Saturday, October 5, 2013


            Twin Peaks is an incredibly complex, beautifully artistic show. The characters are charming, intriguing, and sometimes flat out irritating, and the constant flow of drama makes it difficult to quit watching. Although ratings dropped significantly after Laura’s murderer was revealed – leading to the show’s demise – it is undeniable that Twin Peaks had a large impact on prime time television watchers in the early 1990s. It is even more significant to note the enduring cult following that the show draws, including from younger generations that were not even born when Twin Peaks first aired. To discredit the show’s popularity would be wrong. However, to consider it as a revolutionary next step for television would also be wrong, and a gross insult to feminist theory.
            Twins Peaks presents little to no progressive thought on gender discourse. Women are weak, passive, purely sexual, and have absolutely no power over their own lives. They belong to men and without that relation to men, women are powerless and in need of protection – which they can only get from men. Men are strong, powerful, intelligent, and always in control of every situation. This discourse of gender in Twin Peaks is even present in characters that move between genders. The only representations of characters outside of their gender discourse are used for comic relief, demonstrating that to exist outside of gender discourse is to be pitied, ridiculed, and absolutely not taken seriously. Twin Peaks is a technology of gender because it contributes to the cultural outlook of sexuality and demonstrates how to perform gender.
            Twin Peaks also presents little to no progressive thought in our society’s culture of rape. The show’s entire premise is central to the rape and murder of a high school girl, which could have been an opportune platform to dispel rape myths. However, the only common rape myth that Twin Peaks does well to reject is the myth that rape and battering only happens to lower-class, non-white populations. The town of Twin Peaks is a predominantly white community (throughout the show, I could identify two non-white main characters – Hawk Hill, who is Native American, and Josie Packard, who is Chinese), and despite being a logging community, every character portrayed seems to be living a middle-/upper-class lifestyle. Most of the main characters are lawyers, doctors, successful businessmen, or widows of successful businessmen.
            However, the debunking of rape myths ends there. Bob, the rapist, is crazy, sadistic, and not even human, while Laura, the victim, is masochistic and is suggested as a departure from ordinary women due to her rape fantasies and willing participation in BDSM, prostitution, and pornography. Twin Peaks suggests that Laura gave her rapist the opportunity by participating in dangerous or illegal activities, and willingly going off with the rapist.

            As I have demonstrated, nothing of the show’s content is progressive. Although Twin Peaks is entertaining, cinematically well-crafted, and its characters are at times endearing, one can hope that the encouragement of rape myths and strict, traditional gender discourse is not the progressive next step for prime time television.


  1. I am grateful for this article but I am a bit curious as to the grammar of this university graduate. I am not a Communications grad from a university, so don't bother correcting my bad grammar.
    I just wonder how you can complete a degree in Communications with sentences like this:
    "In further analyzing how women are represented in Twin Peaks"

    Surely you should have written, "In further analysis of how women..."
    "After further analysis on how.."
    "After analyzing the theme further..."

    I am not saying that all journalists are by any means competent or superior writers, however, this writing was just too blatantly amateur to ignore. I am sorry for being harsh but I guess I am indirectly protecting the art of written communication and hate the younger generation trying to express ideas and concerns without basic skills in literacy. It was an art and a form of moral expression and now any teenage girl can write badly about shoes and like, um, like ... um... like you know... like .. articles and stuff?

    1. Hi Tom, thanks for reading my thesis - I am glad that you are grateful for it.

      I got an A on this paper and my professor found no issue with how I express myself. My grammar is not incorrect, it is simply different from how you would choose to express yourself. It is by no means the stumbling, babbling sentences of a teenage girl as you so charmingly demonstrated. This is the internet and therefore has some freedom of speech to it, meaning that I can express myself innocently in whatever form I choose to do so. I am a communications professional, an experienced blogger, and have presented my research at conferences. You seem to be the only one hung up on my grammar.

    2. 2 years too late, but damn, dude way to be a washed up cranky old asshole yelling at clouds. THESE KIDS AND THEIR PASSIVE VOICE VERBS!!!!

  2. I do have to disagree with the conclusion, strongly.

    First of all: Twin Peaks offers tons of interesting and, back then, daring interpretations of gender roles. This starts with couples like the Martells, and goes all the way to DEA agent Dennis/Denise Bryson (which Cooper recognizes & accepts pretty much the very same moment).

    Second: you cannot expect a show that was made in the early 90s and deliberately depicts (and therefore questions) a 50s cultural background and mindset, to tackle problems (not as in issues, but as topics that were actually discussed & analyzed) until just recently (and still people would argue that there is no such thing as rape culture, as obvious as it may appear). I could just as well argue that the writings of Pythagoras condone slavery or that there's no girls at all in Golding's Lord of the Flies, therefore misrepresenting humankind, maybe ... but how would that, in any way, be constructive criticism?

    And I think Lynch made an interesting point on rape as such, not only when he made is always cheerful, always nice main character Cooper react strongly the way he did to Jaques Renault's description of the actual rape scene ... but with including Bob, which, I feel, you read way to literal. Ans that might be the main issue in your criticism: you interpret the show at face value, something that simply must go awry with anything Lynch makes. The town is very obviously meant to be a caricature, Twin Peaks is, and always will be, satire ... of crime shows, of soap operas, of mystery shows, of US culture. And regarding this. Lynch was way ahead of his times, even in the issues discussed here.

  3. I'm surprised that a senior thesis would fail to include any relative context about: the social environment of the time and how it compared to other programs of the era; Lynch's approach as a filmmaker; the social, gender, and artistic theories inherent in the show and Lynch's other work. They all inform how gender and culture manifest in the show. More importantly, the context is essential for your premise that "nothing of the show's content is progressive." It's foolhardy to quantify a show's progressiveness on its comparison to societal advances 25 years after the show aired.

    Putting aside context, the thesis even fails to properly describe the episodes.

    "Men are strong, powerful, intelligent, and always in control of every situation."
    Though there are certainly power differentials to explore, your description of gender representation on the show is wrong. Almost all of the men have (or had) emotional breakdowns over the course of the show, and their failure to deal with their personal, romantic business affects their work. Truman falls apart and needs an intervention when things with Josie turn sour. Cooper is always dealing with the emotional backlash of his relationships and romantic choices. Ben falls into a delusional state. Leland's possession turns him from a successful lawyer into a laughingstock. etc.

    "every character...middle-/upper class lifestyle"
    The focus is mostly on the more wealthy residents, but you choose to ignore Shelly and Leo living in an unfinished home with plastic over the windows, the trailers and apartments characters like Jacques & Harold live in, Nadine's lower-middle class desire to become wealthy with silent drape runners, Ronette's lower-income family, and more.

    These are only some of the holes in your argument. You've demonstrated nothing but an ability to morph elements to suit your thesis, which is unfortunate because there is a lot that can and should be explored about gender, rape culture, and more on the show.

  4. Sorry you got so many David Lynch fanboys in the comments here. A female friend and I were discussing personal reasons we struggle to watch Twin Peaks today, and I googled for some literature on the possible misogyny in the show. Thought your thesis was not only a fun read but well put together. Thanks for writing.

    1. Didn't realize I was subscribed to this thread, but saw this notification email today. If you're interested in reading additional takes (some pro, some com, some ambivalent or exploratory) on the show's view of gender, sexuality, feminism, misogyny, and similar subjects, I made a directory of such pieces (including this one) in response to an inquiry on Tumblr: Hopefully it will be useful if you're still looking for more analysis.

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  7. Jesus christ is this paper a mess. you seem to be working mostly within the premise that all of these things you're noting about the series are unintentional on lynch's part. just how familiar are you with his body of work? not only is your analysis not as deep as you think it is (most of the things you noticed are actually stylistic choices that are obvious as hell; the bulk of the entire series is spent satirizing the misogynist tropes you think you're so cleverly exposing), but the conclusions you draw from it are objectively wrong. you tried so hard to be offended by TP that you didn't realize lynch was on your side the entire time. what a dumb-dumb you are. sorry about your broken brain, dumb-dumb.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. Some really good angles on Twin Peaks and the whole cultural depiction of rape and murder as entertainment in general. I've been grappling with my growing uncomfortableness around this topic for a while and your essay puts your case clearly and concisely. Thanks again.