Welcome to Diane… number 3.

Adam, Rosie and Bob are overcome by an apopheniac frenzy while poring over the first proper episode of Twin Peaks. Journeying into the Hollywood, eaten by wolves, stalked by 80s serial killers and positively flapping in fish, our plucky sleuths start surveying the scene, asking questions and making lots of connections.

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But will they know when to stop?

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26 Responses to “Diane… #3: Twin Peaks Episode 1 – Traces to Nowhere”

  1. Spare 5 Says:

    Ever notice how the image of The Magician tarot card looks like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever?

    Could an upside Cooper be read as representing The Hanged Man, representing sacrifice for knowledge (specifically knowledge about death, according to Wikipedia)

  2. Adam Says:

    To properly address that we might have to get spoilery

  3. Spare 5 Says:

    Fair enough, the Dance competition episode is pretty pivotal.

  4. Zakaria Says:

    Spare 5, I thought the exact same thing when I looked up the TP Tarot Deck and saw Jacobi as the hanged man.

    The rest of the deck was so spot on. But with the hanged man I couldn’t help but think of Coop doing his morning exercise routine.

    Which then reminded me of Odin on the tree… and down the rabbit hole we go.

  5. Alan Says:

    Hi Adam, Rosie and Bob. I’m a first–time commenter, though I’ve been listening to Diane since you started. Thank you for this podcast! It’s been very entertaining to listen to your deep analysis of Twin Peaks, and you have me thinking about many details of the show I hadn’t considered before.

    I thought I might be able to weigh in on some of the Americana you have touched on in the podcast so far; specifically, Laura’s extracurricular activities and her homecoming queen photo.

    Being homecoming queen in American high school is considered to be a very particular honor, even though it is generally done by ballot amongst the 11th and 12th grade students, and being pretty and popular are generally the only prerequisites of getting nominated for the role. Nonetheless, being homecoming queen is something that people in many parts of the U.S. carry with them as part of their reputation for years and even decades following high school. It is an identity of sorts; one very specifically American archetype of the “perfect girl.” The values people impress upon that identity tend to be ones like “purity,” “beauty,” “vivacity,” etc. Young men in American society are sometimes graced with a particular air of attractiveness or virility should they happen to have dated a high school homecoming queen. The glow associated with the honor can sort of radiate onto young men romantically linked to the queen.

    So there is a kind of persistent image that goes with that award. American TV audiences, watching Twin Peaks at the time of broadcast, or even just seeing the famous “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” ad campaign for the show, which featured Laura’s homecoming portrait, would immediately make a group of assumptions about who this is who has been killed: it’s essentially “miss teen USA,” crossed with the veritable “girl next door”––a person at once friendly, pretty and approachable, and at the same time an icon of American beauty and success. This may partially account for the way in which, as you remarked in the podcast, everyone in the town seems to know that Laura has died before they are told so. In the sense that Twin Peaks is supposed to represent a 50s ideal of “small–town America,” there’s a pall over the town in many ways, right from the start. The Norwegians are there to buy up the town. Industry is shutting down (if only for the day of the pilot). There is a sense of slippage, of people crossing borders, and infiltrating the town. Josie Packard, in her first, somewhat exotic appearance, is clearly marked as a sort of “invader” into small–town America. Canadians slip across the border, spirits cross from another world into the woods outside town. In the midst of this atmosphere, the homecoming queen being killed is the capper to a bad season, or a bad year, or a bad decade. It’s the capstone to the small-town conservative’s feeling that values are eroding, that a halcyon society is collapsing. In the 90s, the people of Twin Peaks seem to feel their own extinction at hand, at least in the back of their minds.

    There was also, for US viewers, a particular dissonance created when Cooper finds cocaine in Laura’s safety deposit box. That the presumedly “pure” and “true” homecoming queen would have a secret life of vice was a very subversive idea, even in the early 90s. That she had secret lovers and a life of erotic exploitation, as well as countless other shady dealings, created a remarkable contrast with the image American viewers would have of the homecoming queen, carrier of their communal values.

    As you pointed out last episode, Laura’s copious extracurricular activities are to bolster her CV for college applications. Highly ranked 4–year Universities in the U.S. often decide between admitting students of equal academic achievement by looking to the respective students’ extracurriculars. What is more, there are extracurriculars which are rated more favorably than others––community service is considered high–value, but so is academic decathlon. Band and choir are generally looked upon as less valuable, unless the student is trying to enter a music program. Activities sponsored by the school, or by school–affiliated organizations, are rated more impressive credentials than activities taken up outside of the domain of school. But a student with a large range o extracurricular activities is generally rated very highly by college admissions boards. So Laura’s language practice with Josie Packard, coupled with the later activities mentioned, like the food program she does for Norma, are ways in which the filmmakers make clear for the U.S. audiences that Laura was aimed at a very bright academic future. Now, as to her second set of extracurricular activities––the ones she wouldn’t be putting on a college application, and which I won’t spoil for listeners––again there is a kind of contrasting image. Suffice to say, the impression we are given of Laura in the pilot and the first episode, as well as later on, is one of two distinct high school archetypes. There is the “good” girl: a successful student, loyal girlfriend to the star quarterback, homecoming queen, civic and community–service-minded, seeming to care about everyone around her in appropriate measure. There is the other archetype, which might be termed “trouble.” That’s the girl with many lovers, stringing people along, seducing and abandoning, taking or dealing drugs––a sexual neurotic and chronic manipulator, who is perceived to be eating the community apart from the inside. That double–image of Laura, the “good” girl and “trouble,” superimposed upon one another, is I think a key narrative mechanism of Twin Peaks, where there are doubles of nearly everything.

  6. Rosie Says:

    I totally had the same thought re upside down Cooper. Think we’re on a different deck to you though Zakaria I’m using Clare Laffar’s lovely deck which has a different person for the hanged man and is definitely a spoiler so I won’t say.

    The John Travolta connection is very strong Spare 5! Presumably as an Operating Thetan he is also capable of manipulating all of the elements.

  7. Rosie Says:

    Alan thank you so much for taking the time to comment. That’s some really lovely ethnographic detail and exactly the kind of thing I could read forever.

    It had never occurred to me that all of these extracurricular activities suggested Laura was supposed to be going places academically. That’s extremely sad to me.

    I also hadn’t thought about how Twin Peaks has a kind of greyness to it as a town right from the outset, not just because of the different filming location. Possibly the elderly, doddering Mayor Milford in the pilot, completely out of touch and rather frail looking, is another suggestion of this.

    Lovely to have you on board! :)

  8. Zakaria Says:

    @Rosie

    Huh, apparently there are multiple TP Tarot decks.
    I was looking at the Benjamin Mackey deck.

    http://welcometotwinpeaks.com/inspiration/twin-peaks-tarot-cards/

  9. Adam Says:

    Alan, those are some lovely insights, dude.

    The sense of decay, linked largely to conservative values, is something I’ve wanted to get into but have been trying to figure out the right time.

    It’s easy to get lost in the idea that Twin Peaks is a commentary on a certain kind of anxiety about US culture, in part because, yeah, it *is*. The difficulty from my perspective is that a poorly articulated version of that reading had become dominant in large swathes of the fandom, and imo that’s a shame, because it tends towards a reductive reading of the show that I’m very resistant to.

    Does that make sense?

  10. Adam Says:

    Come to think of it, Alan. I know exactly the right time. Won’t talk about it now because I don’t wanna get spoilery.

    You’ll be mentioned! Keep commenting,

  11. Adam Says:

    Zakaria, Rosie’s into the Laffar deck. I LOVE the Mackey deck.

    Such conflict

    #team mackey

  12. Alan Says:

    Hi Rosie and Adam, thank you for the kind words. I can see how reductive it can be to read the show purely as a commentary on Eisenhower–era values going sour. As someone who has largely kept away from the fandom for the show, I haven’t experienced much of that viewpoint or analysis. For myself, I think that is one of those elements of the show Lynch and Frost posit as a sort of an implicit premise––a launching point, even––especially in the first half of the pilot episode. But I think they have a lot more on their minds, and in a way, that sense of degradation is contradicted or “burned off” by the way the town is actually so rich in resilient weirdness. Lynch seems to have way more faith in the town of this series, for instance, than he does in the Hollywood he depicts in Mulholland Drive. That place is pretty much certain doom for the young women who arrive there, whereas some of Lynch’s endangered women might yet survive Twin Peaks.

    There’s also a way in which the show constantly presents us with premises like these, only to overlay them with entirely different or opposing premises shortly following. This is really clear by the way in the space of two episodes, we’re introduced to an entirely “good” Laura and then shown an entirely “bad” one. While the two images contradict one another, they never quite dispel one another; instead, the “good” and “bad” Lauras remain superimposed on one another as we continue to uncover her movements and her qualities along with the detectives. In a way Laura is both creatures, the “good” girl and the “bad” one, at once.

    I think as the series goes on, Lynch and Frost use this technique in more complicated ways, presenting us with paradigm upon paradigm of Twin Peaks itself. It is a typical American small town, and in a way an ideal and idealized soap opera setting. But it’s also a secret spiritual landscape for the peoples that lived in the area long before the United States existed, and that idea becomes an increasingly dominant overlay––even if it’s never explored in any consciously ethnographic way. The town is a decaying space for many of the residents, who feel trapped there, wasting away on fallow ground. But it’s also the site of bounty and conquest for invaders, like the Norwegians, or the Canadian figures later to appear. The layering of idea upon idea like this makes the show much richer, and helps me to see the idea of the degrading town as part of a more complicated series of “takes” on the setting, gradually posited by the shows’ creators.

    Another interesting thing to comment upon, though you all have been more concerned with character than actor so far in your analysis is the casting of Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn as Benjamin Horne and Dr. Jacoby. 30 years prior to Twin Peaks, Beymer was Tony and Tamblyn was Riff in the film of West Side Story. They have about half a dozen scenes together in that film, as the founders of the Jets, with Tamblyn the leader and Beymer the former leader. Their interaction on Twin Peaks never seemed to allude to this in a self-conscious way, but it always struck me as odd to see them together again, as if the casting was a deliberate nod to…to something or other. I’ve never been able to parse it out in a meaningful way.

  13. Adam Says:

    To be clear, I wasn’t saying that you were being reductive, Alan – everything you’ve said has elicited STRONG AGREEMENT – just that there’s a section of fandom who routinely argue that Twin Peaks is best understood as allegory. I want to kick against that because, well… it kinda sucks the life out of it.

    Stories are always bigger and weirder than what they’re about, even if what they’re about is well worth discussing. That goes extra for Twin Peaks.

    I know what you mean about Tamblyn and Beymer. I’d just add that as much as I love all the behind the scenes stories and apocrypha and how they intersect with the show*, we’ve made a conscious decision to go light on that stuff. Other podcasts have done a superb job covering the making of angle, annotating everything, etc… (Fire Talk With Me is maybe the best – check it out), so we’ve decided to focus our energies elsewhere, at least for the time being. Hope that doesn’t disappoint.

    *Currently ploughing through the new best of Wrapped in Plastic book. It is so good! Recommend.

  14. Rosie Says:

    I’ve not really read much (any!) critical analysis of the show either Alan so the TP as allegory stuff is new to me. Love this btw:

    “It is a typical American small town, and in a way an ideal and idealized soap opera setting. But it’s also a secret spiritual landscape for the peoples that lived in the area long before the United States existed, and that idea becomes an increasingly dominant overlay”

    Which, yes. Absolutely. Even if as you say it’s not being done with great concern for fidelity. The landscape is kind of tortured with various different geographies occupying this one space.

    Tamblyn’s musical background was something I was completely meaning to bring up on the episode we’ve just recorded but forgot. He was in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers! It is the best musical of all time! I actually didn’t know that Tamblyn and Beymer were in WSS together, that’s fabulous. It comes up in one of the next episodes we’re doing but I think TP is a show that benefits enormously from having a lot of actors who can dance.

  15. Adam Says:

    Ditto on Alan’s para you quoted, Rosie. Awesome stuff.

  16. Adam Says:

    Alan, I meant to recommend Twin Peaks Unwrapped not Fire Talk With Me. FTWE is a smart newbie’s take on the show with regular special guest appearances from celebs and industry types. It’s a great reminder of your first watch through – very, fresh and energised.

  17. Alan Says:

    I had no idea there were such resources. I’m eager to take a look at Twin Peaks Unwrapped, especially.

    Do you plan at any point to discuss the European version of the pilot episode? I assume since you hadn’t yet that it wasn’t the version shown in the United Kingdom? I was a little young to see Twin Peaks during its television run, and I ended up watching the first season on VHS, initially. On VHS, in the US, the version of the pilot available was the European cut, with the hospital sequences, with Mike and Bob, Cooper’s very cool “make a wish” line, and the full version of the red room dream Cooper recalls in later episodes. It surprised me, rewatching the series on blu ray, that the US broadcast version didn’t include all that material. I always wonder what it would have been like to experience the series without those elements––it seems as if a lot of the mystery’s various tangents would seem more perplexing and random.

  18. Adam Says:

    We definitely discussed it on one of the podcasts – I had it in my head that it was this one. Maybe one of the others can remember?

    I suspect we’ll go into more detail on the euro pilot when we hit the fallower parts of S2. I’ve never seen it!

  19. Anton B Says:

    Just want to say I’m loving this podcast. I concur with the hanged man references. I think I even thought it at the time (I’m a bit older than you guys. When TP was first broadcast on the BBC I was studying TV production and had just directed a video on tarot reading)

    Thanks also for the ‘Wrapped in Plastic’ book recommend. Immediately bought it on Kindle. I had a couple of issues of the original magazine which I found in a bargain bin in Forbidden Planet in the nineties.

    Brilliant additions and commentary from Alan above. I don’t expect I’ll manage to be half as informative but I’d love to chip in some comments here from time to time if that’s okay. Twin Peaks (and Lynch’s work in general) resonate with me on so many levels. I teach drama, so I’m particularly interested in the acting decisions and the direction. The use of symmetry in the camera placement in scenes,the way a shot will often include an incongruity in the set dressing (one example – antlers on a wall behind a character’s head which any other director would have framed asymmetrically but Lynch places dead centre) are a source of pleasure to me.

    Thanks again for giving me something intelligent and illuminating to listen to on the bus. Btw I live in Brighton too so Rosie’s opening scene setting “It’s…o’clock in the south coast town of Brighton” always makes me smile.

  20. Adam Says:

    The more the merrier, Anton. Would be keen to hear your thoughts on the acting and the direction!

    Brighton>Twin Peaks. Just a fact.

  21. Rosie Says:

    Welcome Anton thank you so much for the kind words! Sounds like you have some very relevant experience for our interests, any discussion you could bring would be fabulous.

    Always nice to see more Brighton peeps online as well! Adam clearly totally wrong about Brighton being better than Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks has more convincing eccentrics and owls are cooler than seagulls. Similar amounts of people wearing plaid of course.

  22. Anton B Says:

    Thanks guys.
    The scene I’m most looking forward to you discussing is Coop’s throwing stones at bottles method of divination/lecture on Tibet in the woods. Is that in the next episode? It cracks me up every time. The way Lucy, Hawk and Truman courteously give Cooper the benefit of the doubt and join in the shenanigans while Sheriff Andy (in what will become something of a motif) suffers a head injury in the course of assisting the investigation.
    “No sense, no feeling” Andy really is the embodiment of the fool in Tarot.
    The woods and the matter of wood itself is such an important element. Going back to Tarot imagery – A.E Waite says of the Hanged Man card in his ‘Pictorial Key to the Tarot

    ‘It should be noted (1) that the tree of sacrifice is living wood, with leaves thereon; (2) that the face expresses deep entrancement, not suffering; (3) that the figure, as a whole, suggests life in suspension, but life and not death. [...] It has been called falsely a card of martyrdom, a card of prudence, a card of the Great Work, a card of duty [...] I will say very simply on my own part that it expresses the relation, in one of its aspects, between the Divine and the Universe.’
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/pkt/pktar12.htm

  23. Adam Says:

    I can’t argue with owls being better than man’s worst enemy, the seagull

    Anton, you are clearly one of us. I have nothing to add about tarot because it’s a blank spot in my world. On the other hand, we might have said a thing or two about the bottle throwing episode http://diane.libsyn.com/

  24. Adam Says:

    Scroll ye down to Zen or the Skill to Catch a Killer

  25. Anton B Says:

    Yay! Episode four! I’ve been waiting till it dropped on the Mindless Ones site. (I also enjoy Silence!) I’ve bookmarked Diane now. Will listen and comment later.

    As to Owls v Seagulls/Twin Peaks v Brighton

    A seagull nicked my Grubbs veggie burger on the beach once, which an owl has never done. On the other hand Brighton has it’s very own ‘dark underbelly beneath the glossy veneer’ which I’m sure Lynch would appreciate.

  26. Adam Says:

    Assuming he can handle sea, I reckon Lynch would go apeshit for the docks at my end of town (Fishersgate). A lovely, ugly industrial landscape.

    Seagull nicked my sandwich, from my hand I might add, on the UoS campus once.

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