" “Skinny girls with blank expressions and seemingly little inclination to speak have fascinated American culture for so long….The mid-19th century witnessed the emergence of the aptly named fasting girls, women in their teens and early 20s whose silence and diminutive size stirred the interest of a public that believed they were spiritually extraordinary.,” wrote The New York Times in 2008. This is an apt description of the Olsens’ replacement persona, “Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, fashion designers.” Having stripped themselves of what the world had known them as previously – it was around this time, too, that they asked to not be referred to as ‘the Olsen twins’ – Mary-Kate and Ashley slowly transcended their celebrity image and became anew."
Mary Kate and Ashley were such a prominent part of my childhood. Their brand was family-friendly enough for Indian censors to allow them to become a fixture in our lives, partly because the brand was so sprawling and encompassed TV shows, films, bags, pencil boxes, clothes, etc but also because they encapsulated an "Americanness" that felt legible to viewers otherwise unacquainted with the United States. I forgot just how big they were till I read this essay in Mask Magazine on how the demands of celebrity can shape interactions with pubic spaces, with the idea of being known, with the appeal of anonymity. The Olsen twins represent a lot of what is fetishized about fame and their withdrawal (unaccompanied with the pathologisation that usually envelops female celebrities with fatigue -- Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, etc) signals the effect WE - as consumers, fans, adorers -- impact their lives.