I was recently interviewed by a University radio program about CHEAT CODE releasing and mentioned ‘facial identifier categories’ such as ‘Hemsworth’ and ‘Joan Rivers’ and I failed to explain what this is.
It's something like this photo...
But know, this technique comes with a warning.
Basically, I have a loose ability to say ‘this person looks like that person’ without the follow-up skill of knowing which one is which. A good example would be ‘the guy from Burn Notice looks like young Val Kilmer’. They have a similar mouth shape, I think… okay, I don’t know what it is, but the Burn Notice guy is a young Kilmer, and old Val Kilmer with added weight looks like John Travolta. (There are flaws with my method, obviously).
Can you determine who is in each above picture?
The Joan Rivers category consists of anyone who has had obvious facial reconstruction. And Hemsworth covers all excessively attractive men. Comedians get their own category because I often mistake them for other comedians who look nothing alike (so says my husband). Fred Armisen has magical powers and manages to be a category and also I can’t identify him in his own category sometimes. (Photos to help illustrate the Armisen phenomena follow)
In the town I currently live in (small town with deep family roots) there are a high number of families with extended relations who all live in close proximity. Thus, the ‘family name category’. Everyone is an ‘*insert local last name* Somebody’. There’s a particular family of brothers who tell me they look different from one another (I know they have different hair color and styles too, but it doesn’t translate to my ability to identify them the next time I see one of them).
Context clues often help me narrow things down. As soon as I can determine a setting I know someone from or a recent interaction/conversation, I start to feel more confident in knowing who I’m talking with.
Fred Armisen ^^^ Seriously. It's all him.
This brings up a point. Struggling with facial recognition does not mean everyone around me is cast in my faceless-walking horror movie world (though that’s an honest recurring nightmare I have).
Now the warning.
I don’t usually group my children into ‘categories’ because they’re with me and they each look completely different from one another (I can’t explain the level of blessing that is). However, a few years ago my middle daughter was super into learning cheerleading. Our high school has an amazing program where the cheerleaders teach the elementary kids routines for a week, and then the elementary kids get to perform at homecoming game half time show.
My daughter attended this program for multiple years. She loved it. She talked about it constantly—all year. Not even just the weeks leading up to prep and performance. Two years ago, the outfits included a large bow—to be worn in a pony tail by all the girls in her group. They were a team, and a team look alike (like a team).
Being the supportive parents we are, we took the rest of our kids to watch her perform, and this year—I had my phone camera. (do you see where this is going?) I tried to pay attention to where she stood at all practices (where the outfits were as unique as the kids like) within the group. Front row, a couple spots to the right.
When the performance started, so did my video. I zoomed in tight. I kept my lens trained on my excited girl—she was awesome! After the show, she raced up with red cheeks from doing her favorite thing in the whole world and she asked to see herself on the video.
“Sure thing, Sweetie. You did so good!”
I couldn’t understand why she became immediately crestfallen when the video started. I had great tight shots—I was right there—close enough to see all the moves—all the expression…
With angry tears my middle daughter managed to get out, “You think that’s me?!”
I had captured tight footage for a good seven minutes, of a complete stranger. She was in the right spot. She had the same outfit, hairstyle—bow.
They all looked the same. I had no idea which child was my daughter out there. (I immediately deleted all video).
It was one of the first times I was willing to admit I could not identify my own children—one of the first times I ever started talking about how I struggle with not knowing why I can’t remember who people are—how much I guess or ‘fudge it’.
The hardest part? My little girl never talked about junior cheer again. She never asked to participate after that. She tells people that she doesn’t like cheerleading.
If I can ever convince her to join a performance activity similar to that again, where team outfits and hairstyles are part of the experience, I know what I’ll do. I’ve thought about it a lot. I often kick myself that it didn’t occur to me before her performance that night.
I’ll give her a brightly colored band to wear on her ankle or wrist—somewhere I can see it. And I’ll keep my eye out for that stand-out item. I might have to fight a little to get permission, but I’m positive people would be understanding enough to allow something small like that—so I never fail my little girl in that way again.
Categories help me at least hold faces in groups, holding pens of similarities. It can be extremely useful, but not advised for use with close family.
Or if you're working with Fred Armisen... He's magical