Twins in Media: The Tweedles vs Thing 1 and Thing 2

Screenshot from ‘The Cat in the Hat’ (2003) starring (from left) Danielle Ryan, Mike Myers, and Brittany Oakes. Copyright goes to Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I know this is early, but as I am planning a different post for Tuesday, I thought it would be best to be a little early. This week for twins in media, we’re going to take a look at the twins from classic literature that, if you’ve read our previous posts about them, are pretty bad at showing audiences what twins are really like. Unfortunately, these two portrayals were the most popular portrayals of twins for a long time, resulting in many pairs of twins being called Thing 1 and Thing 2 or Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee. While these are both bad portrayals, I’m here to decide which one is the most harmful. So, let’s get into it!

Tropes:

The Tweedles: As both of these sets of twins in media have started many of the twin tropes still used, it’s not a surprise that there are so many to choose from here. The Tweedles are incredibly synchronistic. When they aren’t saying the exact same things at the exact same time, they are finishing each other’s sentences instead. They also suffer from a trope that is worlds more harmful; the ever-dreaded Circus Freaks trope. This comes from the idea that twins are somehow not natural and that they are something to be ogled. Just looking at the Tweedles, it doesn’t take long to realize that they are placed in a world where everything is weird and there’s not much weird about them other than their aggressiveness. That’s because their existence as twins is supposed to be weird for some reason. Twins do not have a supernatural connection and the birth of twins is pretty common so I have no idea why people seem to be so quick in labeling all of us as an odd phenomenon. We are actual human beings who are different from each other. We are not some sort of freaks to be ogled.

The Things: In a world of humans, the Things aren’t even written to be human. They’re…well…Things. Which makes it really nice when someone inevitably refers to myself and my sister as Thing 1 and Thing 2. Obviously, they mean it all in good fun, but it still always reminds me how much this ridiculous portrayal of twins has effected the way everyone sees twins in general. They speak at the same time, they do the exact same things, and they are a perfect example of the mischievous twins trope. All they really do is create lots of chaos and then clean it up afterwards…sometimes. They aren’t even really people, so I don’t know if I should be offended or if they even count as being twins at all. Anyways…

Winner: The Things. Though these two have unfortunately been the pair of twins that my sister and I (and probably every pair of twins) are compared to the most, they aren’t nearly as harmful as the Circus Freaks trope. I personally think that Dr. Seuss didn’t necessarily mean for them to represent twins and that part of it actually came from misguided adults, but I digress.

Differences and Similarities:

The Tweedles: Hahahahahahaha. This one’s funny. Um…there are no differences, it’s pretty much the exact same character twice. Wonderful, huh? Maybe it’s lazy writing.

The Things: Same as above.

Winner: Tie. Both of these are the exact same character twice and there’s really not much else to say. Media has always been obsessed with inextricably connecting twins to the point where they are either the exact same or the exact opposite. It’s also convenient for them because it means less time writing actual characters. Like any human beings who grew up together, we have some similarities and some differences. Even in the way that we look, despite what people think. Portraying us as the exact same person twice is what causes idiots to think that it’s ok and totally monogamous to have the idea of dating both of us. It stems from this old idea that it was totally ok and monogamous to date two girls in general at the same time (Hence the old phrase “Two girls for every boy”), and people still cling to this idea in the form of twin fetishization. Again, I repeat, we are NOT the same person. We’ve never even liked the same guy. If you’ve ever had that thought at all, please both check yourself and also leave here with the knowledge that it’s a stupid and absolutely archaic thought that stems from female fetishization as a whole. In other words, you’re wrong.

Relationship:

The Tweedles: They’re close I guess. They’re always together. And they have the exact same relationships with other people because they are, again, the same character twice. They basically operate under a hive mind.

The Things: Again, they must have a good relationship because they do everything together. Just like the ones above, these are more like exact clones than they are twins. They have the same relationship with Cat and there’s no difference in their other relationships either. Another hive mind.

Winner: Tie. Both of these sets of twins are treated the same in their stories. They are the same character twice who do the exact same things at the exact same time. I wish I could say that they had complex relationships, but they don’t. Because for the longest time, twins were written to be fun, weird, things rather than actually complex human beings. Sometimes we’re still being written like that. And it has resulted in my sister and I being treated like fun and weird things rather than complex human beings by actual people in real life.

Plot:

The Tweedles: The Tweedles have the exact same plot as they are always together. Sometimes they’ll trap Alice and tell her a story, while other times they’ll both offer to slay the Jabberwocky with the Vorpal Sword. At least they weren’t counted as the same offer, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they both still do the exact same things in the plot. At least they are given a little more in the plot.

The Things: They, again, do the exact same things in the plot. But, admittedly, they are given much less time. They appear to mess things up and then appear again to clean up their mess after everything’s all settled with the kids. They have no voices.

Winner: The Tweedles. At least they speak and have a plot. While the Things are characters on their own that are meant to be fun rather than weird, which is an upgrade from the Tweedles, they are given much less plot overall than the Tweedles.

Final Result:

There were two ties and they each won once, so I have every reason to proclaim this a tie. But I can’t do that and thinking about it, I’m not sure it’s as much of a tie for me personally. The Things take this. The Things are infinitely less problematic characters than the Tweedles and are at least portrayed in a good light. Not to mention that they are not explicitly twins and most of the horrible comparisons come from people who compare twins to these characters. They are still bad, but it’s the people who ask us which one is Thing 1 and which one is Thing 2 like it’s an actual legitimate question that make this portrayal the most unbearable. Even though the Things aren’t human and the Tweedles are, it’s the Tweedles that are treated like something weird. The Cat in the Hat book views the Things as being just as natural as the Cat, whose presence is never really questioned too much in the book. The Tweedles are consistently pointed at as a laughing stock or a weird circus act. They are dumb and they fall all over each other. At least the Things are depicted as being smart. The Things aren’t great, but the Tweedles are the most harmful literary depiction of twins I have ever seen in my life. Hopefully, writers who write twins in the future will see them as a mistake rather than something to be copied. And that kind of goes for the Things too.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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