Wrapped in Plastic: A Revealing Look at Twin Peaks

Wrapped in Plastic © ECW Press
Wrapped in Plastic © ECW Press

Since the announcement from David Lynch that Twin Peaks will be returning in 2016 following a 25 year break, interest in the surreal little Washington town is, well, Peak-ing! Articles discussing the show are appearing all over, even the mainstream media and social media is abuzz with weird quotes about owls, coffee, and cherry pie. If it’s been a long time since your last visit to the place with fantastic trees, or you’d just like to explore the town in a little more depth, then Andy Burns’ new book Wrapped in Plastic might be perfect for you.

Wrapped in Plastic is the fourth book in the Pop Classics series from ECW Press, a series designed to “offer intelligent but accessible arguments about why a particular pop phenomenon matters.” The book explores the show from a variety of angles but never digs deep into technicalities that could make the book less accessible to casual fans, making it a perfect introduction to further reading on the series. It’s short, punchy, and perfect for dipping into in short bursts while waiting in the car or sitting on the bleachers. The book begins with a look at the way modern TV differs from that of the pre-Peaks era, examining how much more bold and cinematic the medium has become over the decades. “Twin Peaks didn’t immediately redefine the night-time soap opera,” it says, it just “modeled ‘the unexplored possibilities that the medium held.'”

Author Andy Burns at Fan Expo Canada with (L-R) Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, & Sherilyn Fenn © Ray Wise
Author Andy Burns at Fan Expo Canada with (L-R) Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, & Sherilyn Fenn © Ray Wise

We begin with an exploration of the people and the town of Twin Peaks itself. There are discussions not only of superficial aspects of life such as Audrey Horne’s now iconic outfits, but of the way these elements are used to mask a darkness under the surface of the entire community. It’s a concept that would go on to be explored in shows such as Chris Carter’s Millennium (1996) and arguably Breaking Bad (2008). There is a brief history of how the show came to be on air in the first place with a look at David Lynch’s work up to that point and the shows that inspired it including British sci-fi show The Prisoner. Lynch’s directing style is discussed in detail, as is how it was passed on to others who worked on the show. Peaks star Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs) describes the style as, “ethereal” with Lynch sharing dreams or music he felt would explain the vibe of what he wanted to get across. Other directors were, “not obligated to use the house style,” but rather asked to study the vocabulary of the pilot and use it to maintain a consistent feel to the show. Twin Peaks was never weird for weird’s sake despite how it might seem to those who never got the show. Rather those behind it were simply open to whatever spirit moves the artist. Rather than forcing weirdness (as happened with one director who didn’t quite understand what was required) the show simply went with the flow, whatever strange directions that flow might lead.

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Away from the obvious weirdness of show aspects like the Log Lady and The Man from Another Place, Wrapped in Plastic also considers the more serious subjects tackled on Twin Peaks. The show was one of the first to tackle the subject of incest on American television, and certainly the first to do so on a network show. Spirituality was also explored through concepts like the Red and White lodges, through the Judeo-Christian iconography of the white horse seen by Sarah Palmer, and a scene inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The show allowed all of its characters to have complexity–even those with little more than bit parts–and gave them opportunities to change and grow throughout its run. The antagonistic relationship between town bigwig Benjamin Horne and his daughter Audrey is a strong example of this. We watch Audrey support her father through a mental breakdown that results not only in the two of them developing a strong bond, but also in the redemption of a character who had previously been squarely lumped into the bad guy category.

A Twin Peaks parody on The Simpsons (Fair Use)
A Twin Peaks parody on The Simpsons (Fair Use)

The book ends with a look at the way Twin Peaks has itself gone on to inspire new television. Many shows have parodied Twin Peaks including The Simpsons, Darkwing Duck, and Psych. The Latter turned an entire episode into a Twin Peaks homage—even going so far as to name the episode “Duel Spires”. Other shows have taken less direct inspiration. Picket Fences, Northern Exposure and Gravity Falls all have aspects that can be traced back to that strange small town. Wrapped in Plastic does a great job of exploring just why Twin Peaks has become such an important stop in the history of television. It’s somewhat meandering, without well-defined chapters, and occasionally jumps from idea to idea without giving them the word count you hope it would (I often found myself pausing to consult Google and further explore a name or idea) but as an introduction to thinking deeper about the show, it’s exactly what you would want.

Interestingly, at the very end of the book, a quotation from David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer (author of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer) is included that vehemently denies any possibility of a new series. “I’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth,” she states, “there’s nothing in the works. What on Earth do people think would happen now? Everybody’s different. You can’t go back there.” Whatever you may think, the truth is that since the manuscript for Wrapped in Plastic was completed, things have changed forever. We are indeed going back. As for what will happen, who’s to say? All I know is that gum I like has definitely come back in style.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

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