This is the first in a three-part installment on the work of David Lynch and its relationship to feminism, just in time for the long-awaited release of season 3 Twin Peaks on Showtime slated for 2016… or 2017.
“No, but really –“ I assured her as I started to pick up my pace, “most of his films pass the Bechdel test, and in fact more often than not feature women working cooperatively rather than antagonistically. The vast majority have what I would consider the kind of ‘strong female lead’ that would put feminist poster boy Joss Whedon’s work to shame!” I took a sip of my Twin Peaks-themed cocktail (the One Armed Man) at the bar of a local eatery which has kept them on the menu for the last year or so. I’d been attempting to win over another patron who admitted she’d never seen the show.
I went on to wax philosophic about how Mulholland Drive flipped the traditional film noir trope of the troubled dame rescued by the gruff gumshoe on its head by foisting the naïve and bubbly Betty (played by Naomi Watts) into the lesbian savior role in the enigmatic 2001 thriller. I cited Laura Dern’s masterful and grossly underrated performance in Inland Empire, portraying multiple characters ranging from prim and constrained to rough and gritty to fearful and confused in a nearly 3-hour existential clusterfuck that taps into the darkest parts of the self. I offered that 90’s pop culture icon Laura Palmer, (played by Sheryl Lee) in her more-than-meets-the-eye, homecoming-queen-gone-bad messiness, reads quite a bit like the title character in Donnie Darko – the fated, sacrificial Christ figure – with a Courtney Love twist.
Her eyes started to glaze over. Maybe I was edging into hypomania. Maybe I just have a lot of feelings about David Lynch.
The will-they-or-won’t-they do-si-do surrounding the Twin Peaks revival slated for 2016 has left many a fan (your faithful narrator included) twisting in agony. Will Showtime pony up the dough to make the dream of so many TP dorks come alive? Will the third season, 25 years in the making, have to be housed on Amazon or Netflix, allowing us to barricade ourselves in and binge watch with a pot of damn fine coffee and cherry pie? Will we have to cringe through racist, sexist, ableist, and transphobic stereotypes (for believe me, there were many) as we did with the original series?
If being a devotee of Lynch’s for the past 16 years has taught me anything, it’s that he loves to keep his fans guessing. This is the part that I connect with the most. You see, I’ve always been a fan of magic tricks, but I never want to know how they’re done. I have no interest. For me, that takes away all the fun. I remember watching Lost Highway with friends in one of our parents’ basements as teens, and afterward we discussed at length just what the fuck had happened in that movie. We developed theories, some infused with elements of mythology (Bill Pullman’s character gets a headache and becomes another person? Sounds like how Zeus birthed Athena to me). Some of them led us to dead ends (wait, but that hadn’t happened at that point in the film – had it?). The discussion was just as enjoyable as watching the film itself. In Mulholland Drive, Naomi Watts’s character actually finds mysterious puzzle pieces that don’t reveal their purpose until the very end. And even then the viewer is left perplexed and uneasy. (I won’t spoil it for you, but I’m also not sure that I could.)
Tune in next week for Part II, wherein we discuss where the feminism part comes in!
Photo credit: TVLine.com