Punxsutawney & Peaks by Sarah Simon

Columbia Pictures Corporation // CBS Showtime

I’m not going to watch the second season; I already see it.

Getting into Twin Peaks in college was like getting into drugs. Or it took that role of social importance, anyway. One of my first conversations about the show was with a girl, dark and goofy like the utter blackness of her hair. She was a freshman friend, and had us all laughing at her plan to walk around campus while listening to the Twin Peaks theme. It would show you the seedy underside of everything, she said. The earbuds would offer a Lynchian synesthesia, transforming sound into vision.

Tantalized by the idea, I loaded my Spotify playlist and walked around the college town. I laughed, self-satisfied. I saw through the swapped niceties and into the Main Street diner’s revolving strawberry cheesecake – but it’s unfair to twirl for too long in the Lynchian cesspool, looking at people as debris.

If you’ve seen Twin Peaks, I’m guessing you’ve also seen Groundhog Day. With media streaming, cult consumers are often looking for the next classic. In this one, Phil, played by Bill Murray, comes to the Pennsylvanian town of Punxsutawney, sure that it’s a real Hicksville, a philistine trap (har har, didn’t make that connection between the “phil” in his name and the adjective until now). I don’t want to summarize the story, but suffice it to say that Phil gets stuck in Punxsutawney. It’s only when he starts recognizing the depth of the people around him that he can get out.

Punxsutawney and Twin Peaks are at the crossroads of seeing small-town America: We roll into Twin Peaks with all its sterility, and the guy who shows us its dirt, Special Agent Dale Cooper, seems agreeable. Punxsutawney, on the other hand – we see how it is dirty by being excessively clean – but Phil is not agreeable. The agreeable shows us the bad, and the sarcastic and patronizing, the good (eventually).

Why did I use this prompt as a chance to compare Twin Peaks to an unaffiliated movie? They say you can’t have one without the other. My experience watching the show reaffirmed my frustration with middle America. With Fargo-sounding accents. With niceties bandaging ugly greed, selfishness, and secrets. Groundhog Day reaffirmed this frustration in the beginning, but later challenged me; I was forced to recognize that the close-minded and sometimes creepy comfort, the Oh ya, don’t cha think?s and doozies – often just cover up a town of pain. With Twin Peaks speaking to me – purring at my New York City ego through earbuds – I want to see the dirt in people, and only the dirt. But when I watch Groundhog Day, I am encouraged to acknowledge my own Phil. It’s my comfort to see myself as separate from small. But if I keep seeing myself this way, I’ll end up scheming with Mr. Horne.

Sarah Simon is post-undergraduate pre-bakingbread. She expects honesty from others, but has some trouble being honest with others and herself. Why is she always on the verge of baking bread? It’s what she kneads.


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