‘Dead Ringers’: 7 Ways Rachel Weisz’s Series Is Different From David Cronenberg’s 1988 Film

Bringing back classic films for the new generations is more trendy than ever right now. With news of the “Harry Potter” films being remade into a show and now even “Twilight,” the new generation may be in for a treat, or this could turn out disastrous. What isn’t disastrous, though, is the new “Dead Ringers” series that adapts the David Cronenberg film from 1988 with the same title, twisting it further until it churns your stomach. If you’re someone who hasn’t seen the film but wants to enjoy the series, you absolutely can. But for fans of the classic film, while there are many things that pay homage to the original, the show takes an entirely different turn, bringing womanhood and maternity to the center stage. If you were concerned the only big difference would be a gender swap, there’s no need to worry; the show very much stands on its own. Partly for Rachel Weisz’s excellent portrayal of the twins that are at par with Jeremy Irons, not to say any comparison is required, but it is bound to happen in such a situation. And in part because of Alice Birch’s intense and eerie writing, along with the sinister directing from Sean Durkin, Lauren Wolkstein, and Karyn Kusama. Here, let’s discuss some of the many big changes that make the TV series a separate piece of media from the film. Spoilers for both the film and TV series follow. 

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Spoilers Ahead


F Mantle Twins 

Of course, it goes without saying that the biggest change in the series is swapping the male Mantle twins for female ones, leading to all the big differences thereafter. In the original film, the twins are fascinated by sex and fertility from a young age, leading them to become famous gynecologists who make fertility possible in infertile women. In the series, we don’t see anything regarding the twins’ childhood (discussed later on in the article), but we understand that Beverley is keen on having children, and this pushes Elliot to try everything in her power to produce children essentially out of thin air. In the film, the twins are more physically connected along with being mentally inseparable, whereas in the series, it is more mental detachment, meaning that while Jeremy Irons’ Bev dreams of bodily separation, Rachel Weisz’s Bev dreams of isolation from her sister in large water bodies. Along with this, the series can explore the internal struggles of motherhood by incorporating the storyline not only for the twins, who are gynecologists, but for Beverley’s journey to find happiness. The film explores the lack of a child in the actress’ life as a longing but quickly shoves it away as she finds joy in Bev and shuts out the emptiness. In the series, however, while the actress longs for children, trying to fill a void in her life, Bev imagines it will create new joy in hers, giving us two unique and jarring perspectives on expectant motherhood.

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The Mantle Parents

I do remember thinking there was nothing about the parents of these strange twins in the film, but I forgot about it quite soon after the first 10 minutes with the time jumps. The series answers these questions with an unexpected result. In such a case where children turn out unusual, it is often the parents’ lack of love that could dictate such an outcome. In the case of Bev and Elliot, Linda and Allen are loving and nurturing parents on the surface who are proud of their children but also slightly afraid of them. In flashbacks, we see Linda struggling with postpartum depression, as she believes her two children do not need her, and she doesn’t need them either. Allen, who was a good co-parent, was able to save Linda from her plight, but later we see that Linda never truly recovered, as she tells her daughter Bev that she will be a terrible mother out of bitterness or worry—we don’t know, it’s a very thin line. The twins have permanently distanced themselves from their parents, and it might not be on purpose; they just have no feelings for anybody else except each other. Or maybe that, too, is an illusion because, in the end (spoiler alert), they believe they are one person.


All The Lies

In the 1988 movie, Bev fears being separated from Claire because of Elliot. He is afraid of Elliot, but he also dreams about Claire separating them physically (as conjoined twins). In the series, there is no mention of the first conjoined twins; instead, we see an elaborately drawn-out scene where a slave woman describes the nature of humanity through the story of the father of gynecology (a white man who “practiced” his “art” on a black slave girl over 30 times after she suffered in labor and gave birth to a stillborn child). Claire wonders if Beverley is schizophrenic, but in the series, Bev herself suggests this to Genevive (also the name of the actress who played Claire) so that there are no suspicions when she sees a difference between her behavior and Elliot’s. Fortunately for Genevive, the twins don’t physically share except for the part where Elliot “gets her” for Bev. Bev also goes to a therapy center where she talks about her sister being dead when she’s been right with her the whole time, making us wonder if she wanted her gone all those years ago so she didn’t feel this constant need to worry about her opinions. Later, Bev also hides the fact that she’s pregnant from Elliot, unaware of the fact that Elliot was growing babies for her baby sister the whole time.

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Birthing Center

The series takes two steps back and showcases the genius Mantle twins finding their way to their own birthing center rather than having it handed to them on a platter. The ladies struggle to strike a balance in front of their investors, who are stranger than the people on the ship in the “Triangle of Sadness” and appreciate Elliot’s personality the most. In the film, Elliot is more responsible and does all the award shows, whereas Bev takes the back seat when it comes to interacting with people. The series showcases the difficulties Bev faces in order to break out of this shell and actually get initiated into these circles that she absolutely despises. Later, when Rebecca hires a writer to write a puff piece on the twins, he chooses to completely go off the rails in a way that would ruin the twins in an instant. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize who was canceled for sleeping with his students as a professor who had nothing else to do was enthralled by the twins and their obnoxiously dirty lives as doctors. And just in one instance, Rebecca, who loved Elliot, threw her under the bus by separating her from Bev in front of the world. If Bev is able to sacrifice her sister for the greater good of their dream, then so be it (we’ll see who really gets sacrificed, though). Additionally, in the film, the Mantle brothers are keener on experimenting with new self-created technology, and in the film, Elliot alone focuses on creating life forms in her fancy research facility.


Elliot’s Addictions 

Cronenberg chooses to make the shy and timid twin the drug addict in order to disorient the twins, leading to their ultimate fate, but Alice gives Elliot the freedom of addiction right from the start. I say freedom because in no way does it affect her brilliance in the field, only her behavior towards other people, which is acceptable in the case of a genius. In the film, Elliot begins to take drugs so he can be in a similar mental state as his brother in order to overcome the addiction together. Series Bev never takes drugs because she is too much of a moralist. This is possibly why the final outcome is entirely different.

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A Psychological Thriller With Social Awareness

It is so easy to call a piece of media problematic or airheaded because of its lack of interest and depiction of current world problems. As mentioned in our review, “Dead Ringers” is clearly a product of its time, and this can be said for both versions. The self-aware dialogue and incorporation of the big-pharma narrative make the show sometimes absolutely hilarious and equally disturbing. On that note, the switcheroo between male and female doesn’t seem forced in any way; in fact, it just allows the story to explore more aspects that it missed out on the first time around. Personally, an episode more might’ve just made this show perfect, tying in the loose ends in a slower manner. 


The End: A New Beginning 

Are the twins living half a life or twice over? A homeless woman interestingly questions Elliot’s obsession with Bev in one sentence. Elliot, who is offended by this outcome, immediately argues it is two times as fun, but Agnes is so sure it’s half that she is pushed off a balcony to her death because of Elliot’s rage. Why is she so angry, though? Does she believe her sister completes her? Not at all. In the end, Bev, who is permanently unhappy, chooses to enter her sister, who has always been a “better version” of herself. In the film, Bev’s desperation to separate from Elliot is severe, and in a drug-induced state, he believes only the physical separation of “Chang and Eng” (the original conjoined twins) will lead them to be free. There is Elliot, who is willing to sacrifice himself so Bev can lead a better life, only for him to be lifeless after the loss of his brother too. In the series, after the death of Bev, Elliot takes on her role as mother, girlfriend, and better twin in front of the world, actually sharing everything with each other.

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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