Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Monday, August 5, 2013

Darkness in the Woods: Twin Peaks' Revival of Folkloric Evil


Once again, Twitter provides opportunities. 
Ross Garner (@DefConG) and I are working on putting together a proposal to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Twin Peaks- both analysis of the show itself, and its cultural legacy.
Below is my contribution, veering, as most of my work does, towards the combination of the folkloric and popular culture
Log Lady: [voiceover] Welcome to Twin Peaks. My name is Margaret Lanterman. I live in Twin Peaks. I am known as the Log Lady. There is a story behind that. There are many stories in Twin Peaks — some of them are sad, some funny. Some of them are stories of madness, of violence. Some are ordinary. Yet they all have about them a sense of mystery — the mystery of life. Sometimes, the mystery of death. The mystery of the woods. The woods surrounding Twin Peaks. To introduce this story, let me just say it encompasses the All — it is beyond the "Fire", though few would know that meaning. It is a story of many, but begins with one — and I knew her. The one leading to the many is Laura Palmer. Laura is the one.


Sheriff Truman: There's a sort of evil out there. Something very, very strange in these old woods. Call it what you want. A darkness, a presence. It takes many forms but... its been out there for as long as anyone can remember and we've always been here to fight it.


    The idea of the woods containing an evil, or dark force is an ancient one. It is a common motif in folklore- the woods often presented as an obstacle to be overcome, or as a segment of a quest, or as the end of a journey for a hero, with a damsel or evil to be found at its heart. In more modern representations of film, and television, such as Twin Peaks (1990), The X-Files (1993-2002), Millennium (1996--1999), Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007), Eureka (2006-20 12), Grimm (2011-), Primevil: New World (2012-) and  Supernatural (2005-), the Pacific Northwest, with its landscape dominated by the, often dark, rain forests, have come to stand in for these folkloric woods. Bushman agrees with Egan’s assertion that there exists “a "Northwest noir"  but states that he is “far more intrigued by the darkness, of both the characters and the stories, clearly a metaphorical articulation of the region's mise en scѐne.” 
In each of these works, the setting not only conveys much of the darkness of the series, but also becomes a character in its own right, always lurking in the background. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than with David Lynch’s Twin Peaks where the presence of evil in the story can literally be traced to the woods. Premiering in 1990, Twin Peaks was the first in a long line of television shows set in the Pacific Northwest that used the setting to act as a character, a metaphor, and a plot device. While at the time, the choice of setting seemed quirky rather than influential, I argue that this creative choice of setting became a popular culture shorthand, used to instantly clue the audience in that there was something strange, supernatural, or evil around, in this way, reintroducing modern audiences to the folkloric dark woods.

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