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Twin Peaks was one of the most popular shows on television during its first season, aired in 1990. The show was based in small town America, and was easily related to by young and middle aged viewers. The series begins with the murder of an American icon, the Homecoming queen Laura Palmer. The entire series spawned from the single image of a young beautiful girl's dead body that washed up on the shore. This image led to others similar to it- the violence and contempt towards women. The women of Twin Peaks all seemed to have something in common, where they were all either murdered, portrayed as weak, deceptive, and/or abused by the male characters. The dangers that stem from showing such images on national television are that the audience, typically composed of males, would become desensitized to these images, and further, believe that the bold stance that Twin Peaks takes on femininity is true.
Twin Peaks treats domestic violence and abuse with a creepy insensitivity. The incestuous relationship between Laura and her father Leland is almost ignored- being blamed on the possessive spirit, BOB. "After Leland's confession and suicide, Agent Cooper asks Sheriff Truman whether he would prefer to believe that BOB worked through Leland or 'that a man would rape and murder his own daughter.' At this moment Twin Peaks articulates a revision of the seduction theory. Little girls are not abused by their fathers; if they meet an unhappy end, the reason must be sought outside the family circle" (Desmet 98). This reinforces societies urge not to directly face its problems, but rather turn away in a convenient manner. Twin Peaks expresses this urge by hiding Leland's identity as the rapist/murder so well, until it is finally showed to the audience when Leland brutally murders his niece Maddy. Could it be that the reason it is impossible to identify Leland as the killer, is because the viewer does not want to? The audience knows that Leland is capable of murder after he is seen murdering Jacques Renault, but they still do not want to believe that Leland would kill his daughter.
There are clues, however, which do point the blame towards Leland, but these are never directly mentioned or formally addressed. Laura is seen crying out for help, but is too scared to come out and say anything, even to the ones she loves. This addresses American society's will to have its women be passive and voiceless. "[Laura's] cocaine habit, her involvement in pornography, her career as a prostitute at One-Eyed-Jack's, and her desire to find a father substitute or male protector in Doctor Jacoby and others, all identify Laura Palmer as an incest victim asking for help" (Desmet 94). It is typical in America for males to ignore the needs of women because they would rather help themselves and others of their gender. Twin Peaks reinforces this belief by feeding this idea to a mass audience, which, in this case, is typically composed of males.
The stance that Twin Peaks takes on the feminine, violence, and sexuality can be viewed as dangerous in a society such as ours. Throughout the series, women are viewed as sex objects, as well as objects that males can take their aggression out on in a violent manner without any consequences. In the series, Laura, Maddy, Teresa Banks, Caroline Earle, Audrey, Annie Blackburne, and Blackie O'Reilly all die at the hands of men, who have no repercussions for their actions. Also, each of the women who die in the series, are at one time or another put into sexual situations, turning the women into objects (or in some aspects, 'whores') used only for sexual purposes, which, in the male conscious, removes any responsibility to see them as 'real' people. "In a society as riddled with domestic violence as ours, it is risky business to feed a mass audience the idea that the girl next door might be a whore, that the seductive adolescent perhaps wants a real man to hurt her" (George 115). The consequences for the visions that Twin Peaks portrays is that it is acceptable for men to sexual abuse, hurt or even murder women, without any repercussions for their actions.
The desensitization of violence and sexual abuse directed towards women, by men, is not without its consequences. "In the US a woman is battered every fifteen seconds. A rape is committed every six minutes. Three to four million women are beaten in their homes. Over half of the men in a survey of college students said they would rape a woman if they were certain they could get away with it. Furthermore, one out of eight Hollywood movies depicts a rape theme, and by age eighteen, the average American youth has watched 250,000 acts of violence on television" (Ms. 33-58). In the case of Twin Peaks, the violence towards women is extremely excessive. What is almost more disturbing than the actual violence portrayed, is that according to the viewer polls, the majority of the loyal viewers of the series were adolescent males. The viewing of Twin Peaks requires lo
Names mentioned in this term paper
Twin Peaks, Agent Cooper, Cooper, Laura, Desmet, BOB, Maddy, Laura Palmer, Leland, Audrey, herself,
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Keywords referenced in this paper
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