The Decade That Multiples Went Mainstream
Some have called the past decade the Decade From Hell, others the "Me-Me-Me" Decade and even The Unnameable Decade. For me, personally, it will forever be known as the decade that I discovered the wild and wonderful world of raising twins. But it wasn't just my husband and I that were introduced to life beyond singletons. Here in Canada (as well as in the US), we've been living through a multiple birth boom.
Between the years 1993 and 2002, the multiple birth rate increased by 18 percent, while the overall Canadian birth rate dropped 19 percent (according to Statistics Canada 2004; Health Canada 2004). And with the continued use of fertility treatments like IUI and IVF, along with lots of moms over 35, that rate isn't going to be dropping anytime soon. Each day more than 26 Canadian moms give birth to multiples. So odds are if you yourself haven't given birth to twins (or more), your kids are quite likely to have a set or two in their classes. It's a big change from a time where the only twins around were found in the pages of a Sweet Valley High novel (diva-in-training Jessica and bookish Elizabeth for the uninitiated).
Four ways that multiples went mainstream in the '00s, after the jump...But during this past decade, it wasn't just us regular folk who caught multiple birth fever. It seemed everywhere we looked during the '00s we saw double, triple or even octuple. Twins and multiples invaded the pop culture landscape, from the explosion of matched sets in the arms of celebrities to the major meltdown of Jon and Kate and their big brood (one set of twins and one set of sextuplets, in case you've been under a rock somewhere). Here are four ways that multiples went mainstream in the '00s.
1. Celebs Having Twins
Between 2000 and 2009, celebrities were popping out two little bundles of joy with such regularity it seemed like twins were the new black. The trend first really made headlines in 2004, when megastar Julia Roberts, at the age of 37, gave birth to fraternal boy/girl twins Phinnaeus and Hazel. That same year, 44-year-old Marcia Gay Harden gave birth to Julitta and Hudson, 34-year-old Dixie Chick Martie Maguire had girls Eva and Kathleen and 48-year-old Geena Davis had boys Kian and Kaiis. A couple years later in 2006, Canada's own Diana Krall and her hubby Elvis Costello welcomed Dexter and Frank into the world.
By 2007, twins were in full swing: Doubly blessed celeb parents included Grey's Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey, Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross, talk show mouthpiece Nancy Grace and hip hop mogul P. Diddy. And having twins was definitely an A-List activity in 2008, with Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony introducing their boy/girl twins Max and Emme, and Brad and Angelina adding to their already large family with twins Vivienne and Knox. In fact, the infant mugs of the Brangelina twins were plastered all over tabloids and blogs, even before they were a month old.
2. Jon and Kate Plus Eight
Back in 2007, it started as an intimate and exuberant documentary of the crazy lives of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their very large family: Twins Mady and Cara and sextuplets Leah, Alexis, Hannah, Aaden, Collin and Joel. Sure, Kate barked at Jon a little too much, and Jon looked bored a little too often during their various family outings. But in the beginning, it really felt like a portrait of a close family trying very hard to deal with extraordinary challenges. And the eight adorable and precocious kids at the centre of the show seemed to be in love with life.
By the end of the decade, however, it had become a sordid mess. Jon went through a very public mid-life crisis, hooking up with seemingly anyone who showed interest, hosting bikini parties in Vegas and wearing unspeakably lame Ed Hardy gear. (And he reportedly cleaned out the family's bank account, too. Uncool.) Meanwhile, Kate showed up on every gabfest that would take her, in a (reported) bid to host her own talk show someday. Jon and Kate Plus Eight undoubtedly gave high-order multiples a public face. It was just unfortunate that the outcome ended up looking so grim.
This was when things really went from fascinating to freakshow. After undergoing in vitro fertilization, Californian Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets in January 2009 while the world watched. But then it was revealed that Suleman had six more children at home (all previously conceived through IVF) and had become pregnant again while on social assistance, with no source of income. Despite the fact that IVF had been accepted as a viable and medically progressive way for infertile couples to become pregnant, all of a sudden an ugly side was revealed. In the eyes of most Octomom-watchers, Suleman had abused the technology for reasons only known to her (Fame? Financial gain? Mental instability? Who knows.)
With the Octomom situation and other similar stories (a 60-year-old woman in Calgary giving birth to twins after IVF), all of a sudden, nations of the world had opinions about how IVF should be regulated. Starting in 2011 in the UK, women undergoing IVF will only be able to have a single embryo implanted (right now, two are allowed). Guidelines in Italy and France have also been tightened. Fertility treatments went from being something rarely discussed and hardly regulated to being a hot topic splashed on the front pages of news media around the world.
4. Twins Take Centre Stage In Pop Culture
For anyone cruising fashion pages and gossip websites in the early to mid-'00s, the two women at the centre of young Hollywood were the former Full House twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. They were tabloid fixtures, red carpet mainstays and their "boho-chic" style was discussed ad nauseam on every blog. They've stepped out of the spotlight lately, but it hasn't meant the end of twins in pop culture. There's the uber-cool Ronson twins, fashion designer Charlotte and DJ Samantha. There's the Canadian stars of fashion label Dsquared, identical twins Dean and Dan Caten. There's Dylan and Cole Sprouse, twin stars of Disney show The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and its spin-offs. And the "Ikki" twins, Vikki and Rikki Mongeon, starred on MTV's A Double Shot at Love reality show. (Okay, scratch that as a pop culture landmark.)
But not all the notable twins of the '00s were non-fiction. Three of the most wildly successful youth franchises of this decade, High School Musical, the Twilight series and the Harry Potter series, all feature twins in prominent roles. HSM has singing and dancing twins Sharpay and Ryan.The Potter books and films showcase the mischievous Weasley twins, Fred and George, as well as Hogwarts schoolmates Parvati and Padma Patil. And the Twilight series has twins Alec and Jane Volturi, powerful members of vampire royalty (and Bella and Edward's nemeses).
Don't expect twins to take a backseat in this new decade, though. Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody has announced plans to write a screenplay about the aforementioned Sweet Valley High universe. When it comes to pop culture, it seems that two really is better than one.