ACIDEMIC Journal of Film and Media

Olsen Twin Powers De-Activated
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by Erich Kuersten


Mary Kate Olsen and her eating disorder are the pariah du jour. The headlines are blaring that the twins have “lost” their lucrative Got Milk? contract. And in addition to the eating disorder debacle, there’s the added issue of alleged cocaine use! The insidious subliminal headline message is clear: We can’t have Mary Kate spiking our kid’s milk with cocaine.

The furor over the Olsen Twins eating disorder is manufactured out of two important things:

1)    How great the pair of them look in that series of AP photos: All wide cat eyes and shimmering   clining dresses, standing a hair’s breath away from each other, each looking off in a separate direction. They become some weird new object of desire, doubly self-nurturing, lost in their own telepathic perfection.

2)   The collective family guilt that makes absentee working parents so witch-huntingly rabid over any transgressions on the parts of their child-appointed cathode ray babysitters.

The media then willingly offers them up, abject figures of radiant beauty, fallen. How can they not? That magical series of AP photos on the New York Minute red carpet is the closest thing our cultural moment has right now to the Josef Von Sternberg-sparkled, enigmatic beauty of Marlene Dietrich as the fallen woman in DISHONORED, MOROCCO, or SHANGHAI EXPRESS, only here it’s doubled, as befits these post-modern times. The Olsen Twins as the two-headed fallen woman self-sacrificing goddess.

America—except for the Catholic Legion of Decency-- loves fallen women, and if they have the ears of our children, so much the worse/better. Our daughters do not, I repeat, do not have eating disorders. They’re just naturally thin, and wan. In wrapping Mary Kate’s confession in a lurid blanket of shame and horror, we can take this disease, which is right in our own upstairs bedrooms and remove it to the abject realm of the land beyond beyond, where only Mary Kate and a few other freaks have anything wrong with them. Ashley, for example, is obviously 100% all right.

Eating disorders, drug abuse, etc. is not just the realm of a few freaky icons, and it’s not something that makes one bad. Rather it is an indication that the person is not all right with where their life has led them, it is no longer livable for them in the normal aspect. The real indictment facing Mary Kate, the one too horrible to leave alone of course, is that by admitting she has a problem, by going into a cocaine treatment program, she calls into question our whole beloved female icon-making machinery. How dare she suggest life on the top is hell? Who does she think she is? We’d switch places with her any day, we’d love to link souls with little problem-free Ashley.

If she wants to do drugs, fine, but we want our new Judy Garlands to take their speed and be quiet, so as not to start some kind of new trend. Imagine a generation of boys popping uppers so they can match Mickey Rooney’s uber-chipper show-puttin’ on energy? It’s unbearable I know… but isn’t this current batch of glaze-eyed X-box junkies shambling like the living dead from mom’s car to the mall and back again far worse? But I digress, the point is something far more sinister than our worry about the Olsens leading our youth further astray, the point is we are collectively turned on by shaming the one twin against the other. The idea ultimately is that we will wedge ourselves into that tiny space between them, split back into two parts ourselves, one half in each other’s wombs, and be unborn again as they starve themselves and us back into sweet oblivion. It is against human nature to see a bond so perfect as the Olsens in the photos above, and not want to rent it asunder.


It's a shame too, because Mary Kate is actually quite a hero.  Her actions may in fact encourage girls with the same affliction to take similar steps. But for fear-crippled parents this is not what they want to hear, or so the media assumes. The blind, deaf monkey strategy is the tool of the trade, from TV down to parent eating their dinner from a foil-covered dish, still in their work clothes, while the daughter is upstairs on the net or out with some boy. To know about it is to have to accept it. Alas, with Mary Kate's symbolic "maternal castration" in being denied the milk ad, the media and the parents are essentially kicking their anorexic daughters back into the closet, even as they  themselves grow more and more hypnotized by the twin's cat-like eyes and sphinkx-like lips. Make us all disappear, Olsens, you evil remainder evidence of failed goddess energy transformed!


c. 2004 Erich Kuersten

Acidemic Film Journal

C. 2013 - Acidemic Journal of Film and Media - BFG LCS: 489042340244