By Sophia Polin
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A new Tumblr called Boyfriendtwin launched on April 6th of this year. It is exactly what it sounds like—a blog hosting images of male couples who look so much alike that they could pass as twins.
The main question the media poses about the blog is trite and reductive: creepy or cute? The answers are likewise pretty facile. “So creepy,” says Chris Parich, a top commentor on Facebook conversations with Boyfriendtwin tags. “#creepy,” another commentor agrees. Others avoid choosing sides, but also avoid engaging in any active critique of the site: “creepy LOL kind of hot.” Charming.
Important media platforms are also declining to comment definitively. “We’re not entirely sure how we feel about this,” says HuffPost Gay Voices in its coverage of the blog, no doubt hesitant to tread on any toes.
This is disappointing. Boyfriendtwin is rife with opportunity for discourse. Apparently, that was the point. Almost immediately after the blog launched launched, BuzzFeed interviewed the creator, who chooses to remain anonymous. He said the blog was inspired by the lookalike gay couples in his own life. He noticed a pattern and started the blog to “start a conversation about narcissism, exhibitionism and sexuality.”
The Tumblr itself doesn’t really have a space for said conversation. It’s all images, most of which, says the creator of the blog, are submitted by the couples themselves. Sparse as it is, it shouldn’t be taken at face value. It’s a carefully curated presentation of an aesthetic phenomenon with deep sociopolitical roots. Every picture is a testament to the internet’s thriving queer culture. The photos come from all over—though some commentors suspect that a decent amount come from LA—so each has the potential to make a unique statement about what it means to be out and queer in all parts of the world. Since the blog is so new, there’s ample room for growth in this aspect.
Most of the photos can be broken down into two categories. Pictures (mostly selfies) of couples with matching hairstyles, facial hair, outfits, etc., and pictures of couples whose facial features and expressions are eerily similar. The aesthetic conflict on the surface of Boyfriendtwin isn’t so much narcissism versus humility, but more so what is natural versus what is artificial. While the “natural” photos are the real stars of the show—because you can’t make this stuff up—both types are equally important in the context of the aforementioned “conversation.”
By the way, said “conversation” did not begin with the launch of Boyfriendtwin. The blog just seeks to address it in a way that isn’t exactly new, but which has lacked a mainstream public platform until now. It began with the publication of Freud’s On Narcissism (1914) and the subsequent coinage of the term “narcissistic object choice.” In it, Freud proposes that homosexual desire is born of narcissistic attachments formed during the sexual identity development of a child. It’s a riff on the classic Oedipus complex: the homosexual child chooses the same parent as the object of identification and the object of desire—it wants to be the object of interest and love the object of interest.
Like any good pop psychologist, I only cite Freud to draw attention to the precedent he sets. Outdated though it is, the ghost of the narcissistic object choice lingers on. In petty ways, maybe, but nonetheless. Jeffrey Bloomer for Slate alludes to it briefly in his write-up on Boyfriendtwin:
“For every gay guy who laughs it off, the boyfriend twin is another one’s worst fear realized. One Slate colleague told me his partner will demand a wardrobe change if the two men so much as wear the same fabric on the same day. His fear? ‘It confirms the whole dumb Freudian model of homosexuality as a kind of narcissism.’”
Fear of Freud is a real thing. A real, annoying, and sometimes destructive thing. It also allows opportunity for progressive, creative ways to move beyond it, like reappropriation. It happened with “queer,” it happened with “bitch,” and there’s no reason it can’t happen with something more abstract like the narcissistic object choice. In fact, it should be easier to find the humor in something so esoteric. Because fear of Freud (FOF) is ridiculous. It’s time we stopped taking it seriously.
I think many boyfriend twins would agree. Selfies of look-a-like partners essentially say, “is this narcissistic? Oh, who cares?” Glamor shots of partners who don’t physically resemble each other but choose to perform similar personas say, “if this is narcissism then give me more please.”
One Facebook commenter got it right: “Let me know when Girlfriendtwin comes along.”