Friday, August 14, 2009

Mixed Plate: Observations Through a Doughnut Hole

Homer (Simpson, that is) once waxed poetic about a doughnut after it had saved him in some inexplicable situation, saying dreamily, " there nothing you can't do?" Aside from that pop culture reference, when it comes to doughnuts, I often think of that pinnacle of weird television, Twin Peaks -- David Lynch and Mark Frost's collaborative 1990 drama series that captivated and confounded everyone out there in TV Land for two seasons before ABC unceremoniously kicked it to the curb and CBS's Northern Exposure got to be the only surviving weirdo Pacific NW-themed series.

The symbolic significance of doughnuts in Twin Peaks? Life is weird, have sprinkles - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I wasn't even living in Washington yet, and the show spun its delightfully obscure web around my awkward adolescent brain. I loved how it gave me a weekly dose of being stricken with a dumb look on my face after every episode's close. Dancing midgets who spoke backwards, a beauty queen found murdered and wrapped like a freshly-caught fish, ghostly vignettes of sinister foreshadowing, and an earnest FBI agent named after an infamous bank robber who liked damn good coffee and slices of cherry pie. There were, of course, many other dramatic aspects to the series, but it was a wacky show that just got downright disturbing once spooky things came to light to reveal the murderer of Laura Palmer. Which is why oddball things like cherry pie and a table full of stacked doughnuts were like edible lampposts kept alit to keep things from getting too dark.

Diane, take a memo - need more doughnuts - photos from and fan screencap

Not to say that baked goods were the sole savior of the show. I think by second season, things had gotten so convoluted and self-involved that even fried dough couldn't save the day. But it got me to thinking about how David Lynch is like a misunderstood comfort food. We always think of him as eccentric and strange as a squid ink pasta, when really, I think he's more like the doughnut or slice of cherry pie he lovingly featured in Twin Peaks. I've seen his brilliantly disturbed films like Blue Velvet, Eraserhead and Wild at Heart, but then I got to thinking about one of his earlier movies, The Elephant Man. If you're familiar with any of his more startling works, it's as strange as the Log Lady to think of David Lynch helming a project so lovingly humane and poignant as the true story of John Merrick and his struggle with a congenital disorder. Lynch tends to throw in an innocent among corrupt savages, and much like those films and the series Twin Peaks, there were always a few wide-eyed souls like Kyle MacLachlan's Jeffrey Beaumont or Agent Dale Cooper, set against the amoral tide of foes like Dennis Hopper's maniacal Frank Booth. Good tended to vanquish evil, but not without a lot of freaky-deaky happenings and a cannister of laughing gas.

It's logical to assume David Lynch is the strange one, but looking from a different perspective, his creations feature a mad world because he perhaps envisions himself as the lost babe in the woods, and it's the harsh reality around him that he finds strange and foreboding. Not that I know Lynch personally, but based on interviews and what others have said about him, he seems a bit like Twin Peaks' Agent Dale Cooper. Amiable, kind-hearted, a bit idiosyncratic but never capricious, and very much an apt pupil of life. Maybe that's why Lynch creates such a vivid and sometimes frightening landscape that he populates with wandering innocents, to illustrate his own observations on a modern dystopia, and perhaps share a bit of that anguish over how one wishes it could be made a better place. Thankfully, simple pleasures endure, and a doughnut with a strong cup of coffee can make it all better right before a dancing midget in a red velvet suit comes along to go totally sickhouse on your psyche.

* Post-Script - Thanks to Serious Eats' Photograzing for posting the sprinkly-delicious doughnut photo!

Bookmark and Share


  1. Where we're from, the birds sing a pretty song -

  2. hee make a great case for me eating more doughnuts!

  3. lolz -- I'm glad there are fans of both the doughnuts and Twin Peaks. I now live near Snoqualmie, the real location they filmed the show, so it's funny to see "The Great Northern" and Norma's diner when we drive thru.


Commentary encouraged. Fresh baked cookies, super-encouraged. (hit the 'post comment' button twice, sometimes it's buggy)