It’s holiday downtime and I’m neck* deep in Twin Peaks: The Return, aka Twin Peaks: Season Three. Having young kids always seems to put me a few years behind pop culture, but that’s beside the point. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern is my current Libby download, which is mostly current, and the two (season three and the book) seem to be creating a weird cosmic overlap. I'm back and forth between episodic stories, owls with power, crescent moons, rabbit holes, starless and star-filled seas and voids. It's actually weirdly interesting and I can only attribute it to the kissing of Jupiter and Saturn on December 21st, at which point, I entered an alt-Black Lynchian Lodge.
I’ve been wracking my brain over the last few weeks trying to figure out why I like weird... weird books, weird movies, weird art. To be more specific, I like good weird. Weird that makes me think, long after the thing has ended. However, I’m struggling to answer this question: where's the line between good-weird and bad-weird?
I'll rephrase: what makes something weird in a way that complements the story versus weird for the sake of being weird?
If you’ve made it this far, I can only guess you rank on the odder side of normal, too. Don't dismay, friend, you're not alone!
When this weird rabbit hole opened, I took the Alice route and jumped. Here's what I passed on the float down:
Weird as an adjective: “suggesting something supernatural; uncanny”
Weird as a verb: “induce a sense of disbelief or alienation in someone”
Weird as a noun: “a person’s destiny”**
Eat this pretty cookie, Alice.
Next, very far down, I see David Lynch in a starless sea, trying to catch another big fish. The Twin Peaks’ show-runner often talks about his proclivity toward transcendental meditation (TM), and its link to his ideas; how TM can lead to the infinite starless nonexistence in which lies the center of creativity, energy, and intelligence.
Sounds a little supernatural to the non-practicing meditationist… almost produces a sense of disbelief, wouldn’t you say?
And yet… I’m interested in reaching the deepest state of idea generation; the ultimate imagination cache; enough to say that maybe… I’ve labeled it a destiny?
In the big sea near the bottom of the rabbit hole, David snags a lobster, and I'm reminded of Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2015 film The Lobster, which has a wonderfully weird premise. Basically, single people are brought to a hotel, where they are given 45 days to find love with another partner or they are turned into an animal. It sounds silly, but it's a serious movie. If you don’t accept the premise, you can’t enjoy the movie in all its awesome deadpan glory.
It's the same with Twin Peaks, Lynch nods from his fishing hole. If you accept the hypothesis and all of its components - Bob, the Black Lodge, the owls, the story makes sense. Even more so, a close look at all of the story pieces and nuances reveals deeper symbolism, interconnectivity, and meaning. Everything is done with purpose to a greater whole or the story itself. It's not weird for the sake of being weird. In season three, when Good Dale (mild spoiler) is banished to "nonexistence," Lynch is also nodding to his experience with TM, and the audience is seeing an interpretation of his starless sea. I cling to the hope that Erin Morgenstern is a fan of Twin Peaks.
Through the looking glass, in a bad place, is a movie like The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears. It's a 2013 French giallo film in which a man seeks the location of his missing wife, only to head deeper and deeper in to a mess of... actually, I don't know what, and that's the problem. The film itself starts off thrilling with its intriguing imagery, its giallo-ness, but what ends up lost in translation is the weird.
I had zero reason to become invested in Strange Color's characters, story, and motivation.
Was this my dividing line? The personal investment? In Strange Color, even though I accepted the hypothesis, I couldn't engage. I was watching at a movie, not with the movie, you know? I didn't put a coin in the inspiration investment slot, and all I got back was a series of colorful images that didn't coalesce.
Am I getting closer to what makes "good weird?" I don't know. I look to David and Erin and notice I'm still falling. It feels like diving deep to find the source code, and I realize that this question is beyond the mediative word, the breath focus, and the visual guiding imagery.
Weird has to serve the story. Taking an incoherent, non-cohesive plot with little to no investment is not better served by overlaying weird. I think that's the difference between good-weird and bad-weird, but, honestly, I'll be thinking about this for a long time.
“‘This is a rabbit hole. Do you want to know the secret to surviving once you’ve gone down the rabbit hole?’
Zachary nods and Mirabel leans forward. Her eyes are ringed with gold.
‘Be a rabbit,’ she whispers.”
-Erin Morgenstern, The Starless Sea
**why thank you, Dictionary.com