7    Feb 20100 comments

Doppelganger: from Poe to Facebook

Obama Celebrity Look A-likes
Obama's Celebrity Collage

Early last week Facebook was frenzied by members eager to find their celebrity doppelganger. MyHeritage’s Celebrity Look-alike application helped many find their celebrity double. Our web application has a unique ability to survey the human face and compare it to a database of thousands of celebrities, helping you find the perfect virtual match!

Finding your alternate has long held a special place in the heart of mankind. Psychologists tend to pin it to the evolution of self-awareness, which trends back into early human history. This enormous history arc was formed in part by Greek mythology and the story of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection cast on a pond. And Krishna, whose outlandish self-admiration set him to search for his qualities manifest in his mates. Or simply take a look at art commissioned by royalty or nobles dating to early civilization, where you will find figureheads that are painted or sculpted according to their projected demeanor; at once similar in formal features as dissimilar in their portrayal of desired self.

This has a lot to do as well with our physical attraction to those who look similar to us. Studies conducted at the University of Madison Wisconsin suggest there exists a psychological bind feeding a human propensity to seek out others’ who, well, look like them. So birds of a feather really do flock together. Although this science does not include everyone, it is an interesting truism that has served as a springboard for arts, superstition, and entertainment.

The doppelganger for centuries has been connected to the underworld. For instance, in German folk superstition, the doppelganger was seen as the harbinger of death. In fact, President Abraham Lincoln believed just that. Convinced he encountered his double reflection in a mirror, he professed it to be an omen, that he would be elected for second term, but not live to see the end of the term.

The doppelganger also dots the history of literature. Edgar Allen Poe traversed the eerie realm of the doppelganger as the literary double in Cask of Amantillado, among other short stories, where the stories protagonist, Montresor, commits murder and the victim is his alter ego. Similarly, in Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson, we see the doppelganger manifest in Dr. Jekyl’s fissure from his bodily form, to be cast into another, Mr. Hyde, with a redefined physical and moral identity, his shadow personality. This form of the doppelganger combines both the replication of self with the transformation of self, resulting in a character in its wrong body. This theme allowed authors to toy with a morally contentious psyche, utilizing what Faust described as the male desire to be split between two souls, a theme expanded on in Oscar Wilde’s A Portrait of Dorian Grey.

The doppelganger thematic carries on steadfast, gracing film and TV alike. In the film Fight Club by Jim Uhls, Brad Pitt plays Edward Norton’s double, allowing the narrator to escape the limitations created by the moral society and be liberated and empowered by discomfort and squalor. On the popular sitcom Seinfeld, Larry David bends the doppelganger to hilarity when the gang meets their “bizzaro” selves: cleaned up, constructive, decent human beings living their exact opposite life. These examples merely dust the surface of the doppelganger theme in contemporary media.

We have seen the role of social media affect our perception of self. These platforms allow users to project their desired self to the world, much like the self-portraits of yesteryear. It is an interesting means to usher the fabric of history into a modern day paradigm.

Doppelganger week on Facebook has been a wildly popular and lively activity. It has been the focal point of blogs and tech media across the globe, and is sure to be a yearly event. Because of it, MyHeritage has seen a surge in site visits, as we lay claim to the original Celebrity Look Alike feature. You can watch Mario Ruckh, director of global marketing, discuss the MyHeritage feature and watch a visual history of the doppelganger on the interview with ABC World News Now embedded below!

Find your celebrity double here!

ABC Facebook's Doppelganger Craze Featuring Mario from MyHeritage!

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