Twins in Media: Annalise and Erika

Screenshot of Annalise and Erika from 2004’s ‘Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper’. Copyright goes to Mainframe Entertainment and Mattel Entertainment.

Hey! Hallie here!

For this weeks twins in media we’re going a bit off the rails. There’s a lot of twins to explore with this series but, unfortunately, not enough spooky twins to give you until next week. So today we’re going to talk about what is basically my childhood. Why a Barbie movie? Am I running out of ideas? No. I just have a lot of nostalgic feelings. So let’s talk about Annalise and Erika! As a side note, I know they aren’t actually twins. This is yet another situation where the story functions around the fact that the two look alike. This is also another situation where audiences began to compare these two to real life twins when the movie came out. I’m going to address all of these things while I talk about them. Also, I’m not going to be taking myself too seriously with this one. This movie is campy. It’s good, (I’m accepting no arguments at this time,) but it’s got that Barbie cheese anyone who’s seen a Barbie movie is familiar with. Let’s get into this!

The Bad:

  • Separated at Birth. Annalise and Erika do not have the same parents, nor were they ever even distantly related, but the story really operates like a separated at birth storyline. Annalise just happens to be taken out to the village by her future husband, and no I absolutely don’t have a crush on Julian what are you talking about? Anyway. Annalise overhears Erika singing for extra money and is instantly surprised that Erika looks so much like her. They vent their issues out to each other in song form, because of course they do, and we get some of the most basic signs of the separated at birth trope. They are exact opposites that have grown up in opposite situations. Despite this they have one commonality that makes them think they’re very similar. In this Annalise is rich and Erika is poor and orphaned, but they both want to escape their lives. The problems they have seem kind of disproportionate. I don’t know about you, but if I was poor and constantly verbally abused by a dress maker, and some rich girl came into my life singing about how she gets breakfast in bed, I’d probably punch her in the face. Despite that, it sets up the switch, something that happens in the original ‘Prince and the Pauper’ story and something we see in twin movies such as ‘The Parent Trap’. Separated at birth storylines are the most extreme example of the idea that twins must be outrageously different for others to understand their differences. It goes so far as to give the twins completely different environments to grow up in. It just isn’t a realistic situation and audiences need to know that twins are separate people even if they don’t violently hit you over the head to point out the differences.
  • The Switch. I started talking about this above so I’m going to continue talking about it here. This switch is one of the best I’ve seen in any movie about twins. They give Annalise and Erika the opportunity to switch because of their problems, and then both girls kind of decide that the other persons life sucks too and go their separate ways. Which is an obvious change from most switch movies. In fact, I’d argue most movies with this trope would end about ten minutes in if the leads noticed how similar they looked, thought “cool”, and then left. But then, because we do in fact need a movie, Annalise gets kidnapped and Julian asks Erika to take her place in the castle while he tries to find her. And, surprise, surprise, all she needs is a blonde wig and no one can tell the difference. The switch, whether or not the trope means to, tells it’s audience that twins are interchangeable. That they could switch places or one could just disappear and no one would notice the difference. Even if my mother had terrible vision, like Annalise’s mother does in this movie, there is no way I could convincingly pretend to be my sister without her noticing. And that’s with me actually knowing my sister. We have very different personalities and even different sounding voices. Meanwhile, Erika doesn’t know anything about Annalise and only gets one (amazing) song montage to learn how to act like royalty. And most of the time she messes it up. The fact that she gets away with it is unrealistic and harmful, but I’m kind of torn because ‘To Be a Princess’ is a bop.
  • The Double Wedding. No thanks. Moving on.

The Good:

  • Different Goals. This isn’t a situation where the ‘twin’ characters want what the other has. Annalise and Erika switch places out of necessity. They don’t choose to. Part of the reason is because Erika doesn’t see being royalty as a solution to her problems, nor does Annalise see being poor as a solution to her problems. Erika wants to leave the kingdom to become a singer. Meanwhile, Annalise wants to provide for her mother and marry whoever she wants to. Annalise doesn’t see leaving her mother as a good thing, nor does Erika see being tied to the kingdom as a good thing. This isn’t a situation where they had separate lives up until the switch and then they never wanted to be apart again. They are individuals and prove themselves to be so. Erika actually leaves immediately after the story ends for her singing career. They have similar interests, such as breaking out into song for no reason, and they become very close friends, as many twins are, but that doesn’t mean that they suddenly don’t have separate lives to live. Annalise just happens to have the better life because she isn’t married to a himbo with no personality. I said what I said. I have nothing against himbos with personality, though.
  • Positive Role Models. My sister and I would actually compare ourselves to Annalise and Erika when we were younger, rather than others comparing us to them. As little girls, we were ecstatic to see two characters that looked alike but were actually completely different. Unfortunately, this was because these characters are treated like twin characters, but with the benefit of not being twins. So no, these two aren’t twins. But as a movie made for young girls that came out when I was five, I loved it. The movie validated myself and my sister by assuring us that our differences could be seen. Everyone treated these two like twins but it also felt like everyone could understand that they were different. Even little girls knew the difference. All of them bought the two-pack of Annalise and Erika and only played with Annalise. When my sister and I got the dolls I forced her to take Erika because I wanted the princess one. Jokes on me. I like Erika more now.

So are these two a good representation of twins? I’d say they’re kind of in the middle. They fall into a lot of tropes but they taught little girls that twins can, and often do, have different personalities. They also really focus on the independence of each girl, which also happens to highlight their different goals. If nothing else, it isn’t a bad look into twins for young children. It just isn’t the type of representation we should see in media regularly. We should be seeing actual twins on screen. Ones that have realistic similarities and differences. Hopefully those stories will eventually be the ones young girls get to see. We just have to make sure both twins are wearing princess dresses next time a doll company releases a two-pack.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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