The other day I was in a thrift shop and came across (another) book professing to solve the infamous Black Dahlia murder case. It took me back to that day in my middle school library, where as a lonely 13 year old I stumbled across the horrifying crime scene photos in a Hollywood Babylon, and have never forgotten them.
For the uninitiated the Black Dahlia was a young woman named Elizabeth Short who’s naked, butchered body was found in a vacant lot in LA during the winter of 1947, by a young mother pushing her baby stroller through the neighborhood.
Fast forward 5 or 6 years from when I first saw those gruesome pictures of the Black Dahlia, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks is all the rage on television. A cultural phenomenon of sorts. The first time I recall people gathering around the TV for fan nights. In a nutshell Twin Peaks is the harrowing tale of good girl and homecoming queen Laura Palmer’s murder.
Twin Peaks and the Black Dahlia never seem to be far from the collective unconscious, always showing up from time to time on my Tumblr account, television shows, and the occasional book shelf. These random reminders, so close together how could one miss the synchronicity, got me to thinking. Was Lynch’s ground-breaking, and influential series Twin Peaks really just a retelling of the half century old Black Dahlia murder? I think it is.
Lynch understands the power of the corpse portrait. He goes back into the morgue and transforms Elizabeth Short’s Glasgow grin into Laura Palmer’s iconic blue/gray death mask. Laura looks peaceful, as if she’s sleeping. Is this wishful thinking? The expression Lynch wished for Elizabeth Short in death?
This is not foreign territory for Mr. Lynch, it is very similar to his retelling of the Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe narrative in Mulhollond Drive.
What makes Lynch a great story-teller is his acceptance, if not embrace, of evil. Like Lost Highway, Twin Peaks is a precursor to exploring what creates temptation and darkness in regular, seemingly hum-drum lives. This obsession, his quirky humor, and love of nostalgia are the magical mix. The Black Dahlia would be a natural pull for this seemingly mild-mannered man from Missoula, MT. (Interesting play on words. The town’s name could almost be missing-a-soul.)