (The two lose a lot of similarity when you see John Paul's entire face.)

The resemblance alone is quite striking, but I mean, really. The very same man whose picture she tore in half? Just incredible.
posted by thebrokedown at 11:05 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Rachael Ray totally works at my doctor's office, and Maya Rudolph took care of my mom in the hospital last year. Like, two days after I said she looked like Maya, another woman told her the same thing.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:11 PM on December 21, 2012


Holyshit The Ninth Gate is on and I swear I must have played The Girlin it and not remembered afterwards. It's plausible, because I was on generic ADD meds in 1999 and everyone knows they suck. I can't account for my movements during that time period.

Because I'm sure Emmanuelle Seigner looks nothing like The Girl the rest of the time. And it goes without saying - nothing like me.
posted by tel3path at 4:16 PM on December 22, 2012


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