If you watch superhero movies, you’ve probably noticed the trend. All the stars seem to be named Chris. An actor is cast as Captain America? Call him Chris. Thor? Chris. Robin? Star-Lord? Steve Trevor? Chris, Chris, Chris.
Many have remarked on this coincidence, joked about it, and even compiled rankings of best Chrises in hero-dom. But here at BabyNameWizard.com, we want to know why. Is it pure chance, or does it point to something deeper about the actors, or about the name? Is Chris an intrinsically super-powered name, custom-made to leap tall buildings and conquer space and time?
In fact, the secret of Chris turns out to be precisely the opposite. Its reign represents the last hurrah of the everyman.
Let’s take a look at the current big four of super-Chrises.
Images of Evans, Hemsworth and Pratt via Disney.com; Pine via WarnerBros.com
Chris Evans of Captain America: born 1981 in Massachusetts, USA
Chris Hemsworth of Thor: born 1983 in Victoria, Australia
Chris Pine of Wonder Woman: born 1980 in California, USA
Chris Pratt of Guardians of the Galaxy: born 1979 in Minnesota, USA
That’s four white guys born in four very different locales, all in the same short span of time. What’s the common thread?
First off, the full name of all four actors is actually Christopher. At the time they were born, the “All-American Nice Guy Nicknames” still ruled, and any ordinary Christopher could expect to be called Chris. Next, let’s look at the popularity of Christopher during that period. Christopher is an old and traditional name, but not a timeless one. The name experienced a huge surge in popularity in the 1970s and ’80s. In fact, only Michael was given to more U.S. babies from 1979-83. Take a look at the NameVoyager graph of Christopher’s popularity:
What’s more, that popularity was nationwide. Christopher was a top-3 boy’s name in every state in the union in the early ’80s. As for demographics, New York City historical stats show that the name Christopher reached the top 10 in every racial group. And the popularity didn’t stop at the border. Christopher was just as popular in England, Canada, and Chris Hemsworth’s native Australia.
Certainly, there’s a big element of chance in a cluster of names like the super Chrises. But underlying that chance is a probability distribution. A bunch of guys in their 30’s are likely to be named Chris, because that’s just what guys in their 30’s are named. You might think of the actor names as the mild-mannered alter egos for their onscreen heroes: the everyman brigade.
They may be the last of their breed. In its peak as America’s #2 name, Christopher was over three times as popular as today’s #1, Liam. So a generation from now, we shouldn’t expect a new crop of matching everymen behind our superheroes. Today’s baby names are all Superman, no Clark Kent.