Twin Peaks: The Return was the first introduction for many of us to the concept of tulpas. Traditional religious and occult tulpas exist because of the conscious choice of the individual to ascend from the earthly plain to something higher, free of the material world. In Twin Peaks, tulpas are clones, creations from within the Black Lodge, and often almost akin to a kind of punishment. Unlike the Indian and Tibetan Buddhist notions of “mind-made bodies” or “emanation bodies”, Twin Peaks tulpas are not achieved through any kind of self-actualization, nor do they even result from any kind of choice or consent of the original pre-tulpa individual. They serve a very specific purpose to the plot and themes of The Return: they are by and large vehicles for and extensions of the trauma visited upon the world as a result of the Black Lodge.
Of course there are exceptions to this. As his first act upon his return, Agent Cooper creates a tulpa of himself and sends him to the Jones household in Las Vegas, thus breaking the cycle of trauma visited upon that family and restoring the harmony that he temporarily brought to them during his time as Dougie. But every other instance, confirmed or implied, of tulpa-fication in the world of Twin Peaks is a terrible one.
Tulpas became a very real and very horrible part of the Twin Peaks universe. It could be (and has been) argued that tulpas are a kind of physical representation of the traumatic shattering of self that is so thematically central to The Return. Which is why it’s somewhat surprising that the character that David Lynch and Mark Frost chose to carry the bulk of the burden here is Diane Evans.
So, #TwinPeaks fans, I have a question for you: Did you truly like the character of Diane Evans in #TheReturn, or did you feel she was a misstep in some way? Why or why not? (It’s for science. And also kinda sorta for my next article on @25YLSite…?)
— Lindsay Stamhuis (@linzstam) 15 March 2018
A quick Twitter poll the other day revealed that an overwhelming proportion of the (admittedly unscientific) sample size either loved her entirely or grew to love her — fully 80% of the 371 respondents either loved her from the start or grew to love her over the course of the season; the rest either didn’t like her or had other reasons for not responding either way. Personally and for the most part, I agree with them. I thoroughly enjoyed Diane, even though I initially bristled at the idea of revealing her as a character. Laura Dern provided enough gravitas that I believed her, and I was curious about her and how she fit into the grand scheme of things. I enjoyed the way she wasn’t at all how I imagined her (mostly because I didn’t imagine Diane at all; I was one of those who thought she was nothing more than a tape recorder all throughout Season 1 and 2!) and I wondered how she and Cooper got along before everything went very, very pear-shaped. What had happened to her to make her so bitter? How was she involved in Mr. C’s dastardly plan? It turns out that the answer was nothing I (and probably many others) had expected. During the reveal in Part 16 that Diane was actually a tulpa, sitting there on the edge of my seat in my darkened living room, I literally gasped. It explained so much. It added layers of intrigue and deep heartbreak to so many different storylines. And with the release of The Final Dossier, one couldn’t help but wonder if Diane’s fate was actually meant to colour others’ as well, as shades of tulpa meaning invaded Audrey and Annie’s and maybe even Laura’s fates as well. It was impossible for me to dislike Diane. But something about her still doesn’t sit right… It’s been six months since Twin Peaks left our TVs and the time and distance has mellowed my initial interpretation somewhat. It wasn’t until a chance conversation between fellow Peaks enthusiasts (and some fellow 25YL staffers) John Bernardy, Ross Dudle, Ivan Butka, Anton Binder, and myself that I started to really hone in on the reasons why Diane’s character left me in such a lurch.
Right? There just would have been much more of an impact. We have no idea what original flavor Diane was like. She was a very hard character to connect to.
— Ross Dudle (@RDudle) 15 March 2018
As mentioned above, I was under the impression that Diane wasn’t truly a real character up until the moment she appeared in The Return. Part of me almost still believes she’s not truly real now — at the very least, we’ve hardly seen anything of the “real” Diane anyway, so it’s impossible to tell who she is anyway. Seeing her made manifest onscreen didn’t give me the same jolt that seeing an existing character gave me — seeing Norma and Shelly, or Ed, or even Dr. Jacoby gave me so much more of a thrill than Diane’s entrance. And I have to wonder if that is a problem. Diane’s whole purpose in The Return was, seemingly, to be a vehicle for trauma. This in itself is not a bad thing. She helped us understand what trauma does to a person; her tulpa, which was really the only version of her we got to know well enough at all this Season, was justifiably bitter and angry over what had been done to her. The added layer — that trauma can absolutely cause a bifurcation in a person’s mind, which is broadly known as dissociative identity disorder and which carry symptoms which sound a lot like the creation of a tulpa if you stop to think about it — fits in beautifully with Frost/Lynch’s career-long interest in psychology as well. It was a no-brainer that they would take this approach in The Return, which we knew all along would have to deal with the fallout caused by Agent Cooper’s doppelganger. If Twin Peaks: The Return was, indeed, an exploration of trauma, to give this important job to a character to whom none of us had any prior connection seems, in hindsight, to be a bit strange. I won’t deny that the emotional impact of learning that Diane was a tulpa all along was powerful. But I wonder how much more powerful that reveal would have been had it concerned one of the other two women we know were victimised by Mr. C: Audrey Horne or Annie Blackburn — characters we cared about deeply as fans? As invested as I was in Diane’s journey, I cared so much more about Audrey and Annie. What if we’d seen more of them and their journeys following their encounters with Mr. C? As I’ve written about in the past, I’m still not satisfied with the answers we got to the question of “How’s Annie?” and my concern for Audrey has only grown since her last appearance on our TV screens back in August of last year. Why couldn’t we have seen trauma explored more directly through their experiences? Imagine the impact if it had been an embittered Audrey sitting in the Red Room telling Philip Gerard “Fuck you.” Imagine if it were Annie. Had it been either of them instead of Diane, the epic rug-pull in the FBI hotel room in Part 16 could have been more than just a clever plot twist; the lead-up, with the realisation that Mr. C’s victim had become his accomplice, could have been that much more emotionally devastating. All by virtue of the fact that our connection to either of those characters is so much stronger than our connection to Diane. Naturally, many people have pointed out the fact that The Return was never concerned with giving us what we want but rather what we needed. It also stands to reason that Lynch simply wanted Laura Dern to have a role and this is why Diane was included so prominently.
I’ve accepted it only for the fact that Lynch absolutely needed Laura Dern in a meaty role
— John Bernardy (@jpb_littlegreen) 15 March 2018
And there were also issues within Audrey’s role behind the scenes, which changed on the fly (as a result of conversations between Sherilyn Fenn and David Lynch that ultimately led to Audrey’s supremely discombobulating vignettes). Heather Graham was on the record as saying she would have loved to play a role in The Return but for whatever reason her backstory was saved, for better or for worse, for Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks novels instead of our screens. And ultimately, that’s fine. We have enough mystery surrounding both Audrey and Annie to imagine how this played out for them. The explicitness of Diane’s reveal allows us to imagine the same for Audrey and Annie — and we all know that the cardinal rule of horror films is that our imaginations are far more powerful than anything a filmmaker could show us on screen. In this way, we can very easily tell ourselves the story of Audrey’s and Annie’s tulpas, created from their traumatic experiences at the hands of Mr. C — wearing the face of the man they loved, which most certainly added to their trauma — and have it work on our imaginations in whatever way we choose. It still works no matter how you slice it.
But of all the decisions made in Twin Peaks that have caused me sleepless nights, this is the one that makes the least amount of sense to me. I understand why we spent so little time in Twin Peaks this time around; I can plainly see how Cooper’s “White Knight Syndrome” played a role in his decision to “Save Laura” in Parts 17 & 18. But the more I think about it, the more baffled I am that Diane — a character we’d never met before, one we barely even got to meet here, one whose very existence is still being called into question — was the character chosen to bring us the central theme of The Return.
Strongly agree/disagree with me? Let me know what you think! Leave a comment or head over to Twitter to continue the conversation!