Saturday, October 5, 2013


The show Twin Peaks, created by cult movie maker David Lynch, debuted to an American audience in 1990 on ABC. The show was immediately met with enthusiasm and great intrigue not only in the US, where a third of television viewers tuned in for the pilot, but also in the UK where viewership topped seven million (Odell & Le Blanc, 71). The question on everyone’s lips – “Who killed Laura Palmer?” – was introduced as the premise of the show when the body of a small town’s homecoming queen washes up on the shores of Twin Peaks, naked and tightly wrapped in plastic. The quirky characters in the pacific mill town were the perfect palette for Lynch to create a dynamic plot filled with punchy dialogue, odd reactions, and secretive lives. The amount of drama that Twin Peaks hosted made it seem more like a soap opera, but the avant-garde filming techniques and slow pacing made it acceptable as primetime television and even had it recognized, still to this day, as a piece of art.
      At the time of Twin Peakspremiere, David Lynch seemed too big for the mainstream. Lynch, known for being adventurous, erotic, disturbing, and over-the-top in his filmmaking, seemed an unlikely pick for primetime television. With past credits including Eraserhead (1977) and Blue Velvet (1986) – “a body of work offering an indelibly bizarre flow of images and themes” (Jerome, 1990, para. 1) – the fever that Twin Peaks set fire to made David Lynch a household name and propelled him – and his stories – into mainstream pop culture fame.
But what the story of Twin Peaks masks, through Lynch’s use of avant-garde filmmaking and quirky characters, is a white male’s rape fantasy and the misogynistic, but not entirely unreal, world which it is set in. The damaging part of this, however, lies not just within the show’s short term popularity, but in its enduring cult following which has already lasted more than two decades.

I had started watching Twin Peaks after suggestions from my mother and a close friend, but what really pushed me to starting the series was the way that the pro-feminism online magazine Rookie dedicated much of their writing to Twin Peaks and David Lynch. The writers of the magazine (all teenage girls) took Twin Peaks road trips, painted their nails in inspiration of David Lynch, made Twin Peaks donuts, and wrote lengthy articles about their admiration for various characters of the show. In a post from March 7, 2013, the editor of Rookie writes that, “your life will improve when you watch it.” Needless to say, they had me convinced that this series was something special, even progressive, and, furthermore, empowering in the way which women were represented. And so, I began watching Twin Peaks, trusting that it was off the beaten path and amusing – it held up to both of these – but not anticipating that what lay ahead was, more than anything, 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, and the haunting part of the show lies not within the suspenseful episode endings, the dark dialogue, or the murder mystery itself, but rather in the fact that this show was seen as a revolutionary next step for television. When you get past the avant-garde filmmaking and the quirky dialogue, all that lies beneath David Lynch’s Twin Peaks is a prime example of the rape culture that mainstream media does well to reproduce. 


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