This is my second entry in David Lynch Month. It is a collection of quotes from news and magazine articles, scholarly essays, blog posts, and other literature (as well as audiovisual media) on "Twin Peaks", stretching from 1989 to the present.
This week's "Question in a World of Blue" is: Why did viewers and critics abandon "Twin Peaks" in 1990 and reject the 1992 film? You can respond in the comments below or on your own blog (please tag this entry in your response).
There are no spoilers until after a very prominent warning, and I would actually suggest reading up to that point if you're unfamiliar with the series. This could really build your interest.
This week's "Question in a World of Blue" is: Why did viewers and critics abandon "Twin Peaks" in 1990 and reject the 1992 film? You can respond in the comments below or on your own blog (please tag this entry in your response).
There are no spoilers until after a very prominent warning, and I would actually suggest reading up to that point if you're unfamiliar with the series. This could really build your interest.
WHAT KILLED TWIN PEAKS?
WHAT KILLED TWIN PEAKS?
It all started so promisingly. A wildly inventive mash-up of police procedural, soap opera, horror story, and wacky comedy, Twin Peaks (1990-91) followed FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) as he investigated the murder of beloved teenager Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), whose body washed up on shore in the two-hour premiere. Just as much as the ensemble cast, the town of Twin Peaks was a character, with its eccentric denizens, numerous intrigues and affairs, and spooky presence in the woods. It was a place viewers eagerly returned to each week - at least initially. The ABC series won rave reviews, a cult audience, and hundreds of imitators (everything from Lost to The Sopranos bears its imprint). For five or six months in 1990, it was a genuine phenomenon, sweeping magazine covers, TV shows, and the New York Times bestseller list. At the center of the media blitz was David Lynch (Mark Frost, the series co-creator, seldom gets equal credit despite having a greater hand in the show's practical development). Lynch, a cinematic surrealist, had hit the small screen at exactly the right moment in pop culture - or so it seemed. Yet within a year Twin Peaks was dead last in ratings; when it was finally cancelled, it was practically jeered off the air (at least by those still paying attention). How on earth did this happen?
That's the question I set out to answer when, having already been on a slowly-building Twin Peaks kick for months, I was invited by Tony Dayoub to discuss the controversial prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me on To Be (Cont'd). The invitation was like gasoline on an already simmering fire, and I dove headfirst into the flames. As I researched the rise and fall of the show, the critical anthology Full of Secrets led me to the microfiche collection in the local library; before long, I was obsessively tracing articles through online archives, city libraries, and even magazine phonelines. Many of the following quotations were gathered over the course of four days and an all-nighter, transcribed with pen and journal before being transferred - this was truly a passion project! Every review, column, essay, and book excerpt led to another, often several more, and I felt like an exhausted yet excited Agent Cooper, chasing down leads only to have new ones pop up in their place. Unlike him, though, I knew that my search would not lead to one solid, simple answer. "What killed Twin Peaks?" is not as easy to answer as "Who killed Laura Palmer?" And yet the two questions are deeply related, if not necessarily in the way people think.
Yes, revealing Laura's killer cooked the goose that laid those golden eggs, as Lynch has often ruefully stated (in terms of Twin Peaks' artistic quality, it is a clear turning point). But the show was in trouble long before it answered its central question. Despite the immense success of the pilot, ratings declined rapidly during the first season. It was becoming increasingly clear that Peaks' core audience was composed of young, hip viewers, and that its biggest cheerleaders would be critics and commentators who recognized just how exceptional the show really was. If Lynch and Frost could keep them on board, this following could probably sustain the series into a third season. Once Twin Peaks lost the faithful, the writing was truly on the wall - and this happened as early as the second season premiere. The practical reasons for Peaks' failure - the Saturday scheduling, the Gulf War interference, Lynch's and Frost's distractions from the show - are easy enough to understand but they don't really explain the level of rejection that took place.
Why did people turn on the show so violently - not just with disappointment, but anger? What was it about Laura Palmer that had the audience so eager for answers? Why did viewers anticipate the resolution so feverishly and yet react so quietly when it arrived? Most of all, why did the feature film, which doubled down on the series' darkest and most troubling revelations, unleash such vitriolic scorn? Various reasons abound, but so many circle around one inescapable fact. The investigation of Laura's mystery unravelled far more than the details of her murder or the corruption of her town. It unravelled audience expectations and comfort levels. It unravelled the playful voyeurism with which the media treated Laura's dark past. It even unravelled Lynch's own mode of coy detachment, changing him as a filmmaker and storyteller, and severing him from the audience he'd won.
It's worth noting that the following quotes are the byproduct of my research and curiosity; they are only fragments of the much longer pieces which were my initial objects. Most of those articles are available online (sometimes behind free-trial subscription services) and I've provided links wherever possible and encourage you to follow them - although I'd recommend reading the compilation of quotes first (perhaps over several visits) to get a sense of the big picture before diving deeper. Discovering certain passages, I felt they were worth sharing, and ordering them chronologically revealed a remarkable flow to the material, but I can't say these samples are organized or selected specifically to make an argument (this is more true of the selections from 1990-92; the subsequent samples were mostly chosen for their focus on Laura Palmer and Fire Walk With Me). Indeed, the result is often more like a conversation, with one critic calling Lynch a new Bunuel while another sneers at the comparison, one reporter declaring the series a revolution while another dismisses it as a subpar fad, one feminist decrying Lynch's misogyny while another praises him for exposing sexual violence. Yet out of these vying voices, a sad chorus emerges: the song of a dead girl slowly brought back to life, of an artist praised and buried in nearly the same breath, of a secret that everyone wanted to know and then began to suspect they didn't. Twin Peaks lost its immediate popularity and gained its lasting legacy for many reasons, but I'd volunteer that those intertwined (and sometimes buried) below are among the most interesting.
• • •
According to Lynch (Lizzie Borden) Village Voice • Sep. 23, 1986
It's horrifying; but [in Blue Velvet] we also find ourselves implicated along with Jeffrey. We're literally in the same position, concealed, in the dark, fascinated - the privileged if guilty position of the voyeur.
BIRTH BY DEATH: TWIN PEAKS EMERGES AND EXPLODES
FALL 1989 - SPRING 1990
FALL 1989 - SPRING 1990
"We were at Du Par's, at the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura, and all of a sudden, Mark Frost and I had this image of a woman's body wrapped in plastic washing up on the shore of a lake." Once again, Lynch was feeling that haunting, cool wind from his northwoods boyhood home country. And Frost could feel a shiver of small-town darkness too, for as a child he and his family had summered in upstate New York, where the locals talked of secret love affairs, political intrigues, and ghostly women lurking in the trees. • Beautiful Dark (2008), by Greg Olson
The New Heights of 'Twin Peaks'; ABC's Risky Drama Series (Tom Shales) The Washington Post • Sep. 7, 1989
"Twin Peaks," the television show, is not on any network's fall schedule. But ABC has ordered seven episodes of this rather unprecedented serialized drama and will probably air the show's two-hour pilot sometime between now and January. In terms of provocative novelty, "Twin Peaks" easily out-dazzles all the new network shows that will be premiering over the next few weeks.
But is it the kind of thing America wants to watch? In its current issue, Connoisseur magazine naively hails "Twin Peaks" as "the series that will change TV." But the artsy monthly forgets that TV does not want to be changed.
[Brandon Tartikoff, president of NBC Entertainment:] "I probably would want to live in a country where something like that could work, but I suspect it will be a tough road for them."
A Dark Lens on America (Richard B. Woodward) The New York Times Magazine • Jan. 14, 1990
If there is an image that, for Frost, epitomizes Lynch's mind at work, it is the scene in the pilot in which the F.B.I. agent checks the body of the dead girl lying in the morgue. He is probing with tweezers for a bit of evidence he thinks may be lodged under her fingernail, an image many viewers may find unsettling. "David likes to get right under there, beneath the surface of things, and make people uncomfortable."
"There is a magical line that you have to feel or you get into trouble," [Lynch] says. "And sometimes you think that you feel it but you don't. It's interesting to go up to the line - you should go up to the line. But you shouldn't cross over. The fingernail is near that line."
Is TV Ready for David Lynch? (Steve Weinstein) Los Angeles Times • Feb. 18, 1990
Out of the early morning fog that lingers on the still waters by the lumber mill, the town's blonde, teen-age beauty queen, meticulously shrouded in a white plastic tarp, her cherubic face washed deathly white, her full lips drained of color, floats gently ashore--her youthful sexuality more alluring in death than in life.
So begins "Twin Peaks," ABC's bizarre and quirky new nighttime soap opera--the horrific murder of Laura Palmer unlocking a Pandora's Box of secrets, mysteries and illicit trysts that eventually touch the lives of nearly all the peculiar inhabitants of this small lumber town nestled in the lush green forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Alfred Schneider, vice president of policy and standards at ABC, said that the network had concerns about how Lynch was going to shoot the dead girl's naked body when it washes ashore, but Lynch decided to wrap the body in plastic and show only her face.
"I watched 'Blue Velvet,' and there are obviously things in there that you couldn't show on television," Schneider said. "But we went over the ground rules with them at the beginning and we've had no problem with anything that they've done. There's nothing in the show that we feel is gratuitous in terms of sex or violence, nothing that is inappropriate for a 10 p.m. show."
When it is pointed out to Lynch that television shows almost always catch the bad guy at the end of each episode, that the audience likes its criminals behind bars before they go to bed, that it gives them a sense of "closure," his soft-spoken patter erupts in disgust.
"Closure. I keep hearing that word. It's the theater of the absurd. Everybody knows that on television they'll see the end of the story in the last 15 minutes of the thing. It's like a drug. To me, that's the beauty of 'Twin Peaks.' We throw in some curve balls. As soon as a show has a sense of closure, it gives you an excuse to forget you've seen the damn thing."
And Lynch isn't about to give anyone any excuses to forget this.
The Triumph of 'Twin Peaks' (Jim Jerome) Entertainment Weekly • Apr. 6, 1990
[Lynch's] renown lies in a gift for depicting life's more pitiably grotesque and banal creatures - the tormented, loaf-haired title character of 1977's Eraserhead or the monstrously deformed Elephant Man - with a probing, affecting tenderness. Now, on ABC from 9 to 11 p.m. on April 8, comes Twin Peaks, created by Lynch and his partner, Mark Frost.
Even if Twin Peaks is not a commercial success, the director deserves considerable credit for taking a chance. "Look," he says, "everything we do in this business is a risk. The more success you have, the more you second-guess all your future projects. You have to be ready to fail and try these things. It's kind of a diabolical thing but you can't really think about it. And I didn't. I lucked out."
Why TV Had to Make 'Peaks' (Mark Harris) Entertainment Weekly • Apr. 6, 1990
Ten years ago, the networks didn't need David Lynch. Not only did they not need him - they wouldn't have wanted him.
Now, TV needs Lynch badly, and that has less to do with his popularity than with network TV's shrinking audience. The 1980s saw the end of network domination as pay cable, basic cable, VCRs, and independent stations led an assault on CBS, NBC, and ABC.
Television: Twin Peaks (Ken Tucker) Entertainment Weekly • Apr. 6, 1990
Will Twin Peaks be a hit? Not a chance in hell. (Well, maybe in hell...) Soaked corpses, sobbing deputies, and muttering G-men...it's all very unsettling, as is Lynch's refusal to signal the emotion he wants the viewer to feel in any given scene.
A show like this also invites all the standard philistine complaints - "It's boring"; "It's pretentious"; "Who wants to think when you're watching television?" - some of which I fully expect to hear from TV critics trying to break away from the pack.
But Twin Peaks is different from most other shows that have striven to be innovative ... For one thing, Peaks is good - engrossing and funny; for another, it doesn't carry those shows' stink of smugness. David Lynch isn't condescending to television. While Twin Peaks shares with his feature films an eerie airiness and sinister non sequiturs, it has its own video style.
The Foreign Version (Mark Harris) Entertainment Weekly • Apr. 6, 1990
The [Red Room] sequence [originally featured as the ending to the foreign version of the series pilot] ... rivals Lynch's eeriest, most alienating work. A spokesman for the show says it's unlikely to air; indeed, it's hard to imagine how the series could incorporate it, except possibly as a dream sequence.
The Moody Man Of 'Twin Peaks'; Mercurial Director David Lynch, Making the Leap to Television With a Fresh and Freaky Serial (Tom Shales) The Washington Post • Apr. 6, 1990
Lynch doesn't seem to know how revolutionary his brooding, quirky, tragicomic serial is, because he hardly ever watches television himself. He has never seen "thirtysomething." He's seen only a few minutes of "Dynasty," one of the shows whose mentality (if it had a mentality) "Twin Peaks" renders obsolete.
At the mention of Reagan's name, Lynch's pale eyes light up. "Oh yeah," he says. "I like him 'cause he was so sort of happy. A Hollywood actor, happy, clears brush, rides a horse, sharp dresser, nice neat haircut." Did he vote for Reagan? "Oh yeah. People got very upset with me. I've met him, at the White House twice and then I went to see him at his office in Los Angeles."
Twin Peaks A Strange Place to Live (Rick Kogan) Chicago Tribune • Apr. 6, 1990
For all its depth, it is nevertheless a murder mystery, and it had better be able to satisfy the whodunit desires of viewers weaned on "Columbo" and "Perry Mason." At the end of the Lynch episodes, it appears that any of two dozen or so characters might be involved-or they all might.
Whatever the ratings bottom line, Lynch and Frost have provided an answer to a question first posed in "Blue Velvet," when MacLachlan says, "It's a strange world, isn't it?" "Twin Peaks" shouts, encouragingly, compellingly and entertainingly, Yes!
Now the question is: Is this a strange world you'll want to visit?
Dark Shadows fall on ABC's 'Twin Peaks' (Lloyd Sachs) Chicago Sun-Times • Apr. 8, 1990
The hype patrol has been working overtime to prepare us for the oddest and most provocative TV series since "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman."
Dreamily slow and off-center, but wide awake in its implications and unpredictability, "Twin Peaks" advances the Lynch ideal that only by accepting and even embracing the dark and mysterious sides of life along with the bright and beautiful can we live and feel life to its fullest.
If that idea is subtly suggested by the TV show, it is made explicit in Lynch's lyrics for singer Julee Cruise's album "Floating Into the Night" (Warner Bros.), which he also produced. Locked into a dreamy, sighing state the singer is forever floating and falling, "burning like the sun" and feeling "cold as a stone." For all her protests, "good" and the "bad" emotional extremes are equally valuable in awakening the senses.
To this observer, the show's best hopes lie less in pronouncements such as "it all makes some kind of terrible sense that she died, that someone killed her" than in its off-the-wall humor.
When 'Blue Velvet' Meets 'Hill Street Blues' (Richard B. Woodward) New York Times • Apr. 8, 1990
"We started with this image of a body washing up on a lake," says Mr. Frost. "It took us a while to solve the murder. We had to know the town before we could make up a list of suspects. Only after we knew most of its people was the killer revealed to us."
One Thing After Another (Terrence Rafferty) New Yorker • Apr. 9, 1990
This all-American surrealist takes to television like a parasite to an especially nourishing host.
A smoother, less upsetting version of "Blue Velvet" ... "Twin Peaks" does not put a naked, bruised woman in our living room.
We recognize this body as the device that will set a plot in motion: the jarring element in a calmly beautiful Pacific Northwest landscape, the object that will, in classic soap-opera fashion, reveal the passions seething beneath the surface of an apparently placid community, or something like that.
[Lynch] varies the tone, sometimes radically, but he never breaks the odd, hushed mood, which is as overpowering and immutable as the natural sky. Although terrible things happen, or seem about to, in Twin Peaks, it has the air of an enchanted place, a fairy-tale woodland. As ominous as it is, we don't really want to run away from it - we want to remain enveloped in this dreadful forest, to learn how to see in the complex darkness.
Besides, the show is tremendous fun.
Works like Bunuel's and Lynch's derive their force - even their narrative force - from the swift movement of the artist's mind, a strong current of ideas and imaginative energy.
Fog Warning At 'Twin Peaks' (Tony Kornheiser) The Washington Post • Apr. 11, 1990
Unfortunately I never saw "Blue Velvet." Me and 250 million others.
"Twin Peaks" was so strange and icy and meandering I was surprised it wasn't in Swedish.
Readers See Suspects All Over 'Twin Peaks' (Greg Dawson) Orlando Sentinel • Apr. 16, 1990
Heck, even the Log Lady was included - actually her log got the vote.
A lot of callers were shocked to learn that they weren't alone in naming FBI agent Cooper as the killer. So many, in fact, that he tied as leading suspect with another "least likely" - Audrey, the hotel owner's spacey daughter - and an obvious choice, Dr. Jacoby, the loopy psychiatrist.
Next on the viewer's hit parade was Leo, the brutish truck driver, he of the bloody shirt and homicidal aura. Leo is the most likely suspect, but perhaps in director David Lynch's skewed universe, that brings Leo full circle and makes him least likely - thus, most likely.
Other suspects, in order of votes, were Sheriff Harry S. Truman; Laura's best friend Donna; Donna's father, the doctor who refused to perform the autopsy; the weeping deputy; the Charles Manson figure that Laura's mother hallucinated; a "mysterious stranger" not yet seen; Laura's boyfriend Bobby; Laura's other boyfriend James; Ed of Big Ed's Gas Farm; the Eyepatch Lady, Ed's drapery-obsessed wife, Nadine; Audrey's emotionally disturbed brother; the school principal; the Indian-looking deputy; unseen Diane, the one Cooper talks to on his tape recorder; the Chinese woman who owned the mill; Leo's girlfriend, the waitress; Norma, Big Ed's lover; the guy on the elevator; Greg Dawson; David Lynch; and Pat Sajak.
Adolescent Eye (Jonathan Rosenbaum) Chicago Reader • Apr. 20, 1990
Lynch's auteurist identity is mainly going to proceed neither with nor through the plot, but at oblique angles to it. This is pretty much the pattern that he follows throughout the pilot - carving out little pockets in the mechanical plot and creating shapely formalist designs inside them. Where these designs differ most from those in previous pictures is in his willingness to adapt them to the purely narrative dictates of the serial form.
If I've singled out Terrence Rafferty for attack, it's only because his review of the series pilot expressed the desire to liberate Twin Peaks from its ideology even more nakedly than the other forms of hype I've encountered. There's something wistfully, desperately, and quintessentially American, as well as postmodernist, about collapsing a Marxist anarchist devoted to the overthrow of bourgeois complacency (and, initially, civilization itself) into a formalist with no interest whatever in altering the status quo.
Post-Modern Gothic: A Whacked-Out World in Twin Peaks, U.S.A. (Gail Caldwell) The Boston Globe • Apr. 26, 1990
This who-me-ism only perpetuates the weirdness, for the more Lynch explains what a regular guy he is, the stranger he seems. But his very lack of self-consciousness - of either deliberate method or intellectual distance - is at the core of what makes his work so extraordinary, so chilling and hip-goofy at once. His internal visions explode on the screen with the power of uncensored Rorschachs, and he seems as blithely uninterested in their hidden or analytical design as a mesmerized patient staring at an ink-blot.
But Laura's chalky presence is a little too dead-lovely for my tastes, and the plastic shroud around her face looks enough like a bridal veil to unsettle the most jaded viewer. The shot of the other tortured girl on the railroad trestle is so close to Brian de Palma's "Casualties of War" (which certainly crossed the line) that it's hard to assume it was coincidental.
Writing more than 30 years ago about the grotesque in fiction, Flannery O'Connor addressed the shadowy passage an artist has to travel, "this descent into himself" that gives rise to the work. "It will be a descent through the darkness of the familiar," she wrote, "into a world where, like the blind man cured in the gospels, he sees men as if they were trees, but walking." In David Lynch's familiar world, those Douglas firs keep marching forward - circling the beast within.
Psych Moms and Cherry Pie (Charles Leerhsen, Lynda Wright) Newsweek • May 7, 1990
The show, which started out with a 21.7 rating and a 33 share when it was broadcast as a two-hour, Sunday-night movie, had settled down to an 11.3 rating with an 18 share by last week. ABC claims it isn't overly concerned with that statistical dip just yet. The network's research indicates that it's the over 50 audience, much less coveted by advertisers, that's abandoning "Twin Peaks" as the hunt for Laura's killer grows weirder and the huge crowd of characters spend more time eating pie, drinking coffee and having psychic visions. The core group of 18- to 49 year-olds remains; ...the show is doing as well in its time slot as any ABC show in four years.
Twin peaks (Robert Wright) The New Republic • May 7, 1990
Income inequality is growing ... creating a cultural cleavage that poses marketers with a stark choice: either stick with an audience of middle-to low-income solid citizens, or head for the smaller but richer-per-capita population of yuppie sophisticates. Or try to have it both ways: aim for middle America but throw in a page of must-read copy for young professionals in the know.
A more daring attempt to straddle the twin peaks can be seen in "Twin Peaks," the ABC-TV series created by weirdo genius David Lynch.
What surprised everyone about ABC's decision to invest in his worldview is that the number of true Blue Velvet fans is limited. If Lynch is to make it on network TV, he'll have to expand his avant-garde following to encompass a chunk of mainstream America.
Consider a scene in the second episode involving Leo, a low-life trucker who is a subtly comic caricature of a domineering, abusive husband. Leo's wife, it seems, has lost one of his shirts. In a fit of rage, he puts a bar of soap in a sock, turns on the radio, which happens to be playing absurdly archetypal cowboy music, and then approaches the cowering Shelly while swinging the sock around lassostyle, complete with ridiculous whoosh-whoosh sound effects. "I'm going to teach you a lesson now, Shelly, about taking care of my property. That means making sure things aren't lost or damaged." Whoosh, whoosh; fade to black. If your sensibilities are a little skewed, and you're in the right mood, it's a very funny scene. But I doubt that all 14.9 million viewers were rolling in the aisles, and I doubt that the ones who weren't amused were naively absorbed in the drama of the moment. Besides, even if Lynch did manage the tricky technical feat of getting half of America to laugh at a case of wife abuse while the other half cried, that seems a little on the mean side, because it amounts to having half of his viewers laugh at the other half.
The Season's Real Peak: While 'Twin Peaks' Has Slipped Into Parody, 'Shannon's Deal' Keeps Delivering the Goods (Ed Siegel) The Boston Globe • May 8, 1990
No one was more enthusiastic than I at the two-hour pilot and the first regular episode of "Twin Peaks" and I'm sure I'll be in front of the television set on Thursday nights.
That it was also perversely humorous was a secondary virtue. Now it is the program's only virtue.
It takes a Byrne, Rushdie or Fellini or Dali to make the details resonate and convince you that there's something going on that also describes the world outside the dream. Or a Lynch of the "Twin Peaks" pilot.
It's Confusing, but the Plot Twists Double the Fun (Howard Rosenberg) Los Angeles Times • May 10, 1990
What I love best about "Twin Peaks" is that I have absolutely no idea what it's about or what it means. However, I do have a strong suspicion what it's about and what it means:
Ah, but watching "nothing" has never been as much fun. This is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill variety "nothing," this is "nothing" with wit, eroticism and style, a sort of Ingmar Bergman meets prime time, fraught with seemingly meaningless symbolism and oddball characters whose lives interweave cryptically.
Airing at 9 p.m. Thursdays on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42, "Twin Peaks" is the series that everyone is not talking about, but everyone in the media seems anxious to write about. And write about with unrestrained hyperbole.
"'Twin Peaks' fever is sweeping the land," booms Newsweek. And exactly what land might that be? C'mon. Someone has been spending too much time with Log Lady (who carries a log). If "Twin Peaks" mania were as widespread as Newsweek seems to believe, ABC would not be undecided about renewing it for next season.
In last week's national Nielsens, "Twin Peaks" ranked only 44th, barely in the top half of the ratings for prime time. If "Twin Peaks" does survive past its initial mini-season--and we "Twin Peaks" maniacs have fingers crossed--then it will do so as a cult series whose relatively small audience is sufficiently young and upscale to excite the advertisers that excite ABC.
So "Twin Peaks" is not for everyone. Perhaps its viewers someday will hold conventions where they will sit around and speak obtusely to each other.
Twin tension/The Economist • May 12, 1990
So far, the drop in the show's ratings (its third weekly showing gave it 18% of the available television audience, down 9% in two weeks) has been offset by applause from the Right People (in Britain the BBC has bought the series). But viewer figures will tell in the end. Mr. Iger will try to convince his company that, though his audience is not very big, it is young and affluent.
Cryptic Dreams, A Dead Prom Queen, Dwarf Back Talk - Here, At Last, Is A Guide To What Twin Peaks Is All About (Susan Schindehette, John Griffiths, Kristina Johnson, Craig Tomashoff) People • May 14, 1990
"I still don't see what the great difference is," Lynch has said. "To me, it's a regular television show."
The Twin Peaks cast on "Donahue" • May 21, 1990
[Result of audience poll]
Who Killed Laura Palmer?
Dr. Jacoby (Psychiatrist) • 31%
Leo Johnson (Truck Driver) • 17%
Jacques Renault (Bartender) • 11%
Bobby Briggs (Football Player) • 11%
James Hurley (Motorcyclist) • 8%
Still Alive • 6%
Catherine Martell (Sawmill Mgr) • 4%
Benjamin Horne (Hotel Owner) • 4%
Suicide • 3%
Mr. Palmer (Laura's Father) • 3%
Dale Cooper (F.B.I. Agent) • 1%
Josie Packard (Sawmill Owner) • 1%
Actress's First Big Role: Playing Dead (Martha Southgate) New York Daily News • May 23, 1990
Sheryl Lee looks pretty good for a dead woman. Lee, 23, plays Laura Palmer, the murdered high school girl whose name is on everyone's lips in Twin Peaks. (The dramatic series produced by David Lynch ends its first half-season tonight at 10 p.m. WFTV-Channel 9. The series has been renewed for next fall.)
In a recent interview, Lee was charming, vivacious and thoughtful - kind of the way you would expect Laura to be - though she doesn't coordinate a Meals-on-Wheels program nor is she secretly dealing cocaine, both of which Laura did.
She also plays Laura's look-alike cousin, Madeleine Ferguson, who recently came to town to help care for her aunt and uncle, who have been driven nearly mad by Laura's death. Madeleine has been drawn into the morass of mystery in Twin Peaks - something that Lee hopes will continue.
"Anybody can be killed off at any time in this show," she says cheerfully. "Who knows what will happen? But Maddie's alive and well and she does become involved in what's going on."
Lynch spotted Lee, then an aspiring Seattle-based actress, in an educational video she had done and asked to have her come in and audition for Laura. At the time, Maddie didn't exist.
Lee laughs as she remembers, "My sister went out and rented (Lynch's film) Eraserhead when she found out I was going to be working with (David) and she called me the next day and said, 'I don't know if I want you working with this guy.' It's so funny, because David is this amazingly creative man but he is just so nice and warmhearted and kind as a person."
So Lee is happy, despite the hard way she had to play Laura. And as for who her murderer is? "I know who it is. I was there!" she says. "But I can't tell you."
That's OK. For Twin Peaks fans, getting there is half the fun.
Meanwhile, Back At 'Twin Peaks': The mystery of Laura Palmer's murder may be solved, but now there's a new puzzle: Will the series thrive on Saturday night? (Howard Rosenberg) Los Angeles Times • May 23, 1990
Here's toasting ABC's decision to renew "Twin Peaks" despite its relatively modest ratings. Just love the show.
But give me a break. I'm frankly relieved that tonight's episode (at 10 on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42) is scheduled to be the last of first-run "Twin Peaks" until fall. I need the breather.
Although "Twin Peaks" is a red-herring haven, Frost said that he and Lynch are not playing games and have known the identity of Laura's murderer since conceiving the series. "It's someone you've already met," he said. "We went back and forth with it, and the spotlight fell on different people at different times."
"A hundred different stories are left," Frost said. "The murder of Laura has always been just the tip of the iceberg. It was never designed to carry the series. We'll come up with stories that are equally compelling. There will be more mysteries."
Not the least of which may be ABC's decision to shift "Twin Peaks" to 10 p.m. Saturdays in the fall behind the also-just-renewed "China Beach." The common TV wisdom is that Saturday night audiences are generally older and more conservative, the antithesis of the core "Twin Peaks" viewers whose advertiser-friendly demographics are responsible for earning the series a spot on the fall schedule.
Can "Twin Peaks" transform its viewers into Saturday night sloths?
"People are watching this en masse, at dinner parties and whatever," said Frost, who sounds ecstatic about the new time slot.
'Twin Peaks' Headed For Fall (Rick Kogan) Chicago Tribune • May 23, 1990
Too bad. I think "Twin Peaks" should not - that's right not - be returning as a regular series. Hear me out. I love the show, have spent each of the last six Thursday nights glued to the tube and, each Friday morning, have discussed what I saw there at length. (It's airing this Wednesday so that ABC can capitalize on the last day of the Nielsen-measured sweeps.)
Though it attracts a relatively modest 18 to 19 percent of available viewers (good numbers, considering the competition from NBC`s highly rated "Cheers"), the program`s audience consists of huge numbers of younger women viewers, the audience that advertisers covet most.
But all of the rational reasons, however justifiable, cannot make me think that whatever we see on "Twin Peaks" in the fall will not appear commonplace to what we've seen over the last weeks.
It will never be as exciting, stimulating or rewarding as was the "Twin Peaks" we have known so far. What we have known was essentially an episodic movie, and transforming it into a series presents a number of problems.
Spending time with the "Twin Peaks" that concludes Wednesday was like a great vacation in a place you've never been. Watching the series, I`m afraid, will be like looking at pictures of that vacation - interesting, perhaps evocative, but without the fire of being fresh.
Twin Peaks May Weaken As A Weekly (Ed Siegel) The Boston Globe • May 24, 1990
What Lynch and ABC should have done (he said humbly) was compromise between a finite and an ongoing series. "Twin Peaks" might have been a perfect limited series where, say, twice a year it would have come on with a six-week run of episodes. That way Lynch and Frost would have had time to put the extra effort into it that could give "Twin Peaks" its old glimmer back - or even maintain it at its current level.
When Frost was on "Donahue" Monday he talked about the extended grief sequence as an indicator that "violent crime has real consequences that most television shows don't deal with."
That was true of "Twin Peaks" in its early incarnation, but no longer.
Frost, of course, was being slightly disingenuous. Fans of "Twin Peaks" don't tune in looking to meditate on the consequences of violent crime; they tune in looking for a good time. In that sense, Lynch and Frost are no different from the producers of "Dallas" and "Dynasty," giving the people what they want.
• • • SPOILERS BEGIN HERE • • •
The crowd at the Salish was digesting the last of the pie, donuts, and steaming coffee when those shots thudded into Cooper's chest. As the lights came up the room exploded with loud moans and groans, a sprinkle of applause, and some solid booing. One dismayed fan exclaimed, "It's a gip, it's a gip," and another added her disappointment, "I can't believe they did that to me - and they didn't tell me who killed Laura Palmer." As a Seattle ABC station reporter taped a story on the gathering, the group chanted in the background "We want to know, we want to know, we want to know."
The series would return in September, but would the disgruntled viewers be too turned off to tune in? The station ran some footage of Lynch being asked about the show's unsolved puzzles and future course for the next season. Appearing poised and self-contained within his black suit and top-button white shirt, Lynch sat with his hands folded in front of his chest on a table top; over his right shoulder stared a TV monitor churning with snowy blue electrical impulses. Looking to the left of our enquiring eyes he softly smiled and said, "That's a good question." • Beautiful Dark
WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN: TWIN PEAKS PEAKS AND COLLAPSES
SUMMER 1990 - SPRING 1991
SUMMER 1990 - SPRING 1991
Wild at Heart's Cannes Film Festival win was trumpeted far and wide, and Lynch- and Twin Peaks-related articles appeared in, among others, People, US, New York, M, Esquire, Arena, Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, Egg, Video Watchdog, Radio Times, and Soap Opera Weekly. Broadcast journalists Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer covered the Twin Peaks cultural phenomenon, and the hit daytime TV show king Phil Donahue devoted a whole show to Twin Peaks, CBS's series Northern Exposure parodied Twin Peaks, Kyle MacLachlan portrayed Agent Cooper when he hosted Saturday Night Live, and Twin Peaks received a stunning fourteen Emmy nominations. Lynch's daughter, Jennifer, published the bestselling The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer; the evocative strains of Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks music haunted elevators and supermarkets aisles across the land; professional conservative William F. Buckley's magazine, National Review, featured a cover story called "David Lynch's Weird America"; and Lynch himself, his face half-lit with red and half with green, his eyes looking in two directions at once, adorned the cover of Time magazine and the feature story "Czar of Bizarre."
Lynch and his art had never before received so much attention, and he was gratified by all the recognition. But he also knew that, since the beginning of his career, a fair number of people would respond negatively to his work, so he tried to be ready for the "tearing down" that would surely follow the "building up" of his public image. • Beautiful Dark
Esquire Shoots Laura Palmer - For Cover/Orlando Sentinel • Jul. 16, 1990
Let there be no more speculation about who is going to grace the cover of Esquire magazine for its annual ''Women We Love'' issue.
Television's most famous corpse, Laura Palmer (aka Sheryl Lee), is the woman who will be smiling from the newsstands.
Esquire is marking the issue with a donation to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The Secret Is Secure In 'Twin Peaks' Crowd (Greg Dawson) Orlando Sentinel • Jul. 16, 1990
I moved on to the corpse in question, Sheryl Lee, who was dead Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic at the start of the show and later her look-alike cousin Madeleine.
"Who killed you?" I asked.
She seemed taken aback, so I asked if she agreed with ABC executives who have promised a solution to the murder in the first new episode of the fall.
"To a point," she said, employing what by now has become familiar Twinspeak.
Lee was eager to clear up a couple of points. "That's not my prom picture on the show, and I have never been a homecoming queen - never."
Richard Nixon never would have had to resign if he had been as deft a stonewaller as Mark Frost, executive producer of Twin Peaks. He played rope-a-dope with critics in a 45-minute press conference that continued the tease.
Asked if he and and Lynch would make good on ABC's promise of a Laura answer in the first new show, Frost said, "Up to a point. You're going to find out something to satisfy that statement. You're going to find out some other things, too."
Frost said it would be possible for viewers to solve the murder from existing clues. "I think when they find out they'll go, Oh yeah . . . I hope."
Ultimately, the only believable answer to THE question came from ABC executive Daniel Burke.
"What would kill Laura Palmer?" he said to critics. "About an 11 or 12 share (in the Nielsens)."
That's a reality even Twin Peaks has to deal with.
Breakfast at 'Twin Peaks', The Doughnuts Mark the Spot - And the Show (Michael E. Hill) The Washington Post • Aug. 12, 1990
"No," says Frost. "We knew who [the killer] was from the very beginning, and we always planned to reveal it at a certain time."
For all the critical acclaim, "Twin Peaks" has not been a success with the mass audience. When you hear the expression "cult favorite," you know a show is dying in the ratings. Indeed, the "Peaks" ratings generally slumped as the series went on last spring.
The maddening circularity of almost everything associated with "Peaks" may already have driven the audience away, and relentless teasing may not bring them back.
[Frost:] "I was kind of amazed the way people responded to Laura Palmer. I can't remember a dead character ever getting that kind of response before over this long period of time."
The Rolling Stone Interview with David Lynch (David Breskin) • Sep. 6, 1990
During 'Blue Velvet' when you were filming the scenes of Frank abusing and raping Dorothy, apparently you were beside yourself with laughter. You thought this was funny on some level?
I'm sure pretty near every psychiatrist could tell me right now why I was laughing, but I don't know. It was hysterically funny to me. Frank was completely obsessed. He was like a dog in a chocolate store. He could not help himself. He was completely into it. But because I was laughing and I am a human being, there must be some logical reason why. It has something to do with the fact that it was so horrible and so frightening and so intense and violent, that there was also this layer of humor. It has to do with the degree of obsession where people cannot help themselves.
I see films more and more separate from whatever kind of reality there is anywhere else. And that they are more like fairy tales or dreams. They are not, to me, political or like any kind of commentary or any kind of teaching device. They're just things. But they should obey certain rules.
What I'm wondering is whether, outside the films, you see the world as having these very strong dichotomies between Good and Evil as opposed to a kind of complex, integrated -
No, I know it's complex. Everybody's got many threads of both running through them. But I think in a film, white gets a little whiter, and black gets a little bit blacker, for the sake of the story. That's part of the beauty of it, that contrast, that power of it. Maybe it would be very beautiful to have a character that had an equal mixture of both. Where the forces were fighting equally. But maybe they would just stand still.
Well, let's talk about these women. Both Dorothy and Laura Palmer have the "disease." Laura gets off on a man almost killing her, because it makes sex great. What's the "disease" to you? Can you be more upfront about it?
Come on, David.
No, because just the word disease used in that way - it's so beautiful just to leave it abstract. Once it becomes specific, it's no longer true to a lot of people. Where if it's abstract, there could be some truth to it for everybody.
But come on, we know there's a kind of masochism at work -
But even that can be so complicated that even to start talking about it wouldn't do it justice.
Now, there's an Oedipal thing happening in your films. You either have a kind of mystical reunion with the lost mother -
Well, that's 'The Elephant Man.' That's specific to that story. ... What other films?
Or you have, in 'Blue Velvet' and elsewhere, a kind of "sex with Mom" thing going on.
Frank is an infant, calls Dorothy Mommy and says at one point, "Baby wants to fuck."
He's either Daddy or he's Baby.
One of the confusions seems to be over whether art has to mean anything. Let me quote you: "I don't know why people expect art to make sense when they accept the fact that life doesn't make sense." First off, I don't think people accept the fact that life doesn't make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make some sense out of it. Don't you think that's where art comes from, too?
Maybe some of it does. But for me, I'm of the Western Union school. If you want to send a message, go to Western Union. It's even a problem of responsibility. You have to be free to think up things.
There's a sense of 'Twin Peaks' of a lack of respect for certain characters. There's a thin line between laughing at a character and making fun of them -
Who are we making fun of?
Maybe Nadine with her eye patch, or Leland in his grief, or Johnny in the headdress, banging his head up against the doll house. These are things I found spectacularly funny, but there's some part of me that isn't comfortable with my own laughter in some cases. ...
... At the same time there can be a lot of compassion underneath that laugh. And yet it's the way the world is. It's so screwy - we're all kind of in this together, and there's got to be some room for a realistic attitude toward things.
I had an idea for a show. I wanted to call it I'll Test My Log With Every Branch of Knowledge. And I wanted her to be a woman who lived with a son or a daughter, single, because her husband was killed in a fire. She takes the log to various experts in various fields of science or whatever. Like if she goes to the dentist, the log would get put into the chair. With a little bib on it. The dentist would X-ray the log, even to find out where its teeth were. So through the log, through this kind of absurdity, you would learn, you'd be gaining so much knowledge through the show.
You said 'Blue Velvet' was a moral picture -
Yes, you said that Jeffrey learns about the world and helps Dorothy in the process.
Lynch Takes Bigger Role in 'Twin Peaks' Episodes/Orlando Sentinel • Sep. 7, 1990
"A lot of questions will be answered in the first show this season," [Richard Beymer] said. However, "We will open up a whole new Pandora's box."
Four Top Authors Solve the Twin Peaks Mystery (edited by Joanna Elm) TV Guide • Sep. 8 - 14, 1990
[Tony Hillerman:] I'm inclined to pick someone as unlikely as Laura's father, Leland Palmer, as her killer. Given the kind of girl we now know Laura was, and what a neurotic guy Leland is, it's possible that he could have bumped her off in a rage after he found out she was working at One-Eyed Jacks.
[Iris Rainer Dart:] Laura's father, Leland, is also suspicious because he's so crazed now. It's possible he did it because he couldn't bear the thought of her sordid life.
The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, by Jennifer Lynch (released Sep. 15, 1990)
On the way home from the stables Dad said that Troy and I have the same birthday, because when a pony is given as a gift to someone who will love him, they share everything. So happy birthday to Troy too!
I'm glad I don't know where he comes from, because this way it's almost as if Heaven sent him down just for me.
Anyway, Diary, tomorrow is a big day and tonight I will sleep very well, dreaming of Troy and all the time we shall spend together. I am the luckiest girl in the world.
Love, LauraP.S. I hope BOB doesn't come tonight.
July 29, 1984Dear Diary,
Here is a poem.
From the light in my window he can see into me
But I cannot see him until he is close
Breathing, with a smile at my window
He comes to take me
Turn me round and round
Come out and play Come play
Lie still Lie still Lie still.
When I call out
No one can hear me
When I whisper, he thinks the message
Is for him only.
My little voice inside my throat
I always think there must be something
That I've done
Or something I can do
But no one no one comes to help,
A little girl like you.
YOU FORGET, LAURA, I KNOW EVERYTHING, GO ANYWHERE I WANT...I COULD TELL YOU MORE ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK ARE SECRETS THAN YOU COULD TELL YOURSELF! YOU LET YOUR GUARD DOWN, DIDN'T YOU, LET ME HAVE A NICE VACATION FROM THAT STENCH OF YOURS...THEN YOU HAD TO CALL ME BACK...RANCID LITTLE BITCH! YOU'RE PRETTY MEAN TO ME SOMETIMES WHEN YOU WRITE, AREN'T YOU! WE'LL HAVE TO FIX THAT. MAKE YOU LOVE ME LIKE YOU USED TO. I REMEMBER THAT...SOON YOU WILL TOO?
And then he disappeared. I need to do something that is right and good, Today!
Who in the fuck is he and why does he hate me so much?
I want to die, and to forget everything else. I can't take it anymore! I begin to feel good and then someone makes me feel that I'm dirty.
Book Probes Mind of Laura Palmer (Deborah Hastings) Associated Press • Sep. 16, 1990
While the TV series alluded to Laura's darker side, permeated by sex, violence and drugs, there is nothing equivocal in her diary: If it were made into a movie, "The Secret Life of Laura Palmer" would carry an X rating.
But sex, drugs and murder clues aside, the book also manages to capture the mindset of a teen-age girl caught in the netherworld of puberty.
"This is about some of the dreams, hopes and fears of any young girl's life," says Jennifer Lynch. "We've all been there. We've all been 12."
'Twin Peaks': The Fog Thickens; ABC's Inscrutable Series Resumes Its Weirdness (Tom Shales) The Washington Post • Sep. 30, 1990
The so-called real world seems ever more surreal - more illogical, more threatening, more unjust, more nuts.
To experience the alternative insanity of "Twin Peaks" is to escape, albeit briefly, the everyday insanity in which we exist.
'Twin Peaks': The Plot Thickens (Greg Dawson) Orlando Sentinel • Sep. 30, 1990
First things first: The answer is no.
Apparently we do not find out with any degree of certainty - a rare commodity in Twin Peaks - who killed Laura Palmer in tonight's two-hour season premiere (9 to 11, WFTV-Channel 9) of Twin Peaks.
Only Twins Peak dabblers, latecomers to the party who mistook this surrealistic snipe hunt for a whodunit, could possibly find that shocking or galling at this point. With Twin Peaks, not getting there is half the fun - make that 75 percent.
Twin Peaks is an exotic delicacy that could either lose its piquancy or become cloying if served up every week for 22 weeks as prime-time fare. My hope, expressed last spring at the end of the series's eight-week run, was that Lynch would wrap it up with a two-or three-hour episode this fall.
But Lynch's artistic hubris and ABC's entrepreneurial zeal overrode good judgment, so here we are. Let the teasing resume!
- While recovering in the hospital, Agent Cooper sees or hallucinates a giant in his room. The giant becomes a recurring character. No word, however, on the dancing dwarf in Cooper's previous dream who told him, ''I have good news. The gum you like is coming back into style.''
You had to be there. And if you were, you'll be back tonight.
David Lynch: Czar of Bizarre (Richard Corliss) Time • Oct. 1, 1990
Long before the series' April premiere, ecstatic critics were priming TV viewers to expect the unexpected.
In one night, the show had hip America hooked.
He has proven that an eccentric artist can toil in American TV without compromising his vision, and in doing so he helped loose the bonds of the prime-time straitjacket.
The quirky outsider is close to becoming David Lynch Inc. But even Lynch must know that every fad must fade. Any enthusiasm with the velocity of Twin Peaks mania is bound to boomerang.
He is too familiar to some admirers of his early movies, yet too weird for the Hollywood establishment - or for the American couch potato.
Most important, will they keep watching Twin Peaks when it is no longer culturally compulsory to do so.
Weird America (Joseph Sobran) National Review • Oct. 1, 1990
Lynch is all the rage right now, thanks to his explosive hit Blue Velvet (1986) and his TV series Twin Peaks. Both are formulaically said to reveal "the dark underside of Middle America," which makes them sound like exposes, as if Lynch were your basic left-wing avant-garde muckracker of the national soul. Perish the thought. He's a 44-year-old former Eagle Scout who is said to adore Ronald Reagan (probably an unrequited passion) and whose only known addiction, now conquered, is milkshakes. Interviews show him to be something of an eccentric himself, given to ancient boyish locutions like "golly" and "neat." He talks more like a worried schoolboy - a hick Holden Caulfield - than a theorist of the cinema, let alone an avatar of Freedom of Expression.
For all their violence, his films aren't cruel to the viewer in the manner of Total Recall and a hundred slasher movies. They contain indefensible obscenities, but their spirit is monogamous. They move in dangerous territory, but they know right from wrong.
Life is awfully weird, now that you mention it - in America and elsewhere. Someone has noticed! Someone with a camera and an imagination and the wit to spot the specifically American expressions of it, without being anti-American in his attitude toward it all. He'll bear watching.
David Lynch killed 'Twin Peaks' (Ed Siegel) The Boston Globe • Oct. 1, 1990
After the first "Twin Peaks" movie [the pilot], it looked as if Lynch's bizarre vision was going to change television. Instead, television changed his vision to the comfortably normal.
Unholy Trio (Dan Kening) Chicago Tribune • Oct. 2, 1990
How do you capitalize on the hoopla surrounding last Sunday`s season premiere of ABC-TV`s "Twin Peaks?" If you`re the opportunistic bunch at WKQX-FM`s (101.1) "Murphy in the Morning" show, you play "Hide the Body." That`s why co-host and traffic reporter Brooke Belson was wrapped in plastic last Tuesday a la "Peaks" enigma Laura Palmer and hidden next to a lagoon in a park in Elmhurst. From there, she called in clues to her location to Robert Murphy until she was finally found by a listener, whose prizes included a commemorative video retrospective of the show`s first season autographed by creator David Lynch, as well as a VCR to play it on.
Fuzzy Notes, Fuzzy Show (Howard Rosenberg) Los Angeles Times • Oct. 2, 1990
Oh . . . I'm sorry. Let me gather my thoughts here. I seem to have dozed off while reading my copy of "The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer" (written by Lynch's daughter, Jennifer) while listening to my audio cassette of "Diane . . . The Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper" (performed by Kyle MacLachlan) while wearing my "I Killed Laura Palmer" T-shirt (made by a pirate manufacturer) while watching Sunday's two-hour premiere of "Twin Peaks" (written by Frost and directed by Lynch).
"Old man leaves room . . . then returns twice . . . gives barely conscious Cooper thumbs-up sign. Cooper returns it. What this? Now younger, very tall man appears from nowhere . . . stands over Cooper . . . tells him to remember three things: 'a man in a smiling bag'. . . 'the owls are not what they seem. . . .' "
This is where I first dozed off, so I never heard the third thing.
Based on these notes, it's clear to me only that some old men should not be bellhops and that Frost and Lynch really know how to string viewers along.
It Was a Dark and Stormy Sight . . . (Howard Rosenberg) Los Angeles Times • Oct. 6, 1990
To briefly review: The ending of Sunday's episode was a frightening dream-like flashback that appeared to show a man with long, gray hair -- known only as Bob in fleeting earlier appearances last season -- murdering Laura Palmer, the mysterious high school homecoming queen whose body washed ashore on last season's premiere episode.
Using sophisticated equipment to make a detailed examination by slowing the tape and freezing the frames in key spots, the editors proceeded to demonstrate that everything was not as it seemed. It seems that I, and probably just about everyone else who saw the episode, had the wrong impression. Actually. . . .
Bob is a good guy.
"He's not murdering her," the editor said. "He's not even attacking her. Look, there's nothing in his hands. No weapon, nothing."
"He's giving her CPR."
Of course. Of course . That's exactly what he is doing. Far from being a heavy, Bob is heroic.
If the purpose of television drama is to communicate, however, what does all this cleverness mean? That "Twin Peaks" is a private joke? That co-creators Lynch and Frost are master obfuscators who enjoy teasing and toying with their audience? That it's necessary to have advanced electronic equipment to comprehend this series?
[Laura's] nipples are clearly visible through the netting of the corset she's wearing.
Does ABC know it's presenting prime-time breasts? Apparently the network's standards and practices department screens programs as the rest of us do, the old-fashioned way, at normal speed. "If in fact there is some nudity there, ABC was unaware of it," a network spokesman said.
'Twin Peaks' Fell Flat When Bob Came Along (Greg Dawson) Orlando Sentinel • Oct. 10, 1990
When my editor suggested I write a column about the fact that no one cared anymore who killed Laura Palmer, I balked.
There seemed to be a macabre Lynchian contradiction to the notion of writing a column about how no one cared anymore who killed Laura Palmer - for readers who didn't care anymore who killed Laura Palmer.
The best way to serve the growing non-interest in Laura Palmer, I argued, was to ignore her - much the way David Lynch has, in fact.
Well, I don't mind being as teased and perplexed as I was at the start of Twin Peaks when Lynch sprinkled the landscape with tantalizing red herrings, but I don't like being taken for a sucker.
Lynch set me up when, after weeks of building elaborate clues and speculation around all the main (and secondary) characters, he suddenly refocused attention on Bob, glimpsed once by Laura Palmer's mother in a vision.
But then, according to Rosenberg's account, Lynch blithely compounded the cheat by changing his story about Bob in the season opener - and hiding it from the viewer.
What sort of arrogant nonsense is this? Are we supposed to watch every episode twice - once at normal speed and once in freeze frame?
This isn't mystery, this is manipulation. I think Lynch and friends ran out of story last spring and are making it up as they go along.
The Descent Of 'Twin Peaks' Into Tedium (Rick Kogan) Chicago Tribune • Oct. 12, 1990
We are still talking about it at the water cooler, but the words are not so sweet. Listen closely to these conversations, and you will hear a change of heart about that dish called "Twin Peaks."
"I've had it. Too weird."
"I feel cheated."
We are lovers turned to discontent. The bloom has so profoundly fallen off America`s romance with "Twin Peaks" that we have become as vitriolic as respondents in a divorce case.
It`s getting hard, isn't it, to remember the pulse-pounding twists and sexy turns that David Lynch and Mark Frost gave us when the show appeared as a seven-week adventure in the spring? The dwarf dance? The one-armed man? The broken locket? The coffee and pies.
The two-hour movie with which "Twin Peaks" began its new season was a pale, postured image of the original. It meandered over old ground, asked a million questions and satisfied none of our expectations.
More disturbing was the potentially incestuous tango between father (Richard Beymer) and daughter (Sherilyn Fenn) on a bed at One-Eyed Jack's brothel. And the dream images of the mysterious Bob - whether he`s killing or helping Laura - imply that Lynch, whose attitudes about women are disconcerting, has gone slightly overboard in the violence department.
How long I'll wait remains to be seen. Like much of the viewing public, I'm ready to scream, "Get on with the story, boys!"
Last week, I received in the mail a T-shirt from a man in California. He had it printed to pique his wife, a "Twin Peaks" fan. It says "Laura Palmer Just Got Bored to Death." He is selling them for $10 and reports that business is brisk.
It`s likely to continue, until such time as Lynch and Frost decide (or are able) to stop trifling with our affections. Teasing can be fun, but this is getting ridiculous.
Maybe They Should Turn It Into 'twinpeaksorsomething' (Howard Rosenberg) Los Angeles Times • Oct. 17, 1990
Ratings for ABC's "Twin Peaks" remain dismal; it attracted only 17% of the audience watching TV last Saturday night -- causing concern among its fans that it's headed for early cancellation.
That's unlikely for three reasons. One is that show's core audience, although relatively small, is dominated by the young, big-spending viewers sought by advertisers. Also, ABC reportedly has promised to relocate "Twin Peaks" should its Saturday night time slot prove lethal. Finally, aborting the series before December almost surely would leave the mysterious murder of Laura Palmer unsolved and, as a result, frustrate and enrage the show's viewers.
Twin Peaks/Entertainment Weekly • Oct. 26, 1990
As a pop-culture event, Twin Peaks is over; the knee-jerk media hoopla surrounding the show's first season has, inevitably, led to a knee-jerk backlash. But now, cocreators David Lynch and Mark Frost seem to understand, the art can begin in earnest.
Lynching Women: A Feminist Reading of Twin Peaks (Diana Hume George) Ms. • Nov./Dec. 1990
My reading doesn't come from outside the circle of aficionados. I was instantly hooked on Twin Peaks. I taped the pilot run for repeated frissons and dissected each episode. The menu for my season-opener dinner this fall featured fish and fowl. The people who said Twin What? weren't worth my time. I gazed beyond them, helplessly bored. I'm seriously addicted.
I, we, the twenty-thirty-and-forty-something audience, are getting off on the sexually tortured, brutally murdered, mutilated body of an adolescent girl. And what's new about that? What's new about television exploiting our love affair with the interfaces of sex and death, or our hunger for seeing women dead or maimed or mutilated or suicidal or raped or helpless, especially if they're sexually active? Nothing much. Prime-time business as usual, only a little worse because even feminists like me are sufficiently charmed to offer it exemption.
The crucial difference between Twin Peaks and simple trash is not beauty. Rather, it has to do with parody, irony, laughter. We laugh at the punchline, forgetting the premise. Answering objections to Esquire's August cover, featuring a shrouded Laura Palmer ("She's cold! A little stiff at parties but then so are we!"), Lee Eisenberg tells us to "Chill out. Having a corpse was, after all, sort of a joke right?"
It was Lynch's film The Elephant Man that from the perspective of a deep journey into the underworld gave us the beautiful images of an experienced, restored innocence - uncompromised, knowledgeable, beleaguered, genuine, worthy. Someday, before the internal tribunal every thinking, privileged, and especially every powerful person should face, he'll need to ask himself the disarmingly simple question Dr. Treves poses in The Elephant Man: "Am I a good man? Or am I a bad man?" Will he and Frost manage to retrieve Twin Peaks from the elegant trash heap by the end of this season? To do something good, or at least to do the wounded world no harm? By their works ye shall know them.
'Twin Peaks' Case Is Far From Closed (Bill Carter) The New York Times • Nov. 10, 1990
Who killed Laura Palmer? Bob did.
Yes, but who is Bob?
Is Bob a real character or just a ghostly vision inhabited by one of the real inhabitants of Twin Peaks?
Though nothing has ever been a sure thing in the Twin Peaks plot line, that apparently means some familiar character will be tagged as Laura's killer tonight so the show can avoid criticism for putting a killer out of a vision instead of out of the cast.
Mark Frost ... said in an interview shortly after the season began, "What we want people to start to realize is there is more to the show than Laura Palmer."
The purpose of much of the plot development in this season's episodes has been to get viewers more involved with the other characters, Frost said.
ABC promises to reveal Laura Palmer's killer (Scott Williams) Associated Press • Nov. 10, 1990
This is sweeps time on television, when sex, violence, intrigue, bad taste, bizarre behavior and unhealthy relationships dominate the TV airwaves.
No, it's not "Geraldo." ABC promises to reveal the killer of Laura Palmer in Saturday night's episode of "Twin Peaks," the most written-about, least-watched nighttime soap opera on television.
Your Mr. Peaks Knew It, but Didn't Tell (Howard Rosenberg) Los Angeles Times • Nov. 12, 1990
Laura was murdered by Bob, the evil alter ego of Laura's father, Leland Palmer.
That multipersonality wacko Leland put on plastic gloves and, as Bob, attacked Laura's look-alike cousin, Madeleine, beating, hugging and kissing her, then slamming her against a wall with such force that she fell in a crumpled heap, whereupon he inserted a tiny letter of the alphabet under her fingernail as his wife lay on the floor nearby, apparently unconscious, while the ceiling fan spun and a Louis Armstrong record continued to rotate on the turntable. And, oh yes, the white horse.
The way Saturday night's program ended means that Cooper will probably take another two episodes to figure out that Leland is the Bob who murdered Laura, further extending a bloated storyline that even many of the most tolerant "Twin Peaks" devotees feel should have been resolved weeks ago.
'Twin Peaks' still piques a devoted fan's interest (Richard Roeper) Chicago Sun-Times • Nov. 15, 1990
Less than a year after its premiere, less than a year after the explosion of magazine covers and ecstatic reviews, "Twin Peaks" is now as ice-cold as Laura Palmer's plastic-wrapped body. Mere mention of the show provokes groans and eye-rolling among fallen Peakheads, and nearly violent reactions from those who had stayed away all along.
Many of the critics who initially embraced "Peaks" with almost embarrassing hyperbole now complain about its crawling pace, self-conscious style and labyrinthine plot development.
Tweaking the Peaks (Andrew Goodwin) East Bay Express • Nov. 16, 1990
Have you noticed that the show has abandoned much of its irony, taking its tongue out of its cheek, and adopted the codes of the fantastic, the fabulous, and the horrific? In doing so, hasn't it shifted from being a clever joke about soap opera and cranked itself up several emotional gears? And isn't it true that its science-fiction-cum-slasher-movie aesthetic has now moved Twin Peaks beyond the cerebral and started hitting you in the guts, with all the violent force of Laura Palmer's killer?
Was last Saturday's image of the mother (Sarah Palmer) comatose, immobile, looking on at the father's abuse of her family "metaphorical"? In a nation concerned about child abuse, will David Lynch dare to joke around with this stuff? Or will he grow up?
Have you noticed that the "Invitation to Love" soap-within-a-soap that appeared during the first season has now gone? Isn't that significant? Doesn't its disappearance signify the transformation of Twin Peaks from a show "about" soap opera into something more interesting - a soap opera? Hasn't the clever-clever Twin Peaks been slowly corrupted by its form, the "serial"? Is this perhaps not so much David Lynch's triumph over television, but television's triumph over Lynch?
Isn't the crypto-feminist critique of Twin Peaks for its images of violence against women a mistake, since we are no longer distanced from them through intertextual joking, but instead required to feel? Isn't this identification (the triumph of soap, of the serial, of the TV audience) important precisely because identifying with the horror of violence and abuse is the first step towards educating people about it? Are we so dumb as to believe that all representations endorse what they show?
Do we still run the risk of discovering that Twin Peaks will be yet another David Lynch exercise in playfulness? Like Wild at Heart, couldn't Twin Peaks still turn out to be gross yet superficial? Excessive but pointless? How important is Mark Frost (the cocreator of the series) and his influence in providing a counterbalance to Lynch's tendency to spoil his own work with banality posing as Art? Did you read all those interviews with Lynch last month and find a single interesting statement in any of them? Or did you groan at the vapidity of these exchanges? Does it matter what Lynch thinks? Wouldn't it be more interesting to interview the TV audience?
'Twin' Piques and Perplexes (Joyce Millman) San Francisco Examiner • Nov. 18, 1990
"Twin Peaks" is to the traditional TV drama what African juju or mbaqanga music is to rock 'n' roll - it meanders in many circles at once, instead of following tension with release. It's polyrhythmic television.
But that all-buildup-no-wrap-up strategy appears to be one of the reasons for the growing "Twin Peaks" backlash among viewers. Another reason could be media overkill (thanks for getting this far through yet another "Twin Peaks" article). A lot of it is almost certainly a natural consequence of our infotainment-overloaded culture's frighteningly accelerated fad-to-trash-heap process.
Whatever the reasons, the anger generated by "Twin Peaks" is unusual and fascinating. After this season's opener failed to spell out Laura's killer (it subtly informed us that "Bob" did it), cafe and watercooler discussions about the show were filled with talk of "betrayal" and "feeling jerked around."
Why get so angry? TV is virtually free entertainment, compared to the investment of time, money, and energy it takes to go out to a movie. Yet "Twin Peaks" has provoked more heated response than anything on the big screen this year. (The obsessive interest of the show's faithful is just as intense as the anger of ex-fans.)
Maybe the explanation is this: TV is a piece of furniture that usually triggers viewer passivity, numbs you out; it's not supposed to excite you, disturb you or (gasp) surprise you.
The Awful Truth In 'Twin Peaks' (M.C. Blakeman) Chicago Tribune • Nov. 28, 1990
All you had to do was ask the obvious question: Why would an all-American sweetheart who dated the football captain and delivered "Meals on Wheels" snort copious amounts of cocaine, work in a brothel and pose for porno magazines?
Those schooled in the signals of sexual abuse could easily answer that question.
A study by Dr. Frank Putnam of the National Institute of Mental Health found that in 1,000 people clinically diagnosed with this disorder, 98 percent had a history of severe child abuse, much of it sexual.
Laura herself revealed the despair she felt through the words of her "secret diary." She wrote of longing to slide into oblivion, perhaps to die. The desire for death is the last resort for the molested when the escape of drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, or the overachievements of the "good" side fail to keep the pain at bay.
For his part, Laura's father, Leland, an upstanding middle-class lawyer, is hardly unusual in the ranks of incest perpetrators, who come from all social classes and backgrounds. His sexually tinged mourning seemed to emanate from a lovesick school boy, not a doting father.
In casting Leland as a molester and murderer of his own daughter, David Lynch has shown a truth more gruesome than any of the violent movie scenes for which he is infamous. While he may ultimately let Leland off the hook by claiming he was "possessed" by the paranormal "Bob," the show's resident evil force, the fact remains that the women of "Twin Peaks" and of the United States are in more danger from their fathers, husbands and lovers than from maniacal strangers.
'Twin Peaks scores low on fad-o-meter (Bob Wisehart) Chicago Sun-Times • Dec. 14, 1990
We don't mean to put a fly in your coffee, but as television phenomena go, "Twin Peaks" is no big deal.
Incest for the Millions (Warren Goldstein) Commonweal • Dec. 21, 1990
A couple of Saturday nights ago, as Leland Palmer (and his savage alter ego "Bob") were beating his (their?) niece to death, I turned off the television and said goodbye to "Twin Peaks" and David Lynch. I know I wasn't alone. That scene, remarkable for its prolonged, calculated, almost loving gruesomeness, was the final straw.
For the real secret to "Twin Peaks" and Laura's murder, the real message of that scene, is incest: father-daughter incest. I suppose I knew it, didn't want to think about it. Lynch had seduced me into his forbidden world. And now it's the morning after and I'm ashamed.
The patterns here are all incest: brother-sister, father-daughter, and mostly the latter. What's Lynch saying? That all sex is incest? That we all carry the marks of Oedipal struggle in our psyches? Maybe so. But I bet it's something a lot crasser; underneath all the fancy music it's fairly simple: forbidden sex sells.
It's as though Lynch tried to think of a series of cruelties that would boggle any imagination and add them on, week by week. That way we wouldn't notice all at once; we'd be gradually seduced, in the way that a diabolical wife might addict her husband to a drug by doctoring his food over a period of months.
Once you start this process, what you used to be able to chalk up to quirky weirdness looks much more malevolent.
No doubt Lynch will figure out how to put a tragic-flaw kind of moral in the story ... I think he's getting away with murder.
Dude of the Year : Bart Simpson was TV's bitingly funny anti-hero in a year that saw both ambitious flameouts and eloquent triumphs (Howard Rosenberg) Los Angeles Times • Dec. 23, 1990
Although given an illusion of mass popularity by media momentum carrying over from the previous season, "Twin Peaks" has always attracted a small audience by network standards and clearly benefited from a press captivated by its co-creator, movie director David Lynch, whose affinity for things surreal and bizarre on the screen clashed with TV's historic timidity. As it turned out, interest in the series seemed to diminish almost simultaneously with the rising demonism of its focal point of evil, the murderous Bob.
Today, "Twin Peaks" hangs on, but seems a poor bet to survive past this season. Perhaps things would have turned out differently had there been a "Do the Bobman" video.
The 25 Most Intriguing People of 1990/People
Who killed Laura Palmer? Who cares! (Okay, for the record, it was dear old Dad.) What really mattered was that, for at least one hour each week, commercial TV's center of gravity shifted, irrevocably. As Lynch recently mused to an interviewer, "Twin Peaks opened up a whole new world for me." Or was it another dimension of sight and sound - courtesy of Laura Palmer?
Is David Lynch Creepier Than His Movies? (Laurie Oullette) Utne Reader • Jan/Feb 1991
So far Lynch has enjoyed a barrage of favorable media attention and the cultlike adoration of white, "hip", college-educated people who normally shun anything as lowbrow as television but tune in religious to TWIN PEAKS.
Some critics see his work as misogynist, elitist and racist and believe his admittedly conservative politics are somehow connected.
The personal politics of any creative artist have a way of creeping into the art, and Lynch is no exception. His adoration of Ronald Reagan is no secret, and, according to Judith Lewis of the Minneapolis alternative weekly CITY PAGES (Aug 15, 1990), Lynch "misses the '50s, deifies Elvis Presley, and loves all things American." Yet in an interview, Lynch is unable to account for the contents of his work, unwilling to explain how his personal views fit into his films or TWIN PEAKS. Lewis is just one critic who has a hunch. She writes: "The demons in Lynch's imagination jibe well with neo-conservative paranoia, from the war on drugs to the fear of black folk (unless they work in your dad's hardware store, as they do in BLUE VELVET) and the danger of seductive women. In every film, his criminals are poor white trash types who must be eliminated - never understood - before the world can be put back in order."
When someone like David Lynch becomes a popular icon, his anti-female, anti-minority, anti-poor folks, avant-garde fantasy world becomes truely frightening.
New 'Twin Peaks' Cliffhanger: Can Loyal Fans Save the Show? (Steve Weinstein) Los Angeles Times • Feb. 23, 1991
David Lynch and Mark Frost, creators and executive producers of the weird and meandering--and low-rated--"Twin Peaks," called upon what remains of the show's loyal fans Friday to call, fax, write and otherwise cajole ABC into returning the series to the air--preferably on Wednesday nights.
At a press conference on the Van Nuys set of the series, Frost said that he and Lynch simply had been "good team players" when they cheerfully went along with ABC's decision last spring to move what was at the time the most talked about show on television from Thursday to Saturday nights.
Lynch, the Oscar-nominated director of "Blue Velvet," said that the ratings troubles of "Twin Peaks" and the pair's failed Fox documentary series "American Chronicles" had not soured him on television.
"I was reluctant to get into this at first, but it's been a great experience," Lynch said. "I truly love this show. ABC has given us creative freedom. It's just unfortunate that we're in trouble."
'Twin Peaks' flops toward overdue death (Ginny Holbert) Chicago Sun-Times • Feb. 26, 1991
From the very first, however, "Twin Peaks" was the little town the ratings forgot. Although the program was highly praised by critics, it was hardly watched by most of the American people. It was a phenomenon, but not a hit. In fact the week before the last episode, "Twin Peaks" ranked in 90th place for the season.
In many ways, ABC's bold experiment by David Lynch and Mark Frost was a colossal failure. It choked on its own subplots, wallowed in its own jokes and came to mistake quirkiness for quality. But despite its lows, the majestic peaks of "Twin Peaks" dwarfed 90 percent of everything else television has to offer. So before we forget, it's time to appreciate how wonderfully strange "Twin Peaks" really was.
The violence seemed as sick and awful as violence truly is.
It should have been conceived as a mini-series, not an open-ended soap opera.
Whatever else it was, "Twin Peaks" was essentially a mystery. And in addition to a crime and a solution, a mystery absolutely requires a beginning, a middle and an end.
It was truly television for those who don't watch television.
Sloping off/The Economist • Mar. 2, 1991
The programme's particular appeal among intellectuals was its self-proclaimed "subversive" tendencies. That myth was shattered by the deluge of "Twin Peaks" paraphernalia that appeared last summer - the Laura Palmer paperback diaries, for example, and her "secret" cassette tapes [actually the cassette tapes were Agent Cooper's]. After all, how can a television show claim to be radical while indulging in some of Hollywood's most shameless money-making schemes?
'Peaks' Fan Mail: A Mystery In Itself (Elizabeth Jensen) New York Daily News • Mar. 28, 1991
Twin Peaks is the strangest show on network TV, so it follows that its viewers would dream up the strangest fan mail.
Since the announcement that the low-rated program was being taken off the air earlier this winter, ABC has been flooded with more than 10,000 . . . call them "pieces of communication," pleading for the show's return.
These aren't the standard form letters from groups supporting quality television.
No, these are golf balls, doughnuts, chess pieces, a life-size rubber hand with pieces of paper inserted under the fingernails and a 12-pound log, all icons familiar to viewers of the show.
No one has sent an owl or a dead body - yet - but one viewer made a label for a can of "Twin Peaks Quality" creamed corn with the warning, "Watching this program requires a brain. Program may attract viewers who might otherwise never tune in to ABC Television."
ABC received two banners, a rap song, a "Sorry you're ill" card, a resolution from the Michigan Senate ("Whereas many of the people of Michigan are desirous of the immediate return of the series . . .") and 60 cents for ABC Entertainment President Bob Iger to buy a "damn good cup of coffee.'
Among the foreign mail from England, Australia, Germany and Colombia was one Irish viewer who wrote, "Unlike those foolish Americans who switched off in their thousands because the murder wasn't being solved fast enough, we here in Ireland find it refreshing to find a series which gave characters time to develop."
How will the mail affect the series' fate?
"A number of factors are weighed in renewal decisions," said an ABC spokeswoman, "and interest of loyal fans is certainly one of them."
Success Not In The Cards For Revived 'Twin Peaks' Orlando Sentinel • Apr. 12, 1991
"The final two episodes will be combined into a two-hour ABC Monday Night Movie for airing June 10," an ABC spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The decision is keyed to the upcoming May sweeps, in which the show could have damaged the network's ratings performance.
Welcome to Twin Peaks and Valleys (William Grimes) The New York Times • May 5, 1991
Special Agent Dale Cooper will enjoy his last cup of coffee and a farewell doughnut on June 10, when "Twin Peaks" ends its second and almost certainly final season on ABC. It will be a damn fine cup of Joe, but if the show's recent ratings hold steady, about 95 percent of America won't bother to watch him drink it. And it's a safe bet that many of the viewers who do tune in will be content to see the series call it a day after 30 episodes. The doughnuts turned stale awhile back.
"Twin Peaks" was hip. As director of "Eraserhead" and "Blue Velvet," David Lynch had developed what might be called a mass cult following, and the strange, moody drama that he wove together with Mr. Frost came pre-packaged and stamped with an official cult seal of approval. "He and the show seemed to be a fugitive presence within the world of television," says Jay Rosen, a research fellow at the Gannett Foundation Media Center at Columbia University. "It's similar to what David Letterman accomplished when he first went on. We felt that he was one of us, that a hip, savvy guy who knew how awful TV was had finally made it on the air. That is a very powerful message."
For a time, viewers responded to it. By the third episode, highly motivated fans were watching in groups, maintaining disciplined silence until the last credit rolled, then, in an orgy of interpretation, analyzing the obscure visual symbols in the show. It soon became clear, however, that "Twin Peaks" had two audiences: Lynch followers and -- a much larger category -- everybody else. The more traditional viewers regarded the show as a soap opera. They liked Donna and Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman. And they definitely wanted to know who killed Laura Palmer, whose body washed ashore in the series' opening minutes.
That seemed to be the one thing that David Lynch didn't want to tell them. The Laura Palmer murder turned out to be a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, with no resolution in sight. Bemused viewers struggled to keep up as new subplots and peculiar characters -- some of them from outer space -- proliferated madly. Before long, they tuned out.
"It started out as a wonderful show," says Meredith Berlin, an editor at Soap Opera Digest, "but they lost sight of two things: story and character. They started being outrageous for the sake of being outrageous. By the end, people felt, 'What's the point? I just don't care about these characters anymore.' "
No one can pinpoint the precise moment when "Peaks" peaked. Perhaps it was last May, when People magazine devoted an entire package of articles to the show. Or August, when Bloomingdale's set up a "Twin Peaks" department to push lumberjack fashions. Or maybe it was Halloween, when a thousand Audrey Hornes sashayed in pleated plaid skirts, tight sweaters and saddle shoes, as multiple Agent Coopers, hair plastered down with Stiff Stuff, gripped their coffee mugs and deadpanned in Peak-speak. It was a night when irony lay heavy on the land.
The show enjoyed a brief audience surge on Nov. 10, as viewers tuned in to find out the answer to the Laura Palmer mystery -- only to be rewarded with a tease. The critics turned mean. With a cruel flick of the pen, the breathless "Who killed Laura Palmer?" headlines became "Who cares who killed Laura Palmer?" Even diehard fans admit that the show became too complex and bizarre. Mark Frost concedes that there were "problems with the story" after Nov. 10.
As a prime-time offering in the United States, the series failed dismally, but ratings may not tell the whole story. "You can draw two conclusions," says Jay Rosen. "The old laws reasserted themselves, which is the one the network executives will draw. The other is that a space was opened up by this show that will be occupied by other shows."
Mr. Frost takes the pessimistic view. "I don't think it changed television one iota," he says. "No trend developed from this show whatsoever. The networks are more entrenched than ever in the conglomerate, bottom-line mentality. What we proved was that a show like this can earn an 11 share, which is what the executives wanted to hear anyway."
Nov. 17: In what many viewers regarded as a copout, Laura Palmer's killer is revealed to be the spirit of a man named Bob inhabiting the body of Laura's father.
'Twin Peaks': Let the Inquest Begin (James Endrst) Hartford Courant • Jun. 10, 1991
ABC's Twin Peaks, which this time last year was the hottest thing going in television, is as stone-cold dead as Laura Palmer.
Personally, I have already started trading my Peaks experiences for more simple joys in life - such as watching my kid's hamster hang from the bars of her cage.
-Up your Andys, exorcise your Bobs. Some of us were always partial to the more accessible characters of Peaks, such as weepy Deputy Andy, a law enforcer who never saw a corpse that didn't make him cry. If you're big on Bob, we're worried about you and suggest you switch to Bob Hope specials.
Twin Peaks: The final pique (Ed Siegel) The Boston Globe • Jun. 10, 1991
There's almost a sense of relief that the show is going off the air. The program started on such a high that it was unrealistic to think that it could maintain such intensity on a weekly basis, but there's no point in apologizing for Lynch or his colleagues. They're the ones who let the air out of the surrealistic balloon.
"Twin Peaks" failed not because Lynch was too esoteric but because he was too accessible, thus ruining the air of mystery about the program that made it so enthralling in the first place. He's the one who let his tone poem of a story and his wondrous assortment of characters get away from him as early as the second regular episode, which was directed by Lynch himself.
By the time that Lynch went off to do the film "Wild at Heart" and turned the series over to the Lynchpins, things really began to unravel. The more they tried to be like Lynch, the more "Twin Peaks" looked like every other television program. With Lynch gone, "TP" became a Martin Scorsese film recut by John Hughes, a Robert Wilson play directed by Mike Nichols, a David Byrne song covered by the Roches.
By the end of the season ["Who killed Laura Palmer?"] was the only concern that mattered because "Twin Peaks" had stopped asking the deeper question of what made this town so strange and yet familiar, so frightening and yet so inviting.
The series would have good moments and occasional good episodes, like the one directed by [Diane] Keaton, and when Lynch returned to bring Leland Palmer face to face, literally, with his inner evil, one hoped that "Twin Peaks" had returned to abnormal.
But Lynch was as bad at producing "Twin Peaks" as he was good at directing it. Maybe he can restore the balance if he makes the movie sequel. Or maybe it will be another "Rocky X."
We'll know Monday night after the final two episodes. Will Lynch, who directed the last hour, give us the same facile campiness that "Twin Peaks" has become? Or will he dare to leave us with a bad taste in our mouths?
There weren't many Twin Peaks viewers left to witness Cooper's sad and tragic last moments on the air. The series' premiere had attracted an audience of thirty-five million, while its finale only managed to scrape together six million. The show finished a distant third in its time period, beaten by sitcom reruns and a rerun of Northern Exposure...
When the first season ended the year before, so many fans wanted to watch the finale in the series' spiritual home, the Snoqualmie Valley of Washington State, that they filled the big dining room of the Salish Lodge (Twin Peaks' Great Northern Hotel) to overflowing. This year, there were barely enough supporters to fill the booths at the little Mar T Cafe (the show's Double R Diner). As that last, disturbing image of Cooper faded into the eleven o'clock news, the fans' reactions were mixed; "The show started off plain and simple and then really went off into the bizarre"; "How could David Lynch do that to Agent Cooper - it just really hurt"; "It's the evil that I really like"; "They kept leaving more strings untied - there better be more to come"; and "To show that even Cooper succumbs to BOB was a perfect way to end." • Beautiful Dark
"AND THEN YOU BURST INTO FLAMES": TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME
SUMMER 1991 - SUMMER 1992
SUMMER 1991 - SUMMER 1992
In order to reach the emotional heights she needs, Lee surprises us all by screaming loudly a few times just before the first take rolls. Lynch seems thrilled by her heartfelt participation in his project. He began his odyssey with her by carefully arranging sand grains on her forehead as she lay wrapped in plastic on a freezing Washington beach. And now, almost two years later, he speaks softly to her between takes and gives her a little kiss on her blond bangs. Her arduous day over, Lee strolls toward her trailer, smiling down at the waist-high Snoqualmie kids who encircle her and say, "Goodbye, Laura, goodbye." • Beautiful Dark
'Peaks' project on the ascent (Elaine Dutka) Chicago Sun-Times • Aug. 19, 1991
The project, tentatively titled "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" will feature all the regulars with the exception of Lara Flynn Boyle (MacLachlan's real-life love interest, who played the slain Laura Palmer's best friend on the show) and Sherilyn Fenn (another high school friend of Palmer's). Both actresses reportedly had to bow out because of scheduling conflicts.
"Rather than negotiate for a later date, we decided to go on without them," says Gaye Pope, unit publicist for Lynch-Frost, the director's production company. "We might even have gone on without Kyle, rewriting the script, but his decision to do this makes a great deal of difference. We're hoping that those fans loyal to the show (which has been canceled by ABC) will come to the theaters. Our thought is that there's a built-in market there."
Cannes Film Festival press conference for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch) • May 1992
Mr. Lynch, when you decided to do a long film on Laura Palmer, was it because you felt you owed the actress for having spent the entire series as a corpse?
No. Sheryl Lee, who plays Laura Palmer, was hired to be a dead girl laying on a beach. It turns out, at least in my opinion, she's an unbelievable actress, and there are things that she's done in this movie that are truly incredible. I haven't seen too many people get into a role and give it as much. So, the big news for me was the person hired to be a dead girl turns out to be a great actress and a perfect Laura Palmer.
Lynch Mob In Cannes; The Swarmed Reception for The 'Twin Peaks' Director (Rita Kempley) The Washington Post • May 18, 1992
When Lynch, smiling enigmatically, arrived at the party, his entrance was televised on a three-story screen. At an earlier news conference, the director had informed everyone, "I happen to be in love with Twin Peaks. I wanted to go back. ...
"But there are some things in here that are original. We didn't think about rehashing the same old thing." The movie prequel concerns the last seven days of Laura Palmer's sad life as an abused child.
Asked why, if he liked the place, the residents were so miserable, Lynch said: "I'd have to sit down with a psychiatrist for a long time to come up with why I like it. But I really, really like it."
It should be noted that in "Fire Walk With Me" at least the late Miss Palmer goes to Heaven.
David Lynch, once again at 'Peak' of controversy (Roger Ebert) Chicago Sun-Times • May 24, 1992
The movie, much more violent and lurid that its televised namesake, was greeted with boos and catcalls after the morning press screening, but found its share of defenders, too.
I thought the new Lynch was a shockingly bad film, simpleminded and scornful of its audience, which could be defended only with the wheezy "so bad it's good" routine.
Sheryl Lee on "The Arsenio Hall Show" • late Aug. 1992
Lee: It's tough. It's a tough film. It's raw.
Hall: Oh. The violence, sexuality.
Lee: Yeah. All of it.
Hall: See, now that makes me want to go now.
'Twin Peaks' Pique: No Film Screening for L.A. (Kevin Allman) Los Angeles Times • Aug. 28, 1992
The Buzz: Although guests at the party were enthusiastic, it was, at the very least, unusual that New Line Cinema didn't screen "Fire Walk With Me" for the crowd. ... An L.A. screening might have gone a long way to combat tepid industry word of mouth about this movie. Then again, it may not have.
Quoted: Dana Ashbrook, who plays Bobby Briggs, defended David Lynch's dark visions, which have been called too violent by some. Said Ashbrook: "People take things so seriously. It doesn't condone violence. It's a cool movie. It's very avant-garde.It's not your totally predictable, totally pat movie like 'Basic Instinct.' "
Exit Line: How quickly we forget our favorite fads in today's accelerated culture. Referring to all the "Twin Peaks" trappings, one guest said: "Was it only a couple of years ago? It already feels like nostalgia." (Just what we need to make us feel even older--'90s nostalgia.)
Past Its Peak (Dave Kehr) Chicago Tribune • Aug. 28, 1992
Ultimately, Lynch seems interested only in reproducing the trademarks of the series and reviving the regular characters (including Kyle MacLachlan`s Agent Cooper, in an outrageously arbitrary appearance), while supplying an R- rated level of mild titillation.
Those aren't good reasons for a movie to exist.
This simplistic, puritanical division of the world into "good" and "bad" is what stands behind the "twin peaks" of the title, and never, in Lynch`s proudly naive universe, do the twain meet. There is no real puzzle here, only a pat application of fearful and conventional judgments, the world as seen by an Eagle Scout feeling his first, fearful stirrings of sexuality.
Lynch has made the right choice in swapping suspense for enigma. Otherwise, all the movie would have to offer would be the unbearably linear (and sadistic) process of waiting for Laura's inevitable rape and murder (a spectacle that Lynch does serve up with great delectation, in the film's one real violation of the television norms).
But in going so far to avoid a linear structure, Lynch has ended up with its equally deadly opposite, a film in which no one scene necessarily follows another. The film's nearly complete lack of logical connections and forward momentum quickly become tiresome, as if Lynch were simply dealing his cards out on a table, in whatever order the shuffle happened to produce.
For a film with a pre-established conclusion, "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" seems depressingly interminable.
'Fire Walk With Me': For 'Peaks' freaks only (Jay Carr) The Boston Globe • Aug. 29, 1992
In place of incident, character and a bemused view of small-town life, corrupt beneath its cherry-pie surface, we are essentially asked to witness torture -- mostly of Laura Palmer, as her troubles lead her to self-destruct with drugs and promiscuity, including a couple of side trips to the Canadian bordello known as One-Eyed Jacks. For all the violence in Lynch's "Blue Velvet," that film maintained a comic dimension. The violence in "Wild at Heart," for all its extravagance of gesture, was hollow -- stylized, not real.
Here, there's no comedy, nothing surreal, just wave after wave of titillation. Except that it doesn't titillate. It depresses. There's no psychic charge on any of it. It proceeds from no artistic conviction, just from a cynical desire to squeeze a few more bucks from the already overworked corpse of Laura Palmer. It shows how quickly a creative impulse can be exhausted -- from quirky originality toying with humanity's darker impulses to dispirited quasi-porn.
It May Be Strange, But 'Peaks' Lacks Fire (Melinda Miller) The Buffalo News • Aug. 29, 1992
Isaak and Sutherland's quirky routine is cut short as Lynch fast-forwards a year to Laura's last orgiastic, terrifying drug-clouded week. And when he does, all that is off-beat, unexpected and charming is left behind. Sheryl Lee, her role greatly expanded from the blue-lipped corpse she played in the series, is fairly stunning as Laura, fighting for her life and finally accepting that she will lose. Lynch understands the voyeuristic appeal of madness, and he plays hard on it, but the audience takes the pounding for nothing. We know she will die, we know how, we know when. And that's exactly what happens.
Fire-Walking With Fans of 'Twin Peaks' (Cindy Pearlman) Chicago Sun-Times • Aug. 30, 1992
"We've never had a homecoming queen die," says local Maggie Meltzer. "Laura is not typical of the girls up here. Laura led a lurid life, the poor little thing."
Laura Palmer lives! On an outdoor stage overlooking the mountains, Sheryl Lee - the world's most famous dead girl - holds court. She looks fragile with translucent white skin. Her filmy blue shirt is taken by the wind as she talks about the harsh plot of "Fire Walk With Me." She's talking about incest.
"This movie is about the incest between Laura and her father. It's a horrible thing," Lee says.
She hates Laura's image. "I get defensive when people label her a bad girl. Any victim of incest is going to make unhealthy choices. A tragic girl is not a bad girl."
Campy 'Fire' Tale//'Twin Peaks' Prequel Trots Out Familiar Misfits (Lynn Voedisch) Chicago Sun-Times • Aug. 31, 1992
We see how Laura discovers that her tormentor Bob is really her dear old Dad, Leland Palmer. Mainly, Peakheads get a big peek at Laura's sordid high school career.
Laura was a bad seed, spending nights turning tricks at a roadhouse, coking up her brain and generally earning a very bad reputation. But the girl just couldn't help it. After all, her dad was possessed by a monstrous killer/ rapist. And Laura's alcoholic/nicotine addict mom practically wore an out-of-order sign around her neck.
Lee gives an alternately sexy and hysterical performance as Laura. The overwhelming question: How can a drugged-out, mentally tormented incest victim look this good? Ray Wise plays Leland as if he's anxiously awaiting a nuclear holocaust.
'Twin Peaks,' The Movie, Is A Stronger Brew (Jay Boyar) Orlando Sentinel • Aug. 31, 1992
Before I saw the new Twin Peaks movie, I wondered if it would be understood by people who weren't fans of the TV series. But after watching the film, I wonder if it'll be understood by people who were.
In the series, the audience's perspective was often a bit detached: We might have been seeing the action through the eyes of Agent Cooper or Sheriff Truman or even the mischievous Audrey Horn, whose father ran the Great Northern Hotel.
But the movie does something so daring as to verge on recklessness. In Fire Walk With Me ... [Lynch] attempts to let the audience see the final weeks of Laura Palmer's life through her own troubled eyes.
As series regulars may have gathered, Laura is a high-school student whose father has been sexually abusing her for years.
Even with the comic relief and distancing techniques of the series, this was powerful material. Without them, the movie is sensationally strong.
Not only does he show us the horrible world in which Laura lives, he also tries to give us a sense of how she perceives that world. We witness her eerie dreams, share her fantasies of self-deception and participate in the coke-head highs that she uses to blot out the darkness of her reality.
You need to have seen most of the series to grasp the subtle way the movie fills in the gaps in story line (and probably, even to follow the narrative path at times). You also have to be willing to let go of the series to accept the movie's dramatically different perspective.
This is a lot for Lynch and co-screenwriter Robert Engels (a producer and writer for TV's Twin Peaks) to ask, and I'm less than optimistic about the film's commercial prospects ... and the movie's critical chances are also in doubt.
Appearing in almost every scene (beyond the prologue) is Sheryl Lee, whose sweet-faced, starry-eyed photograph kept the memory of Laura Palmer alive in the TV show. As the star of Fire Walk With Me, Lee gives an unusual - and affecting - performance.
You might even say that, under the surface, Laura isn't really so different from the title character of Lynch's 1980 movie, The Elephant Man. Doomed and a victim of extravagent abuse, she understands she's a freak. Yet she desperately wants to deny it.
Knowing what we know about Laura Palmer, can we blame her for fooling herself?
'Twin Peaks' Awakens Movie Lover In Us All (Jeff Simon) The Buffalo News • Sep. 6, 1992
SO AS WE watch as the creativity of American movies sinks quickly into the Pacific and leaves behind a continent-sized oil slick, it's time to put some movies and some necessary superlatives into the lifeboat for survival -- "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," for one.
It's the most exciting American movie since the Coen brothers' "Barton Fink" -- a 2 1/2-hour nightmare that is one of the most stubbornly dreamlike commercial movies ever made in America.
Here's one theory propounded by the family's young theatrical philosopher after the screening: "It wouldn't surprise me if David Lynch did the TV series just so he could get an audience for this." Some of the actors are the same, some of the sets are the same, some of Angelo Badalamenti's brooding and beautiful music is the same. And yet the film is entirely different. It isn't just the essential difference in scale, either, although that figures enormously.
A TV show is like a household pet. No matter how weirdly funny and horrific it is, you think of it as if it is somehow miniaturized and cute -- hence the hailstorm of "Twin Peaks" products and marketing engendered by the show's cult audience (in modern America what may begin as art always -- always -- ends as packaging).
Incredibly, the tale is moving. It isn't just drenched in that knowing, postmodern irony that turns everything into a joke; it is wild and sexy and, finally, very sad. And it establishes Sheryl Lee as a superb young actress. On the TV show, she was wrapped up in a plastic tarp and stuffed into the odd flashback. She may be a good decade beyond the age she's playing, but in the movie she gives a full performance, an erotic, decadent, traumatized, terror-stricken performance. She's another actress entirely from what we saw on television.
What Lynch has done in "Twin Peaks" the movie is to wrench father-daughter incest and child murder out of the hands of Oprah and the TV movie of the week, and put it back into the incoherent horrors of the collective unconscious where it belongs.
Now that the film culture era ushered in by Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" has turned into a squabbling, trivial and declining babble of tedious but film-savvy filmmakers and critics, the great figures in the ascending generation of American movies seem to be the ones who have avoided the corruptions of film culture altogether -- Lynch and Tim Burton (who both come from art school) and Ron Shelton (who came from the farm system of the Baltimore Orioles).
They create a film and narrative film language of their own, not one that's been patched together out of overly familiar cinematic dialects.
"Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" is a film that asks for trouble in many, many ways -- its length, its origins in a TV phenomenon, its radical dislocation from almost everything else that you can see in movie theaters.
And trouble it got, right from the beginning, when its distributors delayed screenings until the very last minute because it was too strange.
And yet it seems to me one of the films of the year, and one of those rare movies that makes some people remember what they loved about movies in the first place.
Naked Lynch (introduced & interviewed by Geoff Andrew) Time Out London • Nov. 18, 1992
The film appears to be a deeply cynical exercise, a blatant attempt to cash in on the success of the TV series. None of it is properly thought through, let alone original or heartfelt; the overwhelming impression is that Lynch is churning out exactly what he imagines "Tweakies" will expect and no more.
Small wonder, then, that he appears so listless when asked to explain and discuss Fire Walk With Me. Is this reticence just part of the Ordinary Joe pose? Perhaps, but nothing he says suggests that is prepared, or even able, to examine and confront his work in any depth. Maybe he has fallen victim to the cult-worship and grown lazy, but the question remains the same. Is the inarticulacy an act? If so, it's boring and dumb, if not...well, judge for yourself.
So would you do another Twin Peaks film?
Yes, it could go on forever. I'd like to do different things as well, but I feel so comfortable in that world.
Is it good for an artist to feel that comfortable?
Well, let's say comfortable like inspired; not comfortable like sit back and watch the scenery. It's an inspiring place. There are mysteries there for me.
(Evidently, Lynch is not big on discussing motivation; time to check if he's any happier with meaning.)
Frankly, I had trouble making sense of the film's prologue section, in terms of the narrative leaps and the deductions being made about the murder. Does it all make sense to you?
It does and it doesn't. It's like opening a window and looking for a moment; then closing it and asking someone to explain an hour's worth of scenario when they've only seen a small bit. It was like impressions a detective might get - a prologue of sensations, of feelings, trying to capture something. The FBI don't have a clue what's happening, but they've got their sensors going.
So you're an intuitive rather than analytical filmmaker?
In our flavor-of-the-month culture, home of the incredibly shrinking attention span, our ears are filled with blaring sound bites, our eyes and brains made dizzy by assaultive images edited at quantum speed. We build up celebrities, worship them, then reject them in record time. By the summer of 1992, Lynch was no longer "a hot topic" in the public mind, but it was nonetheless shocking that Time, Newsweek, and the popular TV film-review show Siskel and Ebert at the Movies did not deign to say one word about Lynch's new film.
Some critics, however, did have plenty to say, the majority of which was resoundingly negative. ... People magazine's Tom Gliatto characterized it as "a nauseating bucket of slop." Interview viewed it as "an ill-structured, lurid shock-crazy prequel to a once-popular saga. This is torture." Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman judged the movie to be "a true folly - almost nothing in it adds up." And the esteemed Vincent Canby of the New York Times added it up thusly: "It's not the worst movie ever made; it just seems to be." Some reviewers, such as David Baron of New Orleans' The Times-Picayune, attacked Lynch as fervently as they did his film: "This is the latest lurid monstrosity by the nation's most repellent director. It is as gratuitous as it is ugly," containing "sophomoric insights" that reveal only "the banality of Lynch's vision."
Al Strobel, who plays BOB's one-armed former consort, Mike, has an eloquent response to the attack-dog critics. "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is hard to look at if you're not prepared to look at a work of art. It's like going to a gallery and seeing extremely expressionistic paintings when you were expecting English landscapes. This was more a piece of art than a movie. The juxtaposition of horror and beauty has an elevating sense that brings out things in your mind and in your heart and in your soul like a very fine piece of art does. The critics didn't see that, and that makes me angry." • Beautiful Dark
INTO THE LIGHT: TWIN PEAKS INVESTIGATION, REFLECTION AND RECLAMATION
1992 - 2014
1992 - 2014
Lynch has - either consciously or not - put Laura in a position that, with poetic resonance, echoes the mythic stance of Tibetan Buddhist nuns who, in ancient tales, personally engaged and grappled with devouring demons in order to keep the world safe from harm. However, Laura is not a sacrificial lamb with a martyr complex. Her primal need is to save herself from BOB, and to do so she must die. • Beautiful Dark
Personal Quote (Sheryl Lee) • initially unsourced, later traced to 2000 Empire interview
I have had many people, victims of incest, approach me since the film was released, so glad that it had been made because it helped them to release a lot. And so for me, it doesn't matter what the critics say - if one person walks away having released something, then it's worth seeing.
Desire Under the Douglas Firs: Entering the Body of Reality in Twin Peaks (Martha Nochimson) Film Quarterly • Winter 1992-93
To explore the mystery, we must speak not only of the incidents in the Twin Peaks narrative, but also of the production context in which the series was created. The production elements most germane to this discussion are the long period during which Lynch neither directed nor wrote for Twin Peaks, and the premature cancellation of the series.
Lynch's return meant the re-establishment of the centrality of the mind-body connection. Lynch directed (and rewrote) the last episode, rejecting most of the script that was written for the Twin Peaks finale. Understanding these changes may help to focus the prevalent sense that Twin Peaks went wrong after the death of Leland Palmer, and to emphasize the painful impact of the last episode.
The issue of "body too early!" is re-examined from Laura's perspective in the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, where, once again, it is made clear that she is not the horror, but her father's displacement of his self-loathing onto her.
The Knowing Spectator of Twin Peaks: Culture, Feminism, and Family Violence (Randi Davenport Hobart & William Smith) Literature Film Quarterly • Jan. 1993
I would like to suggest that in its exploration of the behavior of abusive men and the damage suffered by their victims, Twin Peaks is informed by, rather than at odds with, recent feminist discussions about sexual violence.
What made Twin Peaks hard to watch was its powerful suggestion that sexual violence is not pleasurable or natural but is common and is practiced by lots of seemingly average men. Twin Peaks horrified us because it held a mirror up to the American family and what we saw when we gazed upon it was a brutality that made many of us sick.
Unlike other fictions of incest and like the feminist texts, Twin Peaks lays no blame for the incestuous assault on the victim. Instead of viewing the daughter as a child with nearly supernatural powers of sexual attraction and seduction, both Twin Peaks and the feminist texts disrupt more traditional beliefs about incest by proposing that the daughter is a victim of sexual assault, that her father is her rapist, and that particularly complex power problems within the family make it difficult for her to escape the horrors of her existence.
Such accounts also point out that the rage and pain suffered by these victims is expressed in a variety of behaviors, some of which are self-destructive - in feeling or acting crazy, in lacking a sense of mastery, in addictions to alcohol and drugs, in eating disorders, in problems with sexuality and self-image, in involvement in sadomasochistic sexual practices including bondage and beating, in attempted suicide, in hopelessness, depression and emotional paralysis.
The desire of the incest victim to be freed of her own distorted sense of responsibility for the abuse is given powerful voice. Indeed, the death of Leland is the moment when the trope of the Seductive Daughter is perhaps most explicitly resisted.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (Greil Marcus) Artforum • Mar. 1, 1993
Though nobody needed the subtitled dwarf, this much-maligned film is a lot tougher than Wild at Heart, and also probably the greatest teen-jeopardy flick ever made. [goes on to mention "a heedlessly extremist performance by Sheryl Lee"]
Family Romance, Family Violence (Diane Stevenson) Boulevard • 1993
It is only in Twin Peaks that Lynch allows himself explicitly to bring out the incestuous violence right in the midst of the middle-class home. Public discourse about family violence has by now made it clear that it is a problem that afflicts every strata of our society.
The eruption of incestuous violence in the middle-class home in Twin Peaks does not come about straightforwardly, however, but through the doubling of Leland and BOB. BOB is the double of Leland, the Mr. Hyde to Leland's Dr. Jekyll, and he is a double in another sense, doubly a figure of the underworld: a low-life drifter from the criminal underworld and a demon from the spectral underworld. That BOB the criminal drifter resides in Leland tells us that Leland harbors the criminal inside him, that the incestuous and the murderous are to be understood as part of his psychological make up; that BOB the demon possesses Leland tells us that anyone could be so possessed.
What is distinctive about Twin Peaks is the way it connects all sexuality and violence to the abuse of a daughter by a father in a middle-class home. It's as if every person in town were but a part of a multiple personality generated by that abuse - as if not just an individual but a society had been formed in that incestuous cradle.
It is crucially important for the incest victim that the truth of the abuse be recognized rather than merely imputed to the mind.
The theme of incest and family violence emerges still more clearly in the Twin Peaks movie than in the television series because the movie gives us Laura Palmer's point of view. Whereas the television series began with Laura Palmer's corpse and then proceeded with an investigation into what happened led by the detective, Agent Cooper, the movie takes us into what happened through the consciousness of the young woman who ends up dead. The television series told the story of the town; the movie focuses on one young woman who comes to the fearful recognition that the incubus who has been invading her bed is no dream or phantom but her own father. Having Laura Palmer as the central consciousness makes the story more psychological and more amenable to natural explanation.
In the Twin Peaks movie a good spirit comes to the rescue of a friend of Laura's who is in the same danger as she; but Laura lacks the resources - the self-esteem, one might say, the sense of good in herself - to summon her guardian angel until after her death.
The television series began in the glow of that fame and was glowingly received at first but gradually lost favor both with the public and with the critics. Especially in its second season, it suffered from unevenness and from the obscurity of each episode to a viewer not knowledgeable about the series as a whole. But there were some very strong episodes right up until the end. The increasing disapproval that the series encountered had something to do, one suspects, with its increasing boldness in dealing with the theme of the violence that dwells at home. In Blue Velvet this theme was more veiled and with some distortion it could still be subsumed under a conventional Freudian reading. It's true that in recent years child abuse and family violence have been gaining a public hearing; but what is acceptable in daytime talk shows is not necessarily acceptable as prime time drama and not necessarily reputable to critics and commentators. Lynch's fall from their grace may be due, as they maintain, to a decline in the quality of his work; but it may also be due to the growing explicitness of his treatment of a theme that makes them uncomfortable.
For whatever reason, the movie of Twin Peaks was a critical and financial disaster in this country. The reviews were unanimously negative; the public stayed away. I thought it a good and gripping film that can stand beside Blue Velvet. Vincent Canby, of the New York Times, who declared it virtually the worst movie ever made, found it so incoherent that he failed to grasp the evident fact that it deals with incest and family violence. It wouldn't be the first time that a charge of incoherence or boredom masks a refusal to deal with what is being expressed.
The Canonization of Laura Palmer (Christy Desmet) featured in Full of Secrets (1995)
Superficially, the main plot line of Twin Peaks traces the dethronement of Laura Palmer as Homecoming Queen.
The fact that her own father murdered her suggests incest as a motive for both Laura's problems and her death.
The Diary of Laura Palmer, published under the name of David Lynch's own daughter Jennifer, provides further hints that incest lies behind the murder. Recording Laura's first pre-adolescent encounters with BOB - sexual visitations that primarily involve masturbation - the diary chronicles also Laura's "bad dreams" and early feelings of fear, guilt, and self-loathing, which over time produce in her a resolve to be "de-sensitized" and become the "nasty" girl BOB claims she is.
Although Laura seems to be abandoned by her spiritual guide, in reality she herself is transformed into the guardian angel.
A Feminist Reading of Twin Peaks (Diana Hume George) featured in Full of Secrets (1995 - revision of 1990 Ms. article)
Let us suppose, for a moment, that Davenport is right. What would that mean? If I, as a feminist, well-informed about these issues, so severely misread, if I miss the point and the boat, then what chance is there that the mass viewership, with a high stake in repressing truths about family life, and massive unconscious misogyny, will understand what Davenport takes to be the series' feminist intent? It must be mammothly subtle. The abuse survivor counselor who watched the series with me found no such saving reading available to her either.
Leland is a compelling character in his mental breakdown, and our hearts go out to him; his confession and death are among the series' most powerful moments. He is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an agent who can be held responsible.
The bad guys do get theirs in the end. Thus we are instructed regarding how to situate our sympathies and experience our sense of justice. But this is just another clever use of the simplistic formula by which lascivious misogyny is presented in loving detail, punished by an equally thinly disguised notion of patriarchal law and order, scapegoating offenders whose punishment casts off the guilt that belongs to an entire cultural ethos. And that ethos, both pornographic and thanatopic, not only goes free. It gets validated.
David Lynch (1995), by Michael Chion
If they did make a mistake, it was their assumption that the public had a genuine interest in Laura Palmer herself. In this respect, Fire Walk With Me is a truly generous project because it delves into a character who, after her death, serves everyone as a prop for their own projections and fantasies, in order to say: this character existed and suffered - take an interest in this woman.
...no longer has the lovely, proud features of Lara Flynn Boyle, but the more timid, frail features of Moira Kelly... [describing the re-casting of the character of Donna]
The fan rumbles like an evil aeroplane near the door to the bedrooms. Leland Palmer turns it on as he goes to possess his daughter.
From a visual standpoint ... the film's most original and striking aspect is its use of subtly upsetting shooting angles and frames, generating a sense of imbalance. The ideas of walking and standing up, and the vertigo that these can induce, are central to Fire Walk With Me. "And I look down/And my shoes are so far away from me," go the lyrics written by Lynch for the piece we hear as Bobby rejoices over Laura's smile and takes great backward steps, drunk with the sense of space.
Laura is not treated like the conventional lost girl: she is not a mythified, diaphanous creature, nor a frozen image. Nor is she a Lulu or a creature fit for a poster. She is a pretty girl but not stunningly so, rather well endowed, so that when she prepares for a night of debauchery she has trouble getting into her sexy gear. Laura Palmer is, however, anything but a vixen.
There are many moments when Sheryl Lee's performance is remarkable: Laura Palmer with her jaw hanging down, disoriented and upset by her father's maniacal madness; Laura drunk and talking nonsense over the body of the man whom Bobby just shot, with a youthful laugh; Laura being gruff, demanding and imperious, then going to pieces the next day and throwing herself at James when she is depressed and seems prematurely worn out, shivering in her sweater. If only for the actress's outstanding performance, the film deserves to be seen again.
At many different times, and especially through the eyes of the investigators, Fire Walk With Me operates on an impenetrable, unreadable surface, like that of a portrait, a setting, an impression or a surveillance screen. Then we hear a bell, and the elevator in an office building ejects a man as if he came from another world. In those moments, a third dimension exultantly opens like a vertiginous, intoxicating hole.
David Lynch Keeps His Head (David Foster Wallace) Premiere • Sep. 1996
The extent (large) to which Lynch seems to identify with his movies' main characters is one more thing that makes the films so disturbingly "personal." The fact that he doesn't seem to identify much with his audience is what makes the movies "cold," though the detachment has some advantages as well.
This is one of the unsettling things about a Lynch movie: you don't feel like you're entering into any of the standard unspoken/unconscious contracts you normally enter into with other kinds of movies. This is unsettling because in the absence of such an unconscious contract we lose some of the psychic protections we normally (and necessarily) bring to bear on a medium as powerful as film. That is, if we know on some level what a movie wants from us, we can erect certain internal defenses that let us choose how much of ourselves we give away to it. The absence of point or recognizable agenda in Lynch's films, though, strips these subliminal defenses and lets Lynch get inside your head in a way movies normally don't. This is why his best films' effects are often so emotional and nightmarish (we're defenseless in our dreams, too).
This may, in fact, be Lynch's true and only agenda: just to get inside your head. He sure seems to care more about penetrating your head than about what he does once he's in there. Is this "good" art? It's hard to say. It seems - once again - either ingenious or psychopathic.
And if these villains are, at their worst moments, riveting for both the camera and the audience, it's not because Lynch is "endorsing" or "romanticizing" evil but because he's diagnosing it - diagnosing it without the comfortable carapace of disapproval and with an open acknowledgment of the fact that one reason why evil is so powerful is that it's hideously vital and robust and usually impossible to look away from.
And, as part of an audience, if a movie is structured in such a way that the distinction between surface/Light/good and secret/Dark/evil is messed with - in other words, not a structure whereby Dark Secrets are winched ex machina up to the Lit Surface to be purified by my judgment, but rather a structure in which Respectable Surfaces and Seamy Undersides are mingled, integrated, literally mixed up - I am going to be made acutely uncomfortable. And in response to my discomfort I'm going to do one of two things: I'm either going to find some way to punish the movie for making me uncomfortable, or I'm going to find a way to interpret the movie that eliminates as much of the discomfort as possible. From my survey of published work on Lynch's films, I can assure you that just about every established professional reviewer and critic has chosen one or the other of these responses.
[T]he really deep dissatisfaction - the one that made audiences feel screwed and betrayed and fueled the critical backlash against the idea of Lynch as Genius Auteur - was, I submit, a moral one. I submit that Laura Palmer's exhaustively revealed "sins" required, by the moral logic of American mass entertainment, that the circumstances of her death turn out to be causally related to those sins. We as an audience have certain core certainties about sowing and reaping, and these certainties need to be affirmed and massaged. When they were not, and as it became increasingly clear that they were not going to be, Twin Peaks' ratings fell off the shelf, and critics began to bemoan this once "daring" and "imaginative" series' decline into "self-reference" and "mannered incoherence."
In Fire Walk With Me, Laura was no longer an "enigma" or "the password to an inner sanctum of horror." She now embodied, in full view, all the Dark Secrets that on the series had been the stuff of significant glances and delicious whispers.
This transformation of Laura from object/occasion to subject/person was actually the most morally ambitious thing a Lynch movie has ever tried to do - maybe an impossible thing, given the psychological context of the series and the fact that you had to be familiar with the series to make even marginal sense of the movie - and it required complex and contradictory and probably impossible things from Ms. Lee, who in my opinion deserved an Oscar nomination just for showing up and trying.
I am not suggesting that Lynch entirely succeeded at the project he set for himself in Fire Walk With Me. (He didn't.) What I am suggesting is that the withering critical reception the movie received ... had less to do with its failing in the project than with its attempting it at all.
"I'm Not Laura Palmer": David Lynch's Fractured Fairy Tale (Laura Plummer) Literature/Film Quarterly • Jan. 1, 1997
Packaged as hip, politically correct, post-modern entertainment in which assumptions and subjectivities are fragmented and disintegrated, what Lynch hands us - with the blessing of a large audience of intellectuals - is merely a new treatment of a familiar plot all the more horrifying for the retrogressive politics it camouflages.
Davenport argues that Twin Peaks acknowledges the far-too-common presence of incest in the American family, and suggests that Lynch responsibly handles the topic by "fully realizing" "the typical victim's fear of abandonment and murder" (257). I would argue, however, that Lynch encodes the incest as Laura's mysterious - and erotic - secret. The Fire Walk scene that first gives a face to Laura's rapist - when he comes through her window and has sex with her on her own bed - uses Laura's delusional point of view as a means of masking the rapist's identity; the rapist is not, in the visual representation of the act, her father. True, Laura is not the "Seductive Daughter" (see 256-57) who can be blamed for her own rape; she is not "daughter" at all.
Rather, this scene is yet another in which Laura's enforced passivity is central to her sexuality.
The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart (1997), by Martha Nochimson
With the exception of incest narratives in daytime television soap opera, those few incest stories that have reached the mass media firmly displace audience identification away from the victim and toward the strong, controlling doctor who takes over the story as a manager to lead the violated party to discovery and wholeness.
Cooper must wait until he can translate Laura's knowledge of who killed her into terms he can express. Setting a precedent but without inviting identification with Laura, the television series retains her ownership of her own story, which no one else on the show can tell - hence the need for a prequel.
Lynch's desire, in making his own Twin Peaks film, to confront what was evaded in the series is natural, if commercially dangerous.
This notion of Laura's freedom in the subconscious beyond of the town of Twin Peaks is the seed that is planted in her dream and that germinates as the story progresses, culminating in the visions of the angels. At this point, Laura is confused about the message to her from her subconscious. Taking the ring seems like death. However, the promise is there. If the wounded Laura looks at her nighttime image with confusion, the dreaming Laura looks back at her with tenderness and compassion.
Readers may be interested to know how resistant the critics can be to recognize that Fire is a film organized around the violations of incest. Happily, Diane Stevenson discusses incest at length in her article ... but in those full-length studies on Lynch which came out in time to consider Fire Walk With Me, the presence of incest in its story is barely or never recognized. In his extensive, relatively sympathetic discussion of the film, Chion mentions discontinuity in the film, his perception of a recurring image of walking, and the relationship of the film to series, but not once does he use the word "incest" (pp 168 - 185). Alexander acknowledges the incest but as an aside, as if it were just one element of the story and not its determining condition (p 140). Furthermore, he barely recognizes that this film is about feminine perspective. The attention he pays to Laura's character analyzes her presence from the point of view of the male sensibility as if he were still talking about the series. The cultural assumption that everything coherent issues from a masculine point of view is so pervasive that critics usually are unable to make the shift in perspective even regarding those rare works of popular culture that quite blatantly depart from this convention.
In Fire Walk With Me, where Lynch energetically neutralizes this kind of male control, the opinion has been that something doesn't feel right.
Welcome to Twin Peaks (1997) - video by Jay McCreary
During the show's original run in 1990 the BBC broadcast this episode [Maddy's murder, revealing Leland Palmer as Laura's killer] in its entirety which caused the Broadcasting Standards Council to hold up a complaint. It was also featured on the BBC's viewer-feedback program Points of View in which its former presenter Ann Robinson consoled upset viewers by making a promise which the BBC then fulfilled. From Episode 15 they began to edit episodes regardless of their post-watershed timeslot.
Lynch on Lynch (1997), interviews with David Lynch by Chris Rodley
Presumably the casting of Laura Palmer was crucial. She had to be absolutely right, because everything spins around her. And yet she's primarily a corpse! The absent centre.
Right. That came about from a photo. We knew we were going to shoot in Seattle, and since this girl had no lines and was just dead we weren't gonna hire someone from LA and put them up and pay them per diems and all that stuff, just to play a dead girl. So she had to come from Seattle. I looked through many, many, many pictures, and bingo! There was this picture that felt right. So we had Sheryl Lee come in, but she didn't look exactly like her picture. With some people, you see a picture, and you get like a dream, and then when you see them the dream goes away. But the dream was still alive, so I started telling her I wanted to dip her in grey dye, and that she was gonna be dead on the shore. And she said, 'Fine.' She said later that she was really nervous, and was sitting on her hands. But no one - not Mark, not me, anyone - had any idea that she could act, or that she was going to be so powerful just being dead. Or how important that small decision was.
How did she react to the role?
When we shot her it was freezing cold - I mean, it was so cold. And she lay out there, and then we'd have to take her away, where they had these blankets and heaters set up behind this giant log. So she'd run fifteen feet and go into this warm little tent and get her body temperature back up, and then go back and shoot. She was a great sport. And, you know, one day she was there, and the next day she was gone. But she was in every scene, mentally.
At what point did it become clear that she could also play the role of her cousin, Maddie?
She did do another scene - the video with Donna on the picnic - and it was that scene that did it. I said, 'Man,' you know, 'She has got a presence and a natural ability.' She wanted to be an actress and she was in Seattle to act. But that scene did it all. That little dancing scene.
When you made the feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the overriding press reaction was that this was just a cynical move on your part to exploit a successful TV series. What was the reason for making that film?
At the end of the series, I felt sad. I couldn't get myself to leave the world of Twin Peaks. I was in love with the character of Laura Palmer and her contradictions: radiant on the surface but dying inside. I wanted to see her live, move, and talk. I was in love with that world and I hadn't finished with it. But making the movie wasn't just to hold on to it: it seemed that there was more stuff that could be done. But the parade had gone by. It was over. During the year that it took to make the film, everything changed. That's the way it happens, sometimes. And then there's this thing about turning on people. It's so natural, in a way. It happens to so many people.
Perhaps the problem was that by concentrating on Laura Palmer's last seven days, the movie reminded people that at the centre of Twin Peaks was a story of incest and filicide.
Maybe so. Incest is troubling to a lot of people because they’re probably, you know, doing it at home! [Laughs.] And it's not a pleasant thing, you know. Laura's one of many people. It's her take on that. That’s what it was all about — the loneliness, shame, guilt, confusion and devastation of the victim of incest. It also dealt with the torment of the father — the war in him.
Gender, power, and culture in the televisual world of Twin Peaks: A feminist critique (Sue Lafky) Journal of Film & Video • 1999
Just as ... Robert Browning's poem [Porphyria] invites feminist scholars to critique male sexual fantasies about violence against women in nineteenth-century Britain, the television series Twin Peaks invites feminist scholars to continue their analyses of violence and necrophilic images in popular culture in the latter part of the twentieth century. This essay argues that Twin Peaks continues a tradition of art that depends upon recurring themes of rape, incest, domestic violence, murder, and necrophilia.
This article also examines Twin Peaks as a cultural event in commercial television and the reactions of (mostly male) critics who celebrated (and continue to celebrate) the show as a milestone in popular culture.
Media sociologist Todd Gitlin ... describe[s] it as the first "prime time postmodern television series produced by a major network" (qtd. in Southgate 30-31).
Hal Foster differentiates between two broad forms of postmodernism: the postmodernism of reaction, which repudiates modernism yet ends up reinforcing the dominant ideology; and the postmodernism of resistance, whose aim is to deconstruct both modernism and modernity so as to change the social context itself as well as its privileged objects and creations.
Although Twin Peaks can be read as a cynical expression of disillusionment with the myth of peaceful small-town America, or as being subversive in a medium largely devoted to using formula programs to deliver demographic numbers to advertisers with formulaic programming, it is hard to read the show as offering a progressive vision of the social world. Joseph Sobran of the conservative National Review accurately observed that Lynch is not "your basic left-wing avantgarde muckraker of the national soul," adding that Lynch's work makes clear distinctions between right and wrong (52). But whose distinctions of right and wrong are being represented? I would argue that the answer points to those who continue to deny the pervasiveness of incest, sexual harassment and sexual assault, but who are often the first to make political promises about their devotion to fighting crime.
Although perhaps some would reminisce about a mythical idyllic rural past, this view is based upon ahistorical assumptions that mirror those embedded in right-wing visions of America, complete with the contradictions of those visions. President Reagan's fondness for invoking a vision of citizens waking up to the blissful fecundity of "morning in America" contrasts markedly with the Bush campaign's constructed image of a nation preyed upon by inmates free on parole (e.g., Willie Horton), and others who might disrupt the quiet life of the white middleclass families who live in its small towns and upscale suburbs.
Lynch's work does not come from as private a vision as he would like to have us believe, and in fact is part of a visual practice of exploitative female representation that is as old as Western art itself (Berger 45-64). Twin Peaks can also be read as another reworking of what Jameson has so aptly described as "that boring and exhausted paradigm, the Gothic, where - on the individualized level - a sheltered woman of some kind is terrorized and victimized by an 'evil' male." However, it is a mistake to privilege this genre, which includes Twin Peaks, as a kind of "protofeminist denunciation of patriarchy and, in particular, a protopolitical protest against rape" (Jameson 289). Instead, Twin Peaks cavalierly serves up rape and incest as prime-time entertainment.
One part of the aggressive marketing of Twin Peaks that voyeuristically exploits this sexual violence is the commercial publication of the missing diary of Laura Palmer, which documents years of sexual, physical and mental terrorism inflicted upon Laura by Bob.
In fact, the published diary entries provide a chilling portrayal of the dissociative behaviors of the sexually abused. (Herman 34-35)
The poster shows Laura, except for a few grains of sand on her face, looking serene, beautiful, and sexually available. [relates this to "the obsessive desire for the 'possession of an unresisting and unrejecting partner' (Rosman and Resnick 153)"]
Necrophilic fantasies are not uncommon in popular culture. In the case of Laura Palmer, it was not simply the television network that used the photography of her dead body as a fetishized commodity. [notes Esquire, People magazine and the fanzine "Wrapped in Plastic"]
Laura only remembered the identity of the perpetrator of abuse late in her life, for a recurring theme in the lives of incest survivors is the repression of the painful memories of the trauma (Herman 96114).
The handling of incest within the show reproduces the pathology of how incest is handled in many families - through denial and silencing.
Outside of the production, and despite all the media attention concerning who killed Laura Palmer, there are only a few articles that mention the word "incest" or critique the ubiquitous violence against women in the show.
Neither Lynch nor Frost have publicly acknowledged the sexual connotations of Leland's self-disclosure that Bob "came" inside of him.
If it were clear that the child Leland, who is physically invaded by Bob, is also the victim of sexual abuse, the show might have offered a critique of such abuse as well as patriarchy.
While there is recognition of wrongdoing in Twin Peaks, a recognition of patriarchy's complicity in this wrongdoing is absent.
Cooper looks at Truman solemnly. "Harry, is it easier to believe a man would rape and murder his own daughter?"
This essay argues that Twin Peaks, with its loyalty to Reagan/Bush style politics, its regressive and violent representations of women, and its unquestioning celebration of patriarchal law and order, provides an example of a reactionary postmodern text.
Particularly problematic in Twin Peaks are the violent interactions among the characters in the show itself, the strategies ABC and the producers used to promote the sexual abuse and murder of Laura Palmer for their own economic gains, and the silence about sexual abuse both within the text of Twin Peaks and among the majority of television critics who have written about the show.
"Scene by Scene" interview with Mark Cousins (1999)
Cousins: What harm does it do to talk about a film?
Lynch: A film is its own thing and in an ideal world I think films should be discovered knowing nothing and nothing should be added to it and nothing should be subtracted from it.
Cousins: Ok, let's break from that immediately. I have here a clip of Blue Velvet.
Cousins: I remember when I first saw Fire Walk With Me at the Cannes Film Festival there were loud boos. How does the apparent failure of a film like this affect you?
Lynch: Dune was a failure to me because I didn't feel I did the Dune I should have done. And this was not a failure to me because I felt it was a film that I did the way I should have. And so we learn that we can't control anything that happens after a film is finished. And sometimes things go well in the world and sometimes they don't. But if you believe in the film, and you've done your best, they can't take that away from you. There's this thing, there's the donut and there's the hole and we should keep our eye on the donut and not on the hole.
Cousins: You don't literally believe in angels.
Lynch: Oh yeah.
Cousins: No you don't. Do you?
Cousins: Is that because you were taught to believe in angels as a kid?
Lynch: Have I seen them...? No.
Cousins: You don't literally mean top of the Christmas tree type things? (laughs) No, I really don't believe that you do. (both laugh)
Lynch: There are many things I think that are out there that we don't know about but sometimes you know you get certain feelings.
Cousins: When you look at a lot of American actors and directors today they're quite involved with politics and in the past of course famous Hollywood supported Adlai Stevenson and supported JFK and things like this - do you feel - you're smiling, why are you smiling at that?
Lynch: Well, I'm not a political person.
Cousins: Oh yeah?
Cousins: So when you look at the way that Hollywood and of course it's not all sides of politics, it's mostly Democrat side (not always), when you look at these relationships are you cynical about that?
Lynch: No no no, I'm not cynical at all. I'm just saying that I don't understand politics. I don't understand the concept of two sides.
Cousins: When you were talking before there about Straight Story and about the possibility of understanding the whole world from your own place, it was almost the sort of thing that Ronald Reagan would say, is that true, do you think?
Lynch: I have no idea what Ronald Reagan would say.
Cousins: Well I know you had dinner at Reagan's White House but what I had in mind was that provincial idea where you root your whole view of life just in the small everyday understanding you have of it.
Cousins: A critic once said of your work, David Lynch is very interested in getting inside our heads but he has nothing to do once he gets in there. Do you understand that?
Lynch: Um...not one bit.
(off-camera, as credits roll)
Lynch: What critic said that?
Cousins: I think it might have been Serge Daney, do you know that guy?
Cousins: I think he meant that your films make people dream but there's no surface message there.
Lynch: Oh - that's ok then.
Walking in Laura's Shoes (belledancer) IMDb • Nov. 29, 2000
As an incest survivor who has experienced some of the main character's issues, I find Laura's character to be a very accurate and realistic portrayal of someone who is trying to survive her situation and yet retain her sanity in the midst of maintaining her public face at high school, with her friends, and her family.
I felt that Laura suffers/survives by mentally splitting, disassociating, and escaping, and she exists in a state of denial to assume her place in the pretty family picture living in a small town. Her use of drugs, alcohol, and sex is simply a way for her to cope. There is much about this that "normal people" cannot truly understand, and I have experienced this firsthand. Laura lives a life most people really don't want to know about let alone understand.
Getting Lost is Beautiful (John Powers) L.A. Weekly • Oct. 17, 2001
Despite a shattering climax, Twin Peaks guttered and died, and the public never warmed to Wild at Heart (which I still think is his worst film). By the time Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was released in 1992 (and yes, that's the year he began smoking again), he had fallen sadly out of favor. Although his account of Laura Palmer's last week is one of that decade's bravest and most harrowing films, it died in a blizzard of nasty, uncomprehending reviews (The Washington Post termed it a "psychic autopsy, a weirdly fundamentalist cogitation on the intersection of Heaven, Hell, and Washington state").
When asked about this fall from grace, he shrugs and replies in the primitivist terms you might expect: "They warned me if you're on the cover of Time, you've got two years' bad luck coming. And a black cloud did come over me, and when the black cloud comes over, there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing. And you look out and you wonder, 'How come these things are happening and people are saying these things?' It's just the way it is. It's just part of the deal. And then you wonder, 'How long will the cloud be there?'"
Pervert in the Pulpit: Morality in the Works of David Lynch, by Jeff Johnson (2004)
Lynch identifies with authority.
Like a narc with a weakness for cash and drugs, or a vice-squad cop arresting people for doing what he likes to do, Lynch epitomizes the voyeurism inherent in a crusade.
He seemed like a kinky phenomenologist, as appalled at the everydayness of reality as Heidegger, tuned to having been thrown into the world, clueless to the source of our angst yet intrigued by the mysteries of things, what appearances promise and hide.
The Lynch I found, in retrospect, is not the radical groundbreaking filmmaker many make him out to be but a rather straightforward reactionary working within the tradition of Calvinist thought in American literature.
With the subtlety of a jingoistic Reagan-era superpatriot, he creates a propaganda extravaganza [in Fire Walk With Me] detailing the dangers of that trinity of predictable American scourges: sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.
She, in turn, inherits her father's schizophrenia, and soon begins to experience hallucinations brought on when she replaces a painting of angels in her room with an image of an open door, symbolically trading the selfless temperance of devotion for the existential excess of possibility.
Laura cries, it seems, for her loss of self-will, her willing submission to predestination, accepting her fate by prostituting herself as if she has no alternatives, her choice conditioned by her history of abuse.
Leland's vulnerability, like original sin, stems from the same sort of momentary weakness Eliot moralistically describes as "the awful daring of a moment's surrender/Which an age of prudence can never retract." Laura's weakness stems from her abuse, her desire a form of self-destruction. She too is possessed. But the morality is clear: no matter if you are with the elect or the damned, your duty is to exercise moral righteousness.
Laura, unrepentant, is slaughtered by Leland/BOB - killing her physical, corrupt self in a ritual sacrifice but releasing her to the avenging angel of justice, Agent Cooper, and to the white angel of mercy and forgiveness, hovering in a placid patio netherworld.
The two obvious models for the episodic Twin Peaks are Batman (1966) and Dallas (1978).
Lynch ... cleverly manipulates the musical interlude at the club to contrast the horribly simple animal violence of Maddy's death with the intense emotional complexity of the characters left to deal with it.
But no matter how much Lynch flirts with stock Romantic virtues of sincerity, nostalgia and a fascination with the grotesque, the true Romantic sensibility aspired to authenticity, something Lynch can only simulate.
The Subject of Laura Palmer (John Thorne) Wrapped in Plastic • September 2004
At some point between completing the script and shooting the film Lynch realized that he and Engels had failed to make Laura Palmer a fully-realized character. She had no flaws—there was nothing for her to learn, no personal burden for her to overcome. The script still depicted Laura as a helpless victim whose despairing behavior and tragic death resulted from outside forces.
Lynch probably shot the scene [Laura's murder] the way it was scripted, assuming that Laura's explicit decision to end her life was a sufficient conclusion to her story. Once it was shot, however, Lynch recognized that such an ending was weak and ultimately unsatisfactory.
Remarkably, Lynch saw beyond the narrative constraints imposed by wearing the ring and envisioned a scene of liberation rather than doom. He realized the ring could be viewed as an object of power rather than an object solely of evil. In fact, Laura could be perceived to be stealing the ring from the malevolent beings who wielded it. To accomplish this revision, Lynch would need some new, minor footage to insert into the train car murder scene.
revised introduction to Lynch on Lynch (2005), by Chris Rodley
It's worth noting that, after the release of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Lynch received many letters from young girls who had been abused by their fathers. They were puzzled as to how he could have known exactly what it was like. Despite the fact that the perpetration of both incest and filicide was represented in the 'abstract' form of Killer Bob, it was recognized as faithful to the subjective experience.
Secrets From Another Place: Creating Twin Peaks (2007) - documentary on "Twin Peaks" DVD release
Ray Wise: David just leaned over and he put his hand on my knee and he said, "Ray, it's you, it was always you." And I remember hearing that, processing it for a second and then thinking Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no...
Mark Frost: I'll never forget the look on his face, he was absolutely astonished and kind of horrified. I mean, he'd bit into that role with a kind of ferocious dedication and the realization that he had killed his daughter hit him pretty hard.
Ray Wise: At that time I had a baby daughter of my own, we had my daughter in 1987. And the thought of my being the killer of my own daughter - on the show - was almost incomprehensible to me and was certainly something very distasteful to me. So I didn't want it to be me in the worst way. It was crushing.
What about BOB? guilt, the "clear light" and the nature of Twin Peaks: a response (Amonitrate) Palpable Obscure • circa 2009
A victim of incestuous abuse, Laura had the strength to recognize the danger that BOB posed and to resist it – her rejection of BOB where her own father failed is a symbolic rejection of becoming an abuser herself. As he dies, Leland admires his daughter's strength, telling Cooper "They wanted Laura ... they wanted her, but she was strong... she fought them, she wouldn't let them in... She said she'd die before she'd let them ..." Laura seeks to break the cycle – she alone clearly sees the implications of what BOB and her father have wrought. That she is driven to view death as her only escape from this cycle could be seen as a reflection on the inability of our society to deal with the reality of family violence, and the narrow options available to a girl in Laura's position.
In the end BOB eludes narrow reading. He might exist as an independent entity, he might be the source of evil. He might be a symbol, a way to visualize the unanswerable question of why men do evil. He is most likely all of these things. Speaking of BOB in a comparison between Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, Chris Rodley comments that "...the new element here seems to be that the evil is not even of this world. It literally comes from beyond..." which Lynch clarifies, answering "[o]r it's an abstraction with a human form. That's not a new thing, but it's what Bob was." With this statement Lynch suggests that BOB should be read both literally and symbolically – confirming Twin Peaks as a mythic story. The crimes in Blue Velvet, while at times bizarre, were wholly human – the literal "evil that men do" – the kind of crime with which the law men of Twin Peaks would have been familiar. BOB however is a "new element" to these men – but as Lynch points out, not a new thing at all, if looked at from the standpoint of symbol and myth.
What is Going on in This House? Or, In Defense of Laura Palmer (Sady Doyle) Tiger Beatdown • Apr. 17, 2009
You can watch the series for the first time knowing about Leland or you can watch it for the first time not knowing: knowing, for me, makes it better, which is why I’m telling you about it now. When you watch it that way, you realize how much the series is commenting on or implicating the dynamics of abusive families. There’s a reason for Leland to be so hugely and creepily distraught throughout the series; there’s a reason why Laura’s mother, Sarah, keeps seeing “visions” of things she can’t or won’t acknowledge that she knows; there’s a reason she looks torn-up and on the verge of losing her mind from the first moment we see her, and there’s a reason she can’t stop screaming.
The thing is: when you watch this without knowing what’s going on, it’s pretty fucking weird. When you watch it knowing what’s going on, it is much, much weirder.
Beautiful Dark Chapter 8: Twin Peaks: S2 and Fire Walk With Me (John Thorne) Above the Convenience Store • May 3, 2009
Olson briefly considers--and just as quickly dismisses--the idea that Laura may be doing more than merely saving herself, that she might be trying to defeat Bob: "Laura [is] in a position that . . . echoes the position of ancient Tibetan Buddhist nuns who . . . personally engaged and grappled with devouring demons in order to keep the world safe from harm. However, Laura is not a sacrificial lamb with a martyr complex." (p. 390) Well, of course not, but isn't Laura something more than a teenager who has been abused? Isn't BOB more than a mere figment of her imagination? Isn't their conflict far more complex than it appears?
There is a lot going on in FWWM and in order to make sense of the Owl Cave ring and the angels and the Red Room and the garmonbozia, one has to look past the surface story of Laura Palmer to see a bigger story at play. At some point Laura Palmer did just that--she saw something happening that was larger than herself. And while she may not have become a "sacrificial lamb" who martyred herself, she became more than a mere victim of BOB--she became his opponent. This (to me) is why she takes the ring. She denies him the kind of power he has gained through his alliance with Arm (the Little Man from Another Place). This also helps explain the presence of the angels and Laura's misunderstanding (until the end) of her own goodness as a force against evil.
The difficulty of FWWM prompted Lynch-critic Michel Chion to write about the film: "[It] operates on an impenetrable, unreadable surface . . . . It is seamless; there is no way in." (Michel Chion, David Lynch, (BFI Publishing, 1995), p. 157)
But FWWM is not impenetrable. Daunting, perhaps, and, like the final episode of Twin Peaks, easy to dismiss--but not impenetrable.
Still Wrapped in Plastic: 'Twin Peaks' Turns 20 (John Powers, guest of Dave Davies) NPR Fresh Air • Apr. 8, 2010
When he brought out his "Twin Peaks" movie, "Fire Walk With Me" in 1992, it was pilloried, even though, after a lousy first 20 minutes, this story about Laura Palmer is one of the most wrenching portraits of teenage life ever filmed.
His work always feels dreamily timeless, and watching the series now, you're struck by how much has come out of it, for instance, Stephanie Meyer's use of the Pacific Northwest in "Twilight." "Twin Peaks" blazed the trail that led not just to "The X-Files" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" but to HBO series like "Deadwood" and "Six Feet Under."
It mattered because, like Dennis Potter's "The Singing Detective" in Britain, it revealed the untapped possibilities of television. And like all the greatest works of pop culture, it did something more. It broadened public taste ... They left the American mainstream a whole lot wider.
Twin Peaks Podcast: Episode 17 - "Arbitrary Law" (email from listener Eric Diaz) • Sep. 1, 2011
When the show originally aired, my older brother was in college and was a volunteer counselor. One of the people he was counseling, whose name he didn't tell me of course, was a big Twin Peaks fan and every week as a way of breaking the ice before getting down to the nitty-gritty they would talk about the week's episode. Around the time this set of episodes aired, the truth about Bob was made known. The guy admitted he had stopped watching the show: it was now bringing back too many horrible memories. It was then he revealed to my brother that he had been molested since he was a child and as a way of coping, he created this alternate persona, this "bad man" who would come into his room at night. He had the "bad man" and his father literally separate in his mind until he was a teacher when he finally realized, or admitted to himself, that they were one and the same. This caused years of drug addiction and a host of other issues, including overcompensating by doing as many good deeds as possible. Sound like anyone? By the way, I don't feel like I'm giving away this person's identity by telling this secondhand story because upon doing a little research I found this kind of transference is startlingly common among abused children. Sadly, there are many like him.
While the show comes down firmly on the side that Bob is a supernatural being, what he represents is all-too-real. I see Bob as representing the Palmer family denial, their coping mechanism in a way. Laura sees him, Sarah sees him, and so does Maddy. Cooper sees him because he is gifted but he almost doesn't exist for anyone else but the Palmers. Ronette sees him maybe because at such a heightened moment of the actual murder maybe he was visible to all. Not sure. I feel this reveal gives Twin Peaks such emotional weight and adds another dimension to the show and what the show is really about in the end. In a very real way, I think this is why people are still talking about and dissecting Twin Peaks twenty years on and maybe won't as much about something like Lost. Because ultimately Lost isn't really about anything deeper in the end but Twin Peaks was.
One more thing: a lot of people have criticized Twin Peaks over the years for making it up as they went along. While some aspects of the show were made up as the series went along, like the famous story of how Frank Silva went from set dresser to playing Bob, I truly believe that Leland was always the killer. In fact, Mark Frost has said in interviews that from day one Leland was always the murderer, and Ray Wise revealed that when he was told by David Lynch that he was the one, Lynch said, "Ray, it was always you." And if you re-watch the series again, it's obvious: look at how Sarah Palmer reacts on the pilot to the mere fact that her daughter isn't home that morning. She assumes the worst, like she knows on some intuitive level. Not to mention her saying to Leland at the funeral, "Don't ruin this too!" To me, these were all early dead giveaways. They later threw in some red herrings to keep me guessing a bit, but deep down I think I always knew it was Leland Palmer especially after reading The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer.
Twin Peaks Podcast: Kimmy Robertson Interview • Feb. 6, 2012
And they shot, you know, two different, three different of those scenes [of Maddy's death] and it was so scary that I couldn't stay to watch them. It was just too much screaming and the lights and it was like being in hell.
Kermode Uncut: Film Club - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Mark Kermode) • Jul. 10, 2012
[Sheryl Lee's] performance is of operatic intensity. Frankly I don't care who else was nominated for Oscars that year, the fact that she was overlooked because no one liked the movie she was in is shameful.
There are also loads of moments in the film which seem to suggest alternative universes: the sudden appearance, for example, of David Bowie's character, which has come in for much flak, people saying what on earth is that doing there? Well, clearly it was put there to allow the plot to go elsewhere should sequels follow. Of course, the film was so badly received that was the end of it. But frankly what we do have completely coherently in Fire Walk With Me is an account of the last days of Laura Palmer that needs no excuses, needs no explanation, needs not to be tied back to anything else other than itself. Yes, you can spend hours and hours trying to match up the ends of the Twin Peaks universe but much better to just lose yourself in the world of Laura Palmer.
Keep it in the Family: The Dark Visions of Jennifer Lynch (Charlotte Cripps) The Independent • Jul. 28, 2012
"In my mind, real-life monsters are born of wounds: of sorrows. Of pains not spoken or healed. I wanted to promote a dialogue about child abuse. I did not want to excuse terrible acts, but to bring the human monster to light." [discussing her film "Chained"]
Anatomy of a Fascinating Disaster (Alex Pappademas) Grantland • Aug. 29, 2012
Lee, who managed to thoroughly haunt the TV series, is wrenching and phenomenal as the living Laura.
She’s playing a child who tries to protect herself by co-opting a language of cruelty and sexual intimidation, bent on destroying her own innocence before BOB can, a lost little girl pinballing between abject despair, femme-fatale tough talk, canny seductiveness, and just straight-up being a monster. Lee is playing a vast range of stereotypes and archetypes here, all of which still seem to have sprung convincingly from one character’s soul; this is, among other things, one of the bleakest, cruelest movie about teenage self-actualization ever made. The fact that Laura dies at the end doesn’t make her any less the hero of this movie; she’s Lynch’s version of Jean Grey–Dark Phoenix from the X-Men mythology, struggling valiantly against an unconquerable evil.
It’s Lee’s galvanic emotionalism that keeps Fire from being just a super-victim origin story (Buffy in grim reverse) or a backwoods-surrealist after-school special; Lynch loves to put his female protagonists through hell, but nobody except maybe longtime Lynch muse Laura Dern has been this raw in one of his films, or conveyed this much shock and terror.
Eventually even her sexpot pose becomes a mask that slips; on rewatching this last week, my favorite part of Lee’s performance became the scene where she’s all messed up on coke and airplane-bottle Jack Daniels, trying to put on stockings in her bedroom while smoking and talking on the phone, a flash of awkward and brilliantly played physical comedy that crops up just before things get really dark. It’s weird that Sheryl Lee didn’t get more work after this, although, on some level, maybe she’d made it impossible for people to not see Laura when they looked at her; when she turns up in movies like Winter’s Bone, it’s like seeing a ghost.
"Cherry Pie Wrapped in Barb Wire" - Understanding Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Brett Steven Abelman) • Sep. 10, 2012
In this sense, Laura both did create BOB as psychological cover for what she was going through with Leland, and did not; she had to imagine her father as an evil stranger, so she did, and it was natural for BOB, already being ‘around,’ to present himself as the form her evil stranger would take. In other words, Laura’s 12-year-old mind needed a monster, and BOB came out of hiding and took the job.
(My theory here, to restate, is that all the Lodge people, even if they already exist, require this sort of imagination or invocation to manifest.)
In the end, I am interested in an explanation that preserves the show and the movie’s emotional content and doesn’t contradict the clearly literal existence of the Lodge people. Thinking of the Lodge people as manifestations that take on a life of their own but are subject to the emotional wills of people like Laura preserves her, and Leland’s, psychological agency. I find it no wonder that Sheryl Lee reports being thanked by incest victims for her brave portrayal and told that the movie meant a lot to them; Fire Walk With Me suggests that in committing incest, the abuser and victim literally, in their illicit and one-way-forcible encounter, allow a demon in. I assume, given the thanks Lee got, that the film’s vision must be, in some way, what it feels like for the victim, a kind of catharsis for them.
The Twin Peaks show, by the end, had revealed everything about the murder it was going to reveal - who BOB was; how Leland was responsible; and, obliquely through Laura’s diary entries, clues from the various murders, Sarah’s visions, and his interaction with Maddie, that Leland had been abusing Laura. But it still had something significant missing. Laura’s story was still untold; she still, as of the end of the show, remained, as far as the audience could have known, a passive victim of either an abusive father or a dark spirit (or both). Lynch realized this and realized that the fans of Twin Peaks deserved a gift – the story of Laura. But not just her story – the story of how she chose and had agency in her death.
20 Years On: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Reassessed (Petra Davis) The Quietus • Oct. 20, 2012
At the time the series was first screened in the UK, I was a teenager living in a small seaside town notorious for drug abuse, sexual exploitation and suicide. The show's thesis – that acts of violence have consequences far beyond the immediate – was a useful fiction. In the rape and murder of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) I found an analogue for what I saw in my indigent hometown. I knew plenty of adults who were violent to children, in their various ways; I knew plenty more who rationalised that violence. I knew desperate teenagers by the busload. In Twin Peaks, I was grateful to see the complex consequences of abuse conveyed well: the gallows humour of survivors, their toughness, their intense sweetness and their terrible fear; the corruption of those who collude, their awful habit of denial. At its best, the series acknowledged a kind of violence mainstream discourses were loath to admit. At its worst, with its narrative tricksiness and doubt, it ran the risk of trivialising it.
He Killed Laura Palmer: A Talk With Twin Peaks Co-Creator Mark Frost (conducted by Sean Morrow) Portable • Dec. 5, 2012
Mark Frost: One of the things the show did that was very rare in television at that time was the central idea of what was going on with the Laura story: domestic violence and a terrible crime that was going on inside a family. We didn’t flinch away from that. And the violence on screen is the furthest thing from gratuitous but is actually quite horrifying when you actually experience it. And I felt that we were very true to something that meant a lot to a lot of people.
I didn’t have a sense of this at the time, but over the years people that have been through that kind of experience have come forward and told me how powerful of an experience it was to see this in a way that felt truthful to their experience of it and it was very liberating to see it come out of the darkness, and we talked about it. We were dealing with a tough subject and we wanted to focus on it and clarify it for our films, and sometimes when you reveal something monstrous, you can find a kind of grace for people that helps them cathartically deal with an experience like that.
Tumblr post (Elle) From One Survivor to Another • Dec. 12, 2012
i know she’s just a fictional character
but i have a lot of moments when i ask
how did you survive for so long, Laura?
what would you do in this situation?
i guess i see her as a sort of entity, this concept of all the survivors who have ever existed.
im not religious but i am spiritual about laura palmer.
Character Study: Sheryl Lee Writes a Ghostly Ode to Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) Bullett • Jan. 23, 2013
I instilled your death with purpose
Before you left me with your knife
I take it out from time to time
Run my fingers down the smooth blade
Is my destiny the same as yours
Or do I
It's not what I wanted though
Had I known
I just longed for a place
And a space
Of my own
(from Sheryl Lee's 1992 diary) You came to me morning, noon, and night - especially night. That was your time, the darkness of midnight. You continually wove your spirit into my dream world, revealing bits and pieces of yourself, myself, and our fears and struggles. The thing I remember most about you, though, Laura, is your loneliness. That loneliness haunted me. Walking back into my empty hotel room by myself each day, left to deal with the fragmented pieces of my own life, your loneliness would still fill my room. My prayer is that you are now someplace where you are truly loved and at peaceful rest.
Much love and gratitude,
Tumblr post (Elle) From One Survivor to Another • Mar. 28, 2013
a lot of the promotional images made for Twin Peaks make me super uneasy, like the glossed up photos of dead and murdered Laura Palmer wrapped up in that shower curtain.
there’s a couple of scenes in Fire: Walk With Me that are like that too. it’s about a girl being sexually abused by her father, but David Lynch’s direction makes it seem so sexual and purposefully erotic instead of horrifying.
i love Twin Peaks for the way it explores those issues, and i understand survivors of abuse have conflicting feelings, especially when it’s a family member. but David Lynch did not need to make it seem glamorous in the way he did.
Jennifer Lynch’s work for The Diary of Laura Palmer is another story. It’s so perfect.
Twin Peaks Retrospective: Fire Walk With Me (cast and writer Robert Engels) USC • May 14, 2013
Robert Engels: The first draft was probably 220 pages. There was stuff in Argentina I think. A hotel is on fire - I remember that 'cause we shot some of that. And it was about Josie, and Windom Earle was there. There was also a whole sequence of 1956, the Inauguration Day of Eisenhower was a scene. And there were bugs under a Formica table.
Ian Buchanan: (On the series) I'd get my 2 or 3 pages with my stuff on it and and I didn't know what was going on and I'd never seen the show. ... I'd go into the makeup room all cheery and whistling and there'd be like buckets of blood everywhere and fingernails and hair and I'd be, "What the fuck is going on?" And they'd say, "Oh we can't tell you." I'd no idea there was all this mayhem and this gore and this like horrible stuff...
Sheryl Lee: There was so many times when [David Lynch] would come to me and say, "This is what we're gonna do today," and I would think, I don't have a clue how I'm gonna get there, how we're gonna do that, how that's gonna happen, but I'll jump in and do what I can. We had this way of working that I was so grateful for. I would say, "I need to walk and talk." And he would sort of take my hand off-set and if I was feeling like I was a little bit lost, or needed help getting into the scene ... it's almost like he could hypnotize me. ... He just would talk in this gentle way ... this mood, or this color, or this ambiance would just come over you, and then he'd say "Action!" and you'd be there.
Lee: When you work on this kind of ... controversial material that is intense, it's not surprising that it gets intense reactions. What's challenging about it is that sometimes those critiques become very personal ... In work like this, you really put your heart and soul into it. And so that can be painful in the sense of not having the tools at that age - there's no handbook of "this is what happens when the film comes out and you have all this hate coming towards you." ... It was a very strange time from the beginning when the pilot aired, and then all of a sudden overnight your anonymity is gone, your privacy's gone, your whole life changes in a way overnight. And then later you go through this change of all this negativity...
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Calum Marsh) Village Voice • May 14, 2013
In truth it's more interested in systematically dismantling the mythos and iconography of Twin Peaks than in pandering to the show's fanbase with some feature-length trip down TV-memory lane. The film is alarmingly dark. It isn't especially funny, or quirky, or even much in keeping with the spirit of the series. But in its own singular, deeply strange way, Fire Walk With Me is David Lynch's masterpiece.
The purpose of all this appropriation, however, isn't merely to ironize outmoded forms or tropes - as it often is in the work of the Coen brothers - but to embrace those antiquated modes and deploy those old-fashioned tropes in earnest. The film uses melodrama, in particular, to replicate the function and goal of the genre: targeting the veneer of sanctity in the middle-class American home and exposing its hypocrisy and corruption.
Far from filling out a story or answering lingering questions [the film's purpose] is to restore a sort of innocence lost, commendably endowing the show's principal victim, Laura Palmer, with a voice with which to speak for herself. Twin Peaks was defined, more than anything else, by Laura's pointed absence; Fire Walk With Me is defined by her presence, vivid and terrified and alone. The film offers us an opportunity to experience firsthand a character who had existed through the series only as a recreated fantasy, an imagined emblem of innocence and suffering who, like Otto Preminger's Laura, could only be obsessed over in death. In doing so, the film suggests that the pain endured in her life was more important than the intrigue surrounding her death, and we instead come to know not the mystery of what happened but the tragedy of why it did.
Laura's sense of resignation is correct. Her fate is sealed. Fire Walk With Me is a prequel to a series whose very concept is the death of the film's hero, which makes its ending a done deal before it even begins.
Though in a way these fantastic elements were its bread and butter, the series ultimately suffered, emotionally, by "explaining away" the trauma of Laura's death and by assigning Leland's evil to his demonic alter ego. But the film returns us from fantasy to reality, reasserting the evil in the man himself: Laura's death at the hands of her father becomes a tragedy localized in a recognizable world rather than one happening in the fantasy of fiction. The fantasy becomes figural. A history of sexual abuse becomes real.
The contrasting halves of the film's bifurcated narrative find two worlds crashing together, the first a plan of frustrated desire and inscrutable mystery, the second a void into which a young woman is swallowed up. The procedural elements of the first are fundamentally disconnected from the tragedy of the second, suggesting that, in the final estimation, we can't rely on institutions to protect us. They're solving the wrong case.
Obnoxious and Anonymous: Talkin' with Jennifer Lynch (interviewed by Cameron Cloutier) • Jun. 30, 2013
Cloutier: One of the things you do when people ask you to sign [The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer], a lot of times what you'll do is put my initials as one of the people Laura slept with.
J. Lynch: [Pages "torn out" of the published diary] were decided by the editor and the producers because I touched on things that they felt were too tantalizing. I have a friend who said that he read that book one-handed. That's a very good compliment!
J. Lynch: Sheryl Lee said that she used the diary to be ready to make the movie [Fire Walk With Me] which is a real compliment to me. Truth be told, I don't think my father ever read the diary - which is both totally expected and a little sad.
Cloutier: I remember hearing about Fire Walk With Me being made and thinking Oh shit because you know at the time there were critics like Ebert ... just going after your dad about misogynist ... [I] thought Oh God 'cause Laura Palmer's story is gonna be crazy.
J. Lynch: Fire Walk With Me I still think is one of the great films ever on child abuse and I wish people would talk more about that, not because that's such a huge topic for me or anything but because I think that calling it just some of the things that's it's been called - along with masterpiece - aren't really the most aware statements that can be made about it.
Cloutier: Critics and people were gunning for the Lynch group at this time. [referring also to "Boxing Helena", Jennifer Lynch's controversial directorial debut]
J. Lynch: I also wonder based on that what we're missing and what we might not be seeing because of voices like that and critics like that.
"She's dead - wrapped in plastic": Unwrapping Rape Culture in Twin Peaks (Chloe Ahlf) • Oct. 5, 2013
[The show is] the sexual fantasy of a white male, complete with BDSM, rape (and girls who "want" to be raped), high school girls who work in a brothel, and women who are nothing but objects who use their sexuality to get what they want. That is to say, there was absolutely nothing progressive or empowering about Lynch's Twin Peaks.
I disagree with Davenport and Smith's argument that Laura Palmer is not portrayed as the Seductive Daughter and that the show does not contribute to the victim-blaming technique present in rape culture. Twin Peaks does little to condemn this "range of practices" or even the rapist himself, instead focusing largely on Laura Palmer and what she did to get raped, rather than what our society does to encourage rape.
In episode 13 of season two, the transgender DEA agent Denis/Denise takes on male identity as Denis to go undercover in a drug bust because it is "more appropriate" - it will be more believable for a man to be in that power position. However, when the drug bust goes wrong and Cooper is taken hostage, the DEA agent takes the female identity of Denise as a way to seduce the two men holding Cooper hostage. Even when a character moves between genders, the power position is the male identity, whereas the only power the female identity assumes is through sexuality.
By constructing Bob as some beast from another world, the links between rape, hegemony, patriarchy, and misogyny are completely cut off.
You can no longer hear any protest from Maddy. Although she is conscious and looks as if she is making noises, the only sounds you can hear are those coming from Leland/Bob. This avant-garde technique reduces the pain and fear felt by Maddy, and instead focuses on the emotions that Leland and Bob feel. The scene could even suggest sympathy for Leland, as he sobs uncontrollably in the victim's hair. It also reinforces the idea that ... Bob is not human, but rather a beast.
Twin Peaks does much to provide the viewer with background information regarding Laura's habits, work, and behaviors, which instead of shedding light on the culprit, only works to convince the viewer that Laura was responsible for her own rape and murder.
It is suggested that Laura wanted to be raped, and even that she sought it out by participating in these activities.
This statement [of Laura's, on the tape recorder] is ended with a giggle, downplaying the seriousness of murder, and encouraging the idea that Laura enjoyed her rape.
Whether Laura's rape fantasy was conscious or unconscious is not revealed, but why it was necessary to be revealed in the first place is unclear. This diary entry suggests nothing of substance to the mystery, and the only value it has to Twin Peaks is to perpetuate rape myths.
Twin Peaks suggests that Laura gave her rapist the opportunity by participating in dangerous or illegal activities, and willingly going off with the rapist.
Standing Ovation: Sheryl Lee in 'Fire Walk With Me' (Joe Vallese) Backstage • Nov. 25, 2013
Sheryl Lee [gives] a once-in-a-millennium performance...
Our final look at Laura Palmer, as she fades to white, is also a chilly, sobering reminder that "Fire Walk With Me" is a film that unequivocally celebrates Laura's death, not her life.
Lynch always seemed to know this. The world's proper introduction to Laura, and Lee, was to a corpse...
And long after the mystery of Laura's death and general interest in the series had cooled, her face continued to haunt viewers, nearly every episode ending with credits rolling over Laura's sunny homecoming queen portrait. It's fitting then that the scene in "Fire Walk With Me" most indicative of Lee's stunning range and commitment to the many humiliations and sorrows inflicted on our tragic heroine is one devoid of dialogue and nearly absent of physicality. Lynch keeps our focus on her face, which does all the moving and all the silent speaking.
Fire Walk With Me: Trauma, Catharsis, and the Fantasy of Fantastical Kinship (Andrew Asibong & Hannah Eaton) Birkbeck Arts Week 2014 • May 23, 2014
Hannah: I was really struck by what a feminist film it is in so many ways. Laura is absolute subject. Her face is used in this silver-screen goddess way, like Bette Davis' face in Now Voyager - it's utter close-up. But it's not used in the same way, it's not like Bette Davis or Marilyn. Her performance is just completely extraordinary, it's all her, it's about the film being given over to Laura. And also I think Lynch does something really radical and amazing with the sexualized female body as well. I can remember the publicity for the series, and what was written about the series, being very much about "Homecoming Queen by Day, Coke Whore by Night." And I think what Lynch does in Fire Walk With Me is deconstruct that, present that as what it is: a morally vacuous thing to say within the narrative. Actually what he tells us in Fire Walk With Me is that it's a dissociative split. It's a response to her abuse.
Hannah: I think it's a really profoundly generous thing that Lynch has done. He never presents the reality of Twin Peaks, like all the Lodge people, and Bob, as phantasy with the "P-H." Laura is not mad, Laura is not a pathologized object, she's experiencing it all.
Hannah: The Lynch-God does something like that at the end of Twin Peaks. When you watch the film, it's profoundly emotional, moving, and beautiful the way Laura gets her angels back at the end but I don't know whether to be disappointed in all the redemption because, does it reduce her suffering a bit to put in a narrative of virtue rewarded? Is something being done to her as a reward almost? I'm not very sure what I think about it. But you know - and it's weird to say about Twin Peaks - it's not very realistic. (laughter in audience) But loads of Twin Peaks is realistic, even stuff like The Log Lady is quite realistic in a way, but that's not!
Andrew: A monstrosity which isn't silly, which isn't trivializing - the only form possible for such violence and for such abuse is in a figure which is slightly fantastical. And for me, Bob/Leland totally got that. Making Bob the demon a kind of aspect of Leland the man wasn't a get-out clause, it wasn't trying to exonerate Leland's behavior. It was trying to say an aspect of Leland - who knows what he carries, abuse, trauma, I guess what Abraham and Torok would call some kind of crypt or phantom - could only be expressed in a figure split into both demon and human.
Hannah: Which is what many a child has done about an abuser.
Hannah: We used to have to be Bob behind our desks at school the day that Twin Peaks had been on, to lessen the horror a bit!
Andrew: Ferenczi describes something very similar in a lot of the people he treats, in terms of the splitting of a self into different categories of being. He talks about there being the traumatized child who can't speak. Also a dead body, lifeless and unfeeling, which you could equate with Laura Palmer's body floating down the river at the beginning of the show. Also this kind of cosmic identification with a protective heavenly sphere. He notes that again and again, his patients often split into these three different categories of being: dead body, not literally dead but self-experienced as dead, child who can't speak, but also what his patient Elizabeth Severn called an orpha, a kind of supernatural being. Which is what I think we see Laura turn into at the end.
Andrew: I do remember certain standout scenes that made me feel like I was changing inside. One of the scenes is when Laura is outside her house in the middle of the day. She's come home from school or something and she sees Leland coming from the house and it's a moment where she realizes that Leland and Bob are the same person.
Hannah: And she says "It's not him, it's not him, it's not him" but - it is. You know, she knows it is.
Andrew: Absolutely. And just talking about it - that awful proverbial, "the hairs on the back of your neck..." but they are actually standing up so I have to say it, cheesy though it may be.
Andrew: [Ferenczi] talks about how hard he has to work to get the patients to actually acknowledge what has happened to them. And so they come to him with these stories but they're saying, Oh I'm not sure, maybe it did happen, maybe it didn't happen. And you know even after years and years where it's become clear to him that something terrible really has happened, they're still doubting themselves because they've so profoundly internalized the abuser's interdiction to speak of it or acknowledge it as real. They just can't go forward with the progress they're making. And I think that to go to your question, what could the use of those moments [of recognition] in Lynch be. ... A moment like that where Laura can no longer be in doubt that this has happened, that what is impossible is actually possible, that affirms a recognition that can't be intellectually argued with in a way. It goes beyond, did it happen, didn't it happen.
Hannah: It's this is real.
Lynch and MacLachlan sat side-by-side in a Hollywood cafe having pie and coffee and fielding Good Morning America's questions, beaming their Twin Peaks-is-still-cool message out to as many million viewers as used to see their show. The interviewer, a blonde woman named Chantal, noted that there was a lot of coffee and pie in the world of Twin Peaks. Lynch replied in classic, deadly serious form: "In the Northwest where I grew up, coffee is extremely important. And pie is extremely important. And people have pie and coffee, sometimes together."
Chantal noted that "You two have such a great relationship: do you finish each other's sentences?" Lynch and MacLachlan looked into each other's eyes, and the quick-witted Lynch said, "Yes..." expecting MacLachlan to complete the sentence with "we do." But MacLachlan didn't get it, and said, "I think we did from the start." Lynch prompted him again, "Yes we." MacLachlan still didn't supply the "do," and Lynch said, "He's rusty; I haven't seen him in a while." • Beautiful Dark
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