There’s something unnerving about the whole idea: someone who looks and talks exactly like us, but isn’t us. Perhaps that is the reason why these doubles were seen as an omen of bad luck throughout the ages, and were likely the source of the “evil twin” cliché.
The concept actually dates back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptian mythology, for instance, speaks of “ka,” or a tangible spirit double that has the same memories and feelings as the person to whom it belongs. Norse and Finnish folk tales have similar creatures existing parallel to us.
Why is the concept of a body double so troubling and enticing simultaneously? Perhaps it has something to do with the Victorian tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where the doctor is battling with a physical manifestation of his innermost base, animal desires.
There’s something liberating about imagining that out there somewhere is a version of us that is completely freed of society’s constraints, but it’s also terrifying – they are exactly how we would be, if we truly let loose. If we no longer listened to the inhibitions that are rightfully placed on us in our normal lives.
Celebrities are a curious recent development that may in a sense be considered part of this idea. Naturally, they’re their own people who are definitely not us but – potential physical resemblance aside – we like to draw on the similarities between our stories.
Perhaps they, like us, suffered a difficult upbringing, or worked tedious menial jobs to make ends meet. Perhaps they encountered setback after setback before finally striking it rich with that one breakout role. In examining their successes, and especially their failures, we like to find how our life mirrored theirs at some point. It gives us another reason to connect with our favorite actor or singer, not to mention hope that we might too one day be like them.
But who do these celebrities look to? Despite leading a life so vastly different to ours that it could almost be considered alien, they are still people, flesh and blood. When you have all of the fame, fortune, talent and good looks in the world, who do you think resembles you? Would you look at a pauper, or some other everyman, or would you look to kings and nobles?