The uncanny valley between the peaks



My husband and I just finished watching Twin Peaks via Netflix.  Although I had never seen it before, I was of course familiar with the basic idea and iconic images, both having been firmly entrenched in pop culture for most of my life.


I knew it would be weird.  Really weird.  And it was.  What struck me, though, was how it was weird.

Sure, there were tons of things that were overtly out there.  The dancing, backward-talking dwarf.  The giant.  (One and the same.)  The log lady.  Bob.

What was more unsettling, though, and what I was unprepared for, was the normal stuff.  Or, rather, the stuff that was just barely not normal.

The term “uncanny valley” refers to a hypothesis that when something looks almost but not quite human, we are disturbed and repulsed by it.

ImageCertainly Twin Peaks has plenty of instances of the not-quite-human, the most notable being the Black Lodge, where even characters we’re familiar with move and speak strangely and stare off with wide unseeing eyes.  But I would argue that in the case of Twin Peaks, the idea of the uncanny valley can be applied with a broader brush.  The way the characters act and interact, the way the plot progresses, even the way the sets are constructed and the scenes are filmed, all of it seems intentionally designed to approach reality and not quite get there.  It’s not always successful, sometimes falling into obvious absurdity (what my brother-in-law called “slapstick”) and sometimes hitting the mark of normality too well.  But when the show gets it right?  It’s awesome to watch.  I spent a lot of time staring at the screen with my mouth open, wondering what in the ever living hell was going on, deeply unsettled yet unable to look away.  Like watching a train wreck where you don’t realize until the moment of impact that both trains are made out of jello.

I’m trying to think of other shows or movies that manage to hit that nerve, and I’m drawing a blank.  I imagine David Lynch’s other work might (I’ve only ever seen The Elephant Man, and that a long time ago).  What do you think, dear reader?  Any recommendations?

8 thoughts on “The uncanny valley between the peaks

  1. If you’ve never seen Blue Velvet, I’d certainly recommend that! I loved Twin Peaks, but consider BV to be Lynch’s masterpiece. (it’s disturbing, of course, though.)

  2. BV is very disturbing….Eraserhead was DL’s first movie, a sereiallist art film…

    The man has a very interesting mind.

    1. I really want to see Eraserhead! I seem to remember watching the very beginning with dad when I was a kid. Pete is none too thrilled about watching it, though.

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