Twins in Media: Janice and Jessica

Screenshot from ‘The Suite Life on Deck’ starring Rebecca Rosso, Camilla Rosso, and Cole Sprouse. Copyright goes to It’s a Laugh Productions and Disney Channel.

Hi! It’s Annie!

We’re really going to dive into nostalgia for this week’s Twins in Media posts. ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’ was one of those shows my sister and I watched a lot when we were younger. I mean, it was one of those shows that most kids at the time watched a lot. This show followed two brothers who would eventually become one of the most popular representations of twins in media. So why not start with Zack and Cody if you’re the one posting first? Wouldn’t that make more sense? You may be right, but I have serious beef with Janice and Jessica. Why? This portrayal made me cry. If you were looking for one of us to absolutely trash a portrayal of twins in media, strap in folks. I’m not going to go easy on these two.

The Bad (Almost All of It):

  • Female twin fetishization. This is one of the most noticeable portrayals of this in media, but it’s everywhere. Let me set the stage for you. My sister and I are six or seven when we’re watching an episode of ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’ and are very excited to finally see female twins on the show. The show then reveals that Zack is attracted to both girls and, upon realizing that they are different people, forces Cody to go on a double date with him. When Cody proves to be too nervous and anxious, Zack decides to take them both out. Throughout the course of the episode they find Cody to be more sensitive and by the end of the episode both show interest in Cody instead. My sister and I look at each other as the episode ends and six year old me immediately bursts into tears. My Mom, hearing the commotion, rushes over to see what’s wrong only for me to wail at her about how I didn’t want to be dating the same boy as my sister when we grew up. I hope you see the problem here. Janice and Jessica are twins portrayed as the exact same character in two bodies, and for some reason this has convinced audiences to allow television and media to portray these relationships as somehow monogamous even when they obviously are not. This is definitely not the only example of this. Ever watched ‘Supernatural’? How many times has Dean Winchester talked about his conquests being twins? Ever watched ‘The Umbrella Academy’? There was a throw away line where Klaus also mentioned having twins as a conquest. Ever watched anything ‘Star Trek’ ever? If you know anything about Captain Kirk, I don’t have to say anything more here. These are only a few examples. Notice how it happens to women more than men? This is because the fetishization of female twins is part of a bigger conversation about the continued fetishization of women in media in general. Not to say that male twins don’t get fetishized, because they definitely do. People seem to like the idea of having two people for the price of one; which will NEVER HAPPEN. There will never be a situation where there are any two human beings for the price of one. But, it does happen significantly more to women. If you think that people know the difference between reality and media and this has not effected the way my sister and I have been treated, guess again. I had a classmate in college heavily hint at me that they would be interested in a threesome the minute they found out I had a twin sister. I have said this before, and I will say it again. If you wouldn’t do it with your sibling; WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU THINK WE WOULD BE INTERESTED? We never have and never will be two for the price of one. We haven’t ever been interested in the same guy! Twins are still two different people with different tastes. We are also not sexual objects for television shows to continuously portray as conquests. Stop fetishizing us and portraying us as the same person.
  • Synchronized twins. Both of us have already talked about this a lot in other posts and I addressed it a little above, so I’ll only touch on this trope. They say the exact same things and they are portrayed as having the same mindset. Everything you might think you would find is present here. They basically are portrayed as having a shared brain, and I’m just emotionally exhausted by seeing so much of this trope.
  • Same person in two bodies. I’ve also touched on this a little already. They are two of the worst portrayed twins in media simply for basically being written as the same character. They really have no distinguishable personality traits. There is no telling them apart because there’s nothing different about them. Even if you spent time seeing which actress was which character, it wouldn’t matter. Because Janice and Jessica are interchangeable. There are no differences here and it’s so depressing to see. They might as well be aliens operating under a hive brain. There are no human beings to be found in this twin portrayal.

The Good (There’s Something Good?):

  • Different relationships. I have to give some credit where it’s due, but not much. When ‘Suite Life on Deck’ came out the writers seemed to recognize their mistake in making both girls be interested in the same guy. They at least had the two date Zack and Cody respectively instead of having them both date the same guy. But I will give very little credit here because they barely showed up in the sequel show and they still acted like the exact same person. This doesn’t even begin to apologize for what they did with these two at the beginning of the show.
  • Different actresses. The absolute best thing I can say about Janice and Jessica is that they were portrayed by actual twins and not the same person. It’s always nice to see twins, or even just two vaguely similar looking actors, play twins rather than just one person. It helps distinguish the two enough to make audiences look at them more like two different human beings in most cases. Unfortunately, these actresses weren’t enough to save the writing of their characters.

So, are Janice and Jessica a good representation of twins in media or not?

You probably didn’t even ask this question after reading the rest of this article. The obvious answer is NO. They are, in fact, some of the worst twins I have ever seen in media in my life. They are great examples of some of the worst parts of media portraying twins. In fact, they also set women in media in general back. You really have to ask yourself; how could a show with twins as their main characters screw up so much? Zack and Cody are sort of opposites, which isn’t good, but they aren’t presented as some sort of hive mind creature. Why is it that once they introduced a pair of female twins, they had to pull out all of the tropes as well as sexism? The fact that these two exist make me both depressed and angry. They also made six year old me depressed and angry. If anyone ever wants proof that twins are fetishized or treated unfairly in media, I would point them directly to Janice and Jessica. They are absolutely awful and a great example of just how far media has to go on this topic and on the topic of fetishizing women in media. Because, I hate to say it, but when it comes to this, media hasn’t gotten much better since Janice and Jessica regularly appeared on our television screens.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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