Twins in Media: Janice and Jessica vs Sumire and Kasumi

Screenshot from “The Suite Life on Deck” episode “Model Behavior” starring Camilla Rosso, Rebecca Rosso, Cole Sprouse, and Debby Ryan. Copyright goes to It’s a Laugh Productions and Disney Channel.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I know, I know. Generally we post these on Tuesday, but because we took Thanksgiving as a holiday, it’s today because it’s my twins in media week. Because it’s my week for these ‘versus’ posts, I decided to take the pairs of twins I have probably roasted the most and pit them against each other. Janice and Jessica from ‘Suite Life on Deck’ against Kasumi and Sumire from ‘Persona 5: Royal’. Just know going in that I absolutely despise both of these media representations and to declare any one of them a winner feels wrong. It’s quite possibly inevitable that whoever passes this round will get absolutely slaughtered in the next. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a look at which of these truly bad twin representations is the worst.

Tropes:

  • Janice and Jessica. Oh god, where do I start? First, let’s tackle the ones that are slightly smaller in comparison to the trope I absolutely despise. Though I hate these ones too. These two are a perfect example of the synchronized twins trope; a trope that is often used to paint twins as more like aliens than actual human beings. It’s almost like they’re part of an alien race that has a hive mind. They think the exact same thing and talk at the exact same time. When they aren’t talking at the exact same time they are perfectly finishing each other’s sentences. Not only is this absolutely unrealistic for anyone, as a twin you are often commanded to do these things for someone else’s amusement. My sister and I have been told to talk at the same time on command several times, almost like dogs being ordered to do a trick. This has always ended in my sister and I calmly explaining that talking at the same time would be a little difficult and that we can’t read each other’s minds. We do not share a brain. Please stop asking for us to do this. On top of that, Janice and Jessica are treated like the same person. They have the same style, they talk the same, they have no distinguishable personality traits, and it is seen as pretty ok for them to date the same person. No twins are exactly the same; we are two different people with different minds and different tastes. This also leads me into the absolutely awful twin fetishization. Because people see us as the same, some people have somehow gotten it into their heads that it is absolutely ok to ask both twins out instead of one. Worse than this has been on so many television shows and I would look at my original post on these two if you want a list of recent television shows that have done this as a joke. If you’re interested in both of us, you can be absolutely certain that neither of us is interested in you. Neither of us have ever even been interested in the same guy because we’re…wait for it…two different people! Wow!
  • Sumire and Kasumi. Once again…oh god, where to start. Let’s first talk about the unhealthy grieving. A lot of people assume that all twins are extremely close. Just like any siblings, we can be, but not necessarily. My sister and I are best friends, but we aren’t any closer than any siblings who really get along would be. The twin closeness assumption can cause people to think that twins are “unnaturally” close or closer than any other siblings would be. Which is absolutely stupid and proof that those people have probably never met a pair of twins in their lives. My sister and I were once accosted by a class mate who “warned” us that if we got too close we’d become reliant on each other for survival. Her sanity concerned me more than the relationship between myself and my sister. That mentality is clearly present in ‘Persona 5: Royal’. Sumire becomes so distraught over the death of her twin sister that she decides to become her twin sister rather than grieve properly. I don’t think I really have to explain how disturbing that is. Grieving over the death of a family member has no model of how it should look like. But this is more than unhealthy and portraying twins this way is far from normal. We have two different personalities that would be impossible for either of us to replicate. We also each have a completely different sense of self. Our separate senses of self have never been and never will be somehow connected. This also leads into this twin tope that is used too much that I hate. One twin must die has plagued me since I was little and I really want it to stop. I hate the jokes people make about it and I hate how much I see it still. We are not interchangeable and one of us is not expendable because “there are two of them”. Nope. There is one of me and one of her. Regular siblings get to survive, but for some reason twins are different. I’m so sick of this.

Winner: Not in this category. How do you pit twin fetishization and the constant killing off of twin characters in media against each other? How do you pit the hive mind mentality against the mentality of twins having some sort of unnatural bond? You really can’t. All of it is incredibly harmful and absolutely ridiculous. All of it has somehow affected how my sister and I were treated at one point of our lives. These tropes are probably the worst of the worst and all of them need to go. I declare this category a tie because neither could possibly be declared a winner here.

Differences and Similarities:

  • Janice and Jessica. There are no differences between these two whatsoever. None to be found. The writers thought they could get away with writing the same exact character twice and, unfortunately, for the most part, they did get away with it. I didn’t hear anyone but twins complain about it. There are no personality differences between Janice and Jessica written in and they didn’t even deign to give them different love interests until later. Even when they did, they still weren’t distinguishable. The only difference they have going for them is that they are actually played by two different actresses.
  • Sumire and Kasumi. Sumire and Kasumi are not alike at all. Kasumi is a bright, kind, and extroverted girl who loves to throw herself into volunteer work. Sumire keeps more to herself, is introverted, and prefers cooking. Though they both love gymnastics, only Kasumi is shown to have an initial talent for it. This is what inspires Sumire’s jealousy. They could definitely be seen as opposites in some ways which isn’t great, but at least they do have some similarities. A lot of siblings have similar interests because they grew up with the same things; but they still have different personalities despite this. A lot of the good is negated, however, when Sumire adopts Kasumi’s personality, but at least they get out of that storyline at some point in the game. And at least they make a point to make sure the audience knows that Sumire and Kasumi are actually different people. This sounds pretty good until you realize that this is yet another example of one person playing both twin roles. How difficult is it to get two separate voice actresses for two separate roles?

Winner: Sumire and Kasumi. They actually have personalities and surprisingly, they were both written with some differences. The game points out that they are different people, which is about the only nice thing it does for twin representation. Janice and Jessica don’t have anything, especially not personality. The only thing they have going for them is two actresses, which Sumire and Kasumi could have easily had.

Relationship:

  • Janice and Jessica. Janice and Jessica seem to have a close relationship. I mean, they’re always together so one could only assume. But I’m not sure they actually have much of a relationship. They don’t talk to each other as much as with each other and they only like the same things. There are no differences between them so there’s not much they really have to get along over. They’re close, but not realistic, so it’s pretty difficult to determine how good their relationship actually is.
  • Sumire and Kasumi. They also have a really confusing relationship. The game pushes the narrative that they were unnaturally close, but they didn’t actually get along. Points for them having different personalities, but they didn’t overcome their differences in any way. Kasumi constantly dismisses Sumire’s depressive feelings. Dismissing anyone’s depressive feelings is awful and definitely makes you a pretty bad sister. Sumire is too busy being jealous of her sister’s success to actually be happy for her and get over her own selfishness. Neither of them were great to each other, which sucks because we really need to see more examples of close siblings in media. Siblings hating each other for drama and not actually being supportive of one another is getting really tired. But at least they have a distinguishable relationship.

Winner: Sumire and Kasumi. Though, once again, both of these depictions are pretty bad, at least Sumire and Kasumi are treated like two different people who have some form of a relationship rather than just the same person. Sometimes it feels like the writers of Janice and Jessica gave up on their character development. At least the writers of Sumire and Kasumi tried, even though it was still really bad. No character development is still bad character development.

Plot:

  • Janice and Jessica. Do they really have a plot? These two are treated more like objects than actual characters. First they are both love interests for switching singular characters and then they come back, this time actually having different love interests, to test the bonds of the boys’ new relationships (which is an awful female trope in general). They have no personality and are used for stereotypical drama. They are given no character development.
  • Sumire and Kasumi. Though you don’t see Kasumi much for obvious reasons, Sumire is a well developed character. Even if much of her character is really bad. Kasumi dies to further her sister’s story (hate, hate, double hate, loathe entirely), but Sumire does grow past this part of the story to focus on her own development as a different person. Once Sumire stops pretending to be Kasumi and they drop the twin story in favor of a “get-to-know Sumire” storyline, it gets a lot better. But both of them aren’t necessarily focused on in the plot because of, you know, one-twin-must-die.

Winner: Sumire and Kasumi once again take it by default. At least they have a plot. At least the writers tried, even if it was mostly bad. Janice and Jessica are barely characters and what little plot they’re given either sucks for twins or sucks for women in general. Women’s lives don’t revolve around men. At least Sumire and Kasumi don’t have that issue.

Final Result:

It feels so wrong to declare either a winner; but Sumire and Kasumi have to take it. Both of these representations are awful and they both deserve a giant loss for the tropes alone. The only reason why Sumire and Kasumi scrape by is because the writers actually made an attempt to treat them like different people and like actual human beings in general. Even if that meant that they didn’t get separate voice actresses. Seriously, giving twin roles two actresses even if they aren’t related needs to be more normalized. No twins look exactly the same anyways, and it should be even less of a problem in a video game with voice acting. Janice and Jessica feel more like objects than characters, so there’s absolutely no way they would have won this. But really, we need a whole lot less of all of these tropes and this kind of twin representation in general.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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