Double trouble

(Originally published in The California Aggie)

I’m a twin. I like movies. But I don’t like twins in movies.

This may sound paradoxical. I rarely meet any other twins in my everyday life (though there are two other sets in my family), so you’d think I’d enjoy seeing people similar to myself represented in popular films.

But the truth is, real twins, like my sister and I, are nothing like the twins you see in Hollywood.

For one thing, we don’t say the same thing at the same time. This is a common trope acted out by twins in countless films, TV shows and commercials. Ever seen The Shining? Or that IKEA commercial a few months ago, with the girls of about 12 years old, in matching blue dresses, standing in front of the double oven? “We can do two things at once,” they say in perfect unison. It’s creepy and it perpetuates the myth that twins actually speak like this.

Memo to Hollywood: Twins find it just as unnerving as everyone else to see two identical people talking in unison. We don’t do it; neither should you.

I also find it troubling to see the vast majority of twin characters represented as a “set” of two carbon-copy people instead of individuals with unique personalities. The most high-profile example of this is Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter movies. I’ve only read the first book, so perhaps you Potter fanatics have learned a few defining characteristics, but after seven movies I can’t identify one meaningful difference between them. Both are pranksters, they finish each other’s sentences and even other characters have trouble telling them apart — all of which they embrace wholeheartedly.

There must be some characteristics that are unique to each of them. Maybe Fred is more outgoing and George is quieter. Perhaps George likes potions while Fred would prefer to study herbology. We’ll never know. Obviously J.K. Rowling only thought of the Weasleys as “the twins” and didn’t bother to develop them as the unique individuals that they are.

The same goes for The Social Network’s Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (or “the Winklevi,” as Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg calls them – really, proving my point is too easy), the cute Nigel and Kyle Baker in Cheaper By the Dozen with Steve Martin, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice in Wonderland.

If Hollywood wants to learn how to do twins right, it should look no further than the Titan of all twin movies, The Parent Trap (the cool version with Lindsay Lohan). Barring the fact that both Annie and Hallie are played by Lohan, the film does an excellent job portraying them as two separate people, with obvious similarities (a thing for Oreos with peanut butter and a wicked knack for fixing up unsuspecting adults) but just as many differences. Annie’s more girly, for example, while Hallie is a bit of a tomboy.

By the end of the movie, we’ve come to love them, not because “they’re twins and isn’t that cute,” but because Annie’s Annie and Hallie’s Hallie. It’s as simple as that.

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