BackgroundThe twins share nearly everything but personality. Impulsive dreamer Bette is enamored of movie stars like Betty Grable. The guarded and stoic Dot claims not to enjoy her sister's nighttime explorations of their shared body. After fleeing Alabama for unknown reasons, they live hidden in their mother's home, virtually prisoners. During an argument with her mother regarding this confinement, Bette flies into a rage and stabs her mother repeatedly with a table knife. The next night, wracked with guilt over her complicity in this murder, Dot stabs her sister/self with a pair of scissors.
Personality and Appearance
Bette and Dot both are nearly identical in appearance, both having chin-length straight reddish brown hair usually contained with a headband. They usually have different colored headbands and wear colorful dresses.
Bette is usually very sweet and gentle, craving fame and luxury, and most importantly, freedom from her restrained life. Dot, on the other hand, is stern, withdrawn, and somewhat protective of herself and her sister. She is usually the one that makes the more important decisions and tries to show dominance over Bette.
They also can communicate through thoughts alone and upon discovering sexual acts begins to throw themselves at the men they are attracted to.
They are also around 30 years old.
After Bill Palmer discovers the wounded girls and their dead mother, they are brought to the hospital and are stabilized. As homicide suspects, they remain under guard during their convalescence. They are visited by Elsa Mars who, after earning their trust, convinces them to flee the hospital to join her troupe of freaks and become their new star attraction.
There they meet their new family, from the frightening Meep to Jimmy Darling, whose charm gets a smile out of even Dot. However, charm isn't enough to convince her to be a "trained monkey" and she refuses the meals brought by Jimmy's bearded mother Ethel, whom she describes in her diary as the "Sasquatch champion of law and order in this hellish sty".
With a banner on the road advertising The Spectacular Siamese Sisters, it isn't long before the girls are discovered by a detective who places them under arrest as suspects in the murder of their mother as well as a string of homicides actually committed by Twisty the Clown. Jimmy comes to their rescue and, angered by his bigotry, kills the officer. Afterward, he rallies the carnies into an orgy of mutilation of the cop's body. This solidifies the family bond for the twins. When after their first performance they are propositioned for purchase with a price of $15,000 by Dandy Mott - who with his mother Gloria were the only few members of the audience and express interest to the freaks especially the twins (Bette in particular), they refuse. Bette becomes jealous of Dot after she proves to have a better singing voice and Dot begins to dream of being separated from her sister so she can be a star. When Stanley pretends to be from Hollywood and pitches a show idea to them, he offers them a pair of cupcakes which he has injected with poison hoping to sell their body for profit, Dot refuses for both of them saying that they need to watch their figure. The twins discuss with Elsa about Stanley's plans and the promises he's made for each. After her failed performance in front of a new live audience; Elsa, who has a strong desire for fame when she expresses jealousy of the twins' popularity and attention, attempts to get rid of the Tattlers by selling them to the Motts.
InspirationThe most likely basis for the characters of Bette and Dot are the famed sideshow performers Violet and Daisy Hilton. Violet and Daisy were born in Brighton, England in 1908. They were joined at the hip and (unlike Bette and Dot) shared no internal organs. They had been born out of wedlock to a single mother and into poverty. Unable to cope with looking after two conjoined twins, their mother sold them to her boss Mary Hilton. Hilton, according to the Twins, was a corrupt, ruthless, abusive and exploitative woman who quickly saw the
financial gains that could be had from the twins. She quickly began training the girls in singing and dancing so that they could pursue a career in vaudeville. While they were prepared for performing they were constantly mistreated and abused by the Hiltons who saw the twins as little more than possessions and a means of income. The twins were as young as three when they began touring but quickly proved to be popular performers who brought in large amounts of money (which the Hiltons kept to themselves).
While touring in America, Mary Hilton died and the twins were given into the guardianship of Hilton's daughter Edith and son-in-law Meyer. Meyer proved to be equally as abusive and exceedingly controlling of the girls (much like Bette and Dot's mother, Meyer forbade the twins from doing anything without express permission). Meyer and Edith purchased a mansion in Texas from the money the Twins had earned while the Twins were sent on tours of America. During their tours, the twins were caught up in a scandal whereby they were accused of breaking up a marriage and were sued $250,000. A lawyer called Martin J. Arnold, went to Texas to speak to the Twins on this lawsuit and during conversations with the twins discovered the abuse and exploitation the Twins had endured at the hands of the Hiltons. Arnold took on the twins' case and 1931 the Twins received a large sum of money and their freedom.
The twins continued their careers with a new show "The Hilton Sisters' Revue" and starred in Tod Browning's 1932 film Freaks. Their characters in Freaks are similar to those of Bette and Dot. One is reserved and disapproving while the other is optimistic and quick to romanticize. However, after their appearance in Freaks, The Twins popularity declined and they became self-destructive. They had affairs, sham marriages, and legal problems. By the 60s, they were penniless and restored to touring drive-in movie theaters. These tours were so unsuccessful that the Twins were abandoned by their manager at one drive-in and left without any money or transportation. With little option, The Twins found employment in a grocery store in the town they had been left in. Two years later the Twins were found dead in their home. A physical inspiration for Bette and Dot was most likely the modern day conjoined twins Abigail and Brittany Hensel. Just as Bette and Dot do, Abby and Brittney have each their own heart, three lungs, three kidneys, a widespread chest, two necks (one appearing shorter than the other), two heads, one set of arms and legs, and one vagina. The twins are fully functioning and must work together to complete a task as one twin controls one half of the body that the other cannot.
- They are the fourth and fifth characters to be portrayed by Sarah Paulson. For a complete list of her characters, see Cast.
- Sarah Paulson had to shoot each scene twice. When Paulson is filming as one twin, she wears the prosthetic of the other and the scenes are later edited with CGI.
- Dot is the first brunette character portrayed by Sarah Paulson who never had blonde hair at some point in the series. The second is Ally Mayfair-Richards in the seventh season, Cult.
- Bette Tattler
There is only one law here; the bigger the star, the bigger the tent.
- Dot Tattler
I knew I was about to enter the gates of Hell but like the inescapable pull of gravity, there was nothing I could do about it.
- Bette (regarding Dot)
If I touch myself she closes her eyes and pretends she doesn't feel anything.
- Bette (to her mother)
I want to see the movie. I want to see it now! In glorious technicolor!
- Dot (to Dandy Mott)
We don't want your blood money.