Call For Comments: Dual Identities as Single Identities

From Mav: So, while taping my other show, Gosh Golly Wow, we had a brief discussion about how while some of the X-men characters have two names, a public and a privater personal (e.g. Kurt Wagner is Nightcrawler, Scott Summers is Cyclops, and Ororo Monroe is Storm) there are others that have only one single identity (Doop, Professor X, Bishop) or technically have code names but mostly don’t use them (Kitty Pryde and Jean Grey are technically Shadowcat and Marvel Girl but pretty much no one actually cares enough to say those names out loud). Obviously this is also the case in other superhero comic properties to some extent or another, but it seems to really shine there.

At first we talked about this like it was a thing unique to comics, but that got me to thinking. I actually have a similar relationship with lots of my professional wrestling friends. Some I call by their real names outside of the ring, others I call by their wrestling names. In some cases I use old names that they don’t even use anymore. For instance, WWE’s Joaquin Wilde is just “Shiima” in my head, even though that’s a name he stopped using like three gimmicks ago. But I (and most of the other Pittsburgh area wrestlers Shiima and I trained with) pretty much never use his real name or his later gimmick names when I’m talking to him in real life. It’s just the way we he’s labeled in my brain or I expect most other Pittsburgh area wrestlers. But at the same time, there’s me just being “Mav” both in the ring and in real life.

I imagine this might also be the case with other cultures where people use assumed aliases. I’ve been trying to think of examples the last few days. The ones that come to mind are like drag queens, strippers, and maybe fighter pilots. It doesn’t seem like it would make sense to do this with actors? Perhaps because they change characters too often? As opposed to with wrestling, drag queens, and superheroes where you “take your character with you.” That said, I find it fascinating the ways in which name is part of identity here. In some ways I think it plays into our earlier show on mask theory. What makes an identity and what happens when an alter-ego and a primary identity merge?

Anyway, what do you think? Are there examples of other cultures/occupations you can think of where one’s nickname/stagename/codename/callsign can supplant their traditional identity? In these cases is it normal for it to happen for some people and not others? And if you can think of examples, why doe this happen? I’m not quite clear where I’m going with this idea, so I really want your thoughts.

8 Comments and 1 Webmention for “Call For Comments: Dual Identities as Single Identities”

  1. I would argue that a lot of masculine cultures like to issue nicknames that then become the main identity signifier. So like fraternity culture, team sport culture, etc. Not sure why it’s more of a dude-bros thing.

  2. Makes me think of the old SNL sketch where Eddie Murphy won’t stop calling Ron Howard “Opie Cunningham.” I’ve seen several stories in the news recently where actors have petitioned the court to legally change their name to their professional name. Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad is the one that most immediately comes to mind. But this happens all the time, and there’s plenty of clickbait about the “real” names of actors. I also think it happens when someone transitions into the strata of having one name. Clearly Cher, Madonna, P!nk & Adele have (alternate or) last names, but it clearly becomes a brand for them.Wayne‘s a better expert on all things Bowie, but I recall reading an interview with someone who knew him in the latter stages of his life that he was simply Mr. Jones, and was plain ol’ folk. That’s a guy who picked a stage name which morphed into a persona that regularly transformed, and “Bowie” became almost a necessity to describe the artist. But in his personal life, it seems that the man shed some of the alter-ego (or is it superego) to return to humble roots. Not that the life that he led was all that humble, in any way.

  3. This happens in Burner culture too, and Communities, and, I would guess, pretty much most of the time folks assume a new label/ symbol for “me” in some context/s. Calling someone “Shiima” whose identity (at whatever scale/ scope) has evolved past that would only be problematic if they wanted to completely separate their current identity from that old identity (eg deadnames). If the person is comfortable maintaining continuity of identity in different contexts (ie, the context of you/ you+other wrestling friends of that era) then there’s no issue. [I mention bc a deadname-trigger went off for me when I read that bit] Names are just symbols that stand for “a person” and there’s no “real” or “right” answer to what symbol should be used, just people using them in ways that work for them. Folks hold and embody varying identities all the time – all relational/ describing how one’s positioning relates them to other entities/ categories/ experiences/ positions (eg human, earthling, mother, daughter, friend, white person, autist, non-binary etc etc are some of mine). And of course, each person themself has thoughts on those relations, and so does everyone else. Names, nicknames, identities, all evolve because relationships evolve.

  4. I think something like this was mentioned in the main post comments, but it’s something I encounter in the geocaching hobbyist community. There are people I’ve known face to face for years by their user name, and I couldn’t tell you their real name. There’s always a bit of mini embarrassment you have to get over at events when you introduce yourself by your “known” name and not your real name. (Kitty Pryde is a thread unto its own with her ever-changing costumes and her brief “Ariel” phase…)

  5. Roller derby is a great example of this. My partner is on a team and her derby name is Amperslam. Most of the other players call her Amper, and she only ever talks about them using their aliases, both on the track and off.

  6. In the Switzerland scouting system, you’re called by your normal first name until you do enough overnights and activities with the group that they’ve gotten to know you. At that point, at the next camp out, they wake you up one night and go out and do a naming ceremony, and give you a new name that they think matches you somehow. So then you’ve earned your scout name, and at that point your real name stops being used. (You also get a little shoulder sash.) All real life, digital, roll call, anything is now the scout name. I suspect many scouts don’t even know each others real names. The rest of your life it’s like a club, where people in the workplace or elsewhere might share their former scout name with another former scout. (Also, the scouts here are led by other senior scouts, unlike the US where it’s the parents. So the oldest leaders are like in their early 20’s. I as a parent i only know the leader’s real name who has it in their email address, but otherwise on the rare occasions I might meet them I also am introduced to them by scout name.) By the way, Ted’s scout name is Tesla.

  7. Burning Man culture shows this strongly. There are many people I’ve met through that whom I see somewhat regularly but I don’t think I’ve ever learned their legal names, despite as much as two decades of contact. I’ve had similar experience with the SCA and various LARPs, but those tended to have a stronger situational separation of what names were used.

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