Saturday, October 5, 2013

Thank You for Reading!

....and reading Chloe's Twin Peaks senior thesis!

Hi and welcome to this page! After many requests, I have decided to publicly release my senior thesis for my undergrad degree in Communications from the University of Minnesota. This was written in Spring 2013 for my Feminist Media Studies class.

There was a lot of interest in this paper due to its topic - the popular 1990 television show Twin Peaks created by David Lynch. I did not write this paper to hate on Twin Peaks. I'm not writing this paper to say that it's an awful show and deserves no hype. In fact, I quite enjoyed watching it and that is why I was eager to write about it. I went into this essay having only a few things in mind to write about. The further I analyzed it, the more I discovered about what truly lies within. I am not hear to tell you that you are bad for liking Twin Peaks. I am not here to tell you that no one should watch Twin Peaks. I am just here to give you an analysis of how the show portrays gender and how it perpetuates rape culture. My thesis is not that it is a bad show. My thesis is that it is not a progressive show.

I will leave comments open but I will not be replying to them. I am not going to defend my words, etc. I will delete any comments that slander my character rather than my thesis. If you don't like my words - that's fine! Go ahead and fight them! If you think I'm some crazy stupid fat ugly feminist bitch, keep it to yourself.

And before reading, I must warn, there absolutely are spoilers! The entire show will be spoiled in this paper. If you haven't finished watching it and don't want to know how it ends, refrain from reading!

Thank you and enjoy!


  1. Thanks for publishing this - I really look forward to reading it but also wanted to leave a comment before I begin, since I noticed while scrolling through your thesis that you don't seem to bring up the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me at all. That's actually what brought me over here, as I am preparing a few essays on the film, particularly focused on its treatment of incest.

    The feature very much complicates the idea of Twin Peaks blaming the victim or denying them a voice. While it still humors supernatural explanations for Leland's abuse (something that troubled me on first viewing) it seems increasingly clear that Bob is basically a cover for/manifestation of Leland's own power and responsibility, and perhaps even Laura's projection so that she hide the identity of her abuser from herself. The film denies her a male rescuer and is basically about her having to deal with her demons on her own. (She doesn't find redemption exactly but if memory serves she does help Ronette escape.) None of this of course invalidates your critique of the series, but it does provide a fascinating contrast to certain tendencies in the show - and much of Lynch's work up to that point.

    I wonder at times if Lynch, despite his outwardly placid appearance, didn't feel somewhat stung by criticism or guilty about the media's - an often his own show's - flippant, teasing treatment of Laura's suffering. Interestingly, the film Fire Walks With Me also indicates the beginning of a reversal in the gender of Lynch protagonists; although Lost Highway's main character is male (albeit a male without a continuous identity), as is the (rather atypical) Straight Story's, both Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire are notably female-oriented. I often think that the character of Laura Palmer represented a turning point in Lynch's thematically and storytelling where he subtly shifted from an externalized fascination with (and trepidation about) his female characters to an identification with their perspective.

    1. Hi Joel, thanks for the comment! As I was doing research on this paper, I did read a few essays that took into account the prequel film, however I didn't personally watch it. I feel like the TV show, at the time, was such a huge hit that it brought in a very mainstream audience, whereas I believe the movie wasn't such a huge success & brought in more of a cult following than your average Joe. Therefore I felt like it was most important to discuss solely the TV show, instead of throwing in even more implications. I didn't compare Twin Peaks to any of Lynch's other works, either. I was less interested about him, and more interested simply about the content of the show, though it would be extremely interesting to look into an analysis of Lynch's leading ladies throughout his career, to see how his portrayal of women has evolved (or not, perhaps).

      I hope you enjoyed the read and your paper sounds very interesting! Are you focusing only on the content of the movie, or are you considering it also in the context of the TV show?

  2. I think it's definitely valid to fouls on the series as it's own entity, just wanted to bring up the film as it provides such an interesting counterpoint (also it highlights some counter-tendencies in the show, most notably in the brutal depiction of Maddy's death, that counteract simplistic and/or victim-blaming tendencies one could read into the show). If you haven't seen it yet I DEFINITELY recommend getting your hands on it as soon as you can. Not to add to the thesis (which is obviously already done) but just because it's worth seeing. It's an extremely unique project, which was viciously reviewed at the time (in part, it seems, because many critics or fans were upset with Lynch for ruining the "fun" of the show by focusing so uncompromisingly on Laura's suffering and the reality of the pain behind the pilot's pretty corpse). Sheryl Lee's performance of Laura is extraordinarily powerful and brave, and by her own admission she couldn't even get "arrested" the following year and her career never really took off.

    My essay (which will actually be part of back-and-forth correspondence with another blogger on the film site To Be Contd.) will focus primarily on the film but will definitely incorporate discussion of the show. The more I read (and the past 3 days have been devoted exclusively into delving into as much Twin Peaks literature as I can find) the more my perspective is coming into focus.

    Basically I see a 3-point development in the world of Twin Peaks, leading from the entertaining but emotionally/morally distanced premise of the show - and the accompanying media hype which often focused on Laura's corpse as a fetish object - to a complete and full re-alignment with the suffering victim's point of view in the prequel film Fire Walk with Me. (The other 2 points in this development were the publishing of the series tie-in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, written by Lynch's own daughter Jennifer, in the fall of 1990, and the exceptionally graphic and emotionally devastating murder of Maddy's which also doubled as a reveal that ugly incest lay at the heart if Twin Peak's alluring mystery). This realignment, interestingly, corresponded with Twin Peaks' abandonment by the cultural establishment.

    This transformation in the story's approach and identification also corresponds with a shift in Lynch's own work, from a more balanced classical style to a raw, swooning mise en scene, from the depiction of villains as threats from without/the wrong side of the tracks to the revelation that the are embedded in the power structure and ultimately lie within, and finally a shift from identification with active and ultimately heroic male protagonists to an identification with confused and suffering females. I plan to focus on the bigger picture of Lynch's career in the second letter; the first will dwell more on the evolution of Twin Peaks itself.

    In the next few weeks, first week of May at the latest, I plan to put up a post of quotes (and there are dozens and dozens, maybe more than a hundred) from all the material I've been reading, since I won't be able to incorporate most of it in my finished essays. Your work will definitely be feature as well.

    1. (Sorry for the typos, that's what I get for writing on a phone...)

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