"THE WORLD OF TWIN PEAKS JUST SEEMS TO BE FULL OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN!!!" - Chief Gordon Cole, "Twin Peaks."
I was eleven years old in 1990, just a year away from hitting puberty full on. (First day of seventh grade, in case you wanted to know.)
I was just beginning to get interested in fashion and how older women dressed. I’d sneak Sassy and YM magazines when I went to the library…sometimes I even ventured into reading the racier Seventeen.
As a child, my idea of a beautiful older lady looked a lot like the old-fashioned photos of 1950s glamour starlets or flappers of generations before. I spent a lot of time in the library, reading old books and poring through old photographs in the museum. I didn’t think the ladies of the 80s held any kind of glamour appeal. They never clicked as inspiration. They just didn’t seem very…pretty. The teen magazines? All I saw were perms and spandex. Love’s Baby Soft ads, boring, terrible hair, pictures of blonde girls in mall bangs. I had straight brown hair cut short, and glasses. We didn’t have any money, so I wore blouses that were woefully out of style. I was teased for it.
I wasn’t allowed to watch many sitcoms on television. My viewership was quite limited. I could watch older shows, certainly, but nothing with whiny kids. My parents were excited about a strange new show coming on TV called Twin Peaks. I asked if I could watch it, because it looked like a murder mystery, and I was getting into those. I’d long been a child veteran of the PBS “Mystery!” program, oddly enough. Sure, they said. Why not?
Wow. I’d love to throw that in the faces of today’s helicopter parents, infantilizing their children with gobbledygook. My parents let me watch Twin Peaks.
The show captivated and terrified me, but I watched it with Mom and Dad almost every week. The music stirred my soul; the story was really creepy, and I was absolutely hooked. A sixth grader. I might have been the only one in my class allowed to watch it. But, as that little tween girl in the hideous pink plastic owl glasses, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the show. Even at that age, I knew that it was special, and even though it made zero sense to me, I didn’t care. It was fun to watch. The Giant scared the shit out of me. I still am frightened of the sequence when Maddy Ferguson is murdered, with that “chhhh-chhhh-chhhh” repeating sound of the phonograph needle at the end of a record. (A sound which will always make my skin crawl.)
And…ahem. I have a slight confession. Kyle MacLachlan, in all his strong-chinned cartoon-pilot glory, was the first man on TV that I was attracted to. That’s right. My first tween crush was not any of the New Kids - not Ricky Schroeder or Jason Bateman - but Kyle Fucking Maclachlan.
(That gum he liked actually did come back in style.)
But oh my goodness, those pretty ladies. What David Lynch did for me as that little girl was an oddly wonderful gift: he defined and presented real female beauty to me at that tender, impressionable age. The girls on that show were not plastic, they were not brassy, they were not dangerous or stupid - they were simply elegant and beautiful real human women. With bonkers eyebrows, pretty hair, a classic beauty I’d never ever seen on TV before except in old movies. I wanted so badly to grow up looking like Sherilyn Fenn, I even asked for saddle shoes.
Sherilyn Fenn, Mädchen Amick, and Sheryl Lee were my first style icons. That makeup! Their hair! The plaid all-American schoolgirl skirts! All of them looked as if they’d been dropped from other eras. Even Mädchen Amick, who looked the most contemporary of them all, had an ethereal prettiness to her that I loved to see on TV. I wanted to grow up to look like a Lynch girl.
I consider myself incredibly lucky for this coincidence. David Lynch often talks about dredging up memories and bringing them to the table during the creative process, but I certainly doubt he had any idea that a homely little kid would be so influenced by his show.
I might have had a solid, safe upbringing, but I’ve always been drawn to the macabre, the unexplained, the melancholy, the persistence of optimism, even as a child. Somehow, Twin Peaks verified that it was okay to have these feelings, and they could even be beautiful if you allowed them. It was as strong a message as anything Fred Rogers could have said, but I came to this realization on my own through Lynch’s example. How about that?
Twin Peaks left the air fairly soon, but it never left my subconscious. As soon as I got older and could spend money on my own clothes, I searched for 1950s styles: plaid skirts, wingtips, angora sweaters. I still wear vintage clothing; for a while I even darkened the mole on my cheek like Audrey Horne’s beauty mark. My artwork - short films, photography, paintings, home style, even some of my drawings - kept reaching into that realm. I became preoccupied with how things were lit and how light created feelings. I became hyper aware of the play between sound and mood, and started experimenting with composing and scoring electronic music and creating animations around them. None of it was great, but it was certainly a lot of fun. I was fortunate to have a college mentor who encouraged it.
Thinking back on all of this creative influence Twin Peaks had on my art, and how much the show means to me personally, I feel incredibly sorry for little girls today. They have no role models of real beauty anymore - in women, in media, in art, on TV. I can’t even bear to watch TV for the most part. There’s no narrative. No story. I’m not very interested in rich housewives or dating shows. I want to get lost in fictional characters.
Young girls and women have since been branded as dumb cattle and sold a rotten bill of goods. I want to scream when I see those brash, nasty kids on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, catering to little girls of eleven today. Come on. When I compare Sherilyn Fenn to iCarly, I want to laugh. And cry a little. Maybe even vomit. David Lynch brought imagination and beauty to television during a dark time of shoulder pads and crunchy hair. I’ll forever thank him for briefly making the TV wasteland a thing of real beauty and brains…both literal and metaphorical.
THIS little girl? Little eleven year old Alice? While most of my peers had NKOTB in their rooms, I ripped off the weirdly lit cover of that 1990 Time magazine of David Lynch and plastered it on my bedroom wall, right next to a map from National Geographic. It was in my room for a couple of years, then he migrated eventually to my high school locker. Can’t explain why I saved and displayed Lynch. I liked the picture. I liked his face. I recognized only that this guy had made something really neat that I liked. Thinking back, why not?
When you’re an art student in a school that focuses primarily on abstraction, Lynch comes up a lot…but for all the wrong reasons. They make him sound as if he’s some kind of pretentious prick creating these abstractions to make others feel smart, with all the analysis that swarms around his movies. It’s a far cry from the sweet, good natured man his collaborators describe him as being. I can’t say I can make heads or tails of half the stuff I’ve seen of his, but usually I don’t want to. I want to experience, then think about what I felt, and feel whatever it is inside. I respect that he makes things for himself first, and allows everyone else to participate however they want to. Did you know he has a solid hand in the music in his films, and he put out a really fun solo album?
I love this song! (click on that link, it’s really good!)
I don’t even know what he’s singing. I play his album when I need some quiet thinking time.
When someone busts convention wide open, they’re either revered or hated. I don’t think Lynch deserves either of those. I think he simply feels that compulsion to create things; he likes thinking and experiments, and he must like the connectivity of the human experience. The transcendental meditation he does seems to give him that.
David Lynch might be a bit out there to many, and there are scores of people who “love him” or “get him,” but for many, I don’t agree. I think they really want to “get” him; that they see in him some kind of mysterious auteur they want to emulate, or learn from osmosis, or something. Lynch strikes me as precisely the opposite: a kindred spirit whose M.O. involves being interested, being engaged, being experimental, playing to the strengths of his collaborators, and - this might be the difference - being empathetic.
I think anyone in the creative field can learn from him. I owe much of my learning to Lynch’s beautiful examples of how to create. Now, I can only hope to learn how to create a good balancing act for my own work.