I have a lot of trouble recognising people, and it seriously interferes with my enjoyment of certain movies.
On a scale of 1 to 10, my ability to recognise people I’ve met before is beyond terrible.
At times this is inconvenient, like when I introduce myself to someone at a conference and they gently remind me that we’ve met at several conferences before. Same thing at meetings.
Fortunately I can smile sweetly, which usually stops them being too mad.
Look, it’s not my fault that all people look the same. They all have hair, except the ones who don’t. They all have faces, except the ones who don’t. And they all have a body, two arms, and two legs. Except the ones who don’t.
They don’t give me many differences to go on.
But real life isn’t the main problem with not being able to recognise people. The main problem is that it means a lot of movies make no sense.
Once you get past a cast of one guy and one girl (who I can tell apart, provided the girl’s hair is sufficiently long and the guy’s hair is sufficiently short and/or he has a beard) I start to get confused.
And some movies set out to be confusing. I mean, who thinks that two groups of nondescript white guys, many of whom have brown hair, can be told apart?
Take Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, for instance. My husband thinks this is a great movie.
I wouldn’t know. I can’t following the story line because I can’t tell the two groups of guys apart.
I would explain the plot so you’d know why this is such a problem, but the fact I can’t tell the groups of men apart means I don’t know the plot, even though I’ve seen the movie several times.
It’s problematic, I tell you.
On the other hand, some movies are designed for people like me. The Princess Bride is an excellent example. It has only one important woman in it, and she’s easy to tell apart because she has exceptionally long hair.
Then, from recollection, there are five important male characters. One is a giant, and thus easy to distinguish. One has a delightful moustache, which I don’t forget in a hurry. One is a little man, and he dies quite near the start anyway.
The last two, Westley and Prince Humperdinck, look similar enough to be problematic, but someone came up with a great solution for that: let’s stick a mask on Westley. Even I can figure out which guy is wearing the mask.
I tell you, more movies should be considerate to people like me the way The Princess Bride is.
Enchanted is another great example of a considerate movie. It has three adult men and three adult women as main characters. That’s a lot, and yet they’re all totally different.
One of the men is a rat, so I’ll always know him, one is doctor, and one wears poofy prince clothes and acts insane. Pretty hard to mix them up.
One of the women is blonde and insane, one has dark hair and is very much sane, and the third is an evil witch who wears a lot of eyeshadow.
Maybe I should stick to watching Disney-type movies.
Maybe the lesson here is not that you need to keep your cast to one person of each gender (which is admittedly limiting), but that each character should be distinctive. Not John and George. Not a dark-haired man of average height and a brown-haired man of above average height.
Give one guy one arm, make one half alien, and give one a big grey beard and a pointy hat. Whatever. Just make them different. I will thank you for it.
Do you ever have trouble telling characters apart? Any advice on how to remember faces I might run into at conferences? … and is this all just me?
Join one of my mailing lists so you never miss a post or story. You’ll know the emails you get are from me because they’ll say they’re from me.