America's sweethearts Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turn 30 today.
Millennial women who grew up as diehard "Full House" fans like me understand that no one mirrored our lives like the Olsens. There were plenty of child stars that we connected with, such as Tia and Tamera Mowry, Mae Whitman and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, but none stayed in the public eye for as long as the Olsens.
We literally grew up with them and ran home from school every day to watch them on TV. We begged our parents to buy us every video and spent our allowance money on membership fees to their fan club. So much of our collective youth is ingrained in our memories of them.
They've remained a source of inspiration and a symbol of idolization for fans beyond their acting years. They've garnered a whole new audience -- women and girls who flock to their fashion lines, their Met Gala attendances and their rare appearances on Ellen. But to truly understand what it meant to grow up Olsen, you have to go back to the beginning.
For most Olsen fans, "Full House" was the first piece of entertainment we really connected to, and we're not counting "Sesame Street." The value of the sitcom, amidst all its cheesiness and bad jokes and those god-awful hugs, is a subject of its own separate essay, but for now we'll just say that Michelle Tanner was a movement in elementary school and TGIF programming was our bible.
It's not like we gleaned any actually valuable lessons from the hundreds of hours of viewing, but Michelle helped form our identity. When she learned to feel comfortable with her giant feet, we learned to feel comfortable with our giant feet. When she was kicked out of her secret club, we were kicked out of our secret club. When she hid in the boat because she was too sad about Papouli's death to go to school, we hid in our proverbial boat.
When the show came to an end, we turned to their feature films. Onscreen, Mary-Kate and Ashley were going through the same emotional problems that everyone their age was, but on a much grander, fit-for-home-video scale. If a fan was, say, an only child of divorced parents feeling a little lonely, why wouldn't they want to lose themselves in a movie world in which the Olsen twins went on fabulous school trips to Rome and Paris and rode around ancient cities on the backs of scooters accompanied by boys named Michel and Paolo?
Unlike so many former child stars who toil around the industry attempting career re-launch after career re-launch, the Olsens carved out a new path, one that appeals to millennial women perhaps even more than the movies of their childhood did. How fabulous that the girls whose braids and barrettes we once coveted are now making their own clothes for us to copy.