Growing up, I was always looking forward to the privileges of adulthood. Now that I am 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 because of the simple fact that I can be more individual. It was never something I fully felt, and even now still isn’t, and being a twin means I just might have to live with it. Being a twin is perceived as a sort of wonderful novelty, which can be seen vividly in jokes like “which one is the evil twin?” and in the way the vast majority of media depictions don’t show twins as two human beings but some sort of collective unit. It’s hard to really communicate why this has been a thorn in the side of my 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 to depict twin characters functioning and interacting as individuals; as individuals who grew up under the same circumstances but had specific personal experiences that have coloured them in all sorts of distinct ways. Gravity Falls is likely able to do this because series creator Alex Hirsch himself is a twin. Granted, our experiences aren’t quite the same, given 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 might also have a better relationship than me and my twin brother, but they still have problems. They’re both 12 year olds on the verge of adolescence starting to see the world a little differently. Dipper in particular starts to become increasingly hormonal. He falls for 15 year old Wendy and spends most of his time at 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 incredibly fickle and clueless about it, as well as a rival in popular girl Pacifica Northwest.
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: jealously. Without meaning to sound immodest, I think it’s fair to say I was in Dipper’s shoes as the twin who achieved a lot more at things. Unfortunately, I can’t be better than my brother at everything, which disturbs my more selfish instincts. Being told every so often by peers that my brother was “the better twin” was a real stinger. Apparently the same goes for non-identical twins, as Dipper goes into a fit of rage when he finds himself suddenly a half-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 is because she was the one who felt she was being left behind in the first place, and they both have a touching moment when they realised they had the same anxieties. Although anyone would be hard-pressed to say they relate to the actual sequence of events involving a size-manipulating ray and all sorts of other upbeat hi-jinks, those ideas hit home if you’ve lived with a twin sibling.
Another great example of this would be 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 is coming to an end and they don’t have many Halloweens left in them, whereas 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 little childhood he has left before he reaches his teen years. Once it’s over it’s over, and the distance between the two might only get wider and wider. The subsequent episodes make it clear how quickly their childhood is fading before them, particularly for Mabel who didn’t seem to be growing up at all and suddenly finds herself falling head over heels for Spanish mermen and literally genetically engineered boy bands. Dipper and Mabel are starting a journey I started when I was their age, and they’re going to come out of it a whole lot different to when they began.
And there’s one reason I love Gravity Falls. It does something surprisingly rare and characterises twin characters as two distinct individuals, and it manages to wrap that into a really solid and distinct twist on the coming of age story. I could go on about a lot of wonderful things that I love about Gravity Falls from its lovable broader 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.