Beyond the Red Room, Tape #1: (Performative) Reflections on “Twin Peaks”

Hello Diane,

The date is May 17, 2017. 6:02 PM. I am wearing my black standard-issue FBI suit, a white collared button-down shirt, and a purple tie. My hair is slicked into a neat side part. It’s too hot in Florida for this getup.

For breakfast I am having peach jerk chicken sausages. Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which a combination of spices is rubbed onto the meat and left to marinate. From the look of these sausages, their preparation is far from traditional Jamaican. And the addition of the peach might be considered odd and Americanized if we were, say, in Kingston. Isn’t it also fascinating how a cooking tradition like Jamaican jerk that was “inspired” — I use that term loosely — by slavery has been repackaged for actual Western consumption in this way? Capitalism never fails to amaze me.

Update: The sausages held true to their jerk and were maybe too spicy for first thing in the morning. But the peach was nowhere to be found. I’ll get some pie later to compensate.

As for the current task at hand, I am simultaneously brimming with ideas and have no idea where to start. Why should I, a half white, half Sri Lankan, 38-year-old adult Third Culture Kid who has lived in 13 countries and 18 cities around the world have spent the better part of the past 20 years obsessed with the American mountain town of Twin Peaks?

Its residents inspired my novels. Remind me, Diane, to show you the watercolor portrait that artist Rose Deniz made of my American Monsters character Skreem, whose story was inspired by Sarah Palmer and was my overt homage to Lynch and Frost’s work.

“Skreem,” by Rose Deniz for Sezin Koehler’s American Monsters.

I often dream I am in Twin Peaks. And when I awake exhausted and muscles aching as if I’ve been running. Or flying.

All you have to do is mention Laura Palmer and my eyes will prick with tears. All you have to do is say the word BOB and my skin crawls. I cannot see the actor Ray Wise as anything other than daughter-rapist Leland Palmer. It’s unfair, but can’t be helped.

Let’s consider this the introduction to an evolving performative writing project.

Diane, please note the following:

  1. I’m looking for other people of color, and in particular women, who would also consider themselves Twin Peaks residents. I want to know why. What brought them here? What brings them back? There aren’t many of us, and I want to find the few who are out there.
  2. Can The Black Lodge be read through the lens of geopolitics? What does it suggest about socio-cultural liminality? Can we code The Black Lodge through the current disintegration of the American government vis a vis The Orange King?
  3. Why does Twin Peaks’s whiteness get a pass when I hold all other white-focused narratives to hard task? My first instinct is to say there is something archetypal about the town, its residents, and its music. Like how in Indian paintings darker skin is indicated with the color blue. Have other people of color also found their own ways to reconcile the show’s overwhelming lack of diversity? Will this change in the new hours of Season 3?
  4. And what of the also overwhelming heteronormativity of Twin Peaks? Are there really no gay people in town or are they well-ensconced in the closet?
  5. It goes without saying that discussions about rape, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, and sexual abuse will always be relevant. This is a universal truth for women and many others — evergreen as the woods in Twin Peaks. However, we also need to acknowledge all the black and brown women who are murdered and whose names do not become household names like Laura Palmer. Can we co-opt Laura to bring attention to those women?
  6. Just as Twin Peaks the place becomes a character, so does the music. What primal resonance does the score invoke?
  7. Kafka said Prague is “the little mother with claws.” For me, Twin Peaks is the bespeckled woman with her sentient log. What is Twin Peaks to others?
  8. The place, the residents, the music, and the art. We will have to consider these aspects individually and as a whole.
  9. Is there a way center the experiences of the marginalized bit players of color through performative writing? It is certainly problematic that the majority of people of color on the show are in service positions.
  10. I am fascinated by the idea of imaginary tourism. Like with Stars Hollow, Tree Hill, Sunnyvale, Hogwarts, and others, how do fictional towns in particular serve people whose identities are not grounded in a traditional sense of home like yours truly? Or people who are afraid to travel at the moment for socio-political reasons?
  11. There is Twin Peaks, and there is Twin Peaks. The former is a town; the latter is a canon of surrealist art production under the guise of a television show and film. Just like the doppelgangers in both iterations, these things are related (often only superficially) but are not the same.
  12. A disproportionate amount of women approach the presence of BOB in Twin Peaks as a metaphor for the evil that (gender-specific) men do and they take his presence personally in many respects. On the other hand, more male Twin Peaks fans approach BOB’s construction from a theoretical and academic standpoint in arguments not about the specific acts of violence against women BOB committed, but about his motivation and key role in the framework of The Black Lodge. We need to look closely at these highly gendered and extremely disparate approaches to BOB.
  13. Please keep reminding me to be productive with my obsession. I would hate to downward spiral and produce a series of inscrutable texts that will make sense only to me. Or should I? Is that the nature of obsession, to spin out, to lose oneself in the object of one’s obsessions? Or must we curtail these passions, reining them in as we would a magician’s dove? I would especially value your thoughts on this point, Diane.
  14. Oh, and before I forget: Please remind me I need not control this narrative in the same way I would one of my novels. I want these texts to breathe. I don’t want them constrained like Harold Smith’s indoor orchids that long for outside air. I want them to become a home, too. A repository not just for my own musings and interpretations, but for others’ too. The moment you notice me keeping these intertexts prisoner you must speak out. I do often have that hoarder’s tendency.

There is so much more. But this is a good start.

Diane, I am thrilled to finally be getting to the bottom of these mysteries and lines of inquiry that have plagued me my entire adult life. And I say that without the least bit of hyperbole.

Oh, and remind me never to try peach jerk chicken sausages again. The resulting acid reflux is something awful.

Until soon and always fondly,

Zuzu Cooper,

Special Agent, Feminist Bureau of Investigations

red room and statue

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Diane’s Changelog:

May 17, 2017. 11:35 PM. As per the agent’s instructions, additions about heteronormativity (Point 4) and Hogwarts (Point 10) were added to the final transcript.

June 11, 2017. 5:28 PM. As per agent’s instructions, Point 12 regarding the gendered interpretations of BOB included in the final transcript.

Written by Sezín Koehler

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