Textual Celebrity Resemblance
When a character in a book is described relative to their resemblance to a celebrity


(permanent link) added: 2011-06-29 12:41:16 sponsor: BonsaiForest (last reply: 2011-07-04 19:39:10)

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I was going to name this Totally Looks Like, but considering the problem we have with people misunderstanding what tropes mean and only looking at their name, it would end up a disaster.

Anyway, this is when books describe characters' appearances in reference to a (presumably) well-known celebrity. Although it's meant to be a simple shorthand to make it easy for readers to quickly understand what a character looks like and even immediately recognize them as being attractive (if the celebrity in question is attractive), it causes problems when readers don't know the celebrity and can't make the connection. Especially a problem with older works if the reference ends up dated and forgotten.

Note: This is a narration in literature trope. Please don't add any examples that exclusively involve dialog. This refers only to when the narration describes characters' appearance by making a celebrity comparison.

Examples:

  • Left Behind describes its villain, Nicolae Carpathia, as looking like a young Robert Redford. This is meant to give an idea of the charm he evokes.
  • In one book, the female lead was established as having a crush on Robert Redford, and the male lead was described as looking a bit like him "if he was a rummy and a drunk." This is clarified within the same paragraph as like "two people had constructed a model human from identical parts, but one had followed the instructions and the other had just bashed it together."
  • In the very first James Bond book, Casino Royale, Bond is described by one character to another as looking similar to Hoagy Charmichael. Bond himself is aware of the comparision (even though he wasn't involved in that conversation - he's probably Heard It A Million Times): in another scene he looks at himself in the mirror and thinks that Charmichael is much better looking than he. Comes up again in Moonraker.
  • Common in fanfiction by less ambitious authors. Why bother wasting words on descriptions when you can just say your heroine looks just like Cameron Diaz or Audrey Hepburn?
  • In X-Men books, Storm is now described as resembling Halle Berry.
  • Ebony opens the notoriously bad Harry Potter fanfiction My Immortal by describing herself as looking like Amy Lee.
  • In the Sweet Valley High books, Mr. Collins was described as looking like Robert Redford. In the new, updated editions he's just described as looking like "a movie star".
  • From So Long And Thanks For All The Fish:
    If you took a couple of David Bowies and stuck one of the David Bowies on the top of the other David Bowie, then attached another David Bowie to the end of each of the arms of the upper of the first two David Bowies and wrapped the whole business up in a dirty beach robe you would then have something which didn't exactly look like John Watson, but which those who knew him would find hauntingly familiar.
  • How NOT to Write a Novel marks this as a lazy and ineffective storytelling device.
  • In one of Robert Rankin's Armageddon books, a group of minor characters with No Fourth Wall insist that, since Rankin never bothered to describe them, they can decide they all look like celebrities.

More examples?
replies: 8

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