Same Name Game

Odd coincidence: just minutes after watching Alan Berliner’s 2001 documentary, The Sweetest Sound, in which Berliner explores his ambivalence about sharing his name with dozens of other people, I came across Chris’s blog post about sharing a name with an NBC news personality. Berliner’s documentary is a pretty cool meditation on the relationship between names and identity, a topic that becomes even more interesting when Berliner explores the uncertain origins of his last name.

But the documentary raised a number of interesting questions for me. The relationship between naming and identity is always complicated for me, especially since I’m a “junior” and share my name with my father. Berliner also mentions using the Internet as both a research tool (“egosurfing” to find other Alan Berliners) and a means of establishing a legacy, but I wonder to what extent the web has made people more conscious of all the other people out there who share their name. I know that when I’ve been on the job market, I’ve done my share of vanity Google searches just to find out what other Chuck Tryons are out there. Turns out there’s a management expert, a computer programmer and fantasy writer, an expert on fly fishing in Missouri, and a police officer in Texas. It also turns out that I’m avoiding linking to them because I don’t want them to get page rank over me.

In order to sound a little less threatened by the fact that I share my name with a few dozen complete strangers, I’ll add that what I liked best about The Sweetest Sound was Berliner’s use of home movie footage as means of thinking through these identity issues. And I’ll add that I’m doing a course on autobiographical film and video in the fall and Berliner’s films and videos might work well in that course.


  1. Chris Said,

    April 2, 2007 @ 9:46 am

    That IS an odd coincidence! I find it a little offputting. In the AFI Dallas interviews I did, they even asked me about that connection.

    I think the problem for me is sharing a name with someone who is “known” or famous. And since I am a filmmaker and striving to get my work known, it ends up being a (minor) hassle.

    Very minor. Not a big deal. But still weird, especially when he goes after people who do rather icky things.

  2. Chris Cagle Said,

    April 2, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

    Try sharing a name with a rising country music star.

  3. Chuck Said,

    April 2, 2007 @ 12:18 pm

    Yeah, the headline for the other Chis Hansen is fantastic although it comes at a slightly frustrating price.

  4. Chuck Said,

    April 2, 2007 @ 12:22 pm

    Chris C: yep, I have nothing to complain about. The folks who share my name are relatively unknown.

  5. Chris Said,

    April 2, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

    at least i look nothing like the other Chris Hansen — it’s not like we’ll ever be mistaken for one another in person!

    and when he was just another Dateline reporter, only the occasional person even picked up on it. but now that he’s Mr. “To Catch a Predator”, all of sudden everyone notices.

    i think half the hits on my blog are errant searches for him…

  6. Chuck Said,

    April 2, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

    So maybe sharing a name with Mr. “To Catch a Predator” is actually helping you find a whole new audience of bored Dateline viewers.

  7. michael newman Said,

    April 3, 2007 @ 3:37 pm

    I too share a name. With lots of people. An actor on Baywatch. A character in an Adam Sandler movie (Click). A postmodernist art critic in the UK. A newspaper editor who (used to, I think) work for the LA Times. None of these annoys me at all. But there’s another Michael Newman who borrows DVDs and CDs from my branch of the public library, and our stuff gets mixed up all the time. If I could, I would change that guy’s name.

  8. Chuck Said,

    April 4, 2007 @ 2:47 pm

    I forgot about the Adam Sandler character. That was one of teh first movies I saw in Fayetteville, which probably says something. The public library thing would be annoying.

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