This week’s Saturday Night Live was hosted by Chris Pine, and he wasted no time addressing the elephant in the room: exactly which superhero beefcake Chris were we dealing with here? Chris Evans, who plays Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor in the MCU? Chris Pratt, who plays Star-Lord in the MCU? Chris Pine, who plays Steve Trevor in the DC Cinematic Universe? Kris Kross, who will make you jump, jump? After faking out the audience—Pine opened his monologue by announcing he was there to promote Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (which stars Chris Evans)—Pine (no, wait, it actually stars Chris Pratt) brought out Leslie Jones to clear things up. Unfortunately, she was under the impression he was Chris Evans, so he tried a visual aid: a giant poster of four of the Chrises du jour looking identical, followed by, for some reason, a musical number set to the tune of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.”
“We’re all white guys, but these aren’t the white guy I am,” Pine crooned, in what was either a cri de coeur or a passionate condemnation of a casting process that produces so many nearly indistinguishable leading men. Kate McKinnon dropped by with her own explanation for the confusion: “I think it’s because you’re all named Chris, and you’re all kind of scruffy and squinty and jacked, but in a sweet way.” This is true, as far as it goes. But I challenge Chris Pine and the staff of Saturday Night Live to look beyond merely identifying the similarities between one Chris and another and look instead for systemic causes that might be responsible for such a bumper crop of identical actors—otherwise, they risk perpetuating a system in which mediocrities can grift their way to success merely by looking the part. I’m asking, of course, in my official capacity as a bespectacled white man who writes about film and television.