Twins in Media: The Grady Twins

Screenshot of Lisa and Louise Burns as The Grady Twins in 1980’s ‘The Shining’. Copyright goes to Warner Brothers, The Producer Circle Company, Peregrine Productions, and Hawk Films.

Hey! Hallie here!

We’ve finally reached the week of Halloween, and that means more Halloween-themed twins to talk about! We’re starting this week out with the most popular spooky twins in Horror, The Grady Twins. These two don’t have too much of a background, but they’re so iconic that we couldn’t not talk about them for this series. Who hasn’t quoted “Come and play with us” at some point? These two are arguably the most recognizable part of ‘The Shining’, and are definitely one of the two most parodied and referenced elements of the 1980 movie. I don’t think I have to specify which Jack Nicholson scene takes the second spot. Their popularity has made it impossible for twin girls to go through their lives without at least being compared to them once. So let’s get into what we know about these two to determine how good of a representation of twins they are.

The Good:

  • Played by actual twins. In every adaptation of ‘The Shining’, The Grady Twins have been played by actual twins. Using actual twins for twin characters always makes them stand out, especially to actual twins. In movies that use one actress to play two roles, it’s always obvious that there are no differences between them. Whenever two different actresses portray twins everything feels more realistic. There’s no better way to take a twin in your audience out of your story than to present them with one actor or actress who is being used for two separate characters. Twins always have differences, even if they’re subtle, and the differences lend to more realistic characters and a more immersive story.
  • Slight differences. It’s unclear whether these differences were put in because the original book gives the girls ages as 8 and 10, but there are differences between the twins. Some have mentioned that there is a height difference, but I think the most telling difference is actually their dresses. One girls dress is shorter than the others. It’s not really a difference in fit either, because the skirt lengths are pretty obviously off. Considering that the girls were not twins in the original book, it’s possible this was done to point to their different ages. Still, as the movie treats the girls as twins, it’s important to point out that there were steps made to differentiate them. Even if it was a very, very, very, small difference.

The Bad:

  • Twins are creepy. These two characters were not necessarily twins when a casting call was put out to fill these roles. It was only when Stanley Kubrick saw Lisa and Louise Burns that he decided to go with a pair of twins because they would be creepier. Putting twins in ‘creepy’ roles such as this helps along the narrative that twins are abnormal. Of course, this isn’t true of twin characters that are written as two separate characters. But The Grady Twins wear the same outfit and say the same lines at the same time. It’s safe to say that much of the creep factor for these two came from a focus on the fact that they were twins. It’s a very good way to give society a reason to give twins a wide berth. In the very least, it doesn’t help normalize twins to audiences.
  • Synchronicity. The fact that they can say the same things at the exact same time, on purpose, is truly impressive. Because my sister and I can only do that on complete accident, and never twice in a row. Needless to say, it isn’t a very realistic trait to give twin characters. Of course, the scene would have been much less creepy without the girls speaking at the same time. The issue is that this is a trope that is used very often for twins and these two don’t escape it. In fact, this is a defining feature of The Grady Twins. Eventually, it would be nice if twin characters could express different thoughts without falling back on ridiculous tropes such as this one.
  • The same outfit. I mentioned earlier that their dresses are slightly different, but let’s be honest, these two are easily recognizable because they wear the same exact outfit. It helps them look even more like identical twins. I’m not saying that twins, and even some siblings, don’t wear matching outfits at young ages. But it most definitely doesn’t help audiences go out and treat twins like two separate people. The matching outfits add to a few very obvious twin tropes that are often used to make twins look both odd and exactly the same. To be completely honest, whenever I see twins wearing the same outfit in any movie or tv show, I’m pretty certain I’m about to see a very bad interpretation of twins. After all, if the costuming department didn’t find it important to make the twin characters appear different, the script probably didn’t either. The Grady Twins are a great example of this.

So are The Grady Twins a good representation of twins in media? Not really. They’re a pretty basic representation of the most used twin tropes in media. To be clear, there isn’t much information we’re given about The Grady Twins in any version of ‘The Shining’. Still, ANY twin characters that are presented to the audience as the same, whether it be physically or mentally, is going to be a bad representation of twins. Twins are nothing more than siblings who look more alike than most other siblings. Twins have different opinions and tastes, and we are just as unique of individuals as every other person on the planet. When it comes to The Grady Twins, I enjoy their creepiness with the hope that we don’t see more twin characters like them in media any time soon.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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