Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)


For as many characters as we commemorate in pop culture, there's just as many places. Science fiction and fantasy is all about location, location, location, from the streets of Gotham City to the mountains of Mt. Doom in Middle Earth.

I've already commented on the fact that I'm looking forward to good things from Gotham. Hinging a show around a place, instead of a person, is a somewhat old-school approach to writing a story. I mean, think about it: isn't that what most soap opera's are about? Dallas? St. Elsewhere? Cheers?

For me, growing up, I was obsessed with Twin Peaks. OBSESSED. I remember watching it than staying up in my room, having trouble sleeping and thinking "what the hell did I just watch!?" Killer Bob still freaks me out to this day. It's sort of funny how this brief, two season show--likely never to be revisited by its creators Mark Frost and David Lynch-- has gone on to influence so much. Silent Hill, Alan Wake, The Killing, Lost...how many television shows and video games do you think have been modeled after Twin Peaks, or at least guided by it?
There's just something so compelling about this show. Sure it's outdated, campy and cheesy, but there's something about Laura Palmer's life and her murder that is unsettlingly real. You KNOW this girl, you know she's in trouble and you know no one is doing much about it. She's the prom queen, the star student and she seems like she's got it together on the outside but on the inside she's falling apart. Everyone has met this girl, at least once in their life.

Add to that Project Blue Book, some native American mythology and some really cracked out dream sequences and you've got a hell of a show on your hands. There's something so eerie and surreal about the way Lynch directs his characters dreams. To me, there's nothing scarier than what doesn't really make sense and Twin Peaks is loaded with strange talk and serendipitous coincidences.

But see, it isn't even the Black Lodge that puts Twin Peaks over the edge for me; it's the subtlety. There's moments of serious levity and hope between the characters, but there's also moments of despair and terror. And it's every shot BETWEEN scenes in this show that freaks me out. Lynch will leave you with an image of a stoplight. It's so stupid- it's just a stoplight! But the music in the background will leave you tense even though you're wondering why you are tense.

And in that sense, it's like you get the experience of the characters. Everybody in Twin Peaks knows that there's...something...a little different there. They have trouble articulating just what it is. But it's like the whole town exists on the crossroads of good and evil. Everyone feels it, but it's too strange to really identify. Think about the lines the Giant says to Cooper: "we want to help you." The Giant towers towards the sky, Cooper looks up at him while he's shot, bleeding on the ground; if killer Bob is the evil that men do, then Cooper's Giant might be a guardian angel. Cooper gets a glimpse into the things that are affecting people's lives even when they don't see it.

Of course, Twin Peaks isn't the only show with a flavorful setting. I admit the actors and actresses are likely what made Buffy the Vampire Slayer the show that it is but I share a certain fondness for the setting of Sunnydale. It's just so perfectly "that town," you know? The one from every low budget B horror movie where the kids are good-looking, but not as bright as they think and are only thinking about one thing and before they know it, happen to fall victim to some unfortunate monster feature, whether it's vampires, werewolves or whatever. Buffy is sort of a walking parody of horror movies and whereas she so easily fits the archetype of the main character of too many late night slasher films in which "that girl" cowers in terror behind her strapping boyfriend for the first half of the movie and fights for her life through the second, she breaks the mold so to speak and essentially kicks the *%$ out of evil.

Still, that doesn't change the fact that the town she lives in IS that town. The one you see in Final Destination, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Nightmare on Elm Street. The parents are rich and absent and their children--who aren't bad, necessarily, but maybe somewhat spoiled--tend to die off while making out in a parked car, like in a 1950's drive-in thriller. But there are some bright spots to living in Sunnydale. The weather's nice when it isn't apocalpytic and people tend to be quick witted (if not hyperverbal). There's plenty of good too; in fact, good has a name and that name is the Slayer. And the Slayer's allies. And they save the world and countless people over and over again.

So I suppose sooner or later we get around to the question: if you were going to live in either Twin Peaks or Sunnydale, which would you choose and why? I can list the pros and cons here, but how you weigh them is up to you. Consider the following and make your choice:

Twin Peaks

Pros

  • Down-home small town easy living
  • Great diners, good food
  • Peaceful, outdoorsy living
  • Local law enforcement knows the importance of sometimes resolving things off the books; maintains balance in the local area
  • Transient moments of great hope and optimism about life
Cons

  • Wicked spirits beyond comprehension inhabiting people and forcing them to carry out their will
  • Seedy, dark underbelly of human nature scratching at the surface of all interactions
  • Everyone's got a secret. Most of these aren't pretty.
  • Other strange unexplainable phenomenon that would drive you to the brink of insanity: alien abductions, supernatural visions and the owls are not what they seem
  • The table is made of formica
Sunnydale

Pros

  • Sunny, laid back California lifestyle in an fairly affluent town
  • Everyone is pretty damn self-aware and knows how to coin a phrase; even demons and monsters
  • The kids seem to have a lot of leeway to do what they want
  • If you fall into the right crowd and play it safe, you'll learn how to take care of yourself, fight evil and save the world.

Cons

  • Relentless hordes of monsters and demons pour from the Hellmouth, so the fun never ends.
  • The survival rate of your average high school student isn't great
  • Be prepared to get sassed by your friends and enemies. A lot.
  • If something starts to sound to good? It is. In fact, it's horrible and will probably kill you.
  • Romances tend to be tragic or unrequited. It's what makes everything so interesting.

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