I’ve been watching Twin Peaks. I haven’t written about it until now because I was thinking maybe I’d write about it at the end. But, something’s come up that I want to talk about.
Warning: Spoiler Alert!!!!!
On Season 2, Episode 9, the viewer learns who killed Laura Palmer. I had my hunch when her father’s hair turned white. I was right. But, of course, there are still 3 more discs and a film to get through so clearly the “who” isn’t limited to Mr. Palmer. Well, we know Bob is involved. We know Bob jumps from person to person. We just have to find out the more complicated “why,” as the Log Lady says.
And this is where the fun part comes in. What I realized, after watching Season 2 Episode 9, is that David Lynch has pretty much ripped off Haruki Murakami, the Japanese novelist. In 1982 he published A Wild Sheep Chase, which is the third in the “Trilogy of the Rat” series. Twin Peaks aired in 1990 and 1991.
Now, for any die-hard David Lynch fans: sit back, relax, and don’t have a cow, man. Or in this case, a sheep!
In A Wild Sheep Chase, the protagonist is blackmailed into locating an individual sheep in the Japanese countryside. The sheep is special and definitely otherworldly. The sheep posseses individuals (you have to “let” it in), it then controls and manipulates the individual’s life, and then leaves its host to find a new parasitic human inhabitant when the body of its host is deteriorating. The thing is, when the sheep leaves you, you die, because in the meantime a huge brain tumor has developed in your head as a direct result of the sheep being inside of you.
So I realized this was what Lynch was doing: taking the idea of Murakami’s mystical sheep and appropriating it into the idea of “Bob” in Twin Peaks. Clever, but certainly not original. When the Sheriff and Agent Cooper have successfully captured Leland Palmer (through trickery), Bob reveals himself and spills the beans. Then, when Bob leaves Leland, Leland tells the men that when he was young, Bob asked to “come inside of him” and he let him in. Hmmm…sounds sheepy to me! Before he leaves his host, Bob tells the men that when he leaves Leland, he will remember all of the horrible things he has done “in Bob’s name” so to speak and he will die. And, he does. Same thing when the sheep leaves you: you die. In Twin Peaks, we do have the character of Mike, who has cut his arm off in order to get Bob out of him; otherwise, he would have died eventually as a result of Bob. Mike tells us that he killed many in Bob’s name, just like Leland. So we know the “m.o.” on Bob: he jumps from person to person wreaking havoc. Same thing with Murakami’s sheep. The trick, of course, is figuring out the allegory behind the Sheep, and Bob.
The other clue that Lynch is appropriating Murakami is in the scene when Agent Cooper assembles his suspects in the Road House: Ben Horne, Leland Palmer, Leo Johnson. Agent Cooper has connections with the mystical other world, and once they’re all assembled, he says one person is missing that he didn’t invite because he didn’t know who to invite. Nonetheless, the meeting “had been called.” Then, immediately after, the old man from the Great Northern Hotel is brought in by Major Briggs and he is the other, expected/unexpected party. He is an integral piece of the puzzle, and without him, the Giant wouldn’t have been able to tell him who murdered Laura Palmer.
This is reminiscient of a scene late in A Wild Sheep Chase when the protagonist is “on to” the Sheep Man’s identity and tells him that his friend, known as The Rat, will be coming at 10pm. The protagonist didn’t know if his friend would show up, but he announced the meeting to the Sheep Man (because he suspected the Sheep Man was The Rat). This, after The Rat had been eluding him for quite a while. Turns out he was right and the Sheep Man was The Rat. What ensues, in the dark, is that The Rat tells him the story of the Sheep trying to “enter” him and the only way he could keep from being taken completely over by the Sheep was to kill himself. The Rat was already dead and he was coming to visit his friend using the Sheep Man identity. Keep in mind that the Sheep Man and the Sheep (that possesses people maliciously) are actually different entities.
Anyway, the point is that Lynch has appropriated this scene of suprise identity and a mystical meeting straight from Murakami’s novel.
I’ve taken the liberty of searching online for instances of “murakami and twin peaks” and “lynch and murakami” and I’m sad to report that instead of Twin Peaks being linked back to Murakami, you find many instances of descriptions of Murakami’s books as “the Japanese Twin Peaks” or Murakmi listed with Lynch as an influence. I wonder if he knows this and is pissed off. I would be because it is clear to me that it’s the other way around.
While I’m really enjoying Twin Peaks, I’m a little dumbfounded by how blatant these appropriations are. Of course, there is no original art, but you’d think by now (2009), someone would have pointed out that Lynch took some bits from Murakami, NOT the other way around.
I’ve done some research on Japanese “postmodern” fiction and it is a complicated issue to call anything ‘Eastern’ by a ‘Western’ title such as postmodern due to the difference between the cultural and historical definitions of “postmodern.” In the West, we try to label things based on our own definitions of things. For instance, we have determined that postmodernity, in the historical sense, began post WWII in the WEST, and in the cultural sense, it began in the WEST when we started to become aware of the over-bombardment and discombobulation-effects of our cultural consumption-driven practices. BUT, what we Westerners label as postmodern (let’s just throw out the concept of the simulacrum) has been written about in Japan for more than 200 years, and we can’t forget Plato…. My point is that the actual elements of what the West calls postmodern literature and theory didn’t begin with Don DeLillo or William Gibson or Fredric Jameson. We have claimed it but we didn’t originate it (albeit Plato is “Western”).
My roundabout point is that we naturally say Lynch influenced Murakami because we closedmindedly see things only from our own perspective without considering true origins. But, that is not the case. The timeline clearly shows otherwise. We try to claim everything, but we are late.
Because I haven’t read all of the known literature or watched all of the films in the entire world, I cannot possibly know what other works have elements of Lynch’s work or Murakami’s work in them, or vice versa. I am merely pointing out that 8+ years before Twin Peaks, Murakami had a Sheep.