The content discussed below may be difficult for some people. Please proceed with caution.
Mr. C: I knew it was going to be you. It’s good to see you again Diane.
Diane: Oh yeah, when was that Cooper? When did we see each other last?
Mr. C: Are you upset with me, Diane?
Diane: What do you think?
Mr. C: I think you’re upset with me.
Diane: When was the last time we saw each other, Cooper?
Mr. C: At your house.
Diane: That’s right. Do you remember that night?
Mr. C: I’ll always remember that night.
Diane: Same for me. I’ll never forget it. Who are you?
Mr. C: I don’t know what you mean, Diane.
Diane: Look at me. Look at me!
One of the more unpalatable things to come out of hour 7 of Twin Peaks: The Return was the not-so-subtle suggestion that something truly heinous happened between “Cooper” and Diane the last time they saw each other. From the context of that scene, it appears this event took place after DoppelCoop left the Lodge and Twin Peaks. Also from context—from Diane’s psychological cues, her physical reaction to being in Mr. C’s presence, and the words she uses to describe the events in question—we come to a truly horrifying conclusion: that it is entirely possible DoppelCoop violated Diane’s trust, the sanctity and safety of her home, and their friendship through some kind of assault.
It’s a disgusting thought: that DoppelCoop, wearing the face of virtuous Eagle Scout Dale Cooper, could have (emotionally, physically, and/or sexually) assaulted Diane, his longtime confidante and colleague. But after watching the scene between them in Yankton Federal Prison, I cannot imagine any other scenario that fits.
Diane’s words are enough for me to believe that a great evil was visited upon her one night many years ago. But even if they weren’t, her non-verbal responses around this meeting in South Dakota would have convinced me that something heavy was weighing her down. She is a heavy drinker. She has put up a wall around her that keeps Albert Rosenfield and Gordon Cole at a considerable distance. She is quick to anger. She seems fearful and distrustful, and even when surrounded by people (in Max Von’s) she is an island unto herself, isolated from her surroundings. Her appearance suggests something of a costume—a fairly obvious wig (although perhaps that is just obvious because it is so different from Laura Dern’s golden blonde hair) and Asian-inspired clothing, including a samurai-like outfit worn to the prison—which may be acting as a kind of suit of armour to protect her from the dangers that exist out there beyond her control. And yet, when all is said and done, the vulnerability she shows in her debrief with Gordon is noteworthy. With her words added into the mix, the picture comes into focus: Diane is exhibiting classic signs and symptoms of someone who has experienced sexual violence.
A common theme that has dominated the discussion on social media since the airing of Part 7 is the disbelief that many have that this could be possible.
“Maybe Diane and Cooper had a relationship but Cooper fell in love with Annie and broke Diane’s heart and she never forgave him?” “Maybe they had a one-night stand and he left her high-and-dry without returning her affections?” “Maybe Diane is clairvoyant or psychic and can read Mr. C’s mind to see the truth of it all?” “Surely David Lynch wouldn’t go there! I’ll never forgive him if he does!”
It is understandable that people would want to distance themselves from the worst read of this situation. Nobody wants to be confronted with the reality of sexual violence, even in fiction, and the cognitive dissonance associated with reconciling the Agent Cooper we know and love with the possibility that he1 raped Diane is intense. But the seemingly knee-jerk pretzel-logic people have been engaging in to try to explain this in some other way is troubling. We don’t know enough to say for certain whether this is what happened, but the implication exists, however awful it is, and shying away from that reality in favour of tired tropes—the starry-eyed lover; the jealous crush; the woman scorned—belittles the experiences that Diane has gone through, the ones written on her face, visible in her walk and each shuddering breath she takes as she tries to compose herself before, during, and after her encounter with Mr. C. These cues read to many like a confrontation between a victim and her abuser2. We need to be open the possibility that this happened.
That this is not a woman who was simply stood up.
That the reality is very likely much worse.
We know that Mr. C is capable of doing evil things. Already, on screen, we’ve seen him murder three people; it’s strongly implied that he is involved in some way with the murder of Ruth Davenport and the FBI’s “man in Colombia” as well as countless other incidents over the years which we are not yet privy to. We never see him display any sense of remorse or concern for the human lives he takes or messes with. If he has no compunction about taking another life, it stands to reason that he’s never batted an eye over any other crimes either.
There’s no question in my mind that Mr. C is capable of committing all manner of hideous acts, and this goes doubly true for the moments when BOB is “with” Mr. C.
So what about BOB? We know from the original series and especially from Fire Walk With Me that BOB (when possessing Leland) used his host to visit unconscionable acts on Laura; the same would almost certainly hold true if BOB were with Cooper’s doppelganger after he left the Lodge. Since BOB’s main motivation is to feed on “fear and the pleasures” as a means of cultivating garmonbozia, what better way would there be than for BOB to influence (at best—a demon at the wheel within the body of our once-upon-a-time hero) or tag along (at worst—implying Coop was the one in charge) with DoppelCoop as he worked his way into the lives of the people he cared most about. BOB would inflict damages in the only way he knows how: with sexual violence.
To further add a layer to the already repugnant story we’re dealing with, the news from Doc Hayward early in Part 7 that “Cooper” was seen at the hospital in the ICU, coupled with Doc’s assumption that he was there to look in on a comatose, post-bank-explosion Audrey Horne, unfurls another rotten leaf on this terrible vine. Is it possible that DoppelCoop assaulted Audrey as well?
Yes Bob is bottomless appetite but the direction of his desire is filtered through his host. For Leland it was Laura, for Cooper its Audrey
— Michael Honeyman (@MikeHoneyman) June 21, 2017
This feeds into the fan theory that Richard Horne is not only Audrey’s son but may also have been fathered by DoppelCoop3, and that this is why he appears to be such an evil little goblin—he is half-Horne and half-Lodge. Again, however, the visceral reaction from people online puts into sharp relief just how quick we are to brush aside the very real notion that a crime like this could occur.
Aside from being somewhat philosophically unsound—increasing the number of assumptions in order to make your case can very often render your explanation more unlikely than the simpler argument beside it—it is also potentially problematic for what it says about our treatment of victims. This viewpoint relies on the “just-world fallacy” for its existence, and herein lies the problem. In rationalizing an inexplicable act by dismissing the most obvious scenario, we are both minimizing the potential truth of the situation and inadvertently foisting what happened to Diane back onto her shoulders, two things that are unfortunately very common in cases of sexual assault. This speaks to a larger problem within our society today with regard to victim blaming. In her 2016 piece in The Atlantic entitled “The Psychology of Victim Blaming”, Kayleigh Roberts says:
“Holding victims responsible for their misfortune is partially a way to avoid admitting that something just as unthinkable could happen to you—even if you do everything “right.”
We simply don’t want to imagine that this could happen, in spite of the fact that we know it does and with alarming regularity. So rather than confronting it head on we look for other ways around it, not in order to get to the bottom of the mystery but moreso so we can sleep better at night, knowing that the world is ordered and just. But in saying that, for example, Diane misinterpreted attention from Dale as romantic affection—which is the prevailing alternative theory to the sexual assault theory—are we not taking Diane’s extreme and obvious pain and suffering, ignoring the most likely root cause of it, and turning it around onto her by saying it was her misunderstanding of Cooper’s intentions that led to her pain?
We just don’t want to deal with the idea that Cooper could have raped Diane, so we jump through hoops to explain it away.
This is part-and-parcel of this phenomenon of victim blaming. In the same article, Laura Niemi—a psychology postdoc at Harvard University who is part of a team doing extensive research into victim blaming—is quoted as saying:
“One thing that might be problematic is the mythologizing of rape and how it’s made to be so that no normal person could be perceived as being a rapist,” she explains. “When it occurs, it’s so horrifying that people can’t conceive that their own brother or person that they know could be a rapist.”
Roberts then goes on to say:
“[…] it can be hard, especially for the loved ones of perpetrators, to reconcile the fact that someone they know so well and see as such a good person could commit a crime that they see as monstrous. In some cases, this might lead to over-empathizing with perpetrators and focusing on their other achievements or attributes […] This is another kind of defense mechanism, one that leads those close to perpetrators to either deny or diminish their crime in order to avoid dealing with the difficult cognitive process of accepting that they were capable of such a thing.”
But here’s the thing: we’re all here—all of us, every last one—because Laura Palmer was raped and murdered by her own father. We have seen her traumatic ordeal in terrifying closeup. We have experienced the horror of her realization of her attacker’s identity in real-time alongside her. We are no strangers to the violence that this world can inflict, and we don’t have to go far to see it made real before our eyes, first in the original series and then in Fire Walk With Me and now in The Return.
Of course it’s still relatively early in this story, and we don’t know everything. But in the vehement denial of the possibility that Dale Cooper’s evil doppelgänger raped Diane Evans and (possibly) Audrey Horne—denials made in order to placate our sensibilities—are we not reenacting the secondary trauma done to Laura Palmer by the town of Twin Peaks and its citizens, who turned a blind eye to her abuse for years?
“I don’t want to think about it.” “It’s too awful.” “That can’t be what happened.” “It’s too much.” “Our Dale would never do this—he isn’t capable of doing this!”
Perhaps we’d better get used to the idea that he very well might be.
1 In the 1993 book Lynch on Lynch, David Lynch had this to say about the question of Cooper’s state at the end of Season 2: “Coop wasn’t occupied by Bob. Part of him was. There are two Coops in there, and the one that came out was, you know, with Bob.” And later: “[…] it’s the doppelgänger thing, the idea of two sides to everyone, he’s really up against himself.” The insinuation here is that everything that Mr. C/DoppelCoop/The Bad Dale does is related intimately to some part of the Whole Cooper. So, in a sense, it may be Dale Cooper (albeit sans conscience/goodness) who committed not only the crimes we’ve witnessed so far but also the ones implied in the scenarios outlined in this article.
2 There are those who have said that, based of the strength of her reaction, this appears to be the first time Diane has confronted DoppelCoop. However, I’m inclined to believe that Diane has been in denial, and that perhaps she had made excuses for Cooper’s behaviour or that she has spent the better part of 25 years blaming herself for what happened. In this scene, she is confronted with the reality of hard evil behind his eyes and her carefully-constructed façade crumbles.
3 It may be small comfort to some that, in this scenario, a comatose Audrey would have likely been none the wiser about the true father of her child and would have probably chalked it up to her encounter with John Justice Wheeler in his private jet before he left. This doesn’t erase the violence done to her if this theory is true, nor does it excuse it. But at this juncture one may be reminded of the old maxim: “Ignorance is bliss.” Audrey’s ignorance in this matter may provide some psychological protection for her, as she would not have to remember the truth about how her son came to be, but it likely won’t erase the repercussions should this version of events come true and she learns the truth.
For further reading, we highly recommend Joanna Robinson’s Vanity Fair article “Twin Peaks: The Hidden Implications of Diane’s Emotional Confrontation”