“My mind, it continues, is not the mind of a young girl who imagines life to be a series of warm sweaters, while the cold spell passes by.
It warns me that the mind in which I live belongs to someone who knows too much of life and how it ends most often without warning. How it deals us blows, dares us to dream when in fact there is no use. Manages to leave out that there is a plan etched in the planet for me. This mind knows.”
— Jennifer Lynch, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer.
When I first started watching Twin Peaks, it was Laura’s self-destruction that appealed to me the most. I’ve always been attracted to the dead girl, the fatalistic ones, a collection of figures in fiction & reality. In my attempts to find in others the parts of myself that I understood the least, Laura was an ideal. I did not want to know who killed Laura Palmer; I wanted to know about why she choose to die. The mystery, for me, was Laura. I know better than to fetishize death and I know this isn’t a romanticism of abuse, trauma or mental illness. But there is something there that I need to find.
As we see in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me it is not only Donna and Maddie that cannot live up to the image of Laura Palmer, but Laura herself cannot. “It is Laura Palmer’s inescapable destiny to become an icon” writes David Roche in “The Death of the Subject in David Lynch’s Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive.” Who Laura was is broken up in the show, pieces of a corpse made manifest through other means. Her pleading before her death repeated by Waldo the bird, the reflection of James’ bike in her iris, seen in a home movie – all are pieces of Laura. These scraps are put together as an attempt to explain the image that cannot explain itself: her corpse, wrapped in plastic. Laura becomes images and sentences, repeated and pieced together. Her murder isn’t solved, but rather revealed, and once she was gone I quickly lost interest in the series.
The Laura the town of Twin Peaks knew was a single image, the straight A prom queen who ran the meals on wheels program, and her other selves could not be contained. She is a victim of sexual abuse since childhood, she is a drug addict, she is the lover of many men, she is self-destructive – none of these fit, and Laura becomes more than the world will let her be. In the television series, and within the town of Twin Peaks, she was always an image, but in the film & her diary we are able to see who Laura really was, or rather her failure to become that person.
In both her fictional diary (written by Jennifer Lynch) and the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me we find Laura at her most vulnerable – her secret diary, confessions in pieces throughout the years, and an intimate look at the week before her inevitable death. Her abuse, we understand, began when her father was possessed by Bob of the Black Lodge. Though we understand that Bob is a supernatural figure, the idea of the abuser being supernatural for the abused is not a stretch. How much of the Black Lodge was created by Laura as a means of coping with her abuse? The culpability she feels, (and as a child being sexually abused she has no culpability, but that does not stop her from feeling like she does) is rationalized by something irrational. Her abuser exists beyond space and time, is an other-worldy figure she cannot escape. A demonic figure is easier to bear than the betrayal of her father.
Laura cannot be the public Laura Palmer, and the clash with the secret Laura is unbearable. As the two worlds begin to collide, reality becomes frayed at the edges and she is able to see the secrets that one world was masking in the other. Her father was her rapist all along, her actions are putting her loved ones in danger, and “Laura Palmer” is not a person one can be. Laura was trapped in multiple images, and unable to contain them, she had to die in order to be free. Her greatest fear was that she would never be able to escape Bob and be trapped in the Black Lodge with him for eternity. But as we see at the end of Fire Walk With Me she is freed and forgiven, crying as she goes to heaven. There is a Laura, the real Laura, the one that is only glimpsed at in all her forms that she is finally able to be. And all that remains in the world are pieces of her, a testament to a human being.