I grew up loving all of the Mary-Kate and Ashley movies, and I think the twins’ movies about international travel particularly gave me the wanderlust bug early on in life. Of course, the movies totally gave me the false expectation that boys would fall in love with me whenever I went on vacation (this piece sums that theme of the movies up hilariously), but by now, it’s safe to say I’ve recovered from that disappointment.
Looking back at these movies (which are somehow still not available to stream anywhere), I’ve realized they’ve influenced me more than one would initially think. Whether it was a fashion moment, a certain vacation boyfriend, or something that felt dated even when a movie was new, I thought it’d be fun to share my most influential moments from the Olsen twins’ movies and why they’ve always stuck out in my mind.
James taking Chloe to the Peter Pan statue in Winning London, but really just the entirety of Winning London
I feel like I underestimate my love for this movie until I start thinking about it. I loved Anglophiliac stories from an early age via exposure to Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins, and my love of British culture only increased as I grew older and explored the United Kingdom through books. I’m pretty sure my memory of Winning London, my favorite Olsen movie, predates my relationship with Harry Potter. I couldn’t explain why it appealed to my younger self, a version of me whose dream wasn’t London yet, but looking back, I see how this shaped so much of my enthusiasm for the city.
When I studied abroad there, I legitimately had a moment of reflection the first time I visited the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens, on an amazing day I had spent crisscrossing the city on my own. Looking at the statue and slowly walking around it just like Mary-Kate Olsen does in that clip, I thought, You did it. You made it here. You’re in London. Through the way the statue is featured in this movie, it had become the ultimate symbol of London for me. When I came home that Christmas, I even rented this movie on Amazon to watch with the perspective of a Londoner, feeling giddy about being able to say, “I went there.”
I read so much as a preteen. That voraciousness carried over into middle school, but I have to admit that I was a bit of a risque reader in junior high. I was definitely guilty of reading certain books before being aware of what some of their content even meant or implied. I remember very awkward conversations when my mom discovered that 11-year-old me was reading Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and one of the more adult Meg Cabot books. Cabot and Judy Blume are essentially my literary equivalent of the freethinking, easygoing aunts who will sneak you magazines explaining everything your mom avoids talking about with you. On the other hand, I still got away with reading raunchy-for-a-tween things like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books because of the unassuming titles.
Before those experiments with more worldly material and when I was still in elementary school, I stuck to the innocent, episodic chapter book series that were stocked in abundance at the library. Back then, I reread the same books constantly, out of both desire and boredom. While standalone books and the Harry Potter series dominate my reading memories from this stage, it also included so many middle grade series that are easy to overlook at first glance but were still such a huge part of my reading life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has fond memories of the often forgotten books below!
1) The Baby-Sitters Club series, by Ann M. Martin
I get that the re-design of these covers was an attempt to make the books look less dated, but the fact that the stories themselves are so ’90s is just so charming and hilarious now. You only have to reach as far as one of Claudia’s outfit descriptions to figure out when the series takes place, and that was just one of the many BSC Club charms that kept me invested from about fourth to seventh grade.
Although the series added more main characters in later books, the first few books revolved around three 13-year-old girls who grew up together in their Connecticut suburb. They and a fourth girl, who just moved to town from New York, form a baby-sitting business for local families to use. While the series always focused on their adventures with the neighborhood kids, it also explored the club members’ personal issues, like dating, school troubles, their parents’ divorces or second marriages, and even coping to life with diabetes. I remember coming across many a “where are they now” story during my Harry Potter fanfic-writing days.
I had a special fondness for the BSC Super Specials, which were multi-narrative vacation stories that included trips to Disney World and the girls working as counselors-in-training at summer camp, among other special vacations. There was also the Little Sister series that focused on a baby-sitter’s stepsister in second grade, and before graduating to the main series, I flew through those too.