(L-R) Chris Pine/ Chris Evans/ Chris Hemsworth/ Chris Pratt.
They're perfectly aware of it. How could they not be?
When Chris Pine hosted SNL last year, his monologue focused on the fact that so many people have a hard time telling the difference between him, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Pratt. In the bit, Kate McKinnon hit the core issues right on the head: "You're all kind of scruffy and squinty and jacked, but in a sweet way." Pine channeled his faux-frustration into a musical number: "I'm not that Chris, I look just like him, but I'm not that Chris," he sang. "We're all white guys, but these aren't the white guys I am."
It was a brilliant acknowledgement of the homogenization of what so often constitutes An Attractive Hero in Hollywood these days: mousy-brown hair, tall in stature, light eyes, strong jawline, and muscular physique. While there are female celebrities who are also easy to confuse with one another (Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain; Zooey Deschanel and Katy Perry), it seems to be a more common problem for famous men -- particularly the ones in superhero movies (which all four Chrises are).
Back in 2014, the New York Times compiled a list of “the men vying to be the next action superstar.” These are three out of the five people listed, and not only do Theo James, Stephen Amell, and Kellan Lutz all look like each other -- they all look like the four Chrises too.
So what's going on here?
A mountain of evidence suggests the rise of the Chris (and the doppelgängers that will inevitably follow) is no accident. In fact, it's a little surprising that this hasn't happened sooner. Research shows that the traits that make them somewhat difficult to distinguish are considered the most desirable by the largest number of people.
Then there are the kinds of big muscles necessary to star in Thor, Wonder Woman, Captain America, and Guardians of the Galaxy. It is probably also a factor that, according to Psychology Today, women prefer "a strong and well-defined musculature on the upper body and a narrow and slim waist.” In another poll, conducted for Men's Health, results stated that “women in cross-cultural studies have also ranked men with broad chins [and] high cheekbones as the most attractive.” Let's not forget that, until recently, Hollywood didn't think women had any other reason to be interested in superhero movies.
But the appeal of the Chris -- and the reason they look so similar -- lies in more than just big muscles and pretty faces; it's about the little details. In a survey of over 1,000 people, Fastlife.com found that blue is the most attractive eye color to both women and men -- all of the Chrises have blue eyes, except Pratt, whose are green.
Then there's that mousy hair color. In 2014, dating site Plenty of Fish compiled data from over 81,000 heterosexual profiles and 1.8 million messages. They found that men with brown hair were getting 20 percent more messages than men with any other hair color. And blondes came in second.
As for the scruffy facial hair? That's probably no accident either. According to an Australian study published in the Journal of Evolution and Human Behavior in 2013, "Women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive... Men [also] rated full beards and heavy stubble as most attractive... Our findings confirm that... an intermediate level of beardedness is most attractive."
In an article titled "Building a Bigger Action Hero" for Men's Journal, movie producer Deborah Snyder pointed out: “A decade or so ago, Stallone and Van Damme and Schwarzenegger were the action stars. Now we expect actors who aren’t action stars to transform themselves. And we expect them to be big and powerful and commanding.”
In the process of writing that piece, journalist Logan Hill stumbled across another major contributing factor to the confusingly similar looks of today's big stars. "Every [celebrity] trainer interviewed for this story," Hill wrote, "cited Brad Pitt’s ripped physique in 1999’s Fight Club as an inspiration. Previously known for his lush, golden hair, the girls’ guy Pitt was reborn as [Tyler] Durden, a sinewy, predatory man’s man."
A man that could appeal to men on one level, and women on another. A little bit like this one, who arrived a few years later:
Obviously, there are plenty of other dudes in Hollywood that don't look like the Chrises. Or the Ryans, for that matter. If we only look at the Marvel universe, for example, in addition to Hemsworth, Evans and Pratt, the superhero factory isn't so blind that it doesn't also understand the undeniable appeal of Paul Rudd (Antman), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), and Mark Ruffalo ( the Incredible Hulk). But never before in the history of cinema have we had so many leading men who looked so incredibly similar -- certainly not in the same film! (Thank you, Avengers: Infinity War).
It's a fair assumption that the Chrises (and the up-and-coming actors modeling themselves after them) were a calculated choice made by casting directors, in an attempt to appeal to the largest possible audience, with the most mainstream of tastes. Not only do these actors have all of the physical attributes that have been found by recent polls and studies to be most favorable, each of them manages to retain an everyman quality that is undoubtedly appealing.
Still, movie makers would be wise, moving forward, to remember a very smart thing William Shakespeare once wrote about having too much of a good thing... 2018 demands more diversity than this.
Care about what’s happening in Bay Area arts? Stay informed with one email every other week—right to your inbox.