some dumb thoughts that are maybe important

I see a lot of accusations levelled against the new season of Twin Peaks by David Lynch. The more mild being that it’s dumb or unintelligible, and the more interesting being that it’s incredibly misogynistic.

Both seem to get the response that the person saying this doesn’t get it.

I have no strong feelings about David Lynch beyond that I hated Eraserhead and Blue Velvet. They made me so insanely uncomfortable that I can’t even imagine watching anything else by him, and so I haven’t. I did like The Elephant Man, though. Either way, I think Lynch is basically incredibly talented and maybe a genius, but the things he makes are things I hate. Kind of like Nine Inch Nails or Tool.

So I haven’t actually seen any of the new Twin Peaks. Nor have I seen the original. But because I have no intention of seeing any of this stuff with my own eyes, I have no problem reading spoilers and whathaveyou, which these critical articles tend to contain.

Granted, my experience is heavily biased because of this, so I’m also going to mostly ignore my own feelings about the work and just focus on the accusation of misogyny.

And I guess what I’m really going to talk about is people’s reactions to the accusations.

A lot of the responses tend to be, like I said, that the accuser doesn’t get it, as if that makes it excusable. The rest of the responses seem to be along the lines of he’s from a different time or that it’s somehow unintentional (which is maybe the take I have the most issue with, since it’s clear to anyone who’s ever seen anything Lynch has made that nothing in it is unintentional–seemingly nonsensical or vulgar, certainly–or some byproduct of thoughtlessness on his part, especially given how much creative control he has over his projects).

This is actually pretty normal behavior, though. It’s something that I probably always understood but never really clicked this way until I saw so many people who consider themselves to be progressive or feminists or radicals basically dismiss what seems like a critique that’s worth taking seriously.

I think it’s why Bill Cosby is still best known as a comedian and not a serial (alleged) rapist.

When you trust an artist–or anyone, but especially someone you deify, the way we tend to deify artists/celebrities/politicians–it’s hard to see them objectively or even with unbiased eyes. It’s why so many people are still defending Cosby against his accusers. Why people like Dave Chappelle have incredibly troubling takes on Bill Cosby’s alleged crimes. It’s why Dick Cheney can shoot someone in the face and get away with it, why Caitlin Jenner can kill someone with her car and have no repercussions, why Donald Trump is president, why Woody Allen still rubs shoulders with feminist icons, why so many Democrats omit or overlook war crimes done by the Obama and Clinton administrations, why Republicans and every pundit in the US cheers when we shoot missiles into the air or drop bombs on children half a world away, why Casey Affleck and Johnny Depp are still Hollywood powerhouses, Ronald Reagan is seen as a hero and not a savage maniac tottering on a throne made of bones, why every athlete who’s killed or beaten or sexually assaulted a woman has never had to own up to what they did.

It’s weird, but it happens way too often in the exact same manner for it to be anything except a part of how humans see the world.

We want heroes. We want them to be infallible. We want them to stay heroes.

We absolutely love to tear them down and watch them suffer, but only if their downfall is drugs or narcissism or some kind of mood disorder.

No amount of violence–sexual or otherwise–will lower these people in our estimation.

I don’t mean to say that making potentially misogynistic art is anywhere near the same thing as any form of active violence.

That’s a ridiculous position to hold, especially since I’ve never even seen the work of art in questions (and probably never will).

But I do think there’s a very strong tendency to look at the world–and especially things we love–uncritically. It’s why so many progressives are easy on Bernie Sanders when he pounds his fist for war or why so many Democrats refuse to see anything even remotely problematic about the Clintons or why so many Republicans will support Trump no matter what, while still arguing that they don’t like him, see him as a vulgarian or whatever else (for conservatives it seems to have a weird sense of loyalty to the party, even as that party shifts farther and farther away from what it was when they became a member).

This is especially true with art.

Art is in our blood, our lungs. We need it, and it shapes us. It makes us who we are. A work of art, a story, a song–they’re more than just those words. They’re a reason to live. A reason to get out of bed. A reason to love and laugh and find meaning.

So when someone who has routinely made art we love for years or decades, when their art has helped shape and define our worldview (or at least our view and understanding of art), it becomes incredibly difficult for us to take a step back and see that this man or woman is just that. A human. Maybe a garbage human doing unspeakable evil in the world. Maybe just a blundering buffoon.

I think it’s worth examining your heroes and the institutions you feel attached to. Do it regularly.

There’s a tendency to behave as if any critique on something you’re attached to is a personal attack or outrageous libel about all that you hold sacred. But, really, the things we should be most critical of are the things that we hold most dear, the things that are most woven into ourselves. Whether that’s a political party, figure, artist, or singular work of art, you should be relentless with your critiques.

While it’s good and fine and wonderful to critique the things you hate or despise, it’s not really going to get you anywhere because those things or people or institutions don’t care that you hate them. Why should they?

But when you truly love someone or something, and it disappoints you, you should let them know. You should let them know exactly how and why they disappointed you.

It might make them better, next time.

It might make them change.

But, yeah, just some idle chatter here.

One thought on “some dumb thoughts that are maybe important

  1. Decent points, of course it’s personal and I’m glad you wrote this post.

    That said I still don’t buy it. Over the years I’ve landed with three things about Lynch that I can’t get over:

    1) the characters are placeholders (Elephant Man & Straight Story excepted) and that explains so much why the films din’t have much emotional resonance for me

    2) all the bargain basement surrealism tics just look like stylistic flourishes that signal art

    3) it’s all too self referential – I get bored with films that are somehow ‘deconstructing genre’ – mostly they’re not, they’re fodder for critics who love that stuff

    Sorry about the rant – your thoughtful reply made me think a bit more about what I didn’t like.

    Like

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