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Racial Face Blindness

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"I hate when white people say, 'I just can't tell all you Asians apart! Tee-hee-hee!' Um, why is it important for you to tell us apart? Are we going to be separated for some reason? I can't tell us all apart! I was not born with a chip in my head that identifies every Asiatic person I come across: [robotic voice] beep beep beep Filipino..."

A simple way to show someone is culturally insensitive (but acceptably so) is for them to be unable to tell individuals of a different race 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 be partially explained by the commonality of brown eyes and black hair outside of Europe and the US/Canada. It's also a psychological fact that humans have a harder time distinguishing details in faces from races that are unfamiliar to them. As someone spends more time around other races, this trope diminishes.

The most stereotypical way this trope is used is characters thinking all East Asians look identical. Because of this, 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 and You All Look Familiar. And when someone assumes all members of a race are related because of this, see Same Race Means Related.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed discusses 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: 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.
  • 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 for Tenma because of his oriental features.

  • Played straight, but with a twist, by Henry Cho, a son of Korean immigrants who was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. At home, he never had problems finding his parents in a crowd, but in Korea?
  • Australian comedian Anh 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:
    Anh Do: 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 your 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 
  • Killing and Dying: On improv night Jesse gets up on stage after a black man who made a successful joke about angry white men wanting to say the n-word. After she tries to launch a joke off another black man she accuses his set of being low-hanging fruit before it's pointed out to her that it's a totally different guy. She has to uncomfortably disclaim that she doesn't think all black men look alike.
  • Red Ears: There's a gag where a white woman has sex with a short Asian guy in his apartment, then after they're done he says that he's ready to go for another round but has to crawl under the bed first (it's "tradition"). He emerges on the other end and they have sex again. This repeats about six times until the woman gets curious and checks under the bed, only to find about 10 identical-looking Asian guys sitting there.
  • Scooby-Doo! Team-Up: When Mystery, Inc. goes to Gorilla City, Daphne is worried because all gorillas look the same to her and apologizes for saying it. King Solovar accepts it and says all humans look the same to him. When they meet Gorilla Grodd, he doesn't recognize the gang from the time they helped the Justice League to defeat the Legion of Doom because all humans look the same to him as well.
  • One Sherlock Holmes parody comic has an Asian henchman claim all white people look the same to him.
  • Shortcomings: Alice jokes that to the self-hating Ben, all Asian girls look the same.
  • In the first issue of Steelgrip Starkey and the All-Purpose Power Tool, the Jerkass foreman Arty Blasko tries to identify Sharri's ethnicity using a variety of Asian slurs (she's Filipino).
  • The Ultimates: During the Comic-Book Fantasy Casting segment, Jan asks who should play her in a movie. Nick Fury proposes Lucy Liu, causing Jan to complain that she looks nothing like her, and asks if Bruce Lee is his back-up choice.
  • In one Superman comic, when the second Bloodsport, a white supremacist, recognises Black Daily Planet reporter Ron Troupe from a previous encounter, Ron snarks "You remember me? I thought we all looked alike."

    Fan Works 
  • In Diamond and Silver's Excellent Adventure, when forced to choose between Baron Zeppeli (a zebra) and an impostor, Diamond Tiara realizes the real Zeppeli is black with white stripes, while the impostor is white with black stripes. At that point, Silver Spoon chimes in that she still can't tell the difference between the two zebras.
    Diamond Tiara: That's racist, Silver Spoon. Not cool.
  • Part of the discrimination against the Dark Elves in Dragon From Ash, with several Nord characters claiming they all look alike and when a search warrant for Velandryn pops up, the authorities start frisking every single Dunmer at the city's gates because having his picture doesn't help them.
  • Played with in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfic Wise Beyond Her Years. Twilight Sparkle shows portraits of several different zebras who had a large impact on pony history, and Pinkie Pie points out that they all look like their mutual friend Zecora. In response, Twilight explains the different psychology of the two species: how ponies are wired to recognize each other based on colors, while zebras use stripe patterns, so members of either species can have difficulty distinguishing between examples of the other. And Pinkie replies that she understands all that, but she means these zebras look exactly like Zecora. She convinces the rest that this isn't just face-blindness by pointing out how all of the zebras have an identical jawline, and matching stripes in their face and mane. The ponies conclude that all these zebras must be related. What's actually happening is they're all the same zebra. Zecora is immortal, and has changed aliases multiple times to prevent the ponies around her from catching on.
  • Played for Drama in With Pearl and Ruby Glowing. In this fic, Shere Khan is an Indian member of the White Fang, a racial extremist group. He rapes Weiss Schnee, but when asked to identify her perpetrator, she identifies the wrong man — Bagheera, who is also Indian. This gets Bagheera sent to prison for some time, where the corrupt policemen abuse him on the basis of being a supposed rapist.

    Films — Animation 
  • Parodied in Animalympics: During Bruce Kwakimoto's presentation, we see a picture of a Tokyo underground station crowded with absolutely identical-looking puffins. One of them is implied to be Bruce. Better yet: It's stated that he stands out in any crowd.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Harry Potter films, British Indian twins Padma and Parvati Patil are portrayed as non-identical twins by English Bangladeshi Afshan Azad and Welsh Bangladeshi Shefali Chowdhury. However casual viewers of the films get shocked to realise the actresses are not even related in real life note  and that neither are Indian. Not helping is that Padma is changed from her books house Ravenclaw to her film house Gryffindor to make seem more identical to Parvati note 
  • The Cat's-Paw: Harold 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.
  • Fire Island: Implied Trope. One of the white men in Charlie's circle assumes Howie and Noah (who are both East Asian but look nothing alike) are dating and comments that it's cute when couples 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.
  • In Help!, Swami Clang can't tell the Beatles apart: "They look all the same in their similarity and language!"
  • Parodied 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!"
  • 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!
  • Starsky & Hutch: A Chinese suspect admits he can't tell the titular detectives more about the guys that hired him because they were white and "all you guys look alike to me". Hutch doesn't take any offense at the comment and notes white people have the same issue with "orientals".
  • 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.
  • Parodied in They Call Me Bruce where the unnamed Korean title character is called 'Bruce' after Bruce Lee because his boss can't bother telling the difference. 'Bruce' then plays up the trope accordingly, posing as a Chinese kung fu warrior or a Japanese samurai whenever he wants to look more badass (the joke being he doesn't know any martial arts).

  • 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.

  • The Death of Achilles: The Caucasian Fandorin, frustrated at Japanese Masa's vague description of a suspect, says "We all l-look alike to him."
  • An African version happens in The Dogs of War. After Shannon's mercenaries leading a force of African soldiers launches a successful coup d'état, his employer Endean says the Africans will do to hold the country until their puppet dictator establishes his own force, as most European diplomats can't tell one African from another. Shannon asks, "Can you?" but Endean dismisses the question which he shouldn't have as the Africans that Shannon has recruited aren't mercenaries; they're from the local immigrant population and Shannon has just seized power on behalf of their leader.
  • The Great Greene Heist: Mrs. Appleton, the senior administrative assistant, can't tell Hispanic or Asian students apart regardless of their country of ancestry and makes little effort to try.
  • Star Wars: In Han Solo's Revenge, Han and a CorpSec agent are waited upon by a Starfish Alien who can't tell them apart or even their genders. When they leave Han tries to skip out on the bill by exploiting the waiter's species face blindness and claiming to be different people.
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • The Big Bad of Altered Carbon (ironically also played by Dichen Lachman) sneeringly says this about the Grounder who's holding her at gunpoint. She lives in a world where the poor live on the ground while the megarich like herself live in hoverships and starscrapers.
    Reileen: Oh, it's Elliot. Honestly, all Grounders look alike to me. Must be the film of dirt.
    Elliot: You may wanna reconsider insulting the guy with a bolt gun pointed at your head.
  • Arrested Development: Michael Bluth, trying to prove what a good person he is, offers a ride to someone he thinks is his mother's Latina housekeeper, Lupe, when he sees her waiting for the bus. Unfortunately, she is a actually a total stranger name Helen who speaks no English, and she panics when Michael refuses to let her out of his car (because he thinks it would be impolite to not drive her all the way), rending the situation an instance of Accidental Kidnapping. Michael is eventually arrested for kidnapping Helen, but walks free when she is unable to pick him out from a police lineup with four other white guys.
  • Barney Miller: When an Asian prostitute has been purse-snatched ("Christmas Story"), she looks through the mug books. When she comments to Sgt. Yemana that "they all look alike," he responds, "I know, I'm Japanese too."
  • Parodied in The Big Bang Theory when Raj's parents can't tell Sheldon and Leonard apart, as all white people look alike to them.
  • 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.
  • Community: When Jeff finds a photograph of Pierce with a black man on his black professor Kane's desk, he assumes getting kicked out of class was a scheme by Pierce and Kane...only to realize that it was a different black man.
    Troy (also black): Uh...I assume they share one important feature in your eyes.
  • Dad's Army. While guarding an Italian POW camp, the platoon use a Circular Drive to convince an officer that there's a full headcount, by running the same Italians through the same hut. This trope inevitably comes up.
  • Lampshaded in the Doctor Who serial "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" when the Doctor first meets The Dragon Li H'sen Chiang at the police station. When he asks whether they've met before, Chiang deadpans "I understand we all look the same." Of course, they haven't actually met before, the Doctor merely recognised Chiang from seeing a poster for his theater act.
  • 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). Though she does infiltrate the building among a large number of employees.
  • Get Smart:
    • The Western on Asian variation is 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!
    • In another episode, 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.
  • In Heroes, 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.
  • Inspector Morse: Invoked in "The Settling of the Sun", where the Victim of the Week is Japanese, and another Japanese man is used to establish a false time of death. It's later revealed that the victim is Not Quite Dead; overpowering his Doppelgänger and switching places with him. Apparently none of the conspirators noticed the difference.
  • Inspector Rex: This stereotype is present in the chapter "Ombre cinesi" (Chinese shadows). A bus driver who helped Shu Lin to escape from the villain tells Morini that all Chinese are similar, but the girl [Shu Lin] is beautiful. Fabbri is not content with that stereotype.
  • Just Shoot Me!: Jack gets Mistaken for Racist due to misidentifying a Chinese-American man in his employ for a Japanese-American businessman he was set to meet. Both of them later express annoyance after the two meet in an elevator.
  • In Kim's Convenience, a customer in "Rude Kid" thinks Mr. Kim (a Korean immigrant and owner of titular store) looks Japanese, "like that guy in The Last Samurai".
    Mr. Kim: Tom Cruise?
  • Law & Order:
    • In "Conspiracy", a member of a Black nationalist group snarks that he can't identify a white man accused of killing the group's leader, because white people all look alike to him. Subverted though when he does identify the suspect.
    • In "The Pursuit of Happiness", a defendant's lawyer tries to argue that a key witness, who is Korean, is incapable of telling non-Asians apart and could therefore not correctly identify the Puerto Rican defendant. Ben Stone is disgusted.
      Stone: A Chinese guy could blow you away and get off scot-free because of cross-racial identification. And that's the most comforting thought I've had all day.
    • Another episode has a Japanese defendant argue that a Chinese-American witness is unable to tell non-Chinese Asians apart.
  • Law & Order: SVU: In one episode, a white woman is raped by a black man and initially identifies one suspect before correcting herself and identifying another. The defense attorney brings in the first suspect to accuse her of this trope; since the two men don't look much alike, he argues that she's racist and just looking to blame a black man. She counters that the room was dark, and the one characteristic besides race that they have in common — their build — was all that she could see.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of The Musketeers, with black rather than Asian people. Porthos's manipulative and evil blood father gives him a miniature painting of a random black woman claiming that it was of his mother. Porthos of course knows exactly what his mother looked like, and the incident causes him to recognize what a villain his father is.
    Porthos: You thought I was too young to remember her, but the one thing you never forget is your mother's face. You probably bought this in some junk shop somewhere, thinking I wouldn't know the difference between one black woman and another.
  • 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.
  • In The Pinkertons episode "The Fourth Man", one of the murder suspects refers to the Japanese Kenji Harada as "some Chinese fellow".
  • The Professionals. In "Need to Know", Special Branch arrest a high-ranking MI5 executive who is spying for the Chinese. The KGB decide to snatch and interrogate him, figuring the Chinese will be blamed, and bring in a couple of Soviet Asiatics for the job. It's downplayed as a KGB man says they don't really look Chinese, but his boss says that they'll have facial disguises to further sell the illusion.
  • Rome: Cleopatra does this with Marc Antony as part of their verbal sparring when they meet again in Season 2. Cleopatra claims not to remember him from when he was with Julius Caesar in Egypt. "It's those uniforms you wear. You all look alike."
  • 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.
  • Saturday Night Live had a Weekend Update in which Michael Che and Colin Jost did a "joke exchange" as their Christmas present to each other. Che's jokes were designed to make Jost look horribly racist, culminating in this.
    Colin: [sees picture of Nigeria's President] Oh god. Nigeria's President Mohammed Buhari for the first time denied months-old rumors that he had died and been replaced by a look-alike from Sudan. See? Even Africans can't tell black people ap— [cuts himself short and starts Corpsing at having crossed the line]
  • In one episode of Seinfeld, George remarks that his boss looks like boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, to which his boss replies "I suppose we all look alike to you". George spends the rest of the episode trying to prove that he's not racist.
  • In an episode of Sullivan & Son, 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.
  • The Wire:
    • This is combined with the Suspect Is Hatless trope when it comes to trying to get descriptions of black suspects from white witnesses. When Andy Krawczyk witnesses Omar Little seeking revenge on Stringer Bell, he ignores Omar's huge facial scar, distinctive outfit, and can only come up with "big, black, with a large weapon". This is so common that the black police officers laugh it off afterwards as yet another description that boils down to BNBG; Big Negro, Big Gun.
    • It also gets referenced in the fourth season. De'Londa Brice tries to push her son Namond towards continuing the family legacy of being involved in the criminal underworld, and as she starts getting more insistent about it, one of the things she tells Namond to do is to cut his distinctive, enormously frizzy ponytail. The reason why is because it's so distinctive that she says even white police will be able to recognize him due to it.
    • By sheer chance, Herc (a white cop who has thoroughly earned the right to be considered the Dumb Muscle of the major characters), happens to see Avon Barksdale, the drug kingpin that was the target of a special investigation in Season 1, getting out of the prison early after he scammed the prison into a deal reducing his sentence. Nobody believes Herc when he tells them this, however, because of his dumbness and because they simply refuse to believe there's any way Avon could have gotten out so early despite the charges they put him away on. This leads to Kima playfully asking Herc he just saw someone else but all black people look alike to him. She and everyone else is much less amused when they later confirm that Avon really did get out early.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • From 1998 up to 2017, WWE curiously never allowed more than one Asian woman on a television show at a time. A brief sample: Lena Yada was removed from shows as Angela Fong came onto them, Fong was removed for Sonia and both were moved and eventually removed entirely for a returning Gail Kim, whose absence had earlier made room for Hiroko Suzuki. This wasn't lost on Fong, or Malia Hosoka (from earlier in the chain), who in companies lacking this Asian female phobia, made antagonistic remarks about how much Su Yung (Sonia) looked like her (Fong, and despite both being Chinese Yung really doesn't) or was moving in on her "spot" (Hosaka).
  • There were was a black woman with the ring name "Vanity" wrestling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during 2006 and another black woman with the ring name "Vanity" that wrestled in the same area in 2013. The German website Genickbruch listed both as the same woman. There were enough similarities for the second wrestler to take the gimmick without issue, but Pro Wrestling Syndicate actively neglected to mention a predecessor, rather than pretend she was the same Vanity.
  • It was clear that World Wonder Ring ST★RDOM intended for Leah Vaughan to be seen as an Evil Counterpart(or rather, eviler counterpart) to Kellie Skater. What she wasn't supposed to be was a Kellie Skater impersonator, but fans mistook her for Skater until Vaughan stopped wearing green. They are both pale skinned brown eyed blonde women of European descent, but Vaughan is a Canadian and Skater an Australian.

  • Parodied in Avenue Q with the Fantastic Racism against monsters. Princeton asks Kate Monster if she's related to Trekkie Monster due to their shared last name, and she calls him racist and asks if he thinks all monsters look the same.
  • 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."
  • The Great White Hope: How Jack escapes from the cops staking out his house, before eventually fleeing the country. A Negro League baseball team pays a visit, Jack changes clothes with one of the baseball players, and then leaves with the rest. Because, as Jack says, "You hear that sayin how all n***s look alike!"

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag has this conversation between Edward Kenway and a Black Assassin.
    Antó: What do you want, Englishman?
    Edward: Edward Kenway. I'm here to warn you of danger. And I'm Welsh.
    Antó: You all look the same to me.
  • In Radiant Historia, Gafka, a member of a gorilla-like race, claims that all humans look the same to him.

    Web Comics 
  • But a Jape has "The Adventures of Asian Superman". Perry White notices that Clark Kent and Superman look exactly alike and gets suspicious, but when he points it out, everyone around him just thinks he's being vaguely racist.
  • 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.
  • The Psesah University police in Schlock Mercenary provide an exaggerated example, being unable to tell a human from a carbosilicate amorph. The amorph does not take kindly to this.

    Web Original 
  • One Cracked article has a casino worker with dwarfism being mistaken for another dwarf working at the same place. A woman with dwarfism, mind you.
  • 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."
  • In the Quest Den quest Return to Sender, to avoid telling bounty hunters he met runaway scientist Faspan, Pascoe lies that non-chimeras look too much alike to him.

    Web Videos 
  • GradeAUnderA made an entire video about this trope, where he issues a series of tests designed to (jokingly) prove to the viewer that they are racist. The first test has him showing the viewer three different Asian women, saying that one of them is from China, one of them is from Japan, and one of them is from Korea. It turns out that none of them were from either China or Korea. Two of them were Japanese, and the other one was a Laotian-American drag queen named Jujubee.
  • Joueur du Grenier:
    • Fred starts making such a joke while commenting on the Japanese Spider-Man series, but he is cut short by a censoring alarm.
    • In the Rambo videogame adaptations episode, during his review of Rambo: The Video Game (a 2014 rail-shooter based on the original trilogy), during one of the Vietnam levels he tries (tries) to explains the games suffers from You ALL Look Familiar when you fight the Vietnamese mooks, but each time It Comes Out Wrong as him using this trope, to his own annoyance.
  • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • In "The Top 11 Best Avatar Episodes", Critic confuses Dante Basco with Dev Patel, and this angers Dante so much that he punches Critic down into the comment section.
    • In "The Plot to Frozen 2", Anna mistakes a random black background character in a green dress for Princess Tiana, referencing cross-movie theories in the fandom. Elsa thinks that's racist and exiles Anna.
  • A lot of people thinks that Mari from Smosh Games and Olivia from the main Smosh channel looks very similar, to the point that Flitz called Olivia a Mari clone.
    Lasercorn: Who else is over there, Olivia and Mari? I can't tell those Asians apart, I'm sorry.
  • Jenny Nicholson's "A Star Wars Story" video hinges on this. Throughout the story, the protagonist is travelling with a Bounty Hunter twi'lek woman who has bounty on him, as well as evading other alien bounty hunters. After the pair are finally captured, she shows him his wanted poster... and it's a completely different human. He then asks the alien guards to show their wanted poster, and it's a third completely different human. It turns out, every alien in the galaxy has face blindness to humans. Shortly afterwards, the protagonist gives a rousing speech to a random twi'lek because he thought she was his companion.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 guys who look completely different".
  • Family Guy:
  • Parodied on Inside Job (2021). Reagan explains to her nonhuman friend Myc that her selfish Japanese mother Tamiko is marrying herself. Myc replies that he had just assumed Tamiko was a lesbian and he was racist after seeing two of her on the wedding invitation.
  • 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 another episode, Ted Wassanasong and another man speak in Chinese and Hank asks Kahn (a Laotian) to translate.
      Hank: What are they sayin'?
      Kahn: How should I know? They speaking Chinese. I look Chinese to you?!
    • However, Ted Wassanason is also Laotian. He just happens to speak Chinese as well.
    • Played straight and then averted in the Souphanousinphones' debut episode, where the main four guys ask Kahn if he is Chinese or Japanese... then ask again upon being told that he's Laotian. Then, Cotton of all people is able to correctly identify Kahn as Laotian at first glance, after being told that he was Japanese by Dale. Of course, Cotton would know exactly what Japanese people look like, he killed fiddy of them.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • In the episode "Triple Threat", Dragon Lord Ember mistakes Starlight Glimmer for Twilight Sparkle, even though Twilight has wings and Starlight doesn't.
      Ember: I'm sorry, but you can't blame me. You both look and act so much alike. [...] I'm just saying you're both purple ponies with purple hair. You both have cutie marks with sparkly things!
      Starlight: Mine's more of a glimmer.
      Ember: How is that different?!
    • Another episode, "Sweet and Smoky", has Ember mixing up Fluttershy with Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie, even though they are all different colors and the latter two don't have wings.
  • The Rick and Morty episode "Rick and Morty's Thanksploitation Spectacular" features a convoluted plot in which Rick turns himself into a turkey to get a pardon from the president and the president turns a squad of soldiers into turkeys because humans can't tell turkeys apart. It's then played straight when a bartender looks at the president and a mutant turkey/human hybrid created using the president's DNA and can't tell them apart despite the latter's obvious turkey bits. The bartender casually concludes he's a racist.
  • Played for Laughs in a skit for Robot Chicken, episode "Chipchella", where Simon makes out with a Ambiguously Brown woman he believes to be Selena Gomez and the woman believes she is making out with Alvin. Simon lampshades the trope.
  • 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.
    • When Homer is in India trying to find Apu's cousin, his difficulties are mainly due to the vagueness of Apu's description: "medium height, dark complexion, brown eyes, black hair." Somehow, he manages to find him in about two tries.
    • Less forgivably, in one episode Homer mistakes Little Richard for both Prince and Michael Jackson within thirty seconds.
  • 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.
    • Mr. Lu Kim and the City Sushi owner try to explain the differences between Japan and China to the townspeople.
    • All Canadians look alike to everyone but other Canadians (and possibly Saddam Hussein), who can recognize Ugly Bob's horrible disfigurement.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: The Pakleds confuse Captain Freeman, who's black, for Captain Janeway, who's white, because both are female humans in Starfleet. Then again, the Pakleds aren't exactly the sharpest crayons in the box.

    Real Life 
  • The website AllLookSame invokes this trope and challenges you to tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean individuals; according to the site's statistics, the average participant can only correctly identify 7/18 people. According to the website's About page, the idea came from creator Dyske Suematsu's fascination with the urban legend that people can differentiate between East Asian ethnicities at a glance, with even other East Asians giving a wide range of responses when asked if they can do so.
    Especially if I can't see what they are wearing, I don't think that I can tell them apart. And, I'm an Asian myself.
  • 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, a.k.a. 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. The viral image turned out to be the product of makeup and photo editing erasing all the detail from their faces. The women in question are actually a fairly diverse group.
  • 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 a different ethnicity, and the person tries to explain that he's not racist, as 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, Sri Lankans or 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".
  • Japanese intelligence exploited this trope by having their agents pose as Chinese while spying in Soviet-occupied Mongolia. And an Allied agent of Vietnamese ancestry was able to operate in German-occupied France by pretending to be Japanese.
  • 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 former Marvel Comics CEO 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. This despite the fact that Howard and Cheadle look pretty much nothing alike.note 
  • Angela Fong has said that when she and Gail Kim were both on the main roster in WWE, they were often mistaken for each other — as the only two Asian females in the company. Angela is Chinese, and Gail is Korean. They are both Canadian though.
  • Kunal Nayyar discusses in this interview about getting mistaken for other South-Asian actors, such as Kumail Nanjiani, Kal Penn, and Aziz Ansari. He is not even the same nationality as any of them, as Nanjiani was born in Pakistan and Penn and Ansari were both born in the US to Indian parents.
  • Likewise, British Asian stand-up comedians Romesh Ranganathan and Nish Kumar both get mileage in their acts or hosting gigs about being mistaken for each other. An example being when they were both on Mock the Week, with Nish saying that his own mother described him as "a poor Man's Romesh".
  • The Guardian got in deep trouble when they illustrated a column with what they thought was a picture of Black British rapper Kano, which was actually a picture of Black British producer and rapper Wiley. To add further embarrassment, the subject of the column had been racism.
  • Apparently while shooting Wheels on Meals on location in Spain, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao got into a huge bar brawl one night against a gang of thugs who picked a fight with them. While this would have presumably made a great scene for the movie if anyone had been on hand with a camera, the next morning the Spanish police arrived at the set to arrest Chan and Biao. Not wanting to give up two of their top stars, the production crew instead handed over two of the stunt doubles who resembled them (3 years before Spaceballs made a joke out of this), counting on this trope (and the fact that neither actor was an internationally recognised superstar yet) to keep the police from realising they weren't arresting the right men. To the relief of the production crew, it actually worked.
  • Bizarrely this happened with Littlemix members being confused in an article by Metro which mistakenly used an image of Jade Thirwall (who is half Arabic), but the article was about her bandmate Leigh-Anne Pinnock (who is half Black Caribbean). Even more so the two look nothing alike being heights, having different body types, hair colour, hair styles, facial features with only medium shade of brown skin being their only visual similarity.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Identical Looking Asians


It's Jackie Chan!

Peter says "Oh my God, it's Jackie Chan!" to various Asian people. Jackie Chan himself confuses the Griffins for Ethan Hawke (and in the case of Meg, Frankie Muniz).

How well does it match the trope?

4.43 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / RacialFaceBlindness

Media sources: