Pod People: Twin Peaks The Return: A Season Three Podcast

In this edition of Pod People I will dive into Australia’s premier Twin Peaks podcast, The Return: A Season Three Podcast. This show emanates from Melbourne, hosted by Andy Hazel and Hayley Inch and provides a lifeline for locals, allowing us to hear our own antipodean accents explore and analysis this material in intelligent and thoughtful ways.

As a listener I was intrigued by the shows approach to Twin Peaks and often found myself responding to what I’d hear, putting in my own two-cents-worth via Messenger and Facebook. Andy was always responsive and encouraging of conversations which culminated in my interviewing him about his role as moderator for the Melbourne and Adelaide leg of the Conversation with the Stars tour. During our discussions we talked about his obsession with the world of Twin Peaks, and his experience of the podcasting while the show was airing. My conversations with Hayley were conducted electronically  once I made some headway on this article. I’d like to thank them both for giving up their time to  talk with me and for sharing their experience of the podcast.

It turns out Andy was not always a Twin Peaks fan. He became aware of the series when he was about 14 years old but didn’t really properly connect with the series for almost another ten years.

Andy: I was involved in running a venue in Edinburgh called The Forest. Which we decided to open 24/7.  One friend sourced a projector, and another had the VHS collection of Twin Peaks, so I pretty much had it on a loop. After that I pretty much became obsessed with it.

This culminated with the emergence of Twin Peaks communities online, enabling Andy to connect with fans around the world further facilitating his growing obsession. He brought Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks and immersed himself in the show ‘and devoured every piece of critical assessment he could for the next 17 years.’ This interest in Peaks led the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) to interview Andy when The Return was just about to be aired, describing him as ‘Australia’s Biggest Twin Peaks fan’, a claim he describes as ‘hyperbole.

No matter his position in the Twin Peaks hierarchy, Andy is a talented figure, working as a journalist, actor, DJ and musician, as well as being very much steeped in all things Peaks. He is one of the few Australians to have attended the Twin Peaks Festival in Washington, plays in a Twin Peaks cover band, Beautiful Dark, and deejayed the Bang Bang Bar during the Dark MOFO festival in Hobart, in which Chrysta Bell and Rebekah Del Rio performed. On top of this he co-hosts and produces several podcasts, including the Twin Peaks The Return: A Season Three Podcast, with co-host Hayley Inch.

Rebekah Del Rio, Chrysta Bell, Dark MOFO, Bang Bang Bar
Rebekah Del Rio & Chrysta Bell at Dark MOFO – The Mercury 2018

The podcast commenced recording in the run up to The Return and continued for several after part 18,  before becoming more intermittent and focused on interviews, announcements and discussion about special events like Conversations with the Stars and interviews with Twin Peaks performers and creatives like Rebekah Del Rio and Peaks enthusiasts like Brad Dukes and Keith Gow.

Like many other podcasts they and their guests tried to make sense of what they had experienced in the finale through round-table discussions.

At the beginning of this last regular episode Andy delivered a rare piece to mic, describing his reaction to The Return as a series and its resolution, suggesting that it would be remembered as one of the great art works of the century. Yet at the same time he had some reservations, arguing the show could have delivered a richer experience by providing narrative closure to its many its dangling narrative threads while still providing the same emotional and heart wrenching “gut-punch” it dispensed in part 18.

Andy do you still feel the same way? And if not how has your opinion changed?

Andy: I do feel the same way. Rewatching now, the show moves faster but it does feel like we got maybe 80 percent of the vision that first inspired Frost and Lynch. Chatting to Sabrina Sutherland, I tried to learn what specifically Lynch was unable to realise. I know there were some parts of the story that couldn’t be filmed for logistical or budgetary reasons, and I think it shows in some sections. Plus, when you have such an open and free approach to formulating a story, like Lynch does on set, you can’t always strike gold, as he did with discovering BOB. I love the series, and parts of it absolutely floor me and will with every rewatch.

In some ways Hayley’s opinion of The Returns was a mirror image of Andy’s with her initially questioning of Lynch’s portrayal of woman, race and violence, transforming into an embrace of the work that both Lynch and Frost delivered—though not unreservedly—as a “Trauma Narrative“ and a work of genius.

Hayley: Did I really say work of genius? If so that’s a case of being taken away by hyperbole! I wouldn’t say genius—rather a very unique viewing experience.

In the final show you observed ‘I am revelling in the irony that I came into this podcast as the outsider not really jazzed by Lynch business and it appears that I’m more satisfied with the ultimate experience than the guy who’s been in it for 25 years.’

Hayley how has the passage of time influenced your appraisal of the series significance, and your experience of it?

Hayley: Well to be honest the distance of time has made me want to revisit the show less. It’s an extremely overwhelming and time-consuming business, putting together a weekly podcast, and to be to so critically and minutely engaged on one thing over a concentrated period, especially a thing that is so dense with potential meaning and flush with emotions, it’s a LOT. It was such a relief when the series was done, and I was so satisfied with the conclusion as a whole, that my need to revisit Season Three isn’t very strong. It’s a fascinating show, but I’m a rapacious viewer and once finished with something I’m always looking forward to the next thing to watch. There’s also other reasons why I’m recalcitrant to go back to the show, which we’ll discuss further below.

While many podcasts touched on the portrayal of violence against women, and on the cultural diversity within the series, these elements were more prominently featured in A Season Three Podcast. Andy purposely produced the podcast hoping to offer an alternate take on Twin Peaks right from the get-go, bringing Hayley in as a set of fresh eyes, to offer insights and analysis unencumbered by past fandom. His intention was to take critical look at the show, commenting on the series as a cultural artefact, and as a sometimes problematic and evolving text. He also wanted to examine Twin Peaks from the perspective a younger audience attuned to issues of gender, race, and trauma, in the contemporary environment.

Andy: I only really want to add to the Twin Peaks conversation, not echo or repeat news from elsewhere.

Hayley helped Andy deliver a fresh unencumbered by fandom and a long-standing emotional relationship with the series.

Andy: Hayley hadn’t seen Twin Peaks. I think she started watching it six weeks before we started recording. And that freshness was really inspiring. I was particularly fascinated by the way she was interested in violence against woman, trauma and Laura Palmer as a modern-day martyr. She had a lot of insights about that and would often get quite emotional about Laura’s journey and the way Sheryl Lee and Lynch worked together to get the depth to this story.

Hayley Inch, Andy Hazel, Fire Walk With Me, Howler, Melbounre
Hayley Inch and Andy Hazel ready for a pre-season 3 screening of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me – May 17, 2017 at Howler, in Melbourne. Photograph supplied by Andy Hazel

Hayley, what did you know about Twin Peaks and David Lynch before you got involved with the podcast and what were you expecting? How did you envisage approaching this world and what was your impression of the original show and Fire Walk With Me?

Hayley: I actually wasn’t a fan of David Lynch AT ALL! I’d seen a bunch of his films back at university and found them very off-putting—I think I was probably far too young for them (are we ever old enough for Lynch?). That was actually my main worry when Andy asked me to be co-host, did I want to agree to submerge myself in the work of an artist I wasn’t terribly interested in? I did warn Andy that he could be putting himself in a situation where I might wind up just hating everything for 20-odd weeks of content!

All I knew about Twin Peaks was various jokes on The Simpsons and the very simplistic cultural perception of the show—coffee, diners, backwards talking and the like. But I was happily surprised at how much I wound up enjoying most of the original series, especially given what I responded to were aspects of the most obviously Lynch elements (although I nearly always had issues when things went too Lynch). And everything really clicked after I watched Fire Walk With Me, which is still the piece of Twin Peaks that I feel closest to, that is the most elemental. I realised this was a story of female suffering and trauma expressed in such a raw, truthful way that other works of art seem scared to portray, and it really shook me up to see it on screen with such clarity.

Andy had previously connected with Hayley, as an occasional guest on Cultural Capital, his other collaborative podcast project, and knew she would be good for the show.

Her film criticism for the ABC in Perth and RRR in Melbourne also meant she would bring her experience of broadcasting to the podcast, including good mic skills, counterpointing what Andy describes as his own ‘deficiencies’.

Together they shared the mic in discussing and analysing with an array of different commentators who brought different interests and skills to the table. Andy brought in guest with a direct interest in Twin Peaks like; Christian McCrea, who had recently published a critical analysis of Dune; and Clare Nina Norelli, a musician, composer and writer who had penned a book about Badalamenti’s collaboration with Lynch. While Hayley attracted guests with academic or personal experience of particular issues to the podcast, adding depth to their online discussions. This included guests like; Bismuth Hoban, who spoke about trans-characters Denise Bryson in the context of Dog Day Afternoon; Thomas Caldwell, broadcaster and educator and  programmer at Melbourne International Film Festival; and writer Stephanie Lai.

Andy and Haley, the show seemed to have a lot of energy and sense of fun to it. Was this your experience and what was the dynamic like while recording and working with guests? Were there any particular episodes that stand out in your mind as being particularly enjoyable to record and why?

Hayley: I definitely always wanted to keep things light-hearted where we could—sometimes very difficult when discussing a show that dealt with such horrific things that deeply impacted people emotionally. The most enjoyable episodes for me were always the ones where guests had wonderful breadths of knowledge that Andy and I didn’t possess, and could contribute whole new realms of understanding. Clare Nina Norelli and her glorious knowledge of music in the world of Twin Peaks, Thembi Soddell and Jess Pinney who just floored me with their analyses through the frameworks of sound theory and studies into trauma, and Bismuth Hoban who is flat out a wonderful, vital cultural and philosophical scholar. I also had an extraordinarily cathartic experience processing the last two episodes with Thomas Caldwell. He’s truly the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to David Lynch, and I kept saying to Andy that we’d wind up being so grateful that we kept his guest appearance to the series finale, and I was right! Honestly, I feel like our guests were consistently the best parts of the podcast, hands down.

Andy: I agree. I was hoping that we would be able to secure some good guests, and Hayley really hit it out of the park with the people she brought on. I knew that committing to this podcast was going to be an exhausting experience, and for a lot of Tuesday nights there I was up until 3 or 4 am editing and getting it out as quickly as possible, so I wanted to make sure we had the smartest people we could get, because we have a LOT of competition! There were so many excellent podcasts, and I knew our guests (and Hayley) would be our differential. And they were. I don’t have any favourites especially, but they were so consistently good that I feel very grateful.

In regard to theorising where did either of you go most spectacularly wrong, and where was your speculation closest to the mark?

Hayley: Oh god, I certainly can’t remember the intricacies of all that a year after the fact! I was never terribly enthused with guesswork as to what might happen, although of course everyone gets carried away with a hunch or two. Andy was far more interested in fan theories and speculation.

Andy: I LOVE fan theory and speculation! I was spectacularly wrong on so many occasions. One of my favourite parts of the podcast was our TheoryFish section where I would drag up a theory from Reddit or my own brain, or from a friend and test it with Hayley and the guests. Of course, in most cases we were spectacularly wrong (Audrey IS in Cooper!), sometimes we were part right (All this Wizard of Oz imagery suggests that there will be a yellow brick road back to Twin Peaks and that Lynch himself is the Wizard), and occasionally a theory would be better than what ended up happening (Bis’s idea that the Woodsmen were nuclear shadows, like the shadows against the walls of people killed in Hiroshima, or that Sarah Palmer’s role in Seasons 1 and 2 mean that she carries the most emotional power, and that this power will manifest in her forgiving herself which will be the narrative of Part 18).  

While reactions to the podcast were largely positive some analysis caused friction within sections of the Australian fan community.  While this surprised Andy, it wasn’t unexpected and as such he decided to take sole charge of the podcasts social media channels, allowing Hayley to avoid the canker it generated from some listeners. He recalled that most of the criticism predominantly came from a small group of men who couldn’t get their head around Hayley having an opinion in the first place as a new fan, or that she challenged their critical understanding of this work—and pointed out problematic elements of Lynch’s work they were unwilling to engage with. Being right seemed to be a major preoccupation with this group of listeners in direct contrast to Lynch’s suggestions there is no one way to read this show.

In the last round-table episode Hayley suggested that Andy’s final take would result in him getting hate mail instead of her, and commented…

Hayley: So much hate mail. Now the show is over, I don’t have to pretend that I care about your opinions because I don’t.

This was not however the case. What Andy didn’t realise was that the trolling was far worse than he imagined and that Hayley was subjected to concentrated trolling campaign that resulted in her distancing herself from podcasting and Twin Peaks after the show stopped recording regular episodes.

Andy were you surprised to learn how extensive this trolling of Hayley was, and has this further coloured your experience of Twin Peaks and parts of its fandom?

Andy: At the outset, since we weren’t planning on celebrating Twin Peaks, but rather analysing and seeing how it stands up to a 2017 critical lens that it was never subject to in any real sense in the early 1990s, I thought that criticism would come. In fact, it would be a bit of a failure if we didn’t annoy some people, but I did not expect trolling. I had always thought that David Lynch attracted people who were entranced by mysteries and who liked the fact that he had made a series complex works that couldn’t be “solved’, and that The Return wouldn’t attract people who hadn’t spent 30-plus hours watching the first two series and the film, and that this meant that the criticism would be more about the ideas rather than the people. I was really disappointed to find that a “bro culture’ exists within the fandom. This is something that has become more apparent in other parts of the fandom, and I’m planning to take a deeper look at it for a forthcoming episode. I’m collecting stories at the moment.   

Hayley: I’m not so certain it was deliberate campaign orchestrated by a group of fans conspiring together, as I detail below. I think it was just a lot of people who had the same kind of problems with me due to my gender and my status as a new fan. Trolls are not very original and do tend to all sound the same!

Do you think there is a solution to these issues, especially when podcasting, blogging and vlogging are so reliant of audience interaction and comment?

Andy: No. I think it’s hard to have a one-way communication in the media now. I certainly think that the Twin Peaks fandom is a smarter, more thoughtful and more diverse bunch than a lot of other fandoms, but there is still this section that will feel the need to take aim at a woman with a contrary opinion and ignore the opinion. Saying that, 95 per cent of comments were positive, thoughtful and actually did contribute directly to the podcast being better. I do feel guilty for not realising this beforehand, that I would be exposing Hayley in this way, since it was exactly her forthright opinions that I wanted and that helped make us the number 1 podcast in Australia for a few days (good times!), and one of the most listen-to Twin Peaks podcasts worldwide.

While it is obviously ironic that these ‘fans’ seemed not to be paying attention to the message embedded in Twin Peaks, or to what Lynch and Frost had to say about how the work should be approached, what do you think it says about how audiences consume media?  And again, what does it suggest about how these spectators define their own identity through that consumption?

Hayley: Hoo boy, I could say a LOT about this. I think it’s true to say that all fandoms have a toxic element, and that element can become louder and be exacerbated as a fandom grows bigger. I came of age on the internet in the heady days of Harry Potter fandom, and that was a textbook example of how fandom can swell to being overwhelmingly huge, uncontrollable and wind up exploding into flame wars, horrendous bullying, and factions that actively attempt to run people off the internet.

It is really dangerous to mistake criticism of the things you love as being criticism of you personally, but it’s a mistake consumers of media and art make again and again and spend a lot of time and energy being furious about, and seeking out targets to direct that anger at.

Also, in this age of ‘problematic’ media, I think a lot of people have anxiety over seeing things they loved criticised for containing elements that are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, etc. and instead of engaging with that criticism they just want to dismiss it out of hand, because again the conflation of themselves with that media means they feel that they themselves are being attacked. They don’t want themselves labelled as problematic, or be ‘cancelled’ by others for loving something that means a lot to them. But if we’re not previously aware of these elements within one’s favourite media, we really do need to listen to those who raise the issue and confront our own feelings without lashing out. It doesn’t necessarily mean the beloved media is suddenly bad or shouldn’t be watched or that it can’t be loved and celebrated. It means that media is complex, it’s produced by a culture that is complex yet deeply flawed, it has a history that has overwhelming seen only a small amount of people from one particular gender and racial group given permission to create the vast majority of what we see, which means we have until recently been subject to an extremely narrow expression of cultural vision. Can we still love media produced by those who benefit the most from our society and culture? Of course! But we need to be informed, honest viewers, and acknowledge that even if we love something dearly, it can be media that hurts, misrepresents or offers dangerous ideas about other people and groups around us. The shows we love can even hurt us. While representation absolutely does not always mean endorsement—and we certainly see enough terrible things play out in Twin Peaks that it is obvious we are not meant to emulate or see as positive expressions —we owe it to ourselves to discuss the elements that are uncomfortable, that blur boundaries, that disappoint, that hurt. Media doesn’t just teach us how art can be sublime; it can also teach us what not to do, and what to make better.

Andy: I agree wholeheartedly.

Hayley if you’re willing I’m interested to get your take on this, partly because this seems quite unusual in the Twin Peaks space that I have encountered?

Hayley: Well, you probably have a very different experience from me from the single pure fact of being a man online! Men are collectively treated with much more respect in online fandom spaces—they’re immediately accepted as experts no matter their qualifications, especially if they can display a lot of superficial knowledge about the subject at hand. And there’s plenty of reasons as to why people in fandom collectively find it much easier to tell a woman they disagree with to shut up and insult her rather than engage with her as an equal (hello patriarchy! Hello Fake Geek Girl fallacy! Hello gatekeeping!). I had a feeling going in that as a new fan I should probably expect some pushback from more established fans who might take umbrage at my opinions; I didn’t—possibly naively—expect that I’d also receive a lot of negative attention due to being a lady with opinions. It was very obvious in feedback we received from the get go that when listeners disagreed with or felt the need to correct Andy, they did so overall with a sense of polite discourse and respect. I didn’t receive that treatment.

I don’t believe the abuse was a coordinated effort on behalf of a group of Peaks fans (or at least I really hope it wasn’t). There’s these kind of people in every fandom—people who treat the things they love as their sole property and see it as sport to attack those who have anything even slightly critical to say about it.

Andy: This is true. I never experienced personal criticism, and I certainly made a lot of mistakes (getting a name wrong here, misinterpreting or missing the discussion of a scene there and accidentally triggering a theory that a VHS of the pilot was in Carrie Page’s apartment). I did get polite messages and thoughtful criticism. I was stunned when we got our first one-star review on iTunes and a comment that was along the lines of, “why do you bother doing this if you don’t even like the show?’ I think it’s very interesting to compare the experience of someone like Brad Dukes, who was far more critical of The Return than Hayley and did not experience trolling.

Had either of you experienced trolling as a pod/broad/caster and critic before?

Hayley: Not trolling. Disagreements, corrections and constructive criticism, absolutely, all the time (fyi, LOVE some proper constructive criticism, the key word there being constructive). But trolling is different, trolling isn’t about building someone up to make them better, or opening someone’s view to different perspectives with the idea of sharing. Trolling is about making people feel awful and afraid for even expressing themselves in the first place, and to try and make them leave the sand pit and stop playing with the toys.

Andy: Criticisms and disagreements, but not trolling.

How did this experience conform to or differ from past encounters?

Hayley: I think sheer VOLUME is the main difference. You can ignore a few people being nasty here and there, but when it’s quite a lot of people and they’re very loud at you and they don’t let up, that’s when it starts to take a toll. You have to realise as well this was over a concentrated period of 20 or so weeks, where pretty much all my spare time was spent either watching the show, recording or preparing for the podcast, and when you’re that deep into something and enjoying it and wanting to share it with people but are also EXHAUSTED, every time you encounter a gross comment left on the timeline or cropping up in your DMs or being emailed directly to you, it takes a toll. You can’t mentally ignore that sort of thing when it’s delivered at high volume; even when you’re trying to push it all away the negativity seeps in.’

Andy: This was a whole new experience in so many ways. I’ve been working as a Twin Peaks fan disguised as a journalist for years and, at the time, had only ever encountered positivity and warmth and the fandom I knew were all extremely respectful, friendly and welcoming. Again, I didn’t realise the extent of this trolling until after the series finished and Hayley told me about all the vile things I’d missed that she hadn’t told me about. I thought I had dealt with stuff on social media—deleting posts and requesting iTunes remove personal criticism—and kept it from her.

Can you give an example of how bad this got? Was it about you’re analysis as Andy mentioned, or was it more personal?

Hayley: Some of the comments would be couched in terms of differing with my analysis, but they all ultimately came down to the personal. I’ve tried to block out the specifics, but a lot of them focused on similar things. It was mainly either people mad that I was a person new to the fandom who had opinions that weren’t always complimentary towards the text, or people mad that there was a woman offering an opinion at all. A lot of the language used was gendered—I was often described as “harping on’, “nagging’ or “screeching’ or was “a bitch’ (or worse), and offense was often taken at the fact that I was very into Laura’s journey and seeing it through a rubric of trauma and toxic patriarchy and talked extensively about that. It was obvious these people clearly had favoured readings of Twin Peaks that they saw as the correct one and were upset that I wasn’t adhering to it. I think the fact that I also wasn’t interested in reading the show in the very obsessive way that many fans enjoy—looking for clues, collecting theories, numbers and codes, etc.—made some listeners assume that I was attacking them by not having enthusiasm for that element. If that’s your jam in interpreting the show, awesome! But it doesn’t fascinate everyone, and again it’s not a reflection on you personally if another viewer doesn’t derive joy from it.

There was also a strange assumption that cropped up again and again, this perception from some listeners that I was somehow actively silencing Andy. One of the very first negative comments I received was from a woman who tweeted at both Andy and I saying that I needed to shut up and let Andy speak, “because he’s the expert, not you!’ Similar complaints cropped up throughout the show’s run, seemingly eliding or ignorant of the fact that Andy was the producer and the editor of the podcast and was putting in exactly as much of me as he wanted into each episode! You can see this ethos crop up in Andy’s other podcast Cultural Capital, but he is both very aware of his status as a white male cultural critic and extremely generous to those he shares a microphone with, and actively defers to co-hosts and guests as a matter of course, often while deciding not to share his own opinion when he could instead be prompting further discussion from others. I was actually getting frustrated with his reluctance to offer actual opinions rather than questions and speculation during the run of the podcast too, as clearly a vocal segment of the listenership was following along for exactly that. I would often say to him off-mic “you have to tell people what YOU think!’ I reckon that’s why quite a few listeners were caught off guard when during the finale episodes he revealed that he was quite frustrated and disappointed with the series, what a bomb to drop with very little prior warning! But no, I wasn’t silencing him.

The funny thing was many of our guests offered similar perspectives on the show as myself, but they tended not to attract ire. I guess I was the constant element that people angry about this kind of discussion happening at all could latch on to. I just found it strange that from the very first episode we laid out clearly what kind of Twin Peaks podcast we were going to be—one with intensely critical discussion that very deliberately wanted an interplay between old fans and new—and yet all through the run it seemed like there were people constantly disappointed or even furious that we were delivering what we’d put on the tin! I honestly don’t know why they kept listening when there were literally hundreds of Peaks podcasts going on at that time—surely they could have found dozens offering whatever kind of discussion it was they were looking for?

Andy: I don’t know how bad it got, to be honest, because I had a very different experience to Hayley. I did see those messages that Hayley mentions, and did notice that people were wanting me to share my opinion more often, but honestly, I found Hayley’s take and those of our guests as more interesting and valuable. A lot of my opinions were being echoed on other podcasts, and in episode recaps on Vulture and AV Club and other websites, and I didn’t want to be the 54th person to say, “how amazing is Kyle MacLachlan!’ or “I think Audrey is in an institution’, because so much of what is wonderful about Twin Peaks has absolutely nothing to do with something as tedious as an opinion and everything to do with appreciating this richly detailed world. You cannot argue that the placement of books behind Audrey’s head isn’t done very pointedly, or that the reflection in front of Big Ed as he looks out onto the empty forecourt of his gas station isn’t the work of people who love what they’re doing and the world they’re making. I am very conscious of being a white man with a microphone who loves the work of David Lynch and Mark Frost, and I find the opinion of other white men with microphones who also love David Lynch and Mark Frost as being predictable and not often bringing anything new to the table. I would rather hear someone like Hayley, or Bismuth or Jess Pinney talk about what works and doesn’t work for them. Right from the beginning I wanted to make something that documented this extremely unexpected and incredible period of time in which The Return was unfolding, something that belongs in the Library of Congress as a cultural artefact. My opinion doesn’t really factor into that. My knowledge and knowing when to shut up and put a microphone in front of someone who has knowledge that I don’t have, does.

Did this go on after the show had finished?

Hayley: The abuse dried up after I finished up participating in episodes, but the damage was already done. I spent months after the end of Twin Peaks debating with myself whether I should ever bother doing anything creative in public again. I considering pulling all the work I’d already done on film criticism from the internet, quitting my radio slots and guest roles on other podcasts, just attempt to disappear entirely. Which is of course the outcome that trolls ultimately want: they want to shut you up. They want to make you scared to speak your mind. I mean, this interview here is the first time I’ve felt brave enough to talk about Twin Peaks at all in public again. This is a year later. It completely shattered my self-esteem.

Was there a counterpoint with support and praise for the podcast?

Hayley: The funny thing about receiving praise when you’re also receiving vitriol that attacks you personally is that it becomes difficult to accept the praise on face value, because you don’t know if there’s a troll behind it laying a trap. Even though the complimentary comments did generally outnumber the bad, I ended up towards the end not being able to process any praise at all. There’s probably a few fans I owe apologies to, because I became unable to accept pleasant, supportive feedback with good grace, I’d just constantly undercut myself and my contribution.  The old ‘pretend you’re too cool to care’ survival method, but oh god I cared so much. I had enough people telling me I wasn’t welcome in this community that I couldn’t take the outstretched hands of those who were trying to tell me that my contribution was valued, and I regret that.

Andy: In my experience, almost all the feedback was positive. I made numerous friends through people who messaged us via Facebook, and had, as we’ve established a very different experience to Hayley. When I did see criticism on social media, I was never hurt by it because I didn’t take it personally, to me criticism invited a conversation and an opportunity to learn, which to me writing this, seems like the definition of white privilege and could only come from someone who hasn’t been attacked like this online before. (I’ve been trolled on twitter and called names etc. but not to this degree) I’m gutted that it affected Hayley in this way because she is such a talented and intelligent person, and I think this is a loss to the fandom. I would be very surprised if she’s the only one too.

How has this affected you, your relationship with the podcast and Twin Peaks?

Hayley: To be blunt, I don’t know if I HAVE a relationship with Twin Peaks anymore. Not one that isn’t broken. As soon as my role in the podcast ended I fled as far from the show as I could. I didn’t want to participate in the fandom. I didn’t want to rewatch it. Twin Peaks is painful to me now. And that’s so upsetting because I think we did a really good job with the podcast, I truly do. Andy set out to make a podcast based around proper criticism with varied viewpoints, that wasn’t just going to be uniformly positive, and would really dig deep into the show and its themes. And we delivered that. I think we were talking about things few other Twin Peaks podcasts were addressing, and doing it well. I am so, so proud of what we made, of all our guests, of the titanic amounts of work Andy put in to make it such a huge success. And it hurts me that I had to run away from it for the sake of regaining some sense of self-worth.

Pretty ironic, huh, that in covering a show that is so rich in exploring trauma in the face of patriarchal values I ended up having a parallel traumatic experience. Pretty ironic.

Andy: For me, I felt like we’d built a community and I was sad, proud, tired and felt that strange mix of accomplishment but one that I loved the show and the fandom that I knew so much that I couldn’t have made something good enough. I struggle to listen back to the early episodes because the sound quality and my primitive editing is so bad. But it’s also the thing that shapes me in the public eye, and I still meet strangers who know me from the podcast, which is weird. Making the podcast led directly to me getting the job of hosting the Conversations With the Stars event, so its impact is incalculable. Again, I wasn’t aware of Hayley’s experience until very recently.

Despite the appalling behaviour of some elements of our community the critical response was largely positive with the podcast garnering many listeners around the world, as well as in Australia. Our own John Bernardy at 25YL wrote ‘the hosts of Twin Peaks The Return are well versed in Twin Peaks as well as beautiful turns of phrases, and this episode where they examine what they like about how Twin Peaks works is full of wonderful examples of both.’ [1]

In May 2017 the Twin Peaks The Return: A Season Three Podcast was ranked as the most popular film and television podcast in Australia. Were you surprised to be getting that kind of attention and what did it mean for you and the show?

Hayley: I found out at work, and had to excuse myself to go burst into tears in the bathroom. I had no clue it was going to be even a fraction as huge a thing as it turned out to be. I guess Australians are often hungering to hear cultural discussion in our own voices and with our own concerns—it’s not just podcasts, English language cultural criticism in all forms is hugely dominated by Americans, and when you’re not American it gets so tiring to see everything framed through that perspective. But we did also have a large number of international listeners that possibly outnumbered the ones in Australia (you’ll have to ask Andy for the stats, he was obsessed with them!) However, had I known that the podcast was going to be that massive, I probably would have reconsidered my participation. Because that level of recognition is terrifying, and I was in no way prepared for it. And it brings with it a lot of downsides, as we’ve already discussed.

Andy: I was really surprised. I knew that there were a few unconnected fans from when I was writing an article a few years ago about the impact of Twin Peaks on the Australian music scene, but with The Return, there was an explosion of them, and now Twin Peaks Aussie Fans Facebook page is consistently active. The success of Conversations With the Stars proves the depth of love for the show. Hayley’s right, I was obsessed with the stats! I was into the minutia of the show as well. Numbers and codes and colours etc. I was pathetically checking the podcast charts every day and rejoicing when we peaked above the EW podcast and feeling solidarity with the other successful fan-driven ones like Unwrapped, Diane, Brad Dukes’ Podcast, Sparkwood and 21, etc. It made me feel like we should keep doing what we’re doing, and that, despite the awfulness of some of the feedback, we were bringing something of value into the fandom, and it was appreciated.

So where to from here? Are you hoping for a fourth season and what would you like it to be.

Andy: Yes, I would love to see a fourth season, or a film or anything else that Lynch and/or Frost feel like sharing with us.

Hayley: I personally don’t need a fourth season. I totally understand why some fans would want one though! And despite my satisfaction with the way season three concluded, there’s certainly room for more – it almost feels like the Peaks world could go on forever. But if this is all we get, I’m sated.

What direction do you think the pod cast will take from here?

Hayley: Well I think that will be up to Andy! I don’t think I’ll be involved further. I’d need to feel comfortable watching and analysing the show again, and that may not come for a long while. Maybe if Andy wants to take a look at Lynch’s greater oeuvre—I’d like to take a bash at rewatching things like Blue Velvet and Lost Highway and seeing if I like them more now than as a befuddled uni student. Maybe we could record them in secret, under another name. Little aural treats for tiny audiences.’

Andy: I see the podcast as continuing when I feel I have something of value to add to the fandom. There are so many great theories and so much intelligent exploration of the show that I don’t feel I have anything to add at the moment. I would love a chance to speak with some of the other actors and creative talent associated with the show. It is a gift that ceaselessly gives.

[1]“Last Week In Twin Peaks Podcasts, Week of May 14 to May 20,” Last Week In Twin peaks,, 2017, accessed September 4, 2018,

Written by Simon Baré

Simon is a filmmaker, video artist, educator and writer . He was awarded a Master of Fine Arts (2016) and Master of Film and Digital Image (2013) from the University of Sydney. Simon is now a PHD Candidate at the University of Sydney researching sense making within modes of practice that resist, invite, and confound categorisation. Simon is ambitious to further his academic and teaching carrier while furthering his research-based film and art practice. Alongside his interest in art and screen media Simon enjoys skateboarding, mountain biking, and cooking for his family.

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