Thursday, August 24, 2006

Adrift on a blood red sea

This could, I suppose, be considered one of the hot people entries but I don't think of it that way. I've given you two versions of the image 1. because they were the only 2 versions I could find and 2. because I think that you see different things in the different depths. When this shot came out it was one of a few images in the ad campaign sprinkled on the sides of city buses. My bus is on the same route as a number of others and my route has the fewest actual buses of any route that skims that street so while letting these other buses pass I came face to face with this image, nearly life size, every day for months.

It never struck me as sexual, though in scrolling through page after page of photos of these kids I see that almost every post-18th-birthday press shot of them is meant to be sexual. Instead every time a bus drove them by me I was struck by both how much like one being they looked and by how alone that one being was.

I haven't kept up with the ladies since they started being billed separately so, unfortunately, I'm not sure who is who in this photo, please bear with my ignorance. It's not that I don't recognize that they are different people, it's just that I've never learned which is which. OK, I still suck for not learning, feel free to school me.

The girl in front seems most lost to me, she can't even open her eyes and she's all but clutching her sister, as though that connection is the only thing keeping her head above water. The girl behind seems in better control. Control of what, though, it's hard to tell. She looks resigned to me, as though she's buoying her sister but knows that it's only a brief respite from the inevitable. Neither of them is acknowledging the camera, they are completely focused inward and yet, not unhappy about it. Their backs are rounded against the wind and weather of the outside world and they face the one thing that keeps them warm, makes them smile, however briefly or uselessly.

I've read here and there about the ladies. I know that eating disorders and drinking and bad relationships with all sorts of people have been a staple of their "growing up". As you click through photo after photo of them you can see the toll just getting through a day takes on them, they don't look particularly attractive in most of the publicity they're getting these days. Yes, it's a choice, they could go off and become clothing designers or writers or migrant fruit pickers if they wanted to, except that, well, how?

I'm not so much trying to defend them or their actions. What they do is their own business and I suspect they have their reasons and there's nothing I can or should do about it anyway. On the other hand I, like anyone else with a pulse and a cable connection, have had one eye on the growing of both the girls and the phenomenon that is their lives as commodity. This photo was part of an A&E Biography ad campaign, so something that's cashing in on the commodity, but the image itself is, it seems to me, a masterful encapsulation of what's become of the women behind the franchise.

I think that Mary Kate and Ashley look beautiful in this picture, but the sort of tragically painful beauty and grace you see in something in the moment before it hurls itself off a cliff to be smashed on the rocks below.


  1. Kizz, this is a lovely post.

    I'm not ENTIRELY sure I agree with your assessment of the photo: I think I see far less of the nihilism - no, it's not "nihilism" I'm after, more of an abiding dispair - that you seem to see. While I can certainly UNDERSTAND where that interpretation comes from - I haven't been living under a rock for the last 15 years and have seen at least a bit of the public train wreck that has been a hallmark of their recent lives - I think I see far more of a private connection between the girls in the photo.

    I'm not 100% certain that this is true, but I believe that Mary-Kate, the twin who suffers from anorexia, is on the outside. I found this a VERY interesting choice on the part of the photographer - it seems as though she's protecting her sister; arms crossed and linked around Ashley - when I would expect that Ashley would be the one protecing Mary-Kate.

    I agree with you that I don't see the picture as sexual at all, though it's not too much of a stretch to construe it that way. It's a gorgeous picture, and I would be very, very interested to find out what they're thinking.

  2. Ashley is thinking, "That had better NOT be drool you just left on my shoulder!"

    (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)

  3. Thanks for throwing a little levity into the pot, Wayfarer.

    I think it IS a private connection. What sort of different private connection are you seeing Chili?

  4. Loving, as I do, one half of a set of twins (not that I don't love the other half, too, it's just...different), I've been privy to the kind of deep connection that twins share.

    My husband didn't "feel" anything when his twin fell from a tree and nearly died - he didn't have any kind of sympathetic "knowing" before he heard the message on the phone telling us about the accident - but I remember well the look of utter dispair on Husband's face at the thought that he might lose his brother. They can not be in each others' presence for months at a time, and still fall easily into that kind of knowing one another that, I think, can only come from sharing a womb. He doesn't have that kind of ease with either of his sisters - nor do I have it with my sister, who is four years my junior.

    Not being a twin myself, I can't lay claim to knowing this for fact, but I perceive from my men that there is an unwritten, unspoken, unbreakable truth between them that, much to my chagrin, likely supercedes my place in my husband's life. "You have always been with me, and ever shall be."

  5. I can tell you that they are still big box office. Lydia is going through an Olsen twins phase. Dealing with that kind of staying power has made greater stars than these two a little meshuga.

  6. Chili, I'm not sure what we're disagreeing about. It's that kind of private connection I totally see in this picture. It's probably what gives them such enormous staying power and what makes it possible for them to survive the whole circus.

    You know, Vanx, I was wondering if they were still gold with the actual kids. I know they have a cult following with adults. There's a cheese shop in Williamsburg where the owner has pictures of them on display. He loves them and not, I don't think, in a creepy way.