Twins for the Hard Times

It can be said that actresses rule 2002. Miriam Yeung, with her infectious laughs, successfully replaces Sammi Cheng as the new OL projection on screen. The Twins duo, Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung, have each starred in If U Care (Gillian Chung) and My Wife is 18 (Charlene Choi), and together in Summer Breeze of Love and Just One Look. Among them, My Wife is 18 and in Summer Breeze of Love were box office hits. Nine Girls and a Ghost, starring the even younger group Cookies, though with a rather unimpressive box office record, was at least a hype film that caused some stir. Comparing to male groups such as Shine, or male stars such as Nicholas Tse or Shawn Yu, those stars on paper only generate too much negative press and offer no box office guarantee. Hence, 2002 is indeed the year of female stars.

Many are baffled by Twins' huge popularity, and try to offer a rather simplistic explanation in the superficialization of local pop culture and the new generation, which is not very convincing (at least it fails to explain my acceptance and liking for Twins). Even if, instead of cultural phenomenon, we try to seek an explanation in marketing calculation, their success came as a total surprise to many in the business.

The Twins duo are not particularly pretty, and far from sexy. They speak with a lisp, and you won't be impressed by their singing abilities. They are respectively 19 and 20 - no longer in their teens. Female duos have never been red hot in local music scene. From the Chopsticks in the early days, Dream Theatre, Face to Face and Echo in the later days, to the more contemporary B2, none could be said to be a sensation. Twins, however, have captured the heart of their audience, who aged from 3 to 80 (it is indeed rare to find other concert audience consisting a sizable preteens). The popularity of Twins is exceptional, they must have satisfied some of our collective desires. I would say that it is extreme escapism and that our society is becoming more and more infantile (even atavistic). Both, of course, are reactions to the current social conditions. If we scrape deep, the message buried in their teenage flicks is: though these girls are much younger, or inexperienced, than adults or the older generation, they are much more sensible in comparison. It is obvious in Summer Breeze of Love, when Gillian Chung, in the comics shop scene, lectures a divorced man the proper way to handle a child in tantrum. Or in Just One Look, the angel, again played by Chung, learns the way of the world, and grows up, much faster than the male main character played by Shawn Yu. The characters they play are invariably positive ones who harbour no evil, see no evil, and yet, rare for women, they always get what they want. In a society where the prevailing sentiment is the refusal to face the reality, it breeds a subconscious longing for the return to the worry free childhood. The extreme form of this infantilism is back to the mother's womb, where it offers warmth and protection.

Twins are like the princesses in fairy tales, but they are not high on a pedestal. I would not fall in love with such a princess, but I would not mind having such a sister. They are like rays of sunshine. In a depressed society, if a snatch of song, or a sunny face could light us up and take us away from the reality for a while, then why not? They are the goddesses next door, far and yet close. In fact, they serve the function of the Door God: they promise us happiness, and allow us forget the stormy weather outside.

By Bono Lee

(Translated by Teri Chan)