4 Reasons You Can't Judge People By Their Appearance

Much like Stereophonics back when they were good, I've been people-watching again, and I think they watch me too. So now I'm making an animated webseries about it that also conveniently aids in the point I'm making with this column, so watch this trailer first, or whatever I'm writing here will make even less sense than usual:

No matter how hard you watch people you can never actually see them, is the point here, and we all know to not judge by appearances, but the reasons are less obvious than you'd assume. So let's discuss using myself for the examples, since I'm the only one I can see inside of (until I sell enough seeds to get me some X-ray specs, anyway).

#4. Because TV Taught You To See Cliches

Life is like a box of chocolates, not because you never know what you're going to get (you are going to get chocolate) but because you assume you know what kind of chocolate you want because you tried coconut once when you were a kid and you didn't like it, so fuck coconut. But you've read the little card that says what chocolate is what, and you have no reason to doubt its veracity. For so many of us, the little card is TV and movies, and it told us life would be one thing ... but then it was dramatically something else. Most of what I know is because I saw it on a viewing screen and believed it was true, and there's a long argument about entertainment being an escape from reality, but the fact is TV and movies affect us and inspire us and in general shape our expectations. They are our window into the world beyond the house where we grew up (IF we grew up; I'm still working on that one).


We don't even have frats in Canada, and yet I expected to be in one.

But then you get older and look back with the knowledge of actual human interaction, and TV shows that seemed to be a window into adulthood now look like a bunch of aliens doing a grotesque pantomime about The Humans based on a few stray observations through a telescope. The problem is that you don't realize this when you're a kid and then you define yourself according to how different your apartment is from Monica's and how different your abs are from Brad Pitt's in Fight Club. Everyone is doing this to themselves, and it's like a dictatorship where Dear Leader doesn't actually exist -- it's just that no one's actually gone into the palace to check because someone keeps updating his Instagram, so he must be real. Life is supposed to be a box of whatever you want to put in it, but so often we just fill it with things like chocolate because that's what the movie showed and it stuck in our mind, and then someone watches us do that and assumes it was our idea and copies it. And that's why you shouldn't judge by appearance -- because so often we're just dressing the way the movie said to in a way that's entirely disconnected from who we are as individuals. If it helps my point, I'll relay the anecdote about me literally going into the hairdressers with a photo of Jake Gyllenhaal as a character in a movie and saying, "Do this; it looks Normal. Oh, and give me his face and charisma too." And that is what you're seeing when you people-watch me: someone trying to look like a photo and feeling bad because they couldn't do the face and charisma and could only kind of do the cut, because the hairlines are different. You might as well just watch TV at that point.


Life is a video game; just try not to die. And use mushrooms to get super powers.

#3. Because It's Impossible To Dress Differently

Why does everyone dress the same, you lament, as you wipe the nacho crumbs from your Star Wars T-shirt. Those hipster clones with their Urban Outfitters fashions, they're all the same, I tell you! Watch people in winter and you'll see 10,000 of the same damn coat. Watch people in the summer and everyone's in those newfangled "tee-shirts." Wake up sheeple, etc. I myself have become increasingly hipstery in my dress sense, with the skinnier jeans and the more confining shirts and the goddamn shoes that everyone fucking has, so what's my problem? I don't have a problem, but your problem is that everyone dresses the same because once something is in fashion, guess what? Those are the only clothes you can buy. And standardized clothes can't help you see people how they see themselves ...


The shadow knows where I stole this idea from.

Scale it up, in fact. Why is everyone dressed in jeans and T-shirts to begin with? What happened to the good old days of ruffs and pantaloons and burlap rags and samurai armor and mammoth hides and Zubaz and those giant rings that stretch out your neck? Because for all intents and purposes everyone you are ever likely to meet in industrialized society dresses pretty much exactly the same, because clothes are this now, and 500 years from now when we're all in neon jumpsuits with big rubbery sleeves, because it's the only fucking thing they stock at the ultraHyperpaceMall. We'll look at megaPhotos in virtualBooks of the 21st century with its old-timey non-self-cleaning fabric drapings, and we'll not be able to draw any conclusions about individual people, because they all look the same. If you don't believe me, then look at people from previous eras and note how they all might as well be the same person, how the only way to ascertain what medieval peasant #547 thought about the lower field drainage was to ask him, because looking told you nothing because everyone has always dressed like everyone else, a massive veneer of sameness spread over entire civilizations. And thus, judging by appearance has always been as pointless as it is now.

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Winston Rowntree

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