“Just like everyone else”: Studying constructions of ‘normality’ through attitudes towards conjoined twins

By Helena Franzén, Uppsala University

In 1996, the American conjoined twins Abigail and Brittany Hensel went on the Oprah Show and spoke about their daily lives and their wish to impress upon the viewers how they both were quite ordinary people. Documentaries followed and they got their own reality show at TLC. In the show, the audience could follow their everyday life; at home, in school, and when doing extracurricular activities such as taking their respective driver’s licences. The viewers were also allowed to access the twins’ hopes, dreams, and plans for the future. Abigail and Brittany portrayed themselves as having two quite different personalities and expectations on life, and went on air to counter preconceptions about conjoined twins. By showing the public how normal they actually were, they wanted to demystify the condition. They were two young girls who wanted to raise awareness and be treated as the regular persons they were. The Youtube clip below shows one of the first …

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