Twins in Media: Liv and Maddie

Screenshot of Dove Cameron in ‘Liv and Maddie’. Copyright goes to Beck & Hart Productions, It’s a Laugh Productions, Oops Doughnuts Productions, and Disney Channel.

Hey! Hallie here!

‘Liv and Maddie’ was a show that came along a little while after I stopped watching Disney Channel. It wasn’t exactly influential to me when it aired, but my younger cousin watched it regularly, so it stayed on my radar. It’s probably one of the most recently popular depictions of twins in media. This show proved that audiences are still very interested in the idea of twins and popularized twins for a whole new generation. I know my cousin asked my sister and I plenty of questions about twins based on what she had seen in the show. So did this show impact twins positively or negatively? Let’s jump into it!

The Good:

  • Different Lives. I think this might be one of the best examples of this so far. Liv and Maddie grew up in the same household, but they didn’t feel obligated to do the same things. Liv decided to pursue a career in acting while Maddie didn’t really see the point. In fact, Liv decided to move away for several years when she became a series regular on a TV show. Meanwhile, Maddie decided to stay home and pursue sports. They have some of the same friends, and definitely some of the same interests, but they lead very different lives. Maddie, for example, has a much better relationship with their brother because she had been a bigger part of his life while he was growing up. But Liv, having been away from her hometown for several years, befriends Maddie’s friends first because she knows Maddie so well. This is how twins work. We might pursue different things, but in the end we know each other better than we know other people. We rely on each other for comfort in most situations, and often times that leads us to making the same friends or doing the same things. Even when that happens, though, we don’t share lives. Liv and Maddie illustrates this well.
  • Friends by choice. This comes up a few times towards the beginning of the show and I really like how it’s used. Often times the result of people viewing twins as one unit is the assumption that all twins must get along at all times. This seems to be where people come from when they approach my sister and I and say “I wish I had a twin”. It’s the idea that a twin provides another version of you, so you can have an instant friend who agrees with you all the time. But, of course, that’s ridiculous. We might agree on some things and we might have similar interests, but we’re also two different people with different thoughts and opinions. This is why I love the statement “Sisters by chance, friends by choice”. It’s definitely cheesy, but it highlights the individuality of both Liv and Maddie. They don’t have to be friends, but they choose to because they happen to have so much in common. Not all siblings are friends, but some happen to share interests that make them close. The same goes for twins.

The Bad:

  • Opposite Personalities. This, unfortunately, is the main trope holding this show back. Liv and Maddie absolutely use the opposites trope to the fullest of its extent. That’s even how they advertised the show. On every poster you’d see Liv wearing some sort of pink dress with her hair perfectly curled while Maddie would stand on the other side wearing her blue basketball uniform and glasses. Maddie is more awkward and her personality seems to revolve around the fact that she’s smart and sporty. Liv is more confident, which often comes across in the effort she puts into her appearance, and can be too self-centered to notice anything around her. Liv is an actor, which is used to make Liv glamorous and girly. Meanwhile Maddie is a basketball player, which seems to try to make her look boyish. If the show would have spent less time trying to make them seem so different, it could have created a very realistic portrayal of twins. Instead, it branded itself based off of their opposite personalities. It further communicated to audiences that twins can’t be different unless they’re VERY different, which is absolutely untrue. Twins should be recognized for their differences even if they aren’t so blatant.
  • Same actress. Dove Cameron plays both roles, and honestly, this is one of the worst twin performances I’ve seen from one actor. Even though the show takes great lengths to convince the audience of their differences, Dove Cameron can feel the same in each role. While Maddie does come off as more serious, probably because of the higher pitch Cameron uses when she’s playing Liv, both characters can often slip into just being Dove Cameron. I find this happens most in dramatic scenes. The scenes where Liv is forced to be more sad or serious, I absolutely feel like I could just as easily be watching Maddie. This is especially evident to me because, in my experience as a twin, my sister and I never react the same way to any situation, no matter how serious. We have very different reactions to something stressful or sad. I see none of that in Liv and Maddie. I just see one actress doing the same thing twice. It doesn’t help that both characters have the exact same appearance because it IS just one actress playing two characters. Twins don’t look exactly the same. That goes for identical twins, too. Even if you can’t see the differences, the twins can.

So are Liv and Maddie a good representation of twins in media? Not really. I would have given them more of the benefit of the doubt if the entire premise of the show wasn’t based on the opposites trope. But it definitely isn’t the worst representation of twins I’ve seen. It gets some important things right. So much so that I’m not all that sad that this show was the main twin representation my younger cousin saw when she was growing up. It introduces the twin characters as very different people, but it still allows them to like some of the same things. That’s a very basic trait I think is important for people to see in twin characters. Hopefully we can move past some of the less accurate things in later shows.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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