Daughter of the filmmaker David Lynch and the painter Peggy Reavey, Jennifer Lynch (b. 1968) is an experienced and gifted director/artist in her own right. In 1993, she released her directorial debut, Boxing Helena, upon writing the critically acclaimed tie-in book The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. Jennifer Lynch’s book tied in with Twin Peaks, and it bridged the gap between the series and the prequel, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. It also – almost immediately – became a success among fans of the show, and Boxing Helena, too, has become something of a cult-classic. A strange, surreal and somewhat grotesque story, Boxing Helena had Julian Sands and Sherilyn Fenn – known as Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks – in its leading roles. In the 2000s, then, Jennifer Lynch has become an avid episode director on shows like Psych (USA Network, 2006-2014), Teen Wolf (MTV, 2011-present), Finding Carter (MTV, 2014-present), Quantico (ABC, 2015-present) and The Walking Dead (AMC, 2010-present), but she also continues to make smaller, more artsy or expressionistic productions (e.g. the short commercial, Feel Good, promoting David Lynch’s personal brand of coffee). I asked Jennifer Lynch a few questions about the world of Twin Peaks, about Laura Palmer as a character, about modern television drama and about art in general.
AH: You have written the tie-in book The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer which became a huge hit in both the US and Scandinavia and – which is rather rare for tie-in books – a critically acclaimed book. In this book, you chose to delve into the psyche of Laura Palmer, and later Laura and her psyche would also become the focal point of Fire Walk with Me. What makes Laura such an interesting character, and how do you think that your book and Fire Walk with Me go together?
JL: The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer was an incredible experience. I think it stands both with the television show and alone – this because it deals with the human questions in all of us. Am I alone in my yearnings and fears? Am I the only one afraid and yet hungry for risk? Am I lovable? Is my life my fault… or my doing? Is darkness more powerful than light? To be specific, when I was 12 years old, I told my father that I fantasized about finding another girl’s diary in the street. I imagined tucking it under my coat and taking it home to read. I wanted to know if I was normal in the way I felt. Was I so different? Did all young girls think the way I did? Was I bad? Was I unlovable? I think that idea stayed with both of us, and years later, when he asked if I remembered saying it, I told him that, “Yes, I did.” He asked if I would write Laura’s Diary, and I jumped at the chance. It was healing and joyful, terrifying and a great gift.
AH: “Your book ends with the following entry: “Please, Diary, help me explain to everyone that I did not want what I have become. I did not want to have certain memories and realizations of him. I only did what any of us can do, in any situation…” To me, Laura’s story, in both your book and Fire Walk with Me, is the story of a fragile young woman who is beginning – truly – to realize or understand what has happened to her. Both could be seen as stories of ‘the return of the repressed’ (cf. the scene in Fire Walk with Me where Laura covers her ears as The One-Armed Man screams, “It’s him. It’s your father“). Does that reading make sense to you? How do you see Laura’s story?
JL: I think Laura’s story is about the destruction of youth and innocence, which happens to all of us, and it is a study in child abuse. A frightening tale of how we deny the damage being done as long as we can. We give it a new face. We call the monster something different. We make ourselves think we deserve it… We change, crumble, grow. Had Laura survived, she might have been one of the strongest people around. Perhaps she could have given voice to her trauma and found a way to move on.
AH: David Lynch and yourself (cf. the diary and Boxing Helena) both seem to delve into dark places, and both of you have worked with the interconnection between love and control and the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness. Would you say that both of you deal with the duality of life?
JL: I would absolutely say that my father and I both deal with the duality of life. Like the planet itself, so are we: half light and half dark at all times. But I think, truthfully, that all of us are dealing with this in everything we do. Perhaps the medium of visual story telling simply makes what we are doing more visible. I think we really are like everyone else: curious and hopeful and sometimes small. Like a whisper, people can be quiet and yet loud at the same time.
After conversing about Laura Palmer and Twin Peaks, we briefly turned our attention to The Walking Dead and modern television drama in a broader perspective.
AH: You have been working as a director on The Walking Dead which is part of the so-called “Golden Age” of cable television. How would you describe the transition which has happened in TV since the beginning of the 2000s, and how can we see the influence of Twin Peaks on shows such as The Walking Dead?
JL: Bravery happened. Respect for the intelligence of the audience happened. Awareness of the power of being in people’s homes came to light. Storytellers turned the ‘idiot box’ into a set of open palms, and offered the world things they could receive and evolve with.
Twin Peaks certainly had an effect on television and the way that audiences are told stories. There was a freedom and an absurdity to Twin Peaks. An authentic and brave voice that knew people would listen – or hoped they would – and was right. There is so much of all of us in the series, and yet, strangely, nothing we know at all. True escapism. People like us, and yet not. Ultimately, the loss of life and of innocence relates to all of us, the concept of magic and of things hidden in the dark finds a home inside our homes.
AH: To me, Twin Peaks was not only ahead of its time. It still stands out. The lengthy takes, the mood, the shifting genres and tonalities, the music and the combination of slice-of-life reality and surreal dream sequences are all part of its greatness. How would you describe Twin Peaks in terms of genre, and what would you point to as its most iconic elements?
JL: Twin Peaks never asked, “Is this possible?” or “Does this make sense?” It only spoke from a place of ideas and feelings. It stands alone in that, for its time, for sure. Life is absurd and beautiful and precious. Twin Peaks knew that… and still does.
AH: What do you think about the new season, and will it make any difference, in your view, that the series is being moved to a premium cable-network like Showtime instead of a broadcast network like ABC?
JL: I can only hope that the new home for Twin Peaks, Showtime, is a good one. I hope that the fact that my father is directing all the episodes will keep them safe and true to their beginnings – and that they will reflect the changes in him as an artist as well. He and Mark Frost are amazing storytellers, and I look forward to what comes from them. Am I afraid that people will not be pleased as much as their expectations? Sure… But, then, no one and no thing pleases us all. I am just grateful for the chance to witness the art that is headed our way.
The commercial Feel Good (2015), directed by Jennifer Lynch: