Identical-Looking Asians

(James Carter [Chris Tucker] accidentally punches Lee [Jackie Chan] during a brawl with other Chinese men)
James Carter: Sorry, man!
Lee: Carter!
James Carter: All y'all look alike!

A simple way to show someone is culturally insensitive (but acceptably so) is for them to be unable to tell Asian individuals from one another. Almost always played for comedy, though occasionally it is used to show that a character is genuinely racist to the point of being unable or unwilling to tell individuals apart since they just view them as a whole.

This could all be partially explained by the commonality of brown eyes and straight black hair in Asia; blondes and brunettes are generally restricted to the Caucasian part of Asia. However, it's a psychological fact that humans have a harder time distinguishing details in faces from races that are unfamiliar to them. This trope is often turned on its head for comedy when Asian people will claim, "All white people look the same!"

Note that this trope applies only to East Asian people; while Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hindu Indians, Turks, Persians, Arabs, Jews, Hungarians, Finns, and even the Basque people of Spain are all technically "Asian" geographically and/or ancestrally, this trope deals more with the Asian Phenotype Stereotype: "yellow" skin, straight black hair, etc.

Compare Interchangeable Asian Cultures, a subtrope of Mistaken Nationality where entire Asian cultures are confused for one another (by either characters within the fiction or even creators of a work). Also compare Ditto Aliens, which is a similar phenomenon but applied to an alien group, rather than a foreign group. When they really do all look the same, see Only Six Faces.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Exploited in Monster, a young German cop denounces the protagonist Tenma (a Japanese doctor wanted for murder) to his superiors, but after Tenma saves his mother's life he then lies to his superiors by telling them that his suspect was called Dr. Chang and that he mistook him because of his oriental features.
  • Detective Conan discusses and inverts this in the episode introducing James Black. Kidnappers mistake Black for the wealthy American owner of a trained dolphin show. Conan explains to the Detective Boys that, just as All Asians Are Alike to many Westerners, all Caucasians look alike to many Asians. At the same time, this is subverted when Conan is able to differentiate Black from the show-owner because he speaks English with a British rather than Texan accent (at least for the show's purposes. However, he actually speaks it with a "Japanese actor reading phonetically" accent).
  • Kitsune no Yomeiri has a variation of this. When Ousuke traveled to his girlfriend's homeland, a bunch of fox spirits come up to him and he believes Tsunemaru has multiplied. Tsunemaru soon appears and feels insulted that he was mistaken for children, only for Ousuke to think they all look the same.

  • Played straight, but with a twist, by Henry Cho, a Korean comedian born and raised in Knoxville, Tennesse. At home, he never had problems finding his parents in a crowd, but in Korea?
  • Australian comedian Ahn Do appeared on family history/talk show Pictures of You and invoked this trope, talking about how his father pulled off a Dressing as the Enemy ploy:
    "So my father, who was a 25-year old Vietnamese kid at the time, he goes and he steals a high-level Communist soldier's uniform and paperwork. He walks right through the front door of the jail and he says, 'I need to take these two with me right now.' And they let my uncles go. My father pulled off a fantastic rescue with another guy's ID, right? It goes to prove even Asians think all Asians look the same."
  • Jim Jeffries has a bit where he complains about people who treat pets as practice kids. He says that they're nothing alike, since if you lose a dog, you just try to find a similar one before you wife comes home. But finding a similar looking kid? Damn near impossible, unless they're Asian or Black. Subverted, however, when he tells the audience (after they finish whooping at the joke) that it's not because they all look alike, but they're just much easier to buy.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Quite a few of Chris Tucker's lines throughout the Rush Hour series refer to this, along with every other crude Asian stereotype in the book. During a fight with a gang of Triads in Rush Hour 2 he accidentally punches Jackie's character in the face:
    Lee: Carter!
    Carter: All a y'all look alike!
  • In a DVD commentary for House of Flying Daggers, director Zhang Yimou admitted that he added in a new introduction scene for Andy Lau's character, who was originally supposed to be introduced already on an undercover mission, so that Western audiences wouldn't think he was two different characters. He and costar Zhang Ziyi then stated that they sometimes had trouble telling Western movie stars apart. In a separate commentary, he mentioned that he also had Lau eat peanuts in all his initial scenes in order to help audiences subconsciously identify him in his different roles.
  • Inverted in Help!, where Swami Clang can't tell the Beatles apart: "They look all the same in their similarity and language!"
  • Parodied and inverted in a Deleted Scene from Mimino: the two protagonists, a Tall, Dark and Handsome Porn Stache-wearing Georgian and a short, plump, barefaced Armenian, ride in an elevator of a Moscow hotel with two Japanese men, who happen to resemble each other like identical twins. One of the Japanese men tells the other: "Those Russians all look the same!"
  • In Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom, when Yu Ming (who doesn't speak English) arrives at his hotel in Dublin, he asks for a bed in perfect Irish. The Australian receptionist has no idea what he's talking about and calls over an East Asian employee to translate, who in a voice full of exasperation informs the receptionist that he's Mongolian, not Chinese.
  • Korean taxi drivers in Marseilles use this to their advantage in Taxi. It seems like they work 24 hours a day when in fact it's always one car and one taxi license for two drivers, one driving the taxi, one sleeping in the trunk. This goes largely unnoticed because nobody in Marseilles can tell two Koreans from one another.
  • Inverted in Harold Lloyd film The Cat's-Paw. Lloyd's character Ezekiel Cobb, raised from childhood in China as the son of a missionary, returns to America to seek out a wife. He remarks that all white women look alike to him.
  • The Double: When it's pointed out that James and Simon look identical, Simon's coworker notes that they're not even Chinese.

  • China is home to at least five dozen ethnicities, but most of these groups have intermarried with each other for so long and to such an extent that, even to themselves, they tend to look homogeneous. Hence such jokes as...
    • A crime occurred in a Chinese village. The police composite was used to make sixty arrests.
    • A contest of doubles has been recently conducted in China. Everyone has won.

  • From Our Dumb World's entry on China: "1999: NATO mistakenly bombs the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia, claiming all the buildings look exactly the same."
  • Demonstrated in Tangerine with the (South) Asian twins Maya and Nita, whose names in the paper following a soccer match are wrong, to Paul's dismay.

    Live-Action TV 
  • M*A*S*H
    • In a season two episode, the Korean liaison officer semi-sarcastically explains the difficulty in finding the father of a half-American baby as, "You all look alike to us." There are also several episodes that deal with or make reference to the difficulty in people being able to tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Korean people. An Asian blackmarket salesmen posing as a general even uses the trope to deflect suspicion away from himself, claiming, "We all look the same."
      Frank Burns: The Chinese are an exceptionally tricky people, you know. They don't all look alike by accident!
    • In the finale, Klinger's Korean fiancée (played by Rosalind Chao, Chinese-American) is looking for her family, whom she describes several times as "Short, dark hair?"
  • Parodied in an episode of Sullivan & Son, where Steve's mom (who is Korean) says all white people look alike to her.
  • Parodied in an episode of 30 Rock. Jack Donaghy has a meeting with a group of scientists from India, who accidentally call him "John Donovan" and dismissively remark that all American names sound alike to them. For added humor, a delivery boy who looks exactly like Jack (and who like Jack, is also played by Alec Baldwin) later shows up, and one of the scientists wonders aloud if it's racist to think the two white guys look alike.
  • Inverted in Heroes when Ando and Hiro see a precognitive painting of Matt Parkman. When Hiro asks if they know him, Ando responds that all white people look the same to him. Hiro scolds him for being racist.
  • In the American version of The Office episode "A Benihana Christmas", Michael Scott (after several drinks) was confused as to which of the two Asian waitresses brought back from the episode's eponymous restaurant was with him. They even switch actresses when the waitresses come to the office. Michael goes as far as to mark the arm of the correct waitress with a sharpie.
    Michael: You know how all... waitresses look alike.
  • Get Smart
    • Inverted in an episode when an Asian villain, The Craw (no, not the Craw, the Craw!), and his henchmen try repeatedly to kidnap a visiting Scandinavian princess, but keep getting the wrong woman because all white people look alike.
      The Craw: Actually, the only girl we want is Princess Ingrid.
      Maxwell Smart: Then why did you abduct the others?
      The Craw: Unfortunately, Mr. Smart, all Americans look alike to us. We may be diabolical, but we're not perfect!
    • Played straight in another episode where CONTROL's computer was not able to identify the KAOS agent, who was from a fictional East Asian country, because apparently the computer can't tell the difference between people from there.
  • Chappelle's Show featured a sketch where Dave had an attractive white woman sing all his prejudiced thoughts, one of which was "All Asian people look alike." He then went on to admit that pretty much everyone who isn't black looks alike to him.
  • Inverted in an episode of Life on Mars; Sam is questioning an Asian witness about whether he saw a certain white guy, and the witness (used to racism from police) says deliberately that he doesn't know, because white people all look alike.
  • Parodied on the Mind of Mencia segment "CSI: China" where an attempt was made to find a name that matches the profile of the Asian killer. The results were 1,000,000,000 matches.
  • Inverted in an episode of Barney Miller: when an Asian prostitute has been purse-snatched, she looks through the mugbooks. When she comments to Sgt. Yemana that "they all look alike," he responds, "I know, I'm Japanese too."
  • On Sabrina the Teenage Witch a Chinese restaurant delivery man hears Salem talking and captures him, saying that he can make enough money off of him to move back to Tokyo. Salem sarcastically wonders what a Japanese guy is doing working at a Chinese restaurant.
  • Air Crash Investigation: The captains of Japan Airlines Flight 123 and Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509 are both portrayed by Japanese-Canadian actor Denis Akiyama.
  • In an episode of Dollhouse, Sierra mugs and replaces a Japanese-American NSA agent named Ms. Sato. Somehow, nobody is able to tell them apart despite the two women looking nothing alike (and Sierra's actress being visibly biracial to boot).

  • Inverted in Flower Drum Song. When Wang's son asks him what the man who robbed him looked like, he says, "Don't ask me what he looked like. All white men look alike."

    Web Comics 
  • Educomix: Inverted. Not only do the Asian characters look different from each other, each Asian is a clone of each non-Asian person, so Asia is by necessity as diverse as the rest of the world.

    Web Original 
  • The Joueur du Grenier starts making such a joke while commenting on the Japanese Spider-Man series, but he is cut short by a censoring alarm.
  • In "The Top 11 Best Avatar Episodes", The Nostalgia Critic confuses Dante Basco with Dev Patel, and this angers Dante so much that he punches Critic down into the comment section.

    Western Animation 
  • In Family Guy, Peter says "Oh my God, it's Jackie Chan!" to various Asian people, even his sumo wrestling opponent ("Wow, you've put on a lot of weight, Jackie Chan!"). He only gets it correct by the 3rd or 4th try. Inverted when Jackie Chan himself confuses the Griffins for Ethan Hawke (and in the case of Meg, Frankie Muniz).
    Jackie Chan: Oh my God, it Malcolm in the Middle!
    Meg: I'm not a boy.
    Jackie Chan: Oh yes you are!
  • The Simpsons
    • Played with in an episode where Homer is in a Chinese orphanage, trying to find a specific baby. It might not be that all Asians look the same, but all babies look the same — or more likely, both at once making it extra confusing.
    • Played with again about Southern Asians when Homer is in India trying to find Apu's cousin; his difficulties are mainly due to the vagueness of Apu's description — along the lines of "he has dark hair and eyes'" (Somehow, he manages to find him in about two tries.)
  • South Park
    • In "Conjoined Fetus Lady", all the Chinese kids look alike. One Chinese commentator remarks to the other that he is unable to identify a member of the South Park team, as "all Americans look alike." Also, bizarrely, Kevin Stoley is said to be Chinese-American yet looks totally white.
    • A variant: all Canadians look alike to everyone but other Canadians (and possibly Saddam Hussein, who can recognize Ugly Bob's horrible disfigurement).
  • Inverted in King of the Hill, when the family visits Japan. Hank's Japanese half-brother manages to get them access into a major media event by convincing the security guard that Hank is Tom Brokaw.
  • In an episode of Drawn Together, Princess Clara wears a helmet that lets her see how Asian people view the world. One test is a picture of two identical Asian men which she now sees as "two guy's who look completely different".

    Real Life 
  • The website AllLookSame invokes this trope and challenges you to tell the difference.
  • An Asian cyclist in a bicyclist demonstration was mistaken for an undercover police officer.
  • In this spoken word video by Rachel Rostad, in which she criticizes the Flat Character Cho Chang, more than a few commenters mistake her for Katie Leung, aka Cho's actress in the films.
  • The pictures of 2013's Miss Korea contestants have gone viral and provoked discussions of plastic surgery and how one particular type of face is idealized.
  • People magazine screwed up an article about Google founder Sergei Brin dating an Asian employee by showing a picture of the wrong Asian woman.
  • This Asian mother talks about a time when a summer camp accidentally gave her son to another Asian woman who had come to pick up her daughter.
  • Face Blindness (Prosopagnosia) is a brain disorder that causes people to have difficulty identifying faces. This leads to embarrassing incidents that look like this trope when the person they are having trouble recognizing is Asian, and the person tries to explain that he's not racist, everyone looks alike to him.
  • In the UK, there have been scandals in which Asians would exploit this trope by hiring other Asians to take driver's tests for them. Keep in mind that in the UK, "Asian" generally refers to South Asians (such as Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis) rather than East or Southeast Asians.
  • After the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Magazines like Time and Life all published articles on "How to tell a Chinese Person from a Japanese" to stop overzealous mobs from accidentally attacking Chinese people (who were, after all, on America's side). Similarly, Chinese-Americans took to wearing buttons that say in large letters, "CHINESE".
  • Masi Oka apparently subverts this trope. Despite living in Los Angeles, where 10% of the population is Asian and even more are dark-haired, he's often had fans recognize him from the back, despite the fact that he admits there's the stereotype of Asians all looking alike. He himself is apparently just an incredibly recognizable Asian.
  • In the 2011 remake of The Green Hornet, Kato was played by Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou, but several sources, included IMDB, mistakenly credited John Cho, who is Korean-American and around 10 years older. The confusion might also have had something to do with their similar-sounding names. However, Cho was a good sport about it, saying on Twitter, "I am beginning to suspect that I am not in the Green Hornet movie."
  • Variant, but Marvel C.E.O. Ike Perlmutter allegedly once claimed that nobody would notice Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard as War Machine in the MCU, because according to him, all black people look alike.

Alternative Title(s):

All Asians Look Alike