Growing up, I was always mesmerised by the idea of adulthood. Now that I’m an adult I can say it wasn’t as profound a change as I hoped it would be, but I’m still glad to be an adult simply because I can be more individual. That was a feeling I never really had growing up, and it took until I began living on my own to actually feel like my own person. Being a twin is seen as a sort of wonderful novelty, which is seen in jokes like “which one is the evil twin?” and in the overwhelming number of media depictions that depict twins as some sort of collective unit. It’s hard to really communicate why this hurt myself self-esteem for so many years because it’s such a specific and personal thing. But at least there’s Gravity Falls.
Gravity Falls is one of those rare works that depicts twin characters functioning and interacting as individuals. Individuals who grew up under the same circumstances, but individuals who have had their own personal experiences that have changed them in distinct ways. Probably the main reason Gravity Falls is able to do this is because series creator Alex Hirsch himself is a twin. Granted our experiences aren’t quite the same. I grew up with a twin brother and he grew up with a twin sister, but the fundamental truth about twins is still emotionally resonant. Comically awkward but good-willed Dipper Pines and his adorably hyperactive brace-faced sister Mabel Pines are a lot more openly close than me and my twin brother, but they still have problems. They’re both 12 years old and on the verge of adolescence, each starting to see the world a little differently. Dipper in particular starts to become hormonal. He falls for 15 year old Wendy and spends much of the first season of Gravity Falls trying to woo her, much to the chagrin of her on and off boyfriend Robbie V. . Mabel also develops her own infatuations, although she’s pretty fickle and clueless about it.
The more Dipper and Mabel pursue these interests the more individual they become. Episode 11, ‘Little Dipper’, characterises one of the simplier nuances of being a twin: jealousy. Without meaning to sound immodest, I think it’s fair to say I was like Dipper in that I was the twin who generally achieved more growing up. Unfortunately, I can’t be better than my brother at everything, which disturbed my more selfish instincts. Being told every so often by peers that my brother was “the better twin” was a stinger. Apparently the same goes for non-identical twins, as Dipper goes into a fit of rage when he suddenly finds himself half an inch shorter than his twin sister, prompting her to boast that she’s the “alpha twin”. It’s later found out that the reason Mabel rubbed it in his face so much is because she was the one who felt she was being left behind in the first place, and they have a touching moment where they realised they had the same anxieties. Although I’d be hard-pressed to say I relate to the actual sequence of events involving a size-manipulating ray and all sorts of other upbeat hi-jinks, those ideas hit home for me.
Another great example of what Gravity Falls does so well in this respect is the following episode, ‘Summerween’, where it’s all but stated that Dipper and Mabel have grown apart going into adolescence. Dipper wants to go to a party to impress Wendy and one-up Robbie V. . The problem is that Halloween is a special time for Dipper and Mabel, however insignificant going around in costumes and playing up the twin novelty for lots and lots of junk food may seem. Mabel is acutely aware that their childhood days are running out and they don’t have many candy-filled Halloweens left in them, but Dipper doesn’t seem to notice amongst all his adolescent whims. One crazy supernatural battle with a knock-off junk food monster later, Dipper comes to realise that he should cherish what childhood he has left before he reaches his teen years. As they get older the distance between the two might only get wider and wider. The subsequent episodes make it clear how quickly their innocent childhood days are fading before them, especially for Mabel who suddenly finds herself falling head over heels for Spanish mermen and genetically engineered boy bands. They’re starting on a journey, and they’re going to come out the other end into adulthood a whole lot different.
And there’s just one reason I love Gravity Falls. It does something surprisingly rare and characterises twins as two unique individuals, and it manages to wrap that into an incredibly solid and distinct twist on a coming of age story. I could go on about a lot of wonderful things that I love about Gravity Falls from its broader lovable character dynamic to its sharp sense of humour to its rich imagination and visual craft, but what I get most out of it is that catharsis of coming to terms with the way I was born, and that’s something truly special I can’t get from many other places.