One of the reasons that the Double is often considered frightening is because it represents a kind of evil twin — an Other that threatens the ego. We find such doubles everywhere — from fictional tales to unexpectedly catching our own reflections in the mirror. These encounters with the doppelgänger threaten to erase the ego with a reflection of itself, perhaps due to a fear of replacement. Unconsciously, we respond with a paradox and a litany of panic questions: That thing is not me, yet it is so much like me, that it might as well be me. What I presumed to be a natural law is no longer true — so is anything true anymore? Is it better than the me I think I am? Does it harbor all my ugly urges and violent desires? If I can exist outside of myself, do I really exist at all? Are there other me’s that I haven’t met yet?
When you double ‘the double’ through media technology, the single other of the doppelgänger is “the same but different” than the iconic “evil twin” characters of literature and narrative. Instead, what we are presented with is a self-aware representation, due to the way that the image is itself always already a RE-presentation of “reality” — one that often can be mechanically reproduced ad infinitum. In other words, the common and historical figure of the doppelgänger shifts over to the more contemporary but still frightening process of cloning, which can mass manufacture multiple identical copies off a single strand of DNA. What frames or produces the character is no longer necessarily a specific author or agent, but a more abstract and supernaturalized agency of power in control of a kind of cloning device.
When a double is doubled in this way, you have in a sense created a third double: the image itself. It becomes a harbinger of the potential for further doubling into a progressive number of infinite copies presents itself. In my work on the popular uncanny, I term this process “doublement,” borrowing the French term for repetition from early deconstructionist theory. Media technology, because it records information and “re-presents” reality, often stages the power of its own doublement — and advertising exploits this as a process for lending their commodities an aura of supernatural aura and implying a potency or power that is “magical.”
The uncanny double lurks in every market, hoping to catch our eye and make us do a double-take. From the produce aisle to the point-of-sale at the register, we are haunted by these appeals and unconscious desires.
[See also: Arnzen, Michael. “Supermarketing the Uncanny: Anxiety at the Point-of-Sale.” Paradoxa 3.3-4 (1997).]