THE PRIDE ISSUE
The week of June 21, 2015
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How ‘Twin Peaks’ helped one queer teen find himself

By Audra Schroeder

The Twin Peaks fandom is a devout one, as seen by the purist outcry around David Lynch’s involvement with the third season of the show. The series created an alternate reality, a black mirror in which we could get lost and explore other parts of ourselves. That was especially true for a fan named Travis Blue.

A new documentary titled Northwest Passage tells the story of Blue’s discovery of Lynch and the cast filming the series in his hometown of Snoqualmie Falls, Wash., in the late ’80s. Like many fans, he was drawn to the character of Laura Palmer, and he later connected with fellow devotees and cast members via Twin Peaks fan festivals. He was on set the day they filmed the iconic scene where Palmer is found dead on the beach, and his obsession unraveled from there. Palmer’s fictional drug use and sex work became part of Blue’s real life as he struggled with sexual identity and trauma.

The film raised $62,269 via Kickstarter earlier this month, and its director, Adam Baran (Jackpot), explains he befriended Blue at a film festival in NYC and the two bonded over their love of Lynch and Twin Peaks, though he didn’t know just how deep Blue’s fandom went at the time.

“Any time you find a queer person who likes more than the real mainstream stuff, I would always gravitate towards those people,” Baran told the Daily Dot. “He struck me as a really interesting guy right away.”

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“There’s something in the world of David Lynch that appealed to me as a queer person,” Baran explained. “David Lynch has always been about selling these sort of strange underworlds where the normal rules of the regular straight world don’t apply. In Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, it’s all about these sort of secret things people are doing and secret clubs and this secret underworld that exists. And I think as a gay person, that was something that was attractive to me, that I wanted to live in that kind of world, and I recognized instantly that it was a portrayal of the world I could live in as a gay person.”

Blue wrote about his experiences at Twin Peaks fan festivals for a magazine Baran edited, and Baran was shocked at how much background there was. Eventually he got Blue to open up more about his experiences, and he started sitting for interviews. Blue found a likeminded community within the festivals, but his fixation on the seedier aspects of the series blurred the line between fiction and truth.

“You have to consider that Travis was a person who experienced abuse in his life,” Baran said. “Physical and sexual abuse. And so I think he was confused about himself and what was happening—and angsty, as all teenagers are. I think it was the idea of Laura Palmer being this character who went to the extreme: She was secretly a prostitute, was doing the Meals on Wheels, having affairs with every single person in town, doing drugs. She was this glamorous martyr, and when she dies, everyone in the show is obsessed with her. And we, the audience, become completely obsessed with this mystery. I think in some subconscious way, Travis really thought, ‘Well, I’m like her. That could be what happens to me.’ …He didn’t really have his own person; he was trying to figure out who he was.”

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As more people discover Twin Peaks via Netflix, that obsession continues with a new generation 25 years later. And while the eventual release of the doc could certainly dovetail nicely with the Showtime series, Baran says he really hopes Northwest Passagespeaks to LGBTQ youth on a different level. He says he almost sees it as a “gay Boyhood. It tracks him in a very different way than Boyhood did, but it tracks him through 12 years of his adolescence and examines what was happening to him during that period. It touches on abuse and sexuality and homelessness and addiction. … Twin Peaks fans aren’t the only ones who are going to experience this movie in a positive way.”

“What I really, really hope is that, you know, we have so much focus now on things like gay marriage and bakers who won’t bake cakes for couples and things like that” he added. “The focus on this experience of discrimination as a couple, and I really just want to direct people’s attention back to childhood and being gay as a young person. … I don’t want people to forget what it was like to grow up as an LGBT person and the way that it felt almost like you were almost trapped in this sort of Lynchian underworld. You couldn’t tell anybody who you were; you couldn’t be who you wanted to be; you couldn’t even figure out what you liked because you were totally boxed in.

“I think there are so many teens now who, you know, maybe they’re not watching Twin Peaks and turning themselves intoTwin Peaks characters, but they’re still struggling to find out who they are. And that’s really the core of the film.”

 

A version of this story was originally published on the Daily Dot on May 28, 2015.

Photo via Kickstarter