A big thanks and a bag of M&Ms to Maurice Mitchell from The Geek Twins for hosting My Favorite Martian Bloghop. Today I'm sharing about an alien that caught my interest.
Many years ago, I watched Alfred Hitchcock's "The Case of Mr. Pelham." Pelham, a single businessman, finds people mistaking him for someone else who looks exactly like him. This lookalike masquerades as Pelham by showing up all around town, appearing at his workplace, and living in his home, all while the real Pelham is elsewhere. The impostor has everyone, including his peers, secretary, and butler fooled. Freaking out, Pelham changes his style of ties to throw the impostor off. But this strategy backfires. At the end of the story, Pelham finally confronts the doppelganger at his home- and we see his duplicate is a more polished version of himself- and the butler decides his real employer would never wear a tie like Pelham's. So he aligns with the impostor.
"There's an agency more than human here," Pelham says when he realizes that the doppelganger, who he compares to an alien, has successfully stolen his identity and his life.
The real Pelham is eventually declared insane.
When I watch TV shows or movies about aliens, I find the fear of an alien presence is often a metaphor for the fear of something else- a foreign power, for example.
The alien doppelganger in "The Case of Mr. Pelham" draws on our fears of encountering someone we perceive as an upgraded version of who we are, and then being displaced by this person. Just when you're enjoying the attention of being the hottest person at the bar, someone hotter walks in. You have a tight social circle- maybe you're the one who tells the best jokes or you throw the best parties- and then someone swoops in with better jokes or better parties, and your peers begin to overlook you. You have high hopes for your steam punk zombie romance novel- you think it could even be made into a movie someday. But someone else publishes a steam punk zombie romance novel at the same time you do, and while your book sales are lagging, their book ends up on a bestseller list.
Alien or non-alien doppelgangers, when written well, have also enticed me as a reader. Off the top of my head, I'm listing a few books where lookalikes are used in plot twists: Lois Duncan's STRANGER WITH MY FACE, William Sleator's THE DUPLICATE, Robert Louis Stevenson's THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, and Neil Gaiman's CORALINE. These stories show that doppelgangers aren't always necessarily an upgraded version of a character. We need those "evil twin" stories as reminders to keep our code of ethics in check. (Although in "The Case of Mr. Pelham," the doppelganger was both "evil" and an improved version of Pelham.)
If I have a doppelganger who wants to be me, she and I can co-exist peacefully if she can nail the house chores and my WIP revisions while I'm at the spa.
Can you think of other books, movies, or TV shows with doppelgangers, alien or non-alien?
What would you do if you discover you have a doppelganger? How about a doppelganger who's trying to pass themselves off as you?