Thursday, 7 January 2021

Twin Piques

What follows is a reading of an investigation. The reading is to make a point independent of the object of the investigation. As such, it is my hope that those for whom the object of the investigation is of zero interest will recognise the investigation itself for what it is - an interesting appreciation for an art form and a correction of a short-circuited view of the same.
There's a guy with a YooToob room called Twin Perfect who virtualized along my way some time back with a four hour thirty-six minute guide through his inquiry, which he gave the title Twin Peaks ACTUALLY EXPLAINED (No, Really).
To keep non-fans in mind in this reading of his analysis, I'll summarize his main point thus: The original television series Twin Peaks was a comment on "consumable television violence" and simultaneously an attempt to course correct the tendency toward the same. In the view of show creator David Lynch, the thirty-to-sixty minute crime drama or murder mystery had detrimental influence on its viewership cum society's ability to empathise with human subjects of darkness and light. Instead, what it offered was a concise package of one-dimensional good and evil that resolved itself "before bedtime".
As a fan of the show myself, I began to watch Twin Perfect's creation with the intention to stop as soon as I had determined it to be anything from bullocks to boring, and at most thought I'd view it in self-incrementalised instalments; I watched the whole thing in one sitting without even a slight loss of interest. My only criticism is a superficial one: His imitation of Lynch's voice, a mimic virtually anyone can pull off with ease, might get annoying for some. It didn't get to me.

What I believe makes his take on the entire tale most valid is not his skilful connection of dots and remarkable attention to a level of detail often missed, but the points he raises for which Lynch is actually on record, and then how all the dots he tabulates connect back to those points. In short, once one views the entire original series with the criticism of "consumable television violence" in mind, recognising the elements that underpin this meta-narrative is unavoidable.

I hadn't recognised any of this meta-narrative throughout watching the original run, its reruns and then multiple viewings of the hifi stereo VHS copy I made of the original. It didn't dawn on me sitting through the prequel Fire Walk With Me twice, nor watching all eighteen hours of The Return three years ago.
I recognised something, but my explanation of its value was in line with the standard variety, albeit certainly more nuanced than those who short-circuited the original attempt to course correct "consumable television violence", even if I had not been aware of this in those terms at the time.

While it is true that only the considerable response of the sizeable fanbase to the network had made it possible for the second season of the original series to be broadcast in full, it was apparently also the sizeable fan interest in solving "who killed Laura Palmer" that led the same network to demand that Lynch, to paraphrase the director, "snip off the head of the golden goose". For it had been his intention to continue to explore the characters' lives rather than solve a crime, "to shed light" by way of an investigation into the darkness that affected each of those lives, including that of the dearly departed one, the proverbial golden goose. Only so might we come to appreciate what makes them all tick.

Now it is also true that the series is rife with old film and television references and tropes. Everything taken on that surface level, it's complex enough, You know, allegorical and arty and all that. That was, for sure, critical to my appreciation of it. But as Twin Perfect almost perfectly lays out, even multiple metaphors employed for the apparent sake of the story were often sly references back to the original point that television drama is one dimensional and bad, as in evil, if I may use another half of life's frequently stated dualisms. That is, when we disregard the depth of real human affect by coming to quick conclusions, the dark side has the upper hand, even if we'd have thought the good guys had come out on top.
So when director David Lynch did as told and presented the solution to the crime that began the series — an episode of television no small number of critics found to be at the apex of the art form — it nevertheless put an ironic end to the attempt at the art form that had allowed the culmination. Fans know what happened next. Lynch departed and the show mostly sucked until his return to end the original run, an end that had finally split the fanbase decisively into the twin camps of "brilliant" and "...but dissatisfying". Why? Because all they want is answers.
As Twin Perfect's investigation notes, what came next creatively was a reaction to what had happened to the production, and the carrying on of a story most of the fans would find disappointing, primarily, so his point, because it explored the life of Laura Palmer. Twin Peaks fans had no interest in the protagonist. One can disagree with that interpretation, and for sure there were points of contention that had nothing to do with the main character. Still, the prequel film flopped both commercially and critically.
Maybe not coincidentally, the meta-narrative is more on-the-nose in moments of Fire Walk With Me than anything else in the Twin Peaks universe, so obvious that I am embarrassed to admit I hadn't noticed it. If it weren't for the fact that zero critics took note of it, it would be unremarkable.

This meta-narrative would continue throughout the third season broadcast a few years ago and still, nobody took note. Instead, what one read about The Return was, love it or hate it, it was typical Lynch given free reign. Surrealism, don'tcha know. I'd thought the same, even if in the love camp. Moreover, I'd be unoriginal by noting that its structure followed the mobius strip layout of a timeline territory that he had been treading as far back as Lost Highway. And it's not just that I had found the frequently occurring line "Is it future, or is it past?" not to be profound at all. And it's not just that I failed to take the question seriously enough to explore, and instead received it as a faux deep thought about the mystery of existence.

What Twin Perfect points out is that these questions are not philosophical musings I fancy myself to have grown beyond — what I had considered unfortunate naive blips amidst otherwise sublime expressionistic art — but keys to how the parts connect to the original idea. Contrary to what I thought people were missing about Lynch's body of work, there are clues. They just don't make sense of the apparent story until, as Twin Perfect puts it, one finds the key, the original idea, and follows this meta-narrative to decode both.
I'll finish this bit with one specific example, though not necessarily the most profound: "Bob" is the name of the dark force that inhabits the Twin Peaks character who killed his own daughter. Bob also represents the darkness of consumable television violence. The father, on the other hand, represents a reality that's more difficult to digest, unless of course, you can swallow it whole before bedtime. As consumable television violence, next week Bob can move on to his next victim, thereby allowing the viewer to focus as briefly as possible on the collateral damage. Bob is both "the evil that men do" and a good enough cause to forget about it.
It's important to note how two parts of a whole can shift configurations while remaining two parts of a the same whole. One must broaden one's view of what constitutes the parts and not rely on standard definitions. An adequate inquiry into what constitutes the parts shifting of configurations reveals the excess of the whole as well as any or all of its constituent parts. This is compounded by the fact that any constituent part is a whole unto itself, depending on the object of inquiry.
As it relates to the many configurations of humans, no matter how bad things get for a particularly defined whole, there is a part that will insist upon another part's fault while ignoring their own contribution. To be sure, there is plenty of fault in the one part, but never does this make relativism of the fault of another part justifiable. It's understandable, depending on place and perspective, but not justifiable.
No matter the extreme, one should not ignore the excess standing at its shoulder. The extreme may seem so extreme that the excess is far afield. This view is also understandable. However, a closer look reveals less distance between what is extreme and what is excessive. The more extreme extreme gets over time, the more crucial it is to keep the excess in critical focus. When one gets caught up in the central importance of calling out the extreme, it gets far too easy to overlook the excess.
If we could remove overnight the current stream of extreme from existence, the excess would become extreme in the consequent light of day, though it is doubtful the new extreme would then recognise itself as such. The current stream of extreme cannot be removed overnight. Nor does it seem plausible that the excess will formally recognise its excess beyond a brief episode to merely acknowledge that one has acknowledged something and move on.
I am happy at least that last night when I recognised what amounted to yet another real-time teevee-like obsession in progress, it was my bedtime. Although the frightening episode had not been resolved, I stuck to my schedule and got a good night's sleep. I was able to observe the restoration of decorum in all its self-satisfied and self-damning flowery terminology in progress in the morning.
Maybe you stayed up late. Maybe you lost sleep. Maybe the satisfaction of the latest resolution is tempered this time. What could be consumed in a defined episode has a real "to be continued" quality. Naturally only more so, because this has been going on for some time. 
I'll finish this bit with one specific example, though not necessarily the most profound: Viewed only on its surface, mind you, if one wants to lay this at Bob's feet, it's easy. Just like the man for whom they'd storm the nobly adorned and impressively domed walls of politics, they are deficient of compassion and bent on revenge against a source of their problems they fail to correctly recognise and/or consider completely. That's going around, after all. The rest range from hurting to some degree, more or less lost and without purpose, or left with nothing to lose. Or firm in that belief. 
It's understandable that people would just want answers fed to them. But there really is more to it than that. To solve real problems, real questions need to be explored, which is a more difficult task but no less necessary as the drama gets more dramatic. And it will probably only get more difficult to have empathy for the characters, especially those seemingly without any themselves.