Warning: this post contains discussions of rape, child sexual abuse, and incest. Spoilers for Twin Peaks and Fire Walk with Me.
For those of you who don’t know, Twin Peaks is a cult drama that ran for two seasons from 1990-1991. In simple terms, the show is about the ripples created in a small Washington town after homecoming queen Laura Palmer is found dead. FBI agents come to town, secrets are revealed, new secrets are created, and everyone gets involved in at least one or two love triangles. Despite being a crime drama/primetime soap opera, Twin Peaks featured a lot of spiritual or supernatural elements and mysteries that would lay the groundwork for series like LOST, Carnivàle, and even Fringe (in which “science” becomes its own type of spirituality that allows people to share consciousness, speak to the dead, and transport souls). However, Twin Peaks will probably be remembered most for being weird, popularizing the Quirky Town trope through the town of Twin Peaks, and delving into some pretty weird shit in the spiritual realm (i.e., the Black Lodge, the Red Room). How the series creates this aura of quirkiness and weirdness is suspect.
Let’s start with the Quirky Town trope. As anyone knows, Quirky Towns are made up of Eccentric Townsfolk. On Gilmore Girls, Stars Hollow, the quirkiness capital of Connecticut, is home to Kirk (who holds a different job each episode), a troubadour, and Miss Patty (grand dame of dance and frequent name-dropper) just to name a few. Watching Twin Peaks, the purported mecca of Eccentric Townsfolk, I was struck by how very few residents were quirky compared to other Quirky Towns. I admit this is my own perception of the show colored by my own personal experiences. So why did I read Twin Peaks residents as less eccentric than I expected given the show’s hype? I can think of three possible reasons: 1. I grew up watching shows inspired by Twin Peaks‘ Quirky Town-ness that turned the trope up to 11 (e.g., Gilmore Girls). 2. I am weirder than the people of Twin Peaks and therefore find them normal. 3. I don’t find people with disabilities quirky or eccentric just for having disabilities. In my opinion, Twin Peaks tries to create of an aura of quirkiness by having a lot of characters with disabilities. How many? Let’s break it down.