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‘Twin Peaks’ & Teens: The Kids Of 2017 Don’t Know They’re Hooked On David Lynch

Where to Stream

Twin Peaks

I got about halfway through the first episode of 13 Reasons Why when I sardonically grumbled to myself, “Twin Peaks did the dead teen girl and her confessional tapes better.”

It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying Netflix’s mighty teen melodrama. I found the show to be engaging and star Katherine Langford to be a revelation. I just couldn’t help but to think of how much more effective Laura Palmer’s eerie cassette tape confessions were from beyond the grave. Hannah Baker’s tapes turned her into an unlikely (and problematic) mastermind; Laura’s revealed that she was a wounded bird destined for an awful crash. This offhand connection soon made me realize how much 13 Reasons Why owed to David Lynch and Mark Frost’s warped ‘90s soap opera. Both shows are about how the death of one teen girl forces an all-American town to collapse inwardly. All it takes is that one death to scratch away at the pristine suburban veneer to reveal the fetid horror lurking in every shuttered house in town. 13 Reasons Why may not have the bold, kitschy style of Twin Peaks, but it has its thesis statement.

Photo: Netflix, ABC

It’s also not the only hit show on TV right now stealing Twin Peaks style. The most popular shows for teens right now — 13 Reasons Why, Riverdale, and, yes, Stranger Things — all owe their DNA to the warped world of Twin Peaks. It won’t matter if Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival brings in record viewership numbers because Twin Peaks is already one of 2017’s biggest hits. Its imprint is in the zeitgeist like never before, whether or not the teens (and tweens and full grown adults) devouring these shows have any idea they’re watching watered down Twin Peaks.

Well, okay, Riverdale’s viewers are probably smart enough to figure it out. The series reimagines Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica as moody teens dealing with a horrifying murder. Everything from the styling to the lighting to the casting is a nod to Twin Peaks. (Hello, Madchen Amick as Betty’s mom!) Months before the series popped up on the CW, executives were already batting away questions about whether or not the show was intentionally trying to evoke the classic drama. Their clever retort? They were going for another Lynch title, Blue Velvet. “That sort of green, green grass and white picket fences, and then there’s a severed ear with insects crawling all over it,” said producer Sarah Schecter, who then added, “and that to me felt like childhood!”

Photos: Everett Collection

Guys — I mean, esteemed men and women overseeing the production of Riverdale — you totally were ripping off Twin Peaks. And it’s okay! If 13 Reasons Why has stolen the meat of Twin Peaks, then Riverdale is the show doing the best job of snagging its style. The clothes that seem to be made some nebulous time between now and the 1950s, the trio of teens who plunge into investigating a peer’s murder, the inky blues and blood reds…THE MUSICAL NUMBERS THAT COME OUT OF NOWHERE. Riverdale‘s cool kid aesthetic is a Pinterest board of Lynch motifs. It’s out, it’s loud, it’s proud, and that’s great.

Interestingly, one hit show has been a bit under the radar with its Twin Peaks references is Stranger Things. That’s only ironic because Stranger Things is a bingo board of ’80s pop cultural references. It’s got everything from E.T. to Stephen King’s entire oeuvre proudly on display. And yet, critics and fans alike are remiss if they don’t also point out how much Stranger Things owes to Twin Peaks. It’s there in the surface elements: the show’s eerie synth-heavy soundtrack, the small town undone by a murder, even the way the supernatural world weaves in and out of the mundane world of Hawkins, Indiana is a nod to the ethereal, reality-bending nature of the town of Twin Peaks. However, again, it’s most striking when you look at the teens. Outsider Jonathan gets closer with popular girl Nancy when Nancy’s best friend is mysteriously killed. The two take it upon themselves to solve the case. The whole thing is an echo of James and Donna in Twin Peaks — sometimes down to the shots the Stranger Things‘ showrunners, the Duffer Brothers, use.

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Photo: Netflix, ABC

Twin Peaks has been influencing television since the moment it debuted back on April 8, 1990. This is not a new observation. In fact, go a cursory google search and you’ll see dozens of posts tracking how many of your favorite shows were inspired by Twin Peaks. What does feel new is the fact that the most popular teen shows of the moment all borrow heavily from the show. These connections go beyond the stereotypical threads that run through all soap operas — like the doppelganger characters or moody teens. 13 Reasons Why, Riverdale, and Stranger Things all delve into the most macabre parts of Twin Peaks. These shows deal with death, gore, voices from beyond the grave, and creatures from other worlds.

25 years later and it’s not just “that gum you like” coming back in style — it’s that offbeat, melodramatic, super cool “dead teen” milieu. The kids today are all obsessed with Twin Peaks whether they know it or not.

Stream Twin Peaks on Netflix

Stream 13 Reasons Why on Netflix

Stream Stranger Things on Netflix

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