Black, White and Red All Over

Twin Peaks was a show that sparked a cultural phenomenon in the 1990s. Even today, with talks of a third season airing in 201, fans are excited of what is to come from the little Washington town where the homecoming queen was found murdered. David Lynch, series writer and director, and Mark Frost, series writer, are credited for their new take on soap operas and crime dramas, and have been said to revolutionize television programs and genres. Throughout the show, there are several symbols and concepts used that are not uncommon to Lynch and his other projects. One major concept seen from the Pilot episode and further into the series is the use of the color red, and later the paradoxical use of the colors black and white, as they contain a sense of foreshadowing and contrasting theme.

The color red is seen throughout the series and is typically prominent in difference scenes. Between the use of the color red for objects, such as phones and drapes, to having an entire room dedicated to the color, it is one of the most used and stand out colors in the show. According to Peter D. Marshall on the Film Directing Tips website, the color red has several meanings, including violence, aggression, danger, and desire. All three of these meanings are predominantly conveyed through the color red. For example, when Dr. Jacoby gets a call from “Laura” in the season one finale, he answers a red telephone. The red telephone demonstrated his desire for Laura, as well as foreshadows the danger and violence lurking ahead for him.

One place where red is most prominent is in the legendary Red Room. Zora Burden in her essay “The Esoteric Symbolism of Twin Peaks”, writes what she believes is an accurate description of the Red Room in relation to different myths and legends. Burden says, “The Red Waiting Room or purgatory in between twilight state of the Lodges is the precipice of transformation which can be accessed via lucid or actual dreaming or psychic intuition”, and then goes on to relate it to Taoist teachings, but I want to stay focused on the idea of the Red Room as a purgatory. In the Red Room, we find what seems to be Laura Palmer and a “dancing little man” who is later known as Bob. When Agent Cooper dreams while he is sleeping at The Lodge, he enters The Red Room and speaks to what seems to be Laura, getting clues for who murdered her and closer to solving the mystery. It can be believed that the girl in The Red Room is Laura, even though she cannot directly remember, and is in a state between death and living due to her inability to move on, maybe because her murder has not been solved.

With such importance, The Red Room becomes a place where clues are found and mysteries can be solved. It is also a place where people wait to see if they enter the Black Lodge or the White Lodge. But where exactly is The Red Room? It is admitted that the location of this “waiting room”, goes beyond Cooper’s unconscious and is in several places around town, as the concept and legend becomes expanded upon and made to be real.

“Twin Peaks Gazette”, a website dedicated to explaining and analyzing Twin Peaks, gives direct quotations from Episode 17 in order to discuss The White Lodge and Black Lodge. The explanation for both the Black and White Lodge, as quoted from the character, Hawk, is “People believe the White Lodge is the place where the spirits that rule men and nature reside here”. He continues on to say “There is also a legend of a place called the Black Lodge, the shadow-self of the White Lodge. The legend says that every soul miss pass through there on the way to perfection. There you will meet your own shadow-self…”. Basically, the White Lodge can be perceived as a “heaven” or sorts, while the Black Lodge is a “hellish” setting, where you will encounter your worst self and alter ego. When people die, it is believed they are sent to the Black Lodge and the Red Room to wait for their chance to be brought to the White Lodge. The author of the “Twin Peaks Gazette” goes on to explain the differences between the White and Black Lodges and also Hawk’s interpretation of the legend, as it may not be the only one.

What is important about the White and Black Lodges are the specificity of the colors chosen for these settings. The color black, as described from the Film Directing Tips website, means mystery, fear, and evil. The Black Lodge is a place where not much is known except for the fact you will encounter your worst self (evil), and, as Hawk says, where “if you face the Lodge with imperfect courage [or fear], it will utterly annihilate your soul” (Twin Peaks Gazette). To enter the Black Lodge alone, you need to encounter great fear. In contrast, the color white is widely recognized to represent peace and birth. The White Lodge is seen as a heaven of sorts where the best self is taken and almost “born” again to live the rest of eternity. To enter the White Lodge, it is believed love is the key to doing so, although it was unspecified if it was meant as an act of love or the feeling.

While color theory is important to describing certain elements and representation in the show, The Guardian wrote an article about the series finale in which the author, Michelle Dean, writes what she believes about the usage of Red, Black, and White in relation to the show. Dean believes the Red Room and the Black and White Lodges were not so much thought of in terms of color and what they represent, but to “helped to keep goosebumps raised in the audience”. She, in contrast to Burden, believes these elements were “not strictly narrative ‘mythologies’ in the way one expects from genre shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer or space operas” (Dean).

Regarding the Black and White Lodges, Burden goes further into myths and legends and describes the stages of alchemy in relation into the White and Black Lodges as well as some of the plot of the show, including the fate of Detective Cooper. Alchemy is, essentially, the “practice of chemical, psychological, and spiritual transformation processes, meant to return matter or essence to its true, incorruptible, divine state through the application of various refinements, whether in a laboratory or within oneself” (Burden). Basically, it is an internal transformation a person goes through in order to reach their best self.

“The stages of alchemy are based on the colors as seen during the stages of treated metals, usually base metals” (Burden). The first stage is known as the Black Stage, is “internally known as facing your shadow self” (Burden). This can be seen in the series in the Black Lodge, as a person must face their alter ego and worst self. Burden then goes on to explain how in this Black Stage, a person encounters the Dweller of the Abyss, where Bob essentially comes from and personifies while feeding off the fear of the spirits he encounters, and how the Black Phase is initiated by death, which is also what the series starts with, as well as can be initiated by the several deaths that occurred in the show and alluded to with black oils or black substances.

The second stage of alchemy is the Whitening Stage, where elements are restored to purity and the impure actions are recognized (Burden). It is then explained that the process is symbolized when Leland Palmer’s hair turns white and he faces the murder and molestation of Laura he committed when he was under the influence of Bob while in the Black phase, experiencing life through his shadow self (Burden).
Where the color red comes in to all this is in the spiritual alchemy and the unification of the Solar Red King and the Lunar White Queen, which has become associated with incest, which Burden believes is represented by the molestation of Laura by Leland.

Overall, depending on what you read and where you look, different conclusions can be had about the use of color in Twin Peaks. Some, such as Zoe Burden, believe that color in relation to the series occurs through myths and allegories, while genre and series blogs, such as the “Twin Peaks Gazette”, use quotes and points from the series in order to analyze and discuss further their own theories and findings in terms other fans will understand and ponder. On the other hand, magazines and newspapers, such as The Guardian, really only briefly report on what the individual author believes based on watching and reviewing the episode with no real further analysis, or possibly interest into the show. Magazines and newspapers, unless reviewing, tend to be more factual and do not dive deeper into explanations and analysis, rather opting to report rather than involve themselves. Blogs are made for the fan community to analyze and ponder in their own way with encouragement to respond and give their own theories or comments in which people can come together to work out an explanation. Essays and books are more to give an individual’s analysis on the basis of the series in a certain aspect with no real intention of having people discuss, other than to reference them in other scholarly ways with critical thinking and references to higher thinking rather than plot points.

 

Bibliography:

Black and White Lodges. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_and_White_Lodges

Burden, Z. (2015, August). The esoteric meanings and symbolism of Twin Peaks [Scholarly project]. In Zora Burden: Writer, Artist, Poet. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://zoraburden.weebly.com/twin-peaks-critical-essay-extended-notes.html

Dean, M. (2016, June 10). Twin Peaks’ final scene: 25 years on, it’s as disturbing as ever. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/jun/10/twin-peaks-final-scene-anniversary-showtime

Lim, D. (2015, November 12). Leland Palmer Wasn’t the Only Thing That Killed Twin Peaks. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2015/11/david_lynch_s_improvisatory_world_building_killed_twin_peaks_before_laura.html

Marshall, P. D. (2008). 12 Colors and Their Meanings. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://filmdirectingtips.com/archives/157

Rawson-Jones, B. (2015). How’s Annie? Twin Peaks’s Damn Fine Ending. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/ustv/news/a161306/hows-annie-twin-peakss-damn-fine-ending/

Twin Peaks Explained [Web log post]. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://twinpeaksexplained.tumblr.com/post/28375519058/the-use-of-red-and-blue-often-together-is-a

Twin Peaks Gazette. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://www.twinpeaksgazette.com/article-articleID=91.cfm.html

T. (2012, September 2). Understanding Twin Peaks [Web log post]. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from http://dragonsaredelicious.blogspot.com/2012/06/understanding-twin-peaks.html

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