One of the most scary things I’ve ever seen was not in a horror movie, but in the TV series Friends. It was a literal doppelgänger of the character Ross—called Russ. Russ looked…similar to Ross. But had subtle differences.
These great similarities yet subtle differences deeply creeped me out about Russ. To the point that whenever I even look of a picture of Russ, I shudder as if gazing upon some sort of Lovecraftian demon from the bowels of Hell. Had I encountered the Russ/Ross paradox as a small child, I know I would have studiously avoided watching Friends at all in an attempt to never encounter this creature again.
For example, Russ was slightly taller than Ross. Russ talked in a slightly different manner than Ross. Russ’s hair was a little longer than that of Ross—almost as if a mullet.
Creepiest of all, it seemed as if subtle prosthetics were applied to actor David Schwimmer’s face (such as the chin) so that Russ would physically look different than Ross. (in the credits, the part is attributed not to Schwimmer but the uni-named “Snarro”)
It is tempting for me to attribute the “uncanny valley” phenomenon to my Russ revulsion, but that is really about objects that resemble humans—not humans that resemble other humans. Though technically…these all aren’t really “human-humans” we’re talking about here. We’re talking about characters in Friends, already several steps removed from reality and a perpetual rerun to boot.
There are two aspects of the episode Russ appears in that seem to possibly provide some context—both involving what I call the “Mean Friends Syndrome.”
In “Mean Friends,” anybody dating one of the Friends who is not of the core circle of six characters…well, they are on borrowed time. They most likely will be thoughtlessly discarded. Because deep down…the Friends don’t accept anyone who is not part of that core team. Not really. Deep down…they all wish to have this near-incestuous pair-up thing where they never have to leave the Circle. The sinister Friends Circle.
In the episode in question, Monica is dating “Fun Bobby”—who is “fun” apparently only because he is an alcoholic. Once he quits drinking, Monica (and the rest of the gang) realizes that he is no longer “fun”—so he must be gotten rid of. Thoughtlessly discarded. (though technically, Bobby dumps Monica because he says he doesn’t want to be in a co-dependent relationship)
But we also have the appearance of Russ in that episode—Russ, inexplicable doppelgänger of Ross. Russ eventually goes out with one of Ross’s cast-off girlfriends—a girlfriend ultimately cast-off because she was not of the Friends Circle. I actually cheered for Russ and this woman at the end of the episode, pushing my Russ Revulsion aside. I was like: “Run away from there, children. Run far, far away.”
Lastly, Russ seems to bear a bit of a resemblance to a young Bruce Campbell from the 1981 movie Evil Dead—coincidence?
I’ve always wanted to see a version of Evil Dead with the characters from Friends in it…
…that would be great.
Anyway, behold the horror of…Russ: