I feel a certain kinship with Laura Palmer. I cannot begin to understand the pain she went through at the hands of her father. This is not something I can even start to internalize with her. Where I can begin to understand what Laura was feeling and going through was the other side: the side that made her put up walls, the side of her where she was what everyone expected of her. The homecoming queen who volunteered for Meals on Wheels and had the high school football player boyfriend, the facade of being an absolute angel, not how she really felt. When you are used to trying to convince yourself that you are exactly who people want you to be, you sometimes forget who you really are. You fear you will never be able to show the sides of yourself you are most afraid of because maybe that side reflects the worst in you. Maybe it’s that devil that sits on your shoulder and influences you (or at least tries to). In a statement that may make you shudder, I do not believe that BOB was created from the evil that men do. I believe that BOB was created by Laura herself to help her internalize the evil around her.
I look at life sometimes through the lens of the Greek theater comedy/tragedy masks. I think that even though we are all deeper-rooted creatures, many of us are both at many times in our lives. No one exemplifies this more than Laura Palmer. She was a living, breathing version of both of these many times throughout the entirety of Twin Peaks. Comedy can also stand for happiness, or kindness, or the light side of a person. And with tragedy, you get the sadness, the trauma, the pain, or the dark side of a person. Much like the two entities branching off of the Red Room, the Black Lodge and the White Lodge (or the Fireman’s lair), there seems to be light and dark in many things. Laura was good at hiding both when she needed to.
Just take a look at her relationship with her best friend, Donna. Donna idolized Laura, not realizing the pain Laura was going through. This is not Donna’s fault either. Even though Donna was one of the closest people in Laura’s life, Laura only partly let her in. Laura never wanted to let Donna know what was happening because she herself didn’t realize the magnitude of what was going on within her and in her life. BOB could explain the parts of her that were out of her control. She continuously was able to feed BOB by her actions on the other side: drugs, sex, and pain.
You may be wondering, well then how do you explain Leland becoming BOB? Leland never “became” BOB. BOB was who Laura used to “disguise” Leland in order to explain what was happening to her. Again, I do not want to take away any of the legitimacy of Laura’s trauma, but I think that Leland was culpable for what he did to Laura, not that he was “possessed” by BOB. And before you say, “Well then how does that explain Cooper and Mr. C?”, just as I think Laura created BOB, I think she created Cooper; but for this piece, I am directing all of this for only Laura.
BOB allowed Laura to put a different face to her trauma—a different voice inside her head for all the things she was thinking and feeling, not only about herself but about her father. From the show, this is only implied, but from The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, you see how this may be how Laura came into herself. She speaks to BOB as if he’s always with her. Not to alarm anyone, but I speak to myself constantly in my head. My “other” voice is me and not me at the same time. It is sometimes cruel and vexing and disturbing, but I am able to fight it most days when my anxiety is in check.
Laura herself could fight off BOB when he only came to her metaphysically and not in the form of Leland. The problem was, as a teenager, Laura fed BOB just doing things teenagers do growing up. She fed him just by discovering boys and her sexuality, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, rebelling again her parents and authority, trying to discover who she really was and who she was meant to be, and—let’s be honest—many of us have discovered ourselves in some of the same ways. The issue comes into play when you let that “other” voice get too loud. For poor Laura, that voice was always telling her she was so wrong and so bad. This is apparent in a poem she wrote in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer:
Inside me there is something
No one knows about
Like a secret
Sometimes it takes over
And I drift back
Deep into darkness.
This secret tells me
I will never grow older
Never laugh with friends
Never be who I should if I ever reveal
I cannot tell if it is real
Or if I dream of it
For when it touches me
I drift off
No tears come
I am wrapped up
In a nightmare of hands
And of fingers
And of small tiny voices in the woods.
There are two more sections of the diary that make me believe that Laura did not only create BOB but knew she was going to have to try and destroy him herself. The ideal Laura that was created for others to see was coming apart. In a section written on August 3, 1986, Laura writes:
I am trapped inside a part of me I hate. A hard, masculine part of myself that has surfaced to fight, after small memories and scars come out of me with a suddenness that is sobering as well as horrifying – and I fight to save the Laura I wish I could be again. The one everyone thinks is still around. Me in a sundress, hair in the wind, and a smile engraved into my cheeks by the sharp fear that a man may visit me at any moment this evening and try to kill me.
Laura was constantly fighting to keep herself from getting deeper and darker because of her trauma, but she knew (or at least part of her knew) she needed to fight that voice. But that voice was only part of it; Leland was something else entirely. She may have shrouded him in BOB, but taking that away would mean having to come face to face with what her father had done.
The second section that leads me to believe Laura created BOB was from December 14, 1986:
And I woke up. Ashamed. Horrified. Guilty. And I imagined him suddenly, right before me at the edge of my bed.
YOU FORGOT, LAURA, I KNOW EVERYTHING, SEE EVERYTHING, GO ANYWHERE I WANT…I COULD TELL YOU MORE ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK ARE SECRETS THAN YOU COULD TELL YOURSELF! YOU LET YOUR GUARD DOWN, DIDN’T YOU, LET ME HAVE A NICE VACATION FROM THAT STENCH OF YOURS…THEN YOU HAD TO CALL ME BACK…RANCID LITTLE BITCH! YOU’RE PRETTY MEAN TO ME SOMETIMES WHEN YOU WRITE, AREN’T YOU! WE’LL HAVE TO FIX THAT. MAKE YOU LOVE ME LIKE YOU USED TO. I REMEMBER THAT…SOON YOU WILL TOO?
And then he disappeared. I need to do something that is right and good, Today!
She is talking to herself. These are things she is thinking and feeling about herself. She manifested BOB as an extension of and a cover for not only Leland but for the thoughts had about herself, even if knowing that what was happening was not her fault, she herself did not see it that way.
BOB can exist within the context of Twin Peaks and in real life. A voice that tells you, “You’re not worthy of love. You’re not worthy of kindness. You’re not worthy of your life.” Again, I would never remove Laura’s agency or the validity of what she went through, but I can empathize with having a strong voice telling me I was unworthy, that the decisions I was making were less than stellar, and that I was not good enough for the life I was living. Was I ashamed of decisions I was making? Did I feel guilty about things I was doing? Did I put on a mask and a smile so people did not see the anxiety and fear I truly had? Yes, yes I did. What got me past that point was quieting the voice, the “other” me, and drowning it out. I tried “to see the light,” so to speak
Does it still come back and visit? Of course it does. That voice never goes away. I would like to think it’s locked away in the White Lodge, captured by my own Fireman. For Laura, the trauma was too much for her to take. BOB had not only overtaken her at the end, but she welcomed the quiet that came with death. BOB would then cease to exist, at least for her. But BOB lives on, because there’s a bit of BOB in all of us. BOB is the extreme tragedy side of the mask. Some go to that darker place and never return. Some can fight, like I would like to think Agent Cooper did, and come back to a place somewhere in the in-between. I would like to think most of us exist with our voices in the in-between. I am just happy Laura was free to get her own voice back again.