Twin Peaks: belonging and exclusion
Humans are a social animal. That trite phrase is trotted out by psychologists to describe almost any aspect of interaction. Which, unless you are currently dressed in a loincloth and balanced on a tall pole thinking deep thoughts, covers pretty much all of us.
Yesterday the internet was ablaze with Twin Peaks excitement. After 25 years, the cult TV series is set to return, and lo there was rejoicing and verily did we tweet. I’ve never seen Twin Peaks. Nobody sees everything, but yesterday I began to wonder how and why I’d missed what was clearly an important part of many people’s shared past. And as the day progressed, I wondered about how we all want to join in. To be at the party where everyone seems to be having so much fun, rather than pressing our nose against the window from a dark garden. But enough of my stalking days.
We all remember the desperation of wanting to fit in when we hit our teenage years, and I’m sure we all pounced with equal ferocity on anyone who was different. I can’t extrapolate how I feel about missing one telly series 25 years ago into a full anthropological thesis on how society organises itself. This is just a meander through what seemed to fall out from yesterday’s hype.
I am more hermit than social animal. I guess a lot of writers are. For a few years I didn’t have a telly connected to the outside at all (my mother used to send me weekly videos which usually consisted of what she liked, so I tended to be up to date with Monarch of the Glen and opera documentaries). But when I had a baby, I did connect. I remember how visceral the memories can be when you talk about programmes you grew up with: they are like music you get to know with your friends at school. It is laying down future nostalgia, which is a powerful slow-burn. I wasn’t going to forbid my son from having those kind of memories, or marking him out at nursery as the only one who didn’t know who the Teletubbies were. Confidence can come later, at a time of our own choosing. Confidence usually emerges from a thoroughly grounded sense of belonging and safety.
Once you’re there, of course, you can do anything. The British eccentric is renowned for not caring a jot about what other people think. Fueled on tea and seventeen ways to discuss the weather, we stride about making the world a bit funnier, which I have always found to be inspirational. But then I like funny.
Comedy hinges on flawed characters who often stand outside their social groups. It is where the humour comes from: we laugh at difference as a way to convince ourselves that we are ‘in’ and they are ‘out’. It makes us feel safe. Niles in Frasier is a wonderful example. Frasier is so far out along the awkward spectrum that he fulfilled this role himself in the earlier sitcom Cheers, but even Frasier regards his brother Niles as odd and socially inept.
Martin is writing a letter, and Niles cannot help proofreading it over his shoulder
Niles: It’s best not to end a sentence with a preposition.
Martin writes something on a piece of paper and hands it to Niles
Niles: Not to be technical, but “off” is a preposition too.
I suppose what I’m saying is that it’s ok not to have watched Twin Peaks. If people shun me for it, that says more about their reliance on shibboleths than anything else, and I don’t have much time for people like that. But if enough people I trust recommend it, then I’ll watch. Because sharing things is what it’s all about.
Part-time hermiting. That’s what I do best.
I understand where you’re coming from – I do have a TV – not having one (like i used not to) seems an affectation too far! But I missed the entire first series of Twin Peaks too. It was only my sister’s obsession with it that prompted me to watch it – on a black and white portable TV (remember them!).
This wasn’t that long ago – when I started University I think (or maybe in the last year of my sixth form). These days I seem to miss everything – twitter is all about sharing TV moments – and many things go right over my head. As you say – I don’t really care enough to change it. I obsessively read – and in many ways – I think it’s more entertaining than much of TV. But who knows – I think it’s nice to connect with people and be current with everything.
Hello Amro – and it’s nice to connect with you! Yes, I think the place I ended up at was that we mustn’t care too much either way. There is a time for connection, and a time for being alone and striking out in a different direction. Books – of course – are another potent connection. My twitter talks more about books than it does about telly. Except for yesterday.
Excellent, as usual, Isabel. When Twin Peaks was broadcast I didn’t have a television. Later, someone lent me recordings. I watched but couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. For me, the work of David Lynch is very much a curate’s egg and nothing he has done since has quite reached the brilliance of Eraserhead. I am not at all sure that I shall watch what happens in 2016 [assuming that I am able to watch.]
For the record; I have never seen [on television or on recordings] Cheers, Frasier, Friends or any number of other supposed ‘not-to-be-missed’ programmes. I have missed them yet I do not miss them. Their absence from my life has, as far as I know, had no deleterious effect thereon.
Ah Alan, you see, you are one of those out on your own creating things that we love. It has to be a balance, and I think you exemplify my point of saying that it doesn’t matter if you see or don’t see these things: it is only the feeling of being excluded that’s horrible. I love cleverly scripted comedy, and have a store of lines to make me smile that I can draw on any time. I hope I never stop finding things funny.
Thank you for your kind words, Isabel. You have hit the proverbial nail with: “… it is only the feeling of being excluded that’s horrible.” Most of the time I can wear the exclusion with pride but now and again, usually during dark moments, if I turn to twitter for balance I sometimes find that I do not belong. I agree with you about comedy and can happily find a place where I do belong watching recordings of [in the main] old comedy.
Do you know I think I avoided Twin Peaks the first time round because it was rated as shallow but don’t know who the rater was. Might try it this time round, but when I reflect on how much good television I appear to have missed over time, another avoidance might be a good thing.
Y’know, there’ll be a whole generation who will hardly understand the point of this post; these days I suspect the number of truly ‘shared’ TV experiences are rare, by the time you’ve spread content across multiple channels, platforms and timezones. GBBO a week late on iplayer, anyone?
But the one thing that I think is a truly powerful connector is kids’ TV. At an age where my closest and dearest friends can span a range that is at least 15 years younger and 30 years older than me, the dividing factor (down to a margin of just a couple of years) is which TV programmes we watched as small children (me: Andy Pandy, the Wooden Tops, Pogle’s Wood, Magic Roundabout (the original). There, that’s dated me.) And similarly, the programmes that were on when my kids were young – Sesame Street & Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles. And, God help me, Dogtanian. So you did a good thing for your boy, Isabel. x
For what it’s worth, I do remember watching Twin Peaks the first time round, on a little portable telly in my student room. I remember that lots of people were talking about it; though I wasn’t one of them. At that point I felt so excluded from the rest of the world that no TV programme was going to make any difference, and I was never really sure I’d ‘got’ it. In fact, that in itself became quite an excluding experience. I also know I wouldn’t bother watching it again – it was of its time, and I seriously doubt it would stand up now.
So when they launch the new one, you come round to mine, Isabel, and I’ll introduce you to Spotty the wooden dog instead. xx
You’re on. (My husband watched no telly at a child except Wacky Races, which he wears as a rather odd badge of pride.)
That explains so much. Really. Just *so* much.
Can I join your club as I didn’t see it either? 🙂
Of course. I may yet watch it though …
I didn’t watch Twin Peaks and never used to feel I wasn’t part of something ‘important’. In fact, still smattered with the punk ethic, it felt good. However, now double that age, although I still try to follow that strategy, I did fail when it came to the hype surrounding Breaking Bad and I am glad that I did. It is very good.
I think it has a lot to do with how much you trust the person recommending The Thing. Some people I happily ignore. Some I’d do anything for. You have to trust your trust, if you see what I mean. I think.