The Mysteries of Love: The Transformative Nature of Sex in Lynchian Cinema

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Written by Eden H. Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers for Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. Also, while not graphic, this article does deal with mature themes revolving around sex, so read at your own discretion.

Anyone who has seen David Lynch’s movies knows that sex has a potent presence in each one. Sometimes, it takes the form of beautiful love scenes; other times they are grotesque and debased, but they always have a purpose. Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire, and Eraserhead all use sex during vital transformative scenes, and The Diary of Laura Palmer draws a distinct line between Laura’s sexuality and BOB’s arrival. In this article, I will analyze the use of sex and sexual imagery in each of Lynch’s films, and uncover some of the secrets behind the Mysteries of Love.

Note: I will be excluding Lost Highway and Wild At Heart from this article, as those films, I feel, require very specific and individual analysis.

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One of the oldest forms of ritual is sex: In ancient Babylon, temples dedicated to the Goddess Ishtar employed “sacred prostitutes,” who were priestesses who doubled as sex workers, and often used sex as part of their religious rituals. These women would serve as representations of the Goddess when a new King was crowned, so that he might be wed to her and receive her divine blessing. Mother Goddesses, such as Ishtar/Inanna, were usually fertility Goddesses, presiding over sex and reproduction, so it only makes sense for the worship of such deities to be sexual in nature.

Aleister Crowley, who was recently mentioned in Mark Frost’s tie-in novel The Secret History of Twin Peaks, made sexuality a large part of his doctrines and rituals, in which the energy released during copulation is used to give power to whatever spell is being cast. Nontheistic Satanist Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, placed sex in high importance in his ideology. LaVey believed that discovery of one’s sexuality, and having full control over one’s sexual power and identity (whatever it may be) was the key to having agency over one’s life, and, ultimately, finding fulfillment and success. He believed that sex and ritual was one of the most powerful ways to affect an individual’s psychology and direct energy. Sex is a powerful force, easily able to raise emotional energy, which can then be utilized through ritual.

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Sex in the Lynchian Universe is used in a similar way: It commonly heralds a moment of profound transformation, where either two characters become merged, or a character moves into a strange, alternate dimension.

Throughout the first half of Mulholland Drive, it is clear that Betty and Rita are slowly merging into one being, but it is only after they make love that they become virtually indistinguishable. After they merge, Betty and Rita are able to enter the otherworldly Club Silencio and receive the answers to the mystery. In Eraserhead, a sex scene between Henry and the neighbor immediately precedes a disjointed dream sequence; a so-called “down the rabbit hole” moment. We see the couple sinking into a smoking pit of milk, and disappearing into another world. This relates to Henry’s desire for escape from the nightmare of his life.

In Inland Empire, a particularly interesting scene is the love scene between Devon Burke and Nikki Grace, wherein they begin to slip into their alternate personae, Billy and Sue. Immediately afterwards, Nikki/Sue discovers the portal into the alternate dimension. She has undergone a ritual in which she allowed her Nikki persona to be consumed by the film persona. She was transformed into Sue, through a Sex Magick with Billy (or Devon, who thought he was Billy). A recurring motif of the film is prostitution. For the most part, in Inland Empire, this motif seems to represent sexual oppression and enslavement, as there are recurring references to rape through mind control. The prostitutes appear to be under the Phantom’s control. However, I believe they also represent various parts of Nikki/Sue’s psyche, voicing her internal dialogues and performing rituals with her, as she slowly builds up the power she needs to face the Phantom. They are the oppressed parts of Nikki’s personality, which are brought together to become stronger and eventually break the bonds placed on them by the Phantom. The dancing sequences in the film conjure up images of Pagan rituals and Faerie circles. In short, they tell us that Magick is being performed.

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Sex is a centrifugal element of the film Blue Velvet, and is the catalyst for Jeffrey Beaumont’s trip down the rabbit hole. Dorothy Valens has been transformed through the sexual abuse Frank Booth has subjected her to; he “put his disease” in her, infecting her with his violent sexual obsessions. When she and Jeffrey begin a sexual relationship, she asks Jeffrey to hit her, like Frank does. She has become so used to the abuse, that she cannot enjoy sex without it. Eventually, Jeffrey breaks down, and hits her. Later, he regrets his actions, and begins to cry in guilt. He is afraid of being turned into Frank Booth, being sucked into his darkness, ending up spiritually mutated and morally weakened. He does not want to wind up using Dorothy the way that Frank does. His salvation is the love he finds with Sandy, which goes beyond the basic lust he felt for Dorothy. And in the end, it is not through Jeffrey, or her husband, that Dorothy finds healing, but through her pure love for her son.

Blue Velvet serves, perhaps, as Lynch’s ultimate parable regarding the dichotomy between sex and love, and where the two meet. There is depraved sex, and there is sacred sex. There is selfish love, and there is pure love. Lynch has said in interviews that Frank Booth is a man in love, suggesting that his desire for Dorothy is not as black-and-white as it at first seems. It isn’t just lust that compels him, but a sick kind of love – the only way Frank can perceive it.

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“Do me a favor: Stay away from Dorothy. Don’t be a good neighbor to her anymore. Or I’ll send you a love letter, straight from my heart, fucker! Do you know what a love letter is? It’s a bullet from a fucking gun, fucker! You receive a love letter from me, and you’re fucked forever! Do you understand, fuck? I’ll send you straight to hell, fucker!”

-Frank Booth, Blue Velvet

In Lynch’s other works, sex has many different meanings, sometimes within a single film. In Twin Peaks, sex is not portrayed as bad nor good, but a facet of natural human life, though the circumstances surrounding it can be beautiful, or dire. However, a darker layer of this sexuality was hinted at even from the pilot, and as the mystery was slowly unveiled in Season 2 and Fire Walk with Me, the shadow of sexuality which loomed in the background was brought forward: A sexuality that, like Frank Booth, was all about possession, violence, and power.

The two sides of Laura’s identity are, in one way, portrayed by her dualistic relationships with James and Bobby. Her love for James is more of an idealistic, innocent love, whereas her relationship with Bobby is one of manipulation. On the same side of the coin as Bobby, though much deeper and darker, is her “relationship” with BOB; a shadowy, violent figure who Laura remains sexually attracted to in spite of the risk to her sanity and life. This lust is portrayed as a base desire, animalistic, like hunger, which drives its victims to endlessly consume, or die.

A Buddhist belief says that all acts are acts of either love or fear, and all other emotions spring from one of these two. In Twin Peaks, it is again told to use that love is the ultimate salvation, as Laura’s spirit forgives Leland, her abuser and murderer, upon his death — forgiveness, being an act of love. This is in keeping with the theme set by Blue Velvet. However, things are a little shakier in Mulholland Drive, wherein love can do nothing to save our heroines, and, in fact, pushes them closer and closer to the edge. Without going too far down the rabbit hole that is Mulholland Drive, notice the extreme differences between the two sex scenes: The first, between Betty and Rita, is tender, and very loving. The second, between Diane and Camilla, which is arguably the reality of the matter, is sleazy, with a definite tension between the two women. Diane is stricken with fear of losing Camilla, and this is what ultimately orchestrates their downfall. In a way, Diane is becoming like Frank Booth, Lynch’s prime representation of the evil that can seep into a sexual relationship — the need for dominance and power, above anything else.

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Well, that was some heavy content. If you need to lighten up, here‘s a link where you can watch Kyle MacLachlan’s Saturday Night Live monologue back in 1990. Until next time, make sure those grapefruits are freshly squeezed.

Mulholland Drive: Dream a Little Dream of Me

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Written by Eden H. Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.

Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for Mulholland Drive.

This is the second part in my Mulholland Drive series. In the first part, “Scream Blue Murder,” we examined the mystery of the Blue Box and Key, and analyzed the use of the color blue in the film. In this edition, we are going to take a look at the first Winkie’s Diner sequence, Dan’s dream, and the Man Behind Winkie’s.

“I had a dream about this place.”

“Oh, boy…”

“See what I mean?”

Perhaps one of the most enigmatic scenes from the mysterious Mulholland Drive is the first scene at Winkie’s Diner, wherein a man named Dan tells his companion Herb about a strange dream her had. We are given no explanation as to who Dan and Herb are or how they know each other. Herb never appears in the film again, and Dan only appears once and very briefly in the last half hour of the film, and has no dialogue. So who are these characters, and why are we treated to this scene, before we are even introduced to our heroine, Betty? What do they have to do with the main story?

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What may at first seem like a tangent may, upon closer inspection, turn out to have more relevance than we realize. First off, it tells us of the importance of dreams, and the idea that dreams and waking life are not so far removed from each other. It immediately makes us question the reality of these events, and whether what we see is really happening or not.

With that said, let’s examine what Dan says about his all-important dream:

Well… it’s the second one I’ve had, but they were both the same… They start out that I’m in here but it’s not day or night. It’s kinda half night, but it looks just like this except for the light, but I’m scared like I can’t tell ya. Of all people you’re standing right over there by that counter. You’re in both dreams and you’re scared. I get even more frightened when I see how afraid you are and then I realize what it is – there’s a man… in back of this place. He’s the one… he’s the one that’s doing it. I can see him through the wall. I can see his face. I hope I never see that face ever outside a dream.

-Dan, Mulholland Drive

Firstly, Dan says that he has had two identical dreams: This is, of course, a reference to classic Lynchian duality, exemplified beautifully in this film. It is also a reference to the actual dream that the movie portrays, and seems to imply that there are two dreams. We will revisit this possibility later. He describes the dream as taking place during “not day or night… kinda half night.” I don’t have a definitive answer for this, but I have a few ideas. Dan seems adamant about the importance of the quality of the light, to the point where he mentions it three times. This could connect to a much later scene, when Adam and Camilla are kissing onset, and Adam yells, “Kill the lights.” Diane stares on in silent rage as the lights fade. Also, the set is depicting a city at night, so, in a sense, it is portraying a false night… not day, or night.

He seems, oddly, to be surprised at Herb’s presence in his dream. “Of all people, you’re standing right over there, by that counter.” We aren’t given any information on Herb’s relationship with Dan, so we can’t do anything more than guess at why his presence would be perceived as surprising to Dan. Near the end of the film, we actually see Dan, not Herb, standing at the counter, while Diane is placing the hit on Camilla. This clues us in on the importance of Dan’s dream in the scheme of the film.

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Both Dan and Herb are afraid, for no reason that is explicitly given. Somehow, their fear is connected to the Man Behind Winkie’s. He’s doing something that is causing their fear. But what exactly is he doing, and why does it make Dan and Herb so afraid? Dan somehow perceives the Man Behind Winkie’s through the wall (either of the restaurant, or the wall by the dumpster), and his face disturbs Dan so deeply that he falls short in describing it. He says only, “I hope I never see that face outside of a dream.”

This feeling of dread, this “godawful feeling,” has followed Dan around ever since having these dreams. He is so nervous, he could not eat his breakfast. Herb prompts Dan to come with him to see if the Man is really back there. He gets up and goes to the counter, exactly where he is standing in Dan’s dream. Dan’s anxiety increases when he notices this, but he finally gets up and leads Herb outside the diner, despite his sense of dread.

As the two walk to the back of the diner, notice the two things Dan looks at: The “Entrance” sign, and the pay phone. This is exactly where Betty and Rita go to make the anonymous call to the police about the car crash. Lynch takes the trouble to show us the entrance sign again during the Betty and Rita scene. This further ties Dan’s experience with Betty/Diane. Dan then descends the stairs (you can read this as him descending into the subconscious) and he and Herb make their way towards the dumpster. To his horror, the “Man” from his dream drifts out from behind the dumpster. Dan collapses in shock (according to the script, it says he dies). Herb catches him, calling his name, seemingly unaware of the “Man.” Take note of the ringing that almost blots out Herb’s voice. We’ll get back to that.

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Even though we are led to believe that what we just saw takes place in reality, it is in fact, a dream. It takes place just after we see Rita going to sleep, and ends roughly a minute before we see Betty arrive at LAX (there is a short scene in between: The phone call chain, but to me this always seemed to be a precursor to Betty’s arrival). Everything we’ve seen since Diane’s head hits the pillow in the beginning of the film has been a dream. This scene with Dan and Herb is a cipher, put in place to help us decode the rest of the dream that makes up Mulholland Drive.

Let’s go ahead and answer the inevitable question now: Whose dream is it? It’s Diane’s. Despite the fact that the scene is preceded immediately by Rita/Camilla going to sleep, I believe all signs point to this being Diane’s dream. (Besides, according to my theory, Rita is just another projection of Diane, melded with Camilla, but I’ll have to address that in another article.)

Diane is dreaming about two men she noticed sitting behind her once at Winkie’s. From looking at a map of the tables at Winkie’s (put together by Lost on Mulholland Drive), we can guess that in waking life, Diane sat at the table next to these men, perhaps more than once, or perhaps just that one, all-important time, when she put the hit on Camilla. Diane notices Dan standing at the cash register. He happens to be looking back at her. Perhaps she feared he knew what she was up to? Had he possibly overheard from the next booth? She probably associates feelings of guilt with Dan because of this. Remember Dan’s words,

…then I realize what it is – there’s a man… in back of this place. He’s the one… he’s the one that’s doing it.

The one who’s doing what? Something nefarious, apparently. Like, maybe plotting murder? Of course, Diane isn’t a man, but then…. neither is the “man” behind Winkie’s.

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The “Man” behind Winkie’s is played by Bonnie Aarons, who, you may notice, is a woman. This strengthens my assertion that the WOMAN behind Winkie’s is a representation of Diane: How she feels, her guilt, her depression, her anger, jealousy, bitterness… all the things that being in Hollywood did to her. Lynch was adamant about being able to see Aarons’ green eyes. Of course, green eyes is a metaphor for jealousy. We see, many, many times in the last half hour of the film, Diane’s face, burning with jealousy. The dirt and grime on her face represents how “dirty” Diane feels, having gone through routine humiliation, until, eventually, she committed one of the ultimate acts of evil: Murder. She feels like she is a monster. She feels ugly inside, guilty for having had a human being she loved murdered. She can’t stand to look at her own face (“I never want to see that face outside of a dream…”)

But when is Diane ever behind Winkie’s? Well, she isn’t… except maybe when she was working as a prostitute.

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A common theory is that in order to pay bills while struggling to rise as a star in Hollywood, Diane took a job waiting tables at Winkie’s. We even see one of the Winkie’s coffee mugs on Diane’s table at her apartment. Did she steal that for work? Perhaps so. Perhaps she got caught, and was fired. Either way, Diane seems to have turned to prostitution, at some point. It is believed that the blond woman visited by the hitman is a representation of this period of Diane’s life.

Why is the Man behind Winkie’s described as a man? I admittedly don’t have a definitive theory on this. It’s plausible that Lynch wrote the part before casting a woman, and the name for the character just stuck. An alternative is that the use of the word “Man” as opposed to “Woman” has to do with Diane projecting her failures onto some shadowy conspirators controlling Hollywood, i.e., Mr Roq. So “The Man Behind Winkie’s” is a reference “the Man behind (controlling) Hollywood.” He’s the one who’s doing it; who’s making all these awful things happen to Diane. In her mind, it was all some grand conspiracy to keep her out of the Hollywood Elite.

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It’s no secret that David Lynch loves dualism. In every one of his works, you can find some instance of it, and Mulholland Drive is a prime example. Characters, objects and scenes all have doppelgangers, which help us to decipher the meaning behind them. The Winkie’s Diner scene has a doppelganger, but it’s not what you may expect: It’s the scene where Betty and Rita are investigating Diane Selwyn’s apartment. Let’s examine this scene in a new light:

Rita is shaken when she notices two people sitting in a car, apparently staking out the apartment complex. She and Betty duck to avoid detection, as Rita fears these men are looking for her, perhaps to finish the job. She and Betty exit the taxi, and begin to walk around the complex. They spot a suited man waiting outside one of the bungalows, and the two women hide behind a hedge. Betty comments to Rita, “Now you’ve got me scared.” This mirrors Dan’s words to Herb: “I get even more frightened when I see how afraid you are.” This is another connection between Betty/Diane and Dan.

Eventually Betty and Rita find the apartment they’re looking for, only to find out that Diane isn’t living there anymore. The new resident, a woman who looks oddly similar to Rita, grudgingly explains that she switched apartments with Diane. She says that Diane hasn’t been around for a while, and says she’ll come with them to the apartment. However, she is delayed by the ringing of the telephone, and while she is distracted, Diane and Rita go off to find Diane’s apartment. Betty knocks, but there’s no answer, so she breaks in through a window, and lets Rita in through the front door. It’s immediately clear from Betty’s expression that something is wrong: The apartment is permeated by an undeniable stench.

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The two women venture cautiously into the apartment. Compare this to the scene of Dan and Herb walking out behind Winkie’s. Like Dan, the women are filled with an obvious dread, and move slowly. Also like Dan, Betty’s eyes move around frequently, examining her surroundings (recall how Dan stared at the entrance sign, the pay phone, and the railing). They both seem to want to look at anything but what is ahead of them. Then, Betty and Rita enter the bed room, and find a corpse lying in the bed.When Rita sees her face, she screams in horror. Her reaction is very similar to Dan’s reaction to seeing the Man Behind Winkie’s. Dan collapses, dead from terror, and Herb catches him, calling his name. When Rita (who represents a dead person) screams, Betty grabs her and covers her mouth. Though not identical, the similarities are clear.

At this point, the neighbor woman has arrived at the front door to the bungalow, and is knocking while Betty smothers Rita’s screams. We don’t hear the neighbor call Diane’s name, but one theory says that this is leaking into Diane’s dream from waking life: As she is sleeping, her neighbor is knocking on her door, calling to her. “Diane,” muffled by her unconscious state, sounds slurred, and becomes “Dan.” This is why, in the Dan and Herb scene, Herb’s voice is almost completely blotted out by a ringing sound.

Both the corpse in the bed and the Man Behind Winkie’s can be construed as representations of Diane’s suicidal thoughts and feelings as she is hitting rock bottom. At this point, to her, there is no life, no chance of happiness. It’s all over. Hollywood killed the person she was, and the person she wanted to be. Now there is only a sad shadow of Diane Selwyn left, and so, to her, her death is as real as if it had already happened. This is the reason for Betty being able to see her own corpse, before she has died.

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Analyzing the scene between Dan and Herb provides us with a bounty of keys to help unlock the mysteries of the film. Upon deeper analysis, what at first may have seemed like a tangent that, despite its intriguing elements, had very little to do with the actual movie, now comes across as a pivotal tool to deciphering much of the film. Dan has a certain kind of importance to Diane, as she associates him with her feelings of guilt in the moment she saw him, hence his presence in her dream. Whether or not Herb actually existed is less clear, as is his relationship with Dan, or his purpose in the narrative, other than being someone for Dan to talk to. Some theorize he represents Camilla, and there are a couple of parallels. However, when deciphering Mulholland Drive, it is important to remember that many things were intended to be elaborated upon over the course of the initially planned TV series, and many story-lines were cut when the pilot was turned into a feature film. Had the series progressed, we would have seen more of Wilkins, the Black Book, and perhaps Dan and Herb as well. As it stands, we can only speculate…

That is all for now. Please stay tuned for the next installment of my Mulholland Drive series, and, in the meantime, share your own theories about this scene in the comments. Who or what do you think Herb represents? What is the importance of the reference to the light in Dan’s dream? What does the Man Behind Winkie’s represent?

UPDATE: (3/5/2016)

I have amended my theory on whose dream Mulholland Drive is, based on Dan’s description of his dream.

“It’s the second one I’ve had, but they’re both the same.”

This line holds more importance than we may at first think, as it answers the hotly debated question: Whose dream is it? The answer is, it’s both Diane’s and Camilla’s. Remember in Twin Peaks, when Laura Palmer and Agent Cooper share a dream, but at different times? The same principle is at work here. Mulholland Drive is one dream that happens twice: Once for Camilla, and once for Diane. This would actually strengthen the idea that Mulholland Drive is actually a near-death experience, as both women die, and it is unclear when exactly this dream could have taken place, as various clues and symbols seem to imply that it happens after both women’s deaths.

In the diner scene, Dan says that he has had two dreams, but it is arguable that this scene is not a dream itself, which may shake the veracity of this theory. However, it is my belief that, starting with Fire Walk with Me, virtually every Lynch film has had a key scene placed near the beginning to help decode the rest of the movie. In Fire Walk with Me, the two agents analyze Lil the Dancing Girl. In Lost Highway, the Mystery Man drops some clues to Fred. In Inland Empire, Nikki’s new neighbor tells her a mysterious folk tale. All of these scenes hold obscure importance that connects to many points later on in the film. This is the purpose of the first diner scene in Mulholland Drive, whether it is a dream inside a dream or not. Through Dan, Lynch is telling us important things about the story we are about to experience, and any attempt that deciphering the film should pay the strictest attention to these clues.

Diane and Camilla have the same dream, but at different times, just as Cooper and Laura did in Twin Peaks. Both women’s psyches are influencing each other, although the bulk of the story is influenced by Diane. This, however, explains inconsistencies and otherwise inexplicable elements in the dream half of the film. We see, towards the end of the dream sequence, the two women becoming virtually the same, just like the two dreams.

AGENT COOPER: Laura and I had the same dream.

ANDY: But that’s impossible.

AGENT COOPER: Yes. It is.

“Just Like a Movie Star”: The Evolution of Lynch’s “Judy”

The Many Faces of Judy?

The many faces of Judy?

Written by Eden Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.

 

Judy is an enigmatic character, and a point of extreme interest for some die-hard Twin Peaks fans. Researchers have managed to uncover her original identity as Josie Packard’s sister and Phillip Jeffries’ informant, but is Judy more than just a character cut out of Fire Walk With Me for time? There are still many unanswered questions about her: For one, why does the monkey whisper her name? And how does she know about the existence of the Black Lodge? I have a theory that may explain this, and reveal the true face, or faces, of Judy. This theory also indicates that we have actually seen Judy much more than we originally thought. Let’s start with this quote from Inland Empire:

My friend Nico, who lives in Pomona has a blonde wig. She wears it at parties. But she’s on hard drugs and turning tricks now. She looks very good in her blonde wig just like a movie star. Even girls fall in love with her when she’s looking so good in her blonde star wig. She blows kisses and waves. But she has got a hole in her vagina wall. She has torn a hole into her intestine from her vagina. She has seen a doctor, but it is too expensive. And now she knows her time has run out. She [will] score a few more times, and then, like that, she will stay at home, with her monkey. She has a pet monkey. This monkey shits everywhere, but she doesn’t care! This monkey can scream. It screams like it in a horror movie. But there are those who are good with animals; who have a way with animals.

-“Street Person #2” (Nae), Inland Empire

Right off the bat, we can say that Judy and Nico have two things in common: 1) We know very little about them, but 2) we know they are both associated with monkeys, for whatever reason. That may not be much to go on, but the monkey connection is a strange enough one to merit some further rumination.

Nico has "a way with animals," one could say.

Nico has “a way with animals,” one could say.

So, who is Nico? According to her friend, she is a woman who turned to prostitution and drugs, but because of a perforation in her vagina wall, she will now live at home, with her pet monkey. Oh, and she wears a blonde wig, which makes her look “just like a movie star.” She is so beautiful, both men and women fall in love with her. It’s difficult to tell from the only shot we get of Nico, but the actress who plays her, Masuimi Max, is of Korean descent, which makes both Nico and Judy Asian.

Monkey

The monkey that mysteriously whispers the name “Judy” in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

But who is Judy? Thanks to some very loyal Twin Peaks fans, we have more info on Judy: She’s allegedly Josie Packard’s sister, an informant and possible love interest to Phillip Jeffries, and she seems to know something about a portal to the Black Lodge that exists in Buenos Aires. Through Josie, she may also be linked to prostitution. And a monkey mysteriously whispers her name in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

But what, if anything, does this mean?

Judy was meant to be a character in Fire Walk With Me, but when the script ran long, certain parts had to be taken out. And thus, poor Judy ended up on the cutting room floor… mostly. She’s mentioned, but never seen in the film, and never discussed at length. There are many theories about Judy, and whether or not the Judy mentioned in the final film product is still meant to be Josie’s sister, or a symbol for something else. According to my theory, it’s a little bit of both. Let’s look at another character, seen briefly in Inland Empire.

Although it’s Nico who’s described as blowing kisses and laughing, she does neither when we see her in the end credits. But someone does: Laura Harring, a.k.a. Camilla Rhodes, a.k.a. Rita, from Mulholland Drive. At first this may seem meaningless… until you realize that the character of Rita looks just like movie star Rita Hayworth, and wears a blonde wig. Even women have been known to fall in love with Rita when she’s looking so good in her blonde star wig. Now, because of the manner of storytelling utilized in Mulholland Drive, analysis gets a little tricky, but Rita may also be associated with the character of Diane Selwyn; a would-be movie starlet who had to resort to prostitution and maybe even drugs when her career fails. Many fans have debated about the film, its meaning, and the story behind its characters, and there are too many theories to recount in one place, but there is one I’d like to bring up at this point, and that is the theory that Camilla Rhodes was inspired by Lynch’s former girlfriend, actress Isabella Rossellini. Both Rossellini and Camilla are “exotic” actresses with dark hair, and they both dated well-known directors (Adam Kesher, played by Justin Theroux in Mulholland Drive, seems almost like a self-written parody of Lynch). Oh and as for the blonde wig…

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That’s Rossellini in Lynch’s film Wild At Heart, which he was working on concurrent to the second season of Twin Peaks. And if this isn’t building a clear enough pattern, it is known that Rossellini was originally going to play Josie Packard.

Before Josie Packard was played by Joan Chen, Lynch had written the part, originally named Giovanna, for Rossellini. She was, of course, Italian-American as opposed to Asian-American. But when Rossellini backed out of the project, Lynch re-worked the part and cast Chen instead. And Josie, of course, according to early drafts of the Fire Walk With Me script, is Judy’s sister, and is thought to have worked as a prostitute in Hong Kong.

But what does this all mean? Where is this going? To finally complete the picture, we need to look at another Judy…

Garland?

Garland?

Lynch’s fascination for the story of The Wizard of Oz is well-known among his fans, and it has been made evident again and again in his works. The motif of a girl traveling to a strange world, full of both magic and horror, is one that Lynch emulates in almost every one of his films. Sometimes the symbolism is even more blatant, such as having a character named Dorothy wear red shoes (Blue Velvet), or having Major Garland Briggs mention Judy Garland’s name in relation to his own (Twin Peaks). Women filling the role of “Dorothy Gale” in Lynch’s works include Laura Palmer, Nikki Grace, and Diane Selwyn: But the woman who most famously portrayed the original Dorothy Gale was Judy Garland.

Judy Garland, despite her tragic life, was forever immortalized as the hopeful and naive Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz.

Judy Garland, despite her tragic life, was forever immortalized as the hopeful and naive Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz.

Garland is, in many ways, the perfect symbol of the wonder and tragedy of Hollywood, a subject that Lynch is passionate about: Born Frances Ethel Gumm, “Judy” was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer when she was only thirteen, and played the famous role of Dorothy Gale three years later. She was originally supposed to wear a blond wig for the part, but ultimately the producers decided against it. Her many years in show business were plagued with woe: She suffered various heartbreaks, including a time when MGM forced her into a divorce, and potentially pressured her into having an abortion for the sake of her career. She eventually married director Vincente Minelli, with whom she had her daughter, Liza Minelli. The stress of living always in the public eye ate away at Garland, driving her to multiple suicide attempts, stays at mental wards, and addiction to morphine, alcohol and barbiturates. “All I could see ahead was more confusion,” Garland was quoted as saying, after one of her many career disasters. At the age of 59, Garland was found dead of a barbiturate overdose. According to doctors who examined her, she was already dying of cirrhosis, and only had a matter of time, anyway.

This dark, tragic life, full of turmoil and a sense of hopelessness, is such a jarring juxtaposition to the roles she was most famous for: Happy, bright young girls, always singing and dancing and full of cheer. This telling vision of Hollywood struck a chords with Lynch, and “Judy” has been a part of his films ever since.

Let’s look at the evolution of the character: Lynch, inspired by the story of Judy Garland, creates the character Dorothy Vallens, played by Isabella Rossellini, who notably wears red shoes. He writes the role of Italian-American “Giovanna” for Rossellini, but she decides to pass up the role. The role is rewritten as Chinese-American “Josie” and goes to Joan Chen. When Rossellini is cast in Wild At Heart, a movie filled with Wizard of Oz references, Lynch consciously or subconsciously dresses her in a blonde wig, a reference to the early wardrobe plans for Garland’s Dorothy. The early drafts of Fire Walk With Me are written, featuring a character named Judy; Josie’s sister, who seems to know the secrets of other worlds, and may even know how to get into them. After multiple drafts, Judy is mostly cut from the script, but in the film we still see the blue-lit face of a monkey whispering “Judy.” After a period of tempestuous reinvention, Mulholland Drive is released as a feature film, with Laura Elena Harring playing the exotic and seductive actress Camilla Rhodes, whose alter-ego “Rita” disguises her Hayworth-esque appearance with a short blonde wig. She is so beautiful, she both men and women fall head-over-heels in love with her. Naomi Watts plays Diane Selwyn, a failed actress who resorts to prostitution and possibly drugs just to survive in Hollywood. Years later, Inland Empire tells the story of Nikki Grace, a Hollywood actress, apparently past her prime and hoping for a comeback. She eventually slips into another world, where we meet her alter-ego Sue, who is a prostitute in Hollywood, and at one time opines “All I can see from here is blue tomorrows,” a possible reference to the Judy Garland quote. She is stabbed on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, where she staggers past a partially-obscured star on the Walk of Fame: Only the name “Dorothy” is visible. She collapses next to some homeless people and hears an Asian woman (played by Japanese actress Nae) talk about her friend Nico, a drug-addicted prostitute who wears a blonde wig, so she looks “just like a movie star,” and owns a pet monkey.

After initially being inspired by the story of Judy Garland, who was born Ethel, became Dorothy on the screen, and was Judy to the public, Lynch carried the character of “Judy” with him, and, as with any character that is destined to be, she took on a life of her own: Showing the dark, seedy truth covered up by the glamor of Hollywood and its promise of fame and fortune. It is a place where magic and beauty can be made, but it is at the expense of millions who try and fail to become a part of it, and often fall into the underground world of drugs and prostitution, and those who do make it have taken hold of a double-edged sword. It is a stark balance between light and dark, horror and beauty, power and poverty, fame and obscurity, painful truths and attractive lies. “Judy” represents the glory and tragedy of life and death, and a desire to enter another world: Through death, through magic, or through movies.

Duality: A Guide to Translating Lynchian Mysteries

Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer, and Sheryl Lee as Maddy Ferguson... An example of Lynchian dualities.

Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer, and Sheryl Lee as Maddy Ferguson… An example of Lynchian dualities.

Written by Eden Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks

David Lynch is fascinated by dualities, that is no secret: The dichotomy between the facade and the secret face is the basis for many of his works, including Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. His use of dualities leads his stories to have multiple narrative layers, which often confound viewers. The downfall of many a would-be-translator of Lynch’s works is their tendency to limit the story to one explanation. In order to properly understand his works, however, I believe that we must allow for there to be no less than two explanations: The Mundane, and the Symbolic.

The Mundane: This method of analysis addresses the story as being a real, existing place in its own right. To interpret Eraserhead in this way, one must consider it as existing in its own universe, run by its own laws of nature. For instance, it may not be unusual for one to have piles of dirt on their nightstand: In that universe, it may be a form of interior decorating for the lower-class. (This is one interpretation, and a lousy one at that: Don’t take it too seriously!) In the Twin Peaks universe, the Black and White Lodges exist as a parallel dimension which sometimes interacts with the world that houses Twin Peaks. It is part of that universe’s logic, and needs no symbolic interpretation, because it is, more or less, a physical place governed by its own logic and laws of nature.

The Symbolic: This method is the stuff of dreams, hallucinations, and messages from godlike beings, which require interpretation, often using Jungian or Freudian archetypes. This is the method of translation which says that Killer BOB is not a being, but a representation of a cycle of abuse, or a split personality that Leland Palmer used to cope with his trauma. It tells us that, in Inland Empire, the Lost Girl is actually Nikki’s own self, which she must rescue from her destructive tendencies, and that the baby in Eraserhead appeared grotesque because of Henry and Mary’s anxieties over becoming parents for the first time.

The result of a world where babies are mutated as the result of a nuclear blast, or a symbol of postpartum depression?

The result of a world where babies are mutated as the result of a nuclear blast, or a symbol of postpartum depression?

     These methods may be used in collusion or independently of each other, but using them both, I believe, is the key to truly understanding the masterpieces of David Lynch.