Monday, February 26, 2018

Who is Charlie Chaplin?

Charlie Chaplin is said to have entered once a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest and he lost: He became third. When I searched for it on the Internet in order to find out whether it was true, I found that it had happened in 1915 according to some websites, while other websites say that it was in 1975. Again other websites say that it’s not true. It looks like an “alternative fact”, as the American president Trump has called it. That’s interesting, for some governments (like the French government) want to forbid by law to publish alternative facts on the Internet, which would mean that such amusing websites have to be removed from the web, if the contents is not definite. Be it as it may, for this blog the factuality of this fact is not important, for Dolly Parton says that she, too, once lost a lookalike contest, so such things happen. Philosophically and psychologically it is interesting, for how can it happen?
If you ask a cartoonist to draw a certain well-known person such as a politician or a pop star, it’s likely that he’ll exaggerate the characteristics of that person, especially the facial traits. It’s not only because it may be amusing, but by doing so the person drawn is easier recognized: You see immediately who it is. And so it is also in a lookalike contest. If you want to recognize the participant as Charlie Chaplin’s double, he must exaggerate Chaplin’s traits and behaviour just a little so that he is a bit more Chaplin than Chaplin himself is. That’s the best way to look alike Charlie Chaplin. And in the end a person is who he is, so that’s why Chaplin himself failed. Note, however, that Chaplin finished third and not last or almost. So to look alike another you must exaggerate but not too much.
Such a contest raises the question “Who am I?” For in the eyes of others who look at me and who judge me, I am not myself if I am myself but only if I am just a little bit more than myself. Sometimes we say about a person that she or he has excelled her or himself, when s/he did something extraordinary. In view of the foregoing it is to be wondered whether it is true. Anyway, such a yourself lookalike contest in which you participated but didn’t win or such a deed by which you allegedly excelled yourself say a lot about the idea of personal identity. For is it true that you are simply the traits that constitute you plus your past, so the way you got your traits, as identity philosophers tell us? Judging by how a cartoonist or a lookalike contest jury would see you, it’s not the case. Then your identity does not exist of your actual version of yourself, whatever this may be – for how to establish who you actually are? – but it is a kind of biased version of it; or rather I would prefer to say that your identity is a saturated version of the actual version of yourself, to say it in a clumsy way. In photography many photographers tend to process photos that way that the colours are just a little bit (or sometimes a lot) more saturated than they are in reality. Red is made somewhat redder, blue somewhat bluer, yellow somewhat yellower, etc. They think that the colours in the photo are really so or they think that it’s more beautiful. And so it’s also with your personal identity: It’s the saturated version of yourself – at least in the view of others! One step more and one could call it a prejudiced version of yourself. In the end you are only a caricature of yourself, aren’t you?

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