True Films

Joined for Life: Abby & Brittany Turn 16

OK, sure, I admit there is a base fascination with freaks. But conjoined twins, particularly this pair who share one set of legs and arms, raise the curiosity in interesting directions: What does it mean to be an individual? This pair’s unusual arrangement means that unlike many conjoined twins, Abby and Brittany can do almost anything that a normal pair of twins might do. Except…. well, except there are two people in one body! Endless questions ensue from this documentary about their suburban life. If each girl controls only one arm and one leg, how can they ride a bike? Hit a baseball? Swim? When they drive a car, how do they decide where to turn? And do they get one licence or two? That particular question is answered on their 16th birthday, as this film follows them to the driving test center, where they pass the driving test (both turning the wheel). Their local DMV decides to issue them each one licence. On school tests, some teachers make each of them take the test — but they use both of their hands — and some allow them to take it once. As 16-year-old girls, they are clearly very different personalities, and distinct people sharing one frame. Despite their different tastes in fashions, they have to negotiate and cooperate on what to wear in the morning, what to type when instant messaging (each one controls each hand), what to eat, and when to do — everything! The issues of identity and boundaries of self are wobbly. When IM’ing the girls say “I” instead of “we”. But what happens when they date? Or, even more mind boggling, marry? Most of these philosophical and medical questions are left unasked. Their family is intent on not letting them become medical subjects or media celebrities, so they have spent their lives in a very small town in Minnesota, going to high school and trying to be as normal as one could be — if you have two heads. This film won’t scratch all the itches provoked by this extreme form of embodiment. The filmmakers have been given exclusive access to the pair, but it is obvious they are not pressing hard; they specialize in medical subjects. The girls, their families, and the film aim to convey how “normal” they are. And yes, it is amazing how humans will adapt to almost anything. But if you want extraordinary normal, if you want hyperreal challenges to the self, if you want a prime example of transhumanism in action, get this film.

— KK

Joined for Life: Abby & Brittany Turn 16
Advance Medical Productions
2006, 50 min.
$30, DVD

Available from Figure 8 Films

Official website

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Posted August 6, 2007 at 5:00 am | comments

  • Jessica

    wow i love you guys i have watched all of the shows you have been on and i am so fascinated with conjoined twins. i think it’s absolutely amazing what you guys have to go though and have to cooperate with one another it’s a miracle.
    love jess

  • rlr

    I watched the show last night. It was very interesting and gave me (and everyone else watching) lots of questions. It showed them living a normal everyday life, but even so they have one of the most unique experiences in the world.

  • jasmin

    i havent seen the video or anything, but just looking at these twins makes you inspired by all things they can do. i myself am a twin(furternal). i have a twin brother, and i could tell you, its not easy dealing with him! well thanks fr this article, its great.

  • Orpheline

    I agree, stories like this require us to rethink our understandings of identity… But why do these posts refer to these young women as ‘guys’?

    It looks like this movie came out a few years ago, so belated (or early) happy 19th birthday Abby and Brittany!

  • tessy

    love u guys so much, i;m very inspired by all what u are doing.

  • amanda

    last night i saw abby and brittany on tv and i liked the show. they are very special to some people.

  • joey

    I think you guys are awesome and have a great attitude!

  • TC

    I too, have to agree with the other comments posted here. I watched Abby & Brittany’s story the other night, and was abosultely amazed at how well these girls function in our world today. I felt very touched of how they see and interact with the world around them.
    If ever given the chance, I would like to give them a big hug and tell them to keep doing what they do best. If only everyone could see how they function, maybe the rest of the world would see how “normal” they really are.

  • Lucy and Elsa (sisters)

    I think it is so cool that you guys can actually do such coordinated things. Do you guys get a little bit sick of each other sometimes, though. I bet i would. Anyway, i think you guys are so cool. sincerely, lucy (12 yrs)

    you are cool. love, elsa (6 yrs)

  • Felina

    I would like to see them have a really hideous knock-down drag-out fight against each other, throwing punches, calling names, kicking. . . only then will I believe they are actually sisters.

    • camillecloutier

      That’s a pretty gross comment, Felina, but I guess I can see some value in
      your observation that it must be difficult for them to work out issues the
      way most siblings do. I mean, clearly, they’re not like most siblings.