Thursday, January 1, 2015
Critical voices and cherry pie
Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks is a comforting book for me - it serves as a very good reminder that I'm not the only one who gets dangerously obsessed and over-analytical about pop culture.
I've had this book for more than a year now but have had a hard time making myself read it; literary criticism is frequently dry and more frequently useless and for a while I just couldn't get into the collection. When I did I was sorely tempted to play a game for the rest of my life that involved never looking up either "hermeneutics" or "semiotic" simply because of how frequently the words got tossed out in these essays, but I just lost that game to myself and I'm satisfied that they're both the sort of four-dollar words that are useful only in identifying people who don't really have that much to say.
That's not to say that all of these essays were bad, or that there's no value in examining pop culture, but I do think this book has inspired me to go back and re-write all my college essays in a clearer, shorter, less bullshitty format.
"Introduction: The Semiotics of Cobbler - Twin Peaks' Interpretive Community" by David Lavery
Lavery makes the case for Twin Peaks as a cult phenomenon based on the definition of cult as ordered by Umberto Eco and discusses the series as a same-kind-of-different Soap Opera.
"Bad Ideas: The Art and Politics of Twin Peaks" by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Rosenbaum examines what he considers to be the artistic devolution of David Lynch with Twin Peaks as the culmination of bad taste and watered-down art.
"The Peaks and Valleys of Serial Creativity: What happened to/on Twin Peaks" by Marc Dolan
Dolan does a very good job of picking apart exactly what kind of TV show Twin Peaks was and why this led to its downfall - network representations and audience expectations converged with a changing narrative style to create a perfect storm of perfectly predictable failure.
"'Do You Enjoy Making the Rest of Us Feel Stupid?': alt.tv.twinpeaks, the Trickster Author, and Viewer Mastery" by Henry Jenkins
Jenkins describes his experience with usenet group reactions to Twin Peaks as well as the fascinating early analysis of the show documented in the groups. He explores the investment of alt.tv.twinpeaks contributors to the show and their pernicious relationship with Lynch and Frost as intentionally screwball creators. *The unintentionally hilarious first three pages of this essay are a wonderful time capsule of an era when an academic would have to explain what things like email and the internet are to their audience, and made reading the entire collection totally worthwhile for me*
"Family Romance, Family Violence, and the Fantastic in Twin Peaks" by Diane Stevenson
Stevenson gets bonus points for excluding a colon from her title, but also for making a compelling argument about Lynch's evolving presentation of family violence and child abuse in his films and the role that society allows family violence to have in its fiction.
"'Disturbing the Guests with this Racket:' Music and Twin Peaks" by Kathryn Kalinak
Kalinak's essay is wonderfully original and unexpected - she takes a look at Angelo Badalamenti's bizarre score and explores its unique and disconcerting use of exhausted musical cues to undermine the reality of the show and create the strange world that obsessed so many viewers.
"The Canonization of Laura Palmer" by Christy Desmet
Desmet attempts to find Laura's place on the Madonna/Whore sliding score and argues that Laura is built to break down the trope while existing in a fictional universe that relies heavily on the stereotyping of women.
"Lynching Women: a Feminist Reading of Twin Peaks" by Diana Hume George
Hume George skewers Twin Peaks as an attempted-subversive work that ends up reinforcing the ideals and strictures of the patriarchy. I'm inclined to argue with her but I guess that's an entry for another day.
"Double Talk in Twin Peaks" by Alice Kuzniar
Kuzniar explores puns based on sense words in this essay. I'm not really sure why, though she comes to the general conclusion that the sight/sound puns contribute to insidious sexism. A funny essay, but rampantly incohearent.
"Infinite Games: The Decentralization of Detection in Twin Peaks" by Angela Hague
Hague makes a fascinating study of detective tropes in this essay and attempts to place Dale Cooper as outside the scale of traditional detectives, showing that he is neither wholly intuitive nor rational but comfortable in a blending and blurring of traditional fictional detection.
"Desire Under the Douglas Firs: Entering the Body of Reality in Twin Peaks" by Martha Nochimson
Nochimson explores the atypical maleness of Cooper and why his non-standard comfort with emotions and intuition both makes him vulnerable to the darkness in the woods and a brilliant avatar for the town.
"The Dis-Order of Things in Twin Peaks" by J.P. Telotte
Telotte has a hell of a lot of sign-siginfier going on here that is both obvious and a bit of a fucking reach. There's nothing inherently wrong with a lot of the arguments, but why make them?
"Postmodernism and Television: Speaking of Twin Peaks" by Jimmie L. Reeves, Elizabeth Brent, Richard Campbell, Herb Eagle, Jennifer Jenkins, Marc C. Rogers, Lisa Saaf, and Nabeel Zuberi
Fuck all of these people. An edited transcript of a several-hours-long conversation that can't come to terms about what is or isn't postmodernism and whether or not Twin Peaks does or doesn't fit that not-definition isn't a critical essay worthy of publication, it's a perfect example of why engineering majors make fun of the humanities department. Congratulations: for anyone who's been searching for the origin of the irony conversation that hipsters are so wrapped up in, I've found it. This piece was so bad that the fact of its publication makes me embarrassed to have a degree in English Lit.
Ed. Lavery, David. Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks. Wayne State University Press. Detroit: Michigan. 1995.