Twins in Media: Tweedledee and Tweedledum

Screenshot from Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Productions and RKO Radio Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

This week for twins in media, we’re really going for the classics. These are the twin portrayals that paved the way for many other twins in media, and also popularized harmful stereotypes. It’s really difficult to talk about twins in media without a mention of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Alice meets this pair of twins on her adventures through Wonderland and is almost immediately annoyed by their presence in almost every version of this tale. What’s not to be annoyed about? They hop around, insult her, and talk in nothing but riddles much like most of the other people she meets in Wonderland. If you’re talking about the Tim Burton version, which I should mention purely for the purpose of name-dropping Burton during spooky season, they are some of the most useless characters in Wonderland. But do these things necessarily make them a bad representation of twins in media?

The Insane: (Wonderland’s definition of good.)

  • Their outfits? The flag hats are cute I guess. Right? I mean the color palate hurts my head a little bit. Maybe they aren’t as good. The longer I look at them the less I like them. But I had to put something in this category. I like their blue bowties. That’s something at least! Maybe I should have said their blue bowties instead of their entire outfits. Anyways…

The Sane:

  • Synchronicity. They are either speaking at the same time or finishing each other’s sentences. They can’t say anything without an interruption or continuation from the other, fueling this awful idea that twins somehow share a brain. It’s dumb, and let’s be honest, it would be annoying to hear a story be told in this way. Could you imagine someone sitting down to tell you a story and someone else constantly cutting them off and continuing parts of the story for them? It would totally ruin the flow. This trope isn’t just unrealistic, it’s also annoying!
  • Same lives. It’s not like there’s really any portrayal of these two where they have relationships with any other character. Never mind interacting with characters in different ways. They are their own two-headed entity that live in their own little world. This has fueled people into believing that twins only really like each other and live in their own personal worlds. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they were intimidated by me when they first met me; not because of how I looked, but because they thought my sister and I wouldn’t want to be bothered by people outside of the two of us. We are, in fact, people who live in the same world as everyone else and want relationships with other people. We aren’t some kind of alien race estranged from reality. We are siblings and best friends who want other friends and different relationships with different people. We aren’t going to bite your head off for daring to talk to us when we’re hanging out together… unless you say something really creepy.
  • Circus freaks. Here’s a good trope we haven’t talked too much about before! This is when a portrayal of twins treat twins more like something interesting to ogle than anything else. I mean, I would say most portrayals of twins actually do this, but there is an extent that exceeds what most other portrayals do. The fact that these two are in Wonderland along with the other weird creatures of Wonderland means the author is presenting twins as a weird creature. And yes, “a” , as in one singular creature instead of two. Twins are present in this story because Lewis Carroll deemed them inherently weird. He, like many people, looked at twins like a weird consumable object rather than two separate actual human beings. Their presence in the story is Carroll essentially asking the audience: “Wouldn’t it be weird to meet a pair of twins?” No. No, it wouldn’t. Twins are regular human beings and siblings. The fact that my sister and I were born on the same day is not something we could control. It wasn’t a result of experimental testing. It is not an uncommon occurrence. We are not aliens or weird creatures from another planet or an alternate dimension. The more you treat twins like circus freaks, the less you treat them like human beings. I am not an animal in a cage here for your amusement. If that’s how you want to see me or my sister… go away.
  • Paving the way. This is what’s most depressing about these two. They are some of the most popular portrayals of twins and also one of the first popularized portrayal of twins. People loved these characters, and still do, without seeing or acknowledging the issues with them. They are part of the reason why many twin characters in media are still way, way, way off the mark. People think treating twins like this and portraying them like this in media is ok. How many twins have been used for horror purposes because of their apparent “weirdness”?(We’ll come back to that later this month.) It is because twins have been portrayed like this for so long that my sister and I have been treated like aliens by people several times in our lives. They helped start it all for the portrayal of twins in media, and that sucks.

So are they good representation of twins in media?

No. I really like ‘Alice in Wonderland’! A lot of my room is actually Wonderland themed because it fits so well with my love of pastels! I’ve always liked the creation of full worlds that allow the audience to easily escape into them, which has fueled my love of fictional places like Wonderland and Neverland. I grew up reading ‘Alice in Wonderland’. It was my go to book at my Grandfather’s house when I forgot to bring my own books from home. Curling up on the couch and reading it all in one sitting is a prominent memory from my childhood. But I can still say that the book has a lot of problems. (Don’t even get me started on the fact that it’s creation is really messed up considering Lewis Carroll was a pedophile and Alice was a real little girl.) Clearly, the portrayal of twins in this book is, though bad, not the worst problem present. We need to start normalizing the acknowledgement of bad things in the works that we like. It doesn’t mean you have to stop liking those things, but you should be able to look at aspects of it and determine that they aren’t right or moral. Critiquing media is part of consuming it. And the Tweedles should not have ever been a standard to which twins in media were held. But they were, and there’s no changing that. We need to look at them as bad examples so we can be better.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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