Twins in Media: Poppet and Widget Murray

Image of Erin Morgenstern’s ‘The Night Circus’ front cover. Copyright goes to Erin Morgenstern and Doubleday.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Alright, I have to stop crying about the BTS concert and pull myself together. Here’s something else I can’t seem to shut up about! Have I ever mentioned how much I love ‘The Night Circus’? Obviously, it was only a matter of time before I had to talk about Poppet and Widget in one of these posts. Poppet is quite possibly my favorite book character of all time and was even listed in my introduction under characters that I kin. When I went into this book I honestly knew nothing about it. This book was given to me as a gift, so really the only thing I knew about it was what the back of the book described it to be. That’s my absolute favorite way to go into a book. The description of the book only covered the main plot with Marco and Celia and the competition, so I had absolutely no idea this book would feature a depiction of twins until I was introduced to the two characters. So, was I delighted at this depiction of twins or does this depiction leave a lot to be desired? (You can probably already guess the answer to this question.)

The Magical:

  • The anti circus freaks. In my last post about ‘Alice in Wonderland’ I talked about the absolutely awful circus freak trope. The fact that twins are often treated like freaks of nature or some sort of exhibit in a circus rather than actual people. Can I just say how amazing it is that this story is literally about a circus and features twins and never once uses the circus freak trope. There’s no twin telepathy, over synchronization, or some sort of giant finger pointing to the twins to declare how weird they are. The twins themselves are not a circus act. I have seen media use twins as freaks of nature so many times and was definitely expecting this book to be no exception. Especially with the circus setting. Instead, the closest you get to anything like that is one act that Poppet and Widget do together that doesn’t even focus on them but instead focuses on the cute kittens that they help train. When they grow up, because you do watch them grow up throughout the book, they leave that act and both develop their own acts within the circus. Poppet has the ability to gaze into the stars and see parts of the future in the constellations, so naturally she becomes the fortune teller for the circus. Widget has the ability to see the past on people’s clothing or on items that they carry. Through this he learns how to bottle memories and feelings and develops a tent to display these bottles and allow guests to try out different ones. Even though their powers are very similar in an opposite kind of way (I’ll get to that later), the acts themselves that they create are, at least nothing at all like each other. They aren’t even connected. If you went to this circus if it somehow really existed, you wouldn’t even know that twins worked there. I’ll say it again, that’s really rare to see in a story that uses twins in a circus-like environment.
  • Different lives. The main storyline involving Poppet and Widget also features another character; Bailey. Not only do the three separate often in their storylines, but it’s safe to say that Poppet and Widget have very different relationships to Bailey considering Poppet is romantically linked to him and Widget is not. It’s rare to see a twin, in a scenario like this, get a romantic storyline because authors seem to feel that it takes away from showing the audience how close the twins are for some reason. Or their just going with the detached-from-reality-and-in-a-world-of-their-own trope. Most of the time I see a character that is a twin in an actually focused on romantic relationship it’s because the other twin is incapacitated or died. Which is a very happy thought for me and my sister. That does not happen here, and you even get Widget teasing his sister about her feelings for Bailey. It’s not just Bailey though. Poppet and Widget pop up in Celia’s storyline as she helps teach them. Their relationships with Celia are also very different. When Celia is being unfair to them, Poppet usually notices that she’s going through a hard time and is very quick to hug her or try to comfort her. Widget is more likely to call her out on her unfairness. When dealing with business that has to do with the circus Poppet is kinder but prefers to be quieter and vague about her intentions or emotions if she deems it’s not necessary to share them. Widget is very to the point with business partners and says exactly what he’s feeling.
  • Best friends. Poppet and Widget are definitely best friends. They are constantly looking out for each other and hanging out with each other without relying too heavily on the other. Widget helps Poppet when she has a negative reaction to her fortune telling. Poppet tries to get Widget to greet people at parties and be polite so they both can go back to their introverted-ness in peace. They aren’t always together, which is good, but they hang out a lot.
  • Different but not opposites. Poppet and Widget aren’t opposites, they’re just different. I say this a lot, but that’s because it’s important. There is no evil twin here. Poppet is kinder, more polite, and a bit weirder (in a good way! I personally think weird is a compliment.) than her brother; but, in reality, keeps to herself more. Widget is less likely to talk to you, especially not without sarcasm, but when he does he says exactly what he feels. They work well off of each other without having personalities that are opposite or complementary.

The Un-magical:

  • Opposite powers. Told you I was going to get back to this. This is by far my biggest complaint about the two and actually one of the biggest complaints I have about the book. But, in reality, it’s a pretty small complaint. I really like Widget being a storyteller because of his knowledge of the past and Poppet’s stargazing is one of my favorite elements of her character. Their powers aren’t exact opposites when you look at them in detail. But without context; she can see into the future and he can see into the past. It’s a bit stereotypical. I wish there was something else that could have been done; but in the end the author pulls it off without drawing too much attention to this.

So, are Poppet and Widget good representations of twins in media?

I only wrote one flaw, so yes. There is still something that bugs me about their powers being complementary opposites; but the author did not extend this treatment into their actual character development. They have an incredible bond without it crossing bridges into creepy, too much, or twin telepathy. The author writes them realistically and presents them to the audience as nothing more or less than best friends. Poppet and Widget have meant more to me than most twins in media just by principle of how much I love this book. I could relate to Poppet because of her relationship with her brother as well as her stargazing weirdness, (I’m just talking about looking at stars, I am not into astrology. Sorry.), and her introverted-ness. There were times where it felt like I was reading about myself dancing around the absolute fantasy of the Night Circus, which connected me all the more to the book. There was something about Poppet being a twin that was presented in this way that made me feel understood. Poppet and Widget are not the type of twins that people would go around and mass compare every pair of twins to. They are too different of people for you to do that. The best twin depictions in media are like that.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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