Saturday, October 5, 2013

Theory/Method

            I will be analyzing Twin Peaks storyline of rape through the lens of rape culture, defined as “a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women … a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent” (Buchwald, Fletcher, & Roth, 2005, p. XI). Rape culture consists of prominent rape myths, which I will also be discussing. Some of those rape myths, as identified by Diana Russell, include, “There is no such thing as rape because if a woman didn’t want to have sex she could easily avoid it … the few rapists who exist are sadistic, crazy psychopaths … rape is the ‘natural outcome of opportunity,’ which is to say that if women give men the opportunity to rape them, men will naturally take it,” (Meyers, 1997, p. 25). I will also be drawing from myths of battering, as identified by Mildred Pagelow, which include, “Those involved are pathological – the woman is masochistic, the batterer is ‘sick’ … the woman provoked him … battering is restricted to lower classes,” (Meyers, 1997, p. 26).  Rape culture exists purely in a misogynistic, patriarchal society where hegemony is necessary in maintaining a culture of rape. Hegemony, as defined by James Lull, is “the power of dominance that one social group holds over others” (Lull, 2011, p. 33). Hegemony is a process of consent that typically benefits a minority group at the expense of a majority group. Twin Peaks is exemplary of rape culture through the way in which it portrays the rapist and by its glorification of Laura Palmer’s rape. Hegemony is present in Twin Peaks through the way that male characters “set the limits – mental and structural – within which subordinate classes ‘live’ and make sense of their subordination”, quoting Hall (Lull, 2011, p. 34). Female-identified characters in the show are granted little to no authority in any situation of importance, and are generally granted few freedoms. How female-identified characters live their lives is constructed purely through the choices of male-identified characters.
In further analyzing how women are represented in Twin Peaks, I will be using Liesbet van Zoonen’s theory of technologies of gender. This is appropriate because van Zoonen’s theory makes the claim that media demonstrate how to perform gender by “accommodating, modifying, reconstructing, and producing disciplining and contradictory cultural outlooks of sexual difference” (van Zoonen, 1994, p. 41).  These demonstrations construct a discourse of gender, or “a set of overlapping and often contradictory cultural descriptions and prescriptions referring to sexual difference which arises from and regulates particular economic, social, political, technological, and other non-discursive contexts” (van Zoonen, 1994, p. 33). Twin Peaks constructs nearly all female-identified characters within a certain discourse of gender and the only deviation from this discourse is applied to characters who are supposed to be seen as perverse, pitied, or comical.

I will be doing this media analysis using all episodes from both seasons of Twin Peaks, which totals 30 episodes. Most of my research will focus on the rape and murder of Laura Palmer, which concluded in episode 10 of season two; however, important gender discourse exists in further episodes of the series. It is important to understand that this discourse continues, even once the murder has been “solved.”

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