Twin Peaks and the Nature of Evil

The new screenplay I’m working on has characters that defy labels of “good” and “evil.” It has been interesting exploring their motivations and their desires. I have come to like all of my characters, the good ones and the bad ones.

I’m also re-watching the first iteration of Twin Peaks (1990-1991) and I’m on Season Two. As strange and unrealistic as the story is, the show really makes me think. As I watched LeLand, one of the hosts of evil spirit Bob, attack Maddy, I paid specific attention to Leland’s relationship with Bob.

As Leland is attacking Maddy, we go back and forth between seeing Bob or Leland as the attacker. Leland cries out “Laura,” and “my baby.” Bob, of course, just grunts and growls. But, if we are to believe that Leland is his true self for brief moments, and Bob at other moments, then Leland is not only bad when he is inhabited by Bob. He has seeds of Darkness within him even without Bob. Leland, the man, has an unhealthy (and unholy) attachment to his own daughter, whom Maddy reminds him of. So, is it really Bob who motivated Leland’s violence? Or, was it Leland all along – and Bob, the spirit, was just along for the ride because he had a willing host?

This made me think about real life. Are people evil because they’re just evil, or are they overcome by spiritual forces that compel them to do evil? If they are overcome by spiritual forces, then they will be horrified and remorseful once they come back to themselves. Leland is remorseful once the full weight of his deeds hits him. And I’ve seen criminals express genuine sorrow and remorse for their crimes (usually once they’re caught). They often are hazy on the details of their crimes. They remember just before it happened and right afterward. The doing of it is a blank.

Are they suppressing an unthinkable memory? Or, were they “possessed” by a murderous spirit that, in a sense, took them over?

I’m no David Lynch expert, so I have no idea what his intentions were with the show. But, my own take-away is that Leland is not some blameless vessel that was simply taken over by evil. He was a co-creator of evil who fell in and out of lucidity by choosing to ignore his conscience.

And that’s the point for me: evil is a co-creation. I do believe that evil exists as a spiritual force of sorts. It thrives where goodness is rejected. But, as humans, we have a choice. We can choose to embrace evil and negativity, or we can choose to embrace goodness and integrity. Evil is introduced when we choose to follow our selfish drives, and ignore what we know is right. That introduction becomes a way of life when we persistently ignore the nagging of conscience.

Evil, I believe, then gains a foothold in us through trauma, pain, and fear. These powerful negative emotions make us more vulnerable to outside malevolent influences as well as internal moral conflicts. What approaches us from the outside is eventually invited to the inside, as we submit to its influence. So, while we may hate that which is evil, we also must understand and have compassion for it, since the seeds of it exist within us all. We avoid Darkness by resisting it. But, the weak among us are unable to do so. Thus, criminals and “bad guys” are humans, above all.

This ability to view both the “good” and the “bad” guys with balance, compassion, and thoughtfulness is important for writers. One-dimensional characters are forgettable and false. There is some good in the worst and some bad in the best. Twin Peaks rises to the level of art because it recognizes the complexity of the human experience, and explores it in a novel and compelling way.

We, too, can infuse our writing with complexity if we approach both our beloved and our hated characters with the knowledge that Good and Bad are stereotypes. Real life humans are a mixed up combination of both.

Happy writing!

Peace and love,

Raven

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