Like many other women who can check off the 25-35 age box, I was a big fan of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen when I was growing up. I watched Full House, Two of a Kind, and So Little Time on TV; rented all of the MK&A movies and movie-series-things on VHS; read the spinoff chapter books/novelizations; and yeah — I was definitely a member of the MK&A official fan club.
Somewhere around mid-teeangedom, my love for the fraternal twins died down. I outgrew their brand just as they were outgrowing it, too, moving onto bigger and better(?), less kid-like things.
But the pop culture you're exposed to as a kid often has a way of informing your very being, at least until you grow up a little more and consciously re-accept or reject these things as your own personal faves and not just your childhood fave or what your parents liked so you, therefore, liked too. I'm not afraid to watch a cheesy MK&A movie now and then to indulge in a little nostalgia and laugh at the general over-the-top-ness. But I would hardly hold them up as examples of fine filmmaking and layered, rich storytelling, nor my "favorite" anything. Unless we're talking "favorite movie in which a set of twins go to Paris and use Napoleonic history to save their diplomat grandfather's butt." 'Cuz Passport to Paris takes that honor, for sure.
The MK&A oeuvre painted life in a very particular upper-middle-class, rose-colored-glasses way, a way in which orphans have a ton of fun playing stickball in the street, parent traps turn out just fine, and things pretty much always work out well for the twins at the center of it all. It's not doing brilliant, complex work but it gets the job done, much like the Baby-Sitter's Club or Sweet Valley High novels do (and I'm not knocking those series, either). Its easy and for the most part, enjoyable entertainment. You're not watching to learn anything, per se.
But there's one life lesson that MK&A movies taught me (and doubtlessly millions(?) of other tweenage girls) that is a big fat, lie. And that, my friends, is the myth of the "Vacation Boyfriend."
The "Vacation Boyfriend," in case the name isn't self-explanatory, is a love interest one meets while on vacation, named "VBF" because MK&A's love interests were always boys. A VBF doesn't have to be a long-term love interest, doesn't have to be a resident of the place of vacation, and you don't have to have just met him/her on this trip. The key factor — really the only rule for a VBF — is that a rom-com worth of love plays itself out during a fateful ten day trip. A mini-relationship, if you will. Swoon. MK&A always — always — had a VBF.* And I never did.
In Passport to Paris, MK&A met two French boys and rode around on the back of their super-cool mopeds. When I went to Paris, I stepped in dog poop. In Our Lips Are Sealed, the girls move to Sydney (as part of the Witness Protection Program, though they definitely treat the move like it's a vacation) and hook up with some surfer guys. I went to Australia when I was ten to visit some family, so there was definitely no VBF on the horizon for moi — but I did discover Savage Garden on that trip. Win.
When the twins went to London for a Model U.N. competition in Winning London, surprise twist! Oh, what, you thought I was going to say that there's no romance in this one? Yeah, right. No, the twist is that one of the twins ends up smooching a guy she's known all along (he's on their Model U.N. team from their very own high school). Not to worry — the other twin gets together with a Brit. I studied abroad in London during college, and okay, I'll admit that I had a smooch or two of my own while there. But there was no one who achieved VBF status (and it wasn't exactly a vacation, anyway).
In Holiday in the Sun, MK&A vacation to the Bahamas (on their dad's private plane — what???) and one twin falls for the guy who takes care of the dolphins at the Atlantis resort, while her sister finally reciprocates the googly-eyes their family friend, Griffin, who's on the trip with them, has been making at her for years — or at least the whole vacation. This might be the exception to my "I've never had a VBF" claim. Because I did have a VBF when I went to the Bahamas during my senior year of high school. He and I are still friends. So, fine. I had one VBF.
MK&A hit Italy in When in Rome and unsurprisingly find romance again — or, at least, the road to romance (Ashley's character actually never kisses her love interest — they just hug). I've been to Italy twice and there was no mini-relationship on either trip.
And finally, when the twins head to Salt Lake City, Utah for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Getting There, it seems like every single guy they encounter falls in love with them. There are like 40 love interests in this movie. I've never been to Utah, so, no VBF there.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, ladies and gents...spreading lies about the odds of finding a VBF since the late 90s. Lies that would go on to color my perception of any and all vacations I went on, particularly around ages 13-15. Now that I've had enough distance from the hurt, I can forgive MK&A for perpetrating this lie in service of fun-if-easy storytelling. My heart will go on.
The most surprising information to come out of this article is that I've actually been to almost all of the places MK&A went in their movies. Perhaps they were more of an influence on my life than I realized...
*You should know that MK&A not only always had VBFs, but Home Boyfriends, too — as in Switching Goals, Billboard Dad, etc. But the VBF was the only myth that marred my tweenagedom vacations.