Male Violence Outside the Red Room: A Review of Twin Peaks

Writing by Eliza Quinn

The return of Twin Peaks marked for fans the homecoming of one of televisions most enigmatic and challenging shows to our screens. Director David Lynch has long been known for bringing the avant garde to the mainstream, and for many Twin Peaks was his magnum opus, an exploration of a sleepy little town that became the centre of dark and mysterious forces. Nobody knew what to expect from the reboot, but we felt assured it would be anything but conventional. And yes, as I watched each week, I found myself dismayed by how Lynch has inadventerntly reinforced one of our most common beliefs when it comes to men and violence – that they are otherwordly, that their actions and beliefs are due to something in their psyche that is different to ours. Tom Meagher articulated this concept in the most heartbreaking way, when describing his courtroom encounter with his wife Jill’s muderer – “I had formed an image that this man was not human, that he existed as a singular force of pure evil who somehow emerged from the ether.”

This could almost be a synopsis of Agent Cooper’s doppelganger, who emerged from the Black Lodge at the end of Twin Peak’s second season, and who spent much of the reboot inflicting violence on anyone unfortunate enough to come near him. He is the antithesis of Agent Cooper, forged from the same supernatural forces that created BOB, the show’s original killer. One of the most disturbing scenes of the entire season was Diane’s confrontation of Doppelganger Cooper, haunted by the memory of her last encounter with him – she repeatedly asks “Who are you?” and insists that the man in front of her is not the Dale Cooper she once knew. Later in the season, Diane tearfully confesses she was raped by the Doppelganger, reinforcing the contrast between the kind, generous Cooper we know and love, and the darkness and evil of his Red Room counterpart.

But Doppelganger Cooper was not the only menace lurking within the town of Twin Peaks, which we learn when we meet Richard Horne. Our first introduction to Richard is sitting in the Bang Bang Bar, smoking a cigarette in flagrant disregard for the ‘No Smoking’ sign above him. A pretty girl leans over to ask him for a light and he invites her to sit down. He suddenly grabs her by the neck and pulls her to him saying “I’m gonna laugh when I fuck you bitch.” Sexual assault is our first sign that there is something evil within Richard, and as he goes on to run over a small child and brutally beat up the woman who witnessed it, his proclivity towards violence is clear. And then, in one of the final episodes, we received confirmation of fan theories that had been swirling around the internet for months – Doppelganger Cooper sends Richard to his death, saying “Goodbye my son”. We now know that the forces of the Black Lodge run through Richard’s veins, an explanation for the violence Richard inflicts on everyone around him and the callousness with which he does so. It also leaves yet another troubling implication – because his mother Audrey was incapacitated after an explosion at the end of season two, Richard was likely conceived through rape.

The otherworldly nature of male violence in Twin Peaks not only strengthens the division of Good and Evil in the show, but it also allows the female victims to become symbolic motifs, rather than fully fleshed out characters. Time and time again, women’s naked bodies are planted as clues, as objects to be uncovered. One example is when FBI Agents find a body in a deserted lot in South Dakota – after discovering Ruth Davenport’s decapitated head in the first episode, it seems they have uncovered the rest of her. She is fully naked, splayed on the ground and there are several shots of her headless torso, breasts on display. There are co-ordinates on her arm which the FBI makes note of. She is not mentioned again.

This scene is echoed when Twin Peaks’ police officers Frank, Hawk, Bobby and Andy go into the woods on the instructions of Bobby’s deceased father Major Briggs. There, they find a woman with no eyes nestled amongst the roots of trees. Once again, she is entirely naked. Andy respectfully carries her out of the woods wrapped in his jacket, but not before the audience has enjoyed several lingering shots of her naked body. These two women are not characters but symbols, either there to provide some logistical information so that the story may continue on, or else so that they can reinforce the mysterious nature of the worlds-upon-worlds that Twin Peaks is famous for.

Twin Peaks has captivated viewers for decades because of the way it layers other worlds on top of our own, for its characters that are both strange and lovable and inherently watchable. But as I sit at home, watching Twin Peaks with my boyfriend on a Saturday night, I can’t help but remember that as a young woman in Australia, it is the most dangerous place for me to be – the place where I am most likely to be a victim of violence. And I can’t switch off in the way I might once have been able to. I can’t see these women’s dead bodies without remembering the bodies of women I have loved and lost to male violence. I can’t look at Doppelganger Cooper or Richard Horne without remembering the faces of men I’d rather forget. Twin Peaks blurs the lines between the forces of evil and our world, allowing each to cross over into the other, but all the while making it clear that they are separate entities. But the fact is, these monsters don’t come from the Black Lodge, and we do not need to open supernatural portals or cross over into their world to find them. They’ve been here the whole time.


Eliza Quinn

Eliza is a performer, writer and general maker-of- things from Melbourne. She graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Performing Arts in 2015 and has since gone on to travel and work in the Melbourne arts community. She wants to change the world through art and magic, and when she isn’t doing that, she is usually patting other people’s dogs. You can follow her on Instagram here.

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