A few weeks ago, my poll results were overwhelmingly in favor of a blog post on Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (but just one post). That does not stop me from writing more about them in Full House posts, though! I’m sneaky like that. What you’ll find below is a deep dive into what my brain remembers and treasures about the super-dooper snoopers of the 90s who became the jet-setting fashionistas of the 2000s.
We’ll start with a short list of things I own/owned:
- Tape after tape after tape lined a shelf of our family VHS cabinet: episodes of The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley and You’re Invited, plus a solid 75% of the movie repertoire.
- Olsen twin dolls (knock-off Barbies) that looked like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in the Two of a Kind era inhabited the box with all my actual Barbies.
- The Mary-Kate and Ashley brand’s seafoam green shampoo was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever smelt in my life.
- Books based on their videos and shows filled my closet, and I loved every last chapter.
- Yeah, there was probably a CD in there somewhere.
Some of the twins’ products were marketed as Real ___ for Real Girls. Anything replaced that blank: books, dolls, clothes, beauty, etc. This phase was well after the “Fun Club,” which I sadly was not a part of. I still managed to collect plenty of MK&A merch, but the question is, why? Why was I so obsessed with these twins and everything they did?
This is going to sound really weird, but I think it’s because the Olsens could be any age that I was and talk about anything that I was interested in. Here’s how:
- Toddler/preschool years: Great! Full House just ended a few years ago, but those reruns are already coming in strong. So is the Olsen home video distribution empire. When I was in preschool, I watched the detective videos (The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley) and party videos (You’re Invited) over and over again. I particularly liked “The Case of the Hotel Who-Done-It” because one of the girls was wearing a dress that I thought was similar to mine. At this point, most of the Olsens’ 1990s movies existed, so I was watching To Grandmother’s House We Go, Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, How the West Was Fun, and It Takes Two. Though it was a bit old for me, I liked Two of a Kind, their sitcom that aired from 1998 to 1999 on ABC. It ended right before I started kindergarten. Didn’t really watch So Little Time later on.
- Elementary school: No problem, keep popping in those videos. I focused more on the later episodes of You’re Invited that aligned with two of my favorite things–ballet and fashion. There was a costume party (where they also danced), a mall party at the Mall of America, a New York City ballet party, and even a little field trip to FIDM. By the time I finished elementary school, all of their movies together were complete. I was ENTHRALLED with the travel series: Passport to Paris, Winning London, Our Lips are Sealed, Holiday in the Sun, Getting There, and When in Rome. Outside of those, I loved New York Minute and Switching Goals. Billboard Dad and The Challenge, not so much.
- Middle school and onward: It’s all nostalgia at this point. It was and still is fun to rewatch any MK&A content. But why?
Why is it so fun? Oh, that natural longing for my childhood that I sometimes feel. Or the understanding that MK&A probably will never do another movie again; ergo, the canon is the canon. We have a certain amount of these videos and movies to enjoy before we just keep enjoying them over and over again. To be honest, there are a lot more movies that I could rewatch. I got an absolute thrill out of Passport to Paris recently. I never get tired of When in Rome. It’s been awhile since I got my hands on the other travel movies, though. It’s been even longer since I watched all the detective and party videos.
Because they’re doing their thing and living their (mostly) private lives, there’s a lot of lore around Mary-Kate and Ashley. They were and still are comforting to a lot of people in my age bracket. It’s fun to immerse myself in the days when they ruled the screen…because I miss those days.
I could watch their sleepover party video a hundred times without getting tired of it. In fact, someone at Dualstar got smart and repurposed that bad body on a collection called “Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Coolest Parties.” Other parties that warmed my heart were the Christmas party (loved that cookie baking scene) and the Hawaiian beach party. I felt like I really was invited.
That detective song made me want to dance. “We’re super dooper snoooooopers. First class private eyes. Figure-outers, clearer-uppers, mistresses of disguise!” My first memory of that franchise is “The Case of the Logical i Ranch.” There was a song where they sang about a lot of rocks. I guess I also liked aquatic things since the Sea World episode and the cruise ship episode each come to mind. Check out this video of the twins singing about orcas:
When in Rome is almost too close to home to make sense of in words, so I will close with a meditation on Passport to Paris, a movie that is on Hulu.
The Olsen twins always have names other than Mary-Kate and Ashley in these movies. If you want to hear them get called Mary-Kate and Ashley, go watch them snoop or throw parties. In Passport to Paris, their names are Allyson (Ashley) and Melanie (Mary-Kate). Their grandfather is the US Ambassador to France, so they get to visit him on spring break. On a plane. Alone. In middle school. When their parents tell them the good news, they scream “Nooooo” because they wanted to go to a dance.
They get over it once they’re in Paris. Their grandfather enlists his assistant to babysit the twins all day with tours of the city, but they behave like brats for most of the movie. At least they’re dressed cute and they make friends with a French model who takes them shopping for…cowgirl hats?
What about the stereotypical French boys? They deliver flowers via moped, and their names are Jean and Michel. I can’t comment on their French, but I’ve been to Paris and can comment on the fact that Mary-Kate and Ashley go to a CGI-animated Louvre!!! They literally walk through what looks like a 1999 museum computer game. I went to the Louvre once, and I completely forgot about this scene while I was there. In case you forgot, YouTube remembers. The uploader cleverly titled it, “MARY-KATE AND ASHLEY LOOK AT ART.”
Now that we’ve taken some time on that, here’s how the rest of the movie goes down. MK&A continue to teach their new French friends about French fries and rap music, they get in trouble when the police find them trespassing with the boyfriends on a rooftop, and they save the day at their grandpa’s fancy dinner by pitching a clean water policy to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. They learned all this from the assistant who babysat them all week, but whatever. He still gets to come back to the Embassy and is promoted, as he should be. He’s also happily dating the French model, Brigitte. Oh, and the twins go to a dance after all. Grandpa then goes back to the US with the twins to spend more time with the family.
It has its flaws, but I still love this movie. The Olsens’ travel movies promise grand adventures. As they meet the proverbial cute boys, the twins are either creating problems, solving problems, or in the case of Our Lips Are Sealed, escaping from problems.
I must throw a few questions out there while I’m at it:
- Why do so many Mary-Kate and Ashley movies lack diverse casting?
- What was it like to walk on set to play the Olsen twins’ friends in their videos and films?
- Who planted the seed for the travel franchise? Was it always meant to be a collection?
Well, that’s my trip down memory lane for Mary-Kate and Ashley. It was interesting to look back on the arc of my fandom in relation to the output of their work. I’d love to rewatch more of their movies, although some are easier to procure than others. Have you watched any of them recently? Is there more to explore here? Thanks for reading! 🙂