Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Discussion of Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me

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claaa7
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Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Postby claaa7 » Sat Jul 08, 2017 1:50 pm

time and time again, and especially amongst younger viewers, you see this trope that everything that to their eyes were "corny" or "cheesy" is because it's not honest and because Twin Peaks really was a parody having a go at silly soap operas.. this for me is far from truth. sure Lynch and Frost had some fun with the soap operas of the day, inverting their style but at least the first sesaon and a half is very honest story telling. later when Lynch and Frost was away the show derailed and they started having fun and making fun of popular soap opera tropes but Twin Peaks was much more honest than a pastiche.

a good example of this is in Martha Nochimson's interview with Lynch where he said that he came up with the "Invitation to Love" segment that would be used in the series to reflect on the show but in an honest way. he liked the way soap operas gave folks a chance to enter a different world. then he went off and made "Wild at Heart" and when he got back he was shocked to see that Frost had turned these segments into some scathing commentary on soap operas and how ridiciolous they were which stunned him because he thought that they both had an understanding of why those segments were supposed to be there. that's why they was killed after Season 1 ended.

of course they had some fun with some Soap Opera tropes of the day, but for the most part the relationship stuff between James/Donna/Maddy/Laura, Ed/Nadine/Norma, etc. was not there to laugh at how silly soaps are.. these are 100% honest story lines. i'm really getting tired of seeing how Twin Peaks was a parody of the soap opera pastiche. it never was... Twin Peaks was funny but at the same time it was a very honest show, much more so than a sarcastic show.
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Re: Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Postby Cipher » Sat Jul 08, 2017 1:57 pm

It may have been more on Frost's mind than Lynch's, but the show certainly seems to be having some fun pitting soap-operatic conventions against its more clever humor and chilling horror, and at times using the artifice to highlight the uncanny elements of Lynch's work.

I don't think there's anything saying it couldn't be treating its characters completely sincerely, which it is, for the most part, while also indulging in elements of pastiche.

I think "parody" goes a step too far, and certainly it isn't one of the series' biggest goals, but you can't tell me with a straight face it isn't intended to winkingly allude to the TV conventions of the time, both through its style, at points, and especially through cartoonishly absurd plot lines such as the Packard Saw Mill (which I love) and even heightened elements such as Laura's impossible do-gooding schedule that puts her in the good graces of literally every character in the town.
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Re: Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Postby claaa7 » Sun Jul 09, 2017 10:58 pm

Cipher wrote:It may have been more on Frost's mind than Lynch's, but the show certainly seems to be having some fun pitting soap-operatic conventions against its more clever humor and chilling horror, and at times using the artifice to highlight the uncanny elements of Lynch's work.

I don't think there's anything saying it couldn't be treating its characters completely sincerely, which it is, for the most part, while also indulging in elements of pastiche.

I think "parody" goes a step too far, and certainly it isn't one of the series' biggest goals, but you can't tell me with a straight face it isn't intended to winkingly allude to the TV conventions of the time, both through its style, at points, and especially through cartoonishly absurd plot lines such as the Packard Saw Mill (which I love) and even heightened elements such as Laura's impossible do-gooding schedule that puts her in the good graces of literally every character in the town.


yes great points, i think i expressed myself poorly.. the thing that bugs me is that i've seen countless quotes from (mostly) younger people who catched the show much later who totally writes off everything melodramatic as a straight-up parody and satire of soap operas. for me that's really taking it a step or three too far, the show was honest with honest characters who adhered to the rules of the world Frost and Lynch set up, but yes they definitely had some fun with it but even the stuff you mentioned like the Packard Sawmill was treated fairly honest. it wasn't "haha look at us turning this silly soap opera tropes over but heightening it even more so you can see how ridiciolous it really is" as some seem to believe.
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Hockey Mask
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Re: Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Postby Hockey Mask » Mon Jul 10, 2017 9:30 am

It intentionally or not danced between parody, homage and inspiration.
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Re: Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Postby IcedOver » Tue Jul 11, 2017 12:56 pm

Regardless of how it was intended, some aspects of the first season at least feel very much like a soap opera on steroids -- not necessarily a parody, but an amped-up version. Almost everybody on the show is double-crossing or cheating on someone else, sometimes multiple people.
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David Locke
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Re: Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Postby David Locke » Wed Jul 12, 2017 1:17 am

Actually I think S2, despite its influx of supernatural and horror tropes, is much more indebted to soap operas than S1. This is a point well-expressed by Marc Dolan in his essay featured in the Full of Secrets collection; that the more serialized, postmodern detective-story of S1 turned into essentially a soap opera in S2 - an unusual one, but structurally much more dependent on soap tropes... especially by the mid-season, it became a pleasant, often not-very-eventful look at the various goings-on in the town, with pure soap-opera plots like Little Nicky, Josie/Andrew/Catherine, James/Evelyn, Ed/Norma, et al, being more prominent than ever. I don't mean this as criticism necessarily, I think soap opera is not at all an inherently pejorative word as many use it. But when we get to the part with Jones being hired by Catherine, trying to kill Harry... it feels very much like a soap with surreal touches. And the show nearly always did to some extent, the least of this being in S1 when it was more grounded/realistic and more of a pure detective story/mystery, and in Lynch's episodes which naturally have a kind of grounded realism to them, the dead-air awkwardness which he combines with his usual surrealism. Lynch may have used soap tropes as well, but he always would extract some visceral emotional core out of them when he returned to the show, instead of keeping them in fantasyland where nothing has consequences. A good example of this is his approach to Nadine in 14 & 29. By contrast, the episodes that are the silliest or most detached-from-reality/consequences, like 19, 21, and 22, feel like pure soap opera.
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Re: Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Postby laughingpinecone » Wed Jul 12, 2017 4:28 am

The show certainly embraces the soap opera format but I agree with the OP that it's no parody. To me, it feels more like the show examining a bunch of soap opera tropes and sincerely wondering what cool things one could do with them. For example, all the cheating. It's the soapiest of soap stuff, but written and directed by people with a keen eye for the dynamics of dysfunctional couples, and unhealthy relationship patterns. Or Maddy's arc, she starts out like Jade and Emerald but her arc is centered on the fact that everyone sees her as Laura. etc...
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Gabriel
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Re: Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Postby Gabriel » Sat Aug 26, 2017 5:17 am

Lynch himself referred to Twin Peaks as 'soap noir,' so whether or not it was a parody – pastiche is perhaps more accurate – of soaps, the show certainly reflected the big budget soaps of the time.
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Mr. Reindeer
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Re: Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Postby Mr. Reindeer » Sat Aug 26, 2017 5:30 am

Gabriel wrote:Lynch himself referred to Twin Peaks as 'soap noir,' so whether or not it was a parody – pastiche is perhaps more accurate – of soaps, the show certainly reflected the big budget soaps of the time.


When did he say that?! Do you have a source? It seems very unlike DKL to use that sort of industry buzz terminology. (Ok, he and Barry Gifford did call LH a "21st century noir horror film" in the script, but he also expressed some regret about that later.)
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Gabriel
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Re: Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Postby Gabriel » Sat Aug 26, 2017 5:33 am

I'll have to look around. It goes back to contemporary interviews. I've always remembered the term, because I read it in an interview with Lynch!
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Novalis
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Re: Twin Peaks was never a parody of Soap Operas...

Postby Novalis » Sat Aug 26, 2017 6:37 am

I agree with the OP.

Since residents of Twin Peaks like Leland, Jacoby, Nadine, Lucy and Shelly were all shown to be viewers, it would not make much sense if Invitation to Love were a parody aimed at trashing soap-operas. This would effectively be saying that 'Twin Peaks residents are all simple fools'. On the contrary, I see not parody but a complex revaluation of soap opera. How does this work?

Well, in order to say something about soap opera in Twin Peaks, firstly I think we could use some rough-and-ready distinctions. In what follows I will distinguish between i) modernist irony, ii) postmodernist cynicism and iii) what has been called the 'new sincerity'.

In modernist irony the most banal and commonplace of scenarios can be sublimated, elevated and given real depth and value. The tawdry twists and turns of relationships between people acquire dignity, even profundity and excess meaningfulness. Soap operas are in a sense a realisation of this attempt to find the miraculous and dignified in amongst the menial, the domestic and the everyday. One of the impulses behind the original soap opera was to show how the mundane world of working-class people was every bit as meaningful, tragic and noble (as 'operatic' you could say) as that of the ruling class and their generals; this was a radical, revolutionary, aspect to modernism often glossed over by a narrow focus on purely literary modernism, which tended to be far more conservative, even counter-revolutionary or reactionary.

In stark contrast, in postmodern cynicism, everything is deflated, and desublimated, so that all lofty themes are ultimately reduced to the level of the banal, the kitchen sink. You start with cosmic themes and grand statements and then reveal grubby motivations. Here you can include all those parodies like the Scary Movie films which repeated scenes of note from blockbuster films but only in order to cynically rob them of gravitas and pathos. The overriding motivation is a premium on burlesque or bathos. The methods are desublimation, deflation, and in general all and any cheap jokes you can make at the expense of overblown pretensions of 'saying something' non-relativistic or universal. At the same time, this is where Dallas and Dynasty live, in the way they show how all people, even (indeed, especially) those of rank and fortune, are thoroughly self-serving, vile and grubby and have nothing noble, operatic, or of universal value about them. In a very real sense, Dallas and Dynasty were already parodies of soap opera, and even sometimes self-parodies, in that they deflated everything that had been aspired to in the original concept.

Finally you have the 'new sincerity' and metamodernism: a rejection of postmodernist cynicism which once again attempts to present something noble or dignified about the human situation, something of universal import (e.g. the current re-boot era comes from wanting to take seriously again, rather than endlessly parody or see as hopelessly camp, the figure of the comic-book hero).

I admit these are crude, shoddy distinctions but I think they are workable.

Where then do you situate Invitation to Love and the soapy elements of TP in this division; on the side of postmodern cynicism, modernist irony, or new sincerity? Initially the problem looks like one of periodisation: the 1990s are typically too late for modernism, and too early for the new sincerity, but correlate perfectly with postmodernism. However, we have to remember that Twin Peaks was absolutely atypical, which is what made it so ground-breaking. If I had to put its use of soap opera (not just in its inclusion of Invitation to Love as a nested show with sometimes eerie resonances, but in its tropes, tone and devices) into one of these three boxes I would put it into box iii) the new sincerity, and call it 'ahead of its time'. I do think it retains some characteristics of modernist irony though.

It's interesting that Frost is culpable for attempting to make Invitation to Love fit into the parody box (box ii), which is not where it had been destined.
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