David Lynch is a brilliant man with a darkly beautiful vision. Lynch forever changed the world of television as well as the collective Millennial and Gen-X consciousness when he debuted Twin Peaks, simultaneously birthing and killing Laura Palmer with its premiere. I was five years old at the time and watched with my father as this pitch-black murder mystery with a strong, supernatural fight between good and evil unfolded before my very impressionable eyes. I’m willing to bet that David Lynch was responsible for the resurgence of the popularity of owl trinkets as we all grew up to be adults, totally unaware of the indelible image left there on our young psyches.
Today, on the 27th anniversary of the date of fictional Laura Palmer’s death, I propose that world of Twin Peaks re-imagined. Suma Jane Dark, a photographer, and fat activist created a stunning shoot with an intersectionally-diverse crew of models to celebrate her love of David Lynch and his dark world. This is all part of a larger project involving introducing different identities, shapes, and figures to mainstream media.
“For this particular set, I was really inspired by Audrey Wollen’s Sad Girl Theory,” says Dark. “Laura was so much to me. She was myself and some of my closest friends. We were always sad but in a way that was almost empowering. We devoted ourselves to our sadness completely. We were possessed by it. Wollen discusses how sadness can be rebellion in the face of the limited options for true autonomy that girls might feel they have. Our sadness was certainly a protest. At the same time, people were drawn to it. They were invigorated by it. When you’re growing up, nobody tells you that your sadness and vulnerability can be weaponized against you. The number of horrible things that I endured as a teenage girl with the hope of each experience leaving me feeling more “free” are staggering. I have heard similar stories from so many friends. We were all sometimes Laura (or Audrey or Shelly or Donna or Josie). But we’ve also had to learn to be our own Coopers and Harrys and fight for each other.There are so many aspects of all the Sad Girls and the people who love them playing across the screens in our living rooms and bedrooms that are recognizable. But their actual representation in these movies or tv shows never reflect the reality of the huge range of people that not only exist, but that play such enormous roles in our lives. Onscreen, sadness, youth, sexuality, self-destruction, vulnerability, ennui, and solidarity look just one way. Really, almost everything in media looks just one way, but consuming these works and interacting with them is such a huge part of our lives, whether we realize it or not. I wanted to challenge the absence of that range of representation and imagine a media where we can not only relate emotionally to our favorite characters, but also see in them a more realistic reflection of ourselves and each other. It’s a work in progress. I am interested in speaking to anyone about the pieces of media that have affected their lives that they would feel empowered by imagining portrayed more inclusively. Anyone interested in participating should contact me.”
The series starts out with finding the friendly Pete Martell finding the town’s most beloved citizen, prom queen Laura Palmer washed up ashore, “dead, wrapped in plastic.”
I adore David Lynch, but his worlds are very white. He is a white man born in 1946, not much older than my own parents. He takes the idea that he learned as “perfect Americana” and unravels the dark soap opera behind it. I could focus on the faults of his work, but I would rather look at how this has helped foster a critical examination of what the “perfect” life really looks like and helped influence the minds of young, future filmmakers everywhere. His work is not an ending, but a beginning to a much longer conversation.
As a fat woman, I have never known the feeling of turning on the television and seeing people that looked like me. This is the ultimate goal of Suma Jane Dark’s photo project, to introduce re-imagined versions of the characters that we know and love. Producing works that feature less commonly seen (yet more common day-to-day) bodies and identities is not simply an act of vanity. It’s hard to feel motivated if you simply do not see a place for yourself in society. When you are no longer the butt of a joke but instead, an empowered, pivotal character in a storyline, you feel a swelling sense of pride and capability.
By creating images and roles for marginalized identities, we help young people everywhere author their own narrative of success. Sometimes it just takes a minor tweak in the story or photoshoot.