As a child, I used to spend hours trying to imagine what my identical twin was doing on the opposite side of the world. To the best of my knowledge, I didn’t (and I don’t) have an identical twin, but that little bit of information had no place in the world of a child’s imagination. I simply reasoned that on a planet of six billion or so people there had to be someone who looked and acted exactly like me.
Clearly I did not understand minor things like genetics or DNA when I developed my elaborate fantasies about Chinese Me playing Legend of Zelda for hours or throwing temper tantrums at his parents about not wanting to vacuum the basement steps. In any case, I probably never thought too deeply on the particulars of the subject because I spent the majority of my time imagining a wonderful meeting with my counterpoint and little to no time thinking the experience could actually be completely horrible.
Enter exhibit A, The Double, English actor-comedian-writer-director Richard Ayoade’s very impressive second film (which was only released in the United States this past May). The Double is an odd, creepy film that is based on the Dostoevsky novel of the same name and would most certainly freak out all but the most levelheaded of children.
So, cast away those thoughts of playing hopscotch and tag with your twin, and dive into a world where your alter ego is a crafty loquacious bastard who makes your life a permanent bastion of Hell. Having a twin doesn’t sound so fun now, does it? For all of those silly antics the twins got up to in The Parent Trap or… ehm… Twins, it just doesn’t seem worth it when your Second is systematically removing you from your own life.
The Double works well because we probably all have a little bit of fear in the back of our minds that someone will come along and supersede us. (No? Well, maybe that’s just me…) There we are, minding our own business and dutifully trying to churn out an article that won’t result in our firing, when all of a sudden someone trots on by with all the golden smile and the golden words that you never seemed to be able to pull off. Your co-workers are impressed, your friends are enthralled, and your family immediately begins vocalizing their preference for this new superstar. And if you had a girlfriend, well, she would have already left you for him.
It’s a pretty terrifying scenario, isn’t it? We spend our days trying to find meaning and substance and worth in tiny cordoned neighborhoods on top of a tiny pinprick (also known as Earth) hurtling through a vast, endless, and inescapable space. We grow up and leave our childish things behind; we grab jobs and relationships, and we stack up responsibilities like flimsy card houses; and we stumble into the future with varying degrees of planning, luck, and ignorance. Just imagining the horror of someone wandering into your life to snatch it all away is almost enough to become a permanent homebody!
I’m not a particularly paranoid person, so I don’t generally spend my days spazzing out and wondering if an evil twin will arrive to take my place. But even if I’m not looking over my shoulder every time I head out the door, I still enjoy philosophizing over the possibilities and pondering “what if”? Many hazy nights with friends were spent wondering about The Matrix. (“Yeah, man… but… but what if the machines actually made the movie just so that when we watched it we wouldn’t believe it was possible – because it was a movie! Reverse psychology, dude!” “Whoaa… whoa… you just blew my mind, man…”) And no, Mom, I was not high when that conversation took place, so please stop asking!
But by far the source of my most fantastical questionings was at the hands of The Truman Show. I never actually believed I was the centerpiece of a 24-hour television show or anything like that, but I did love to entertain the fantasy. Most people like to be the center of attention, but for attention-hogging junkies like me the idea of being constantly filmed was a perverse delight. I would always try to make a “good show” for my audience. This usually entailed me acting like a loon (whether others were present or not) and dancing, singing, and diving headfirst into the kind of adventures I would have liked to see if I was watching a 24-hour television show starring myself.
I’ve never had any lighting equipment fall from the sky, nor have I ever experienced any of the other kooky things Truman faces in the film, so, unfortunately, I guess I have to conclude that I am not unknowingly starring in my own television series. Or, if I want to keep the fantasy alive, perhaps I can simply conclude that my own captors have streamlined the process and simply eliminated the chance for me to figure out the truth about my situation. Even Truman didn’t figure out the truth until he was in his 30s, after all.
I can see them now. They are sitting in a control room somewhere above the Big Dipper plotting out my “life.”
Evil Television Exec 1 – “He’s growing suspicious. We need something to keep him from exploring his neighborhood too much.”
Evil Television Exec 2 – “Let’s make a movie about a man who is filmed unknowingly for his entire life. He’ll never believe it could be possible if he sees a movie about it!”
Both – “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH”
Bastards. Well, I’ll show them. I’ll just masturbate in front of my window every night until they let me go free. How’s that for Must-See Television, boys?
More from Dominick at dominickjgrillo.com or holla at him on Twitter @dominickjgrillo