Us Living in Fictional Cosmogonies
Part XXV: Twin Peaks and the Meal
by Travis Hedge Coke
“They also do not know how to interpret the color Green.”
– from the Twin Peaks Reddit
They killed Laura Palmer. Or, so some may say.
Perhaps Mark Frost and David Lynch never meant their story of Cooper and Lodges to evoke the comics stories of Archie Andrews and the town of Riverdale. Under ordinary circumstances, like the conscious allusions to Richard Shaver’s tales of Lemuria, nearly lost and flattened by revision from one pitch to another, like their potential Marilyn Monroe story, these similarities in name might have been of little consequence, but because no stone in the pavement of Twin Peaks is left unturned, unexamined, uncatalogued, it is incredibly hard for any path of investigation to be convincingly rejected.
“I get my news like I get all my important information,” goes a popular meme, “through prophetic and weird dreams.” How can you decide how to be a serious audience after that?
Twin Peaks canon is only the first two seasons. Or, two seasons and a revival season. Or, two seasons, a revival season and one movie. Or, two movies, one guidebook, three seasons, a series of Georgia Coffee commercials and a 1-900 number on which Lucy Brennan elliptically caught you up on parts of Season Two. There is a sequence wherein David Lynch interviews three characters, two of whom aged while dead. I think it is canon. It definitely feeds into what comes, later, in Season Three, aka The Return. But, for many it will never be any more canon than the coffee advertisements (which I also take as canon).
Twin Peaks has embraced new media and media correlation since its inception, and can never have a definitive canon nor definite answers to its mysteries, incongruities, or even its grand cosmogony.
What are we to do with the implication that Dr Jacobi is the magician, not only a magician, but the Prospero of the The Tempest that is Twin Peaks, the Ron Popeil of the Trau-matic Device? What if the entire world is anchored in Jacobi missing a brother I do not even think was mentioned in the televised forms of the franchise? The anxious catalogue of lives collected by Harold Smith? The worried smug jots of Tamara Preston? The screech of an illogical sound in the hearing aids of Gordon Cole? The hog in the eye of a girl on a hill in the week before the death that started it all?
At its simplest, Twin Peaks is always about want versus need. Hunger is not gluttony is not addiction, but they are all easily confused, regularly conflated, and routinely contorted. Gold and oil are used throughout to symbolize wealth and power. Corn and gasoline are consumable goods that can, in unchecked capitalist growth, overrun and destroy the land they are culled from. Bread, money, and silver trade and bait the world. Drugs are omnipresent.
Mystery exists in Twin Peaks not to satiate a hunger, but to pursue a line of addiction. Our addiction to answers. Answers will never conclusively come, because that would end mystery. While the franchise was forced to reveal who, physically, murdered teenaged Laura Palmer, ending the initiating mystery of the television show, the actual murderer is still debated. Was it her father, Leland Palmer, who was also sexually abusing her, or was it BOB, an entity which possesses Leland and abuses him and Laura? Characters speculate in both directions, and in other directions, but there is no conclusion because there is no objective voice to Twin Peaks.
All of the world of Twin Peaks lacks objectivity. It defies and decries objectivity, encouraging us to not take a long view, to not take an impartial view, but to immerse ourselves, to engage our feelings, to engage emotional and critical honesty earnestly.
The weird thing, the uncanny thing, is that when we look earnestly enough, we know who is feeding, who is consuming more than their share. It is us.
In Season Three, an early mystery, a clue to the great mysteries, is something to do with Deputy Tommy Hill’s (Native American) heritage. It is ruminated on. Pursued in the story. It is even asked if anything Native has been found yet. While this does help them uncover hidden pages from Laura’s diary, and it also highlights how little is seen of Native America in the conquered and colonized United States of America, there is a significant scene with the only other notable Indigenous actor/character in the season, Ruby, played by Charlyne Yi, who often goes entirely unacknowledged when it comes to looking for something Native and significant and revealing.
Ruby is pulled out of a booth she has every right to, set down on the floor of the bar like an object, and she screams one of the purest, most direct and heartfelt screams in a franchise built on heart-rending real and real big screams. Universal and specific, Ruby’s scenario is the franchise in microcosm, Ruby is a distillation of Twin Peaks. She is the most significant Native presence other than Deputy Hawk, who is the one searching, and collectively, as audience, we would rather focus restroom stalls and white people even when told to look for something Native.
“Want. Not need,” the evil Cooper, Mr C, says in Season Three. “I don’t need anything.”
Mr C does not consume for sustenance, but to chew, to destroy. Mr C may even feel compelled or find himself without need for will still destroying. His destruction of people is often mechanistic.
Lucy, on the other hand, consumes evidence from a murder investigation because she has a functional need for it, a desire to quell gas, perhaps out of embarrassment in regards to her still burgeoning romance with Andy, her future husband.
If gasoline and oil are representations of evil, can quelling gas inside the body justify the consumption of what might be important evidence?
The pain and suffering called garmonbozia, could have led to a planet of corn, corn, corn running backwards or delayed in time, had the original third season been produced. Instead, in the third season we did get, we see gangsters eat canned corn in milk, with their orange juice and coffee in glass mugs, their bowls tilted to us, so we can see their naked brunch.
Our reaction, when we do not know what is moving down our throats, through our esophagi, is to swallow or vomit. When it confuses us lower, we shit.
They killed Laura Palmer for us. Or, so some may say.
We see the vomiting of oil and corn. Corn in oil.
Twin Peaks, built on and of uncertainty, produces as much vomitus and excreta as it does nourishment and recreational consumption. Probably more.
There is a four hour video on how Twin Peaks has only one true author and is about the inside of a television set. It is fairly condescending, and takes four hours to wear you down into accepting the interpretation.
The more examples which can be compiled, the less credible an explanation feels. The more references and possible-allusions become anchors and plastic screw caps, the flimsier the premise feels.
Twin Peaks exceeds in unreliability, in the technical-spiritual way that Ken Russell’s Gothic moves in and out of potential truths, without the is it/isn’t it clumsiness of a Death House or The Seduction of Dr. Fugazzi. Jesus Franco agitation-dreams/pretty-nightmares. A series of important paintings by important artists can be compiled and compared directly to frames from throughout the televisual Twin Peaks, and Mark Frost and his team create an entire narrative just in a bookshelf kept by the Bookhouse Boys, the titles, the authors, the order of arrangement, the condition and edition of each book, none of which come near to conclusiveness or surety.
Is Invitation to Love, the soap opera which sometimes appears in Twin Peaks a satire? Farce? Parody? In earnest?
Ben and Jerry Horne are named for Joseph Horne’s, a department store chain, and the ice cream, Ben and Jerry’s. Terrifying comedy.
When Ben Horne, whose given name seems paired with his brother, Jerry, to make an ice cream joke that apparently goes nowhere and reflects on nothing, says post-sex that he has to, “give Little Elvis a bath,” does he produce an actual toy Elvis as a visual joke, as a lewd sexual aid, or is it only because the broadcasters insisted?
Everything becomes subject to instantaneous sexualization, demonization, and abuse.
“The problems of our entire society are of a sexual nature,” says a doctor who just begged his teenaged patient he is sexually involved with for a confessional tape recording.
When Leo Johnson is at his most brutal and pettiest, he is justifying sustained brutality, violent paranoia, and sadism with, “This is where we live, Shelly!” and instructions that are really just emphasis as to how much needs to be scrubbed. The dirt inside and underneath things needs to be scrubbed out (though the surface). Like Leland Palmer abusing his daughter under the auspices of caring that she clean underneath her nails better, Leo makes an impossible task of cleaning for his high school age wife, but one he insists be accomplished, routinely, under penalty of violence that is coming anyway.
Leo is afraid the shit is going to come out.
Leo Johnson is the cartoon of a violent man, but the cartoon of a violent man is a violent man. Whether or not he is farcical does not dilute the impact of his violence.
Are the purple ocean and the echo lands of Season Three deliberately evocative of Kenneth Grant’s Mauve Zone? Is it just a purple sea? Is it purple? Is mauve purple or like so many precise color names is it easy to convince ourselves, for a moment, that the name means a particular common color? Cerise. Vermillion. Chartreuse. Stygian Blue. Self-luminous red.
The Arm is Charles Proteus Steinmetz if you want it to be. The arm is a brain. The arm is a man. The arm is another man. The arm is the cell. The cells hold howling men. The cells hold screeching. The cells old monkeys. The monkey’s old cells. The hopscotch bird. Is leaning magick.
Magnetic resonance on a physical medium. It is easy to consider Agent Dale Cooper as an anthropomorphism of the audio cassette recordings he makes for Diane. To consider Gordon Cole his hearing aids. That Mike is a microphone is The Man. Mike is The Man.
I share with Lucy her discombobulation over cell phone users and their free mobility while they talk with you. When someone calls me, tells me they are on their way, and keeps speaking, I cannot help but believe they are relatively stationary, even if they are in a moving vehicle headed towards me, I inescapably presume they are holding a place. When they arrive I am disrupted, I scramble to be ready for them, I understand my lack of connection to the world, so connected to the line I am.
Lucy may as well be telephones, and switchboards. Our constant confidante, our Jesus Walking With Thee who we could, in the early 1990s, call on the phone for dollars a minute, to hear gossip of the town of Twin Peaks in case we missed episodes. When there is one dual-tone multi-frequency signal set, I don’t know, Lucy carried us.
As I discussed elsewhere, a scene of two of our most trusted Twin Peaks patricians in Season Three is tinted the rare blue color that documents such as The Secret History of Twin Peaks imply is a lens of logic and a suppression of intuition. In the scene, Gordon Cole and Albert Rosenfield lose their humane good humor and compassion, becoming cold and glibly misogynist for just long enough to make us, the audience, as uncomfortable as the the blue television screen of intermittent static does in the opening of Fire Walk With Me.
Lil, in Fire Walk With Me, is a walking, acting code, all in red with a small supremely significant burst of blue. A sour face and a rose on her chest.
The blue rose scene outside the prison tinted blue. The red of the curtains framing lodges. The blue rumpled satin backdrop of the Invitation to Love title card. Invitation to Love, the soap opera watched from inside Twin Peaks, from inside Twin Peaks, inviting us to watch, to watch what they watch, to watch deeper, to watch love, to watch with love, in love, through love.
The intense Twin Peaks audience live inside Twin Peaks and inside Twin Peaks, and because that world and the franchise have told them they are valued and intelligent and perhaps even special, the fandom shows many of the markers of elite children when they grow up into young adults. They feel smarter, better, more deserving and they can be mean.
It is not unusual for the kind of audience who still talk Twin Peaks every day to be proud if they mock an actor enough to upset them or their spouse or their fans. Proposing new theories or even bringing up old knowledge in conversation can result in being belittled, insulted, or attacked.
The misogyny and rush to condemnatory judgment in the fandom is perhaps equal to and directly in correlation to the misogyny in the world of the franchise, correlating in and correlating out. The revival novels and television serial (or movie in parts) redress many situations, but they amp up the caricatures of the harried housewife, the malicious shrew, the difficult woman, caricatures which have long been more formulated in the minds and rhetoric of audiences than actual entertainment programs. The hated woman of Breaking Bad who “has a stick up her butt”; the hated woman of The Sopranos who “just doesn’t get it.” The difficult adult Audrey Horne, the tense and no-fun Janey-E whose husband is an unreliable, philandering gambler who put them in debt with organized crime.
When it is revealed that Doris Truman’s anxiety and confusion are part of her grieving the untimely suicide of her son, the sheriff’s office’s resident jerk mocks her and the son even for that. As do many in the audience who cannot abide that characters like Shelly or James are very young, that Big Ed may not be the moral party in his marriage, as he has cheated for most of that marriage, and regardless of how upset or traumatized or afraid his wife is, those are not especially high crimes in the court of life.
During a scene in Season Three, when Mr C shoots someone, along with the rapport of the shot, the screen itself warps, a distention most miss because we collectively flinch at gunshots, even on television. In the moment of avoidance, we miss something genuinely magical.
Mr C likely arranged the doubled descendants and the conflated corpses in South Dakota as a McGuffin for our crew, our traveling heroes ripped from a 60s FBI drama and aged out into the big land. The big uncanny valley.
“That was a dream”
I cannot blame a single person who gave up on Twin Peaks some day because the misogyny overwhelmed or the misogyny got tedious. When Twin Peaks stops being an escape or a method of process, when it is not your burden to process, you can drive straight out of town. James Hurley did it as a teenager and he only had about thirty dollars in his bank account.
David Lynch, co-writer and sometime director of Twin Peaks, central to it in a celebrity way which the other writers and directors are not, interviews the actors who play the Palmer nuclear family and the Palmer family in black and white, as if in seance, in a diner, over coffee. The Palmer family dialogue is written by Lynch. The short is not directed by Lynch, and many Twin Peaks wikis do not even list who did direct it, five-time Saturn Award-winner, Charles de Lauzirika.
When Lynch’s character, Gordon Cole, comes to Twin Peaks, the town, he has a meet cute romance with Shelly Johnson, older man, young woman, which pleases him and inspires something in her that had been crushed by her older (but less older) husband and the abusive atmosphere of the town. David Lynch calls the sequence, “sick.” Older director, young actor, scene where they flirt shamelessly and kiss.
The being in the experiment room, the phantom figure which rends and ruins, excited by cheap porno sex and cheesy porno moves, by late night cable tension thrills, is it Kyle, Cooper, Judy, Kale, is it self-punishing Laura, Laura’s doppelgänger, is it us? The id in the experiment room, sometimes called the experiment as if the rest of the room and its trappings are not a controlled and articulated environment, is ungraspable in a firm fist.
The being in that room is a kind of being in a room, in front of the tv, when someone follows formality we can call human nature. Bringing that drink, inviting yourself to the couch.
The zeitgeist gone by is an anxiety of calendar day as if knowing the calendar day will cement a day into causal sense and calming surety.
Steven is Laura is addict is loved and hated and many people. As an audience, we ask how Steven could pull these productive or healthy or beautiful, smart women. We ask how Steven could be “loved” by anyone in town, but are told people love him. We wonder why Steven disappears, as one of the writers says he is not dead and did not commit suicide. Where Steven? Why Steven.
Steven and Laura are both beautiful to some eyes, while clearly stressed, destroyed by their lives, self-destructive and harried and running in place away to an away that cannot be placed. Steven talks and acts like Laura, especially the Laura of Fire Walk With Me.
What if we have every answer and search the questions on our own?
Harley Peyton did not expect us to know Harold Smith was inspired by a real collector of human anecdotes.
If Mark Frost’s novel never told us that red and blue lenses could be interpreted as providing a suppression of “intuitive” or “logical” perceptions, or a clarification of the same, would we attempt to parse Twin Peaks through that lens?
Is it important that there is an Abraham Lincoln impersonator cast as a blackface/all-unnaturally-black-covered figure involved with a Lincoln luxury vehicle, in a series that twists around the American Civil War and hinges on the unaddressed colonization and genocide that makes the United States out of Indigenous life and land? Should I be thinking so much about Mankato, when I think about Twin Peaks? Or, does knowing make the connections feel strengthened?
Are the golden shovels sold by Dr Jacoby in his commercial superhero name of Dr Amp a reference to golden shovel poems, golden shovel agendas, the dismissive phrase, the jungian phrase, something much older, or only because there is a golden shovel near the end of Season Two?
Is there intentional symbolism in those shovels only being line-produced and spray painted gold, rather than actual gold, or is that symbolism extant of intention?
What kind of perceptive trinity are Gordon Cole, Tamara Preston, and Albert Rosenfield and why is Tamara so outspoken in prose, in her own documents and work, and so tight-lipped and – as her actor referred to it – Jessica Rabbit on television?
Blue screens and redress. How green was my valley?
Mark Frost and David Lynch – and Lesli Linka Glatter, Mark Engels, et al – killed Laura Palmer and our sense of culpability is our illusory certainty in the veracity of their world and that there is a their world and that there is a Laura Palmer.
Twin Peaks and the Meal
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