Double trouble? Stereotyping twins in the media

4 mins read

In 1996, the world was blessed with the birth of me and my twin sister Kirsten. In the nearly twenty years since then we’ve pretty much heard it all. Here’s a taste:

“You’re identical? Are you sure? You don’t look the same.”

“I’m not even going to attempt to tell you two apart.”

“Can you read each other’s minds?”

“Who is the good and evil twin?”

And it goes on. Whenever both of us meet someone new, they already have a barrage of questions, and some strange presumptions. More often than not we disappoint them with answers about our relatively normal, boring lives.

Twins aren’t all that uncommon – 863 sets of twins were born in Scotland in 2012 – but for some reason people treat us oddly when they find out. It’s a bizarre phenomenon that has only increased as we’ve grown older.

I blame Mary-Kate and Ashley. I blame Jedward and the twins in The Shining. The media seems to treat twins as a novelty – to the public, nothing is more fascinating that two different people who look exactly the same.

Famous twins have often been divided into two categories – cute and creepy. Whenever twins are classed as one or the other depends on their ages, their physical similarity and how closely their lives are entangled. Dylan and Cole Sprouse, child stars of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, are definitely cute thanks to their Disney Channel beginnings and squeaky clean image.

However, in contrast Sherri and Terri, the twins from The Simpsons, are clearly creepy – the two are duplicates of each other, and even occasionally speak in their own twin language. These are two extremes that all ‘real’ twins will fall between, but that doesn’t stop these stereotypes from filtering out into the actual world.

But these myths are not the worst misconception about twins. One feature that nearly all famous twins have – real and fictional alike – is that they are almost completely indistinguishable from each other. They are lumped together as one ‘character’. There can never be one without the other, and they aren’t given the luxury of separate personalities. Their only defining feature appears to be their ‘twinness’.

Unfortunately, this isn’t helped by twins in the public eye hyping this for up attention, dressing in matching outfits and never leaving each other’s sides. This gives people expectations that most twins just laugh at. But these stereotypes remain.

Real life is never like this – well, except for some exceptional and quite frankly unhealthy cases. Being a twin is not like being one half of a whole, incomplete without the other – it’s like being a sibling. We laugh together, and we fight sometimes, but when it comes down to it we have our own lives. What a lot of people think is that two people who look similar must act similarly too.

Me and my sister are obviously going to have some similarities – we have the same family, and have shared a lot of our experiences. But this has not resulted in us having exactly the same personality – that is impossible. Everyone is different, even those who happen to look exactly the same.

So if you’re ever tempted to ask a twin “Have you ever pretended to be each other?” remember that real life isn’t like The Parent Trap.

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1 Comment

  1. Growing up, when classmates would ask if we feel each others pain; I would respond with ‘yes. It hurts my fist when i fit her’.
    I never did actually hit her btw.

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