“Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black coffee.”
Aficionados of the groundbreaking and short-lived television series, Twin Peaks, have undoubtedly found resonance in that indelible quote from the charismatic Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). However, in this instance, the month of October saw series creators David Lynch and Mark Frost bestow said presents onto their loyal fan base. Not only was a third season set to debut in 2016, but an accompanying novel (penned by Mr. Frost) would reveal the fates of the town’s memorable denizens since we last saw them… twenty-five years ago.
To say that the characters and situations introduced in the brief, original run of Twin Peaks were peculiar would be an understatement. Referring to them as “queer” might be a bit more on point. This is not to say that the mysterious little haven in the Pacific Northwest was teeming with homosexual activity. It merely suggests that the basic definition of “queer” ( adj: differing in some odd way from what is deemed usual or normal) is arguably more appropriate.
However, amid the murders, dancing dwarves, and cryptic giants, the series still managed to serve up some LGBT-centric queer moments… and some damned good cherry pie.
The character of Catherine Martell (flawlessly portrayed by Piper Laurie) is remembered for many things… blackmail, attempted arson, accounting fraud, enslaving her sister-in-law, faking her own death, dressing up in full Asian businessman drag in order to swindle a plot of land out from under her ex-lover’s feet. Yes, Catherine “Tojamura” Martell… crossplaying before it was cool. So dedicated was she to her cause that Catherine altered not only her gender, she managed to tweak her stature, mannerisms, and voice. Her transformation so well-done that most newbie viewers were completely unaware of Tojamura’s true identity until the big reveal.
During the second season, the cast of Twin Peaks added to its ranks an actor who would eventually go on to portray one of the most famous FBI agents in sci-fi television… David Duchovny. It is perhaps this reason that he is best known for the role of Fox Mulder on The X-Files instead of a DEA agent on Twin Peaks.
What was so special about David Duchovny portraying a DEA agent on a television series that regularly featured characters from federal law enforcement agencies? His character was one of few (only?) openly trans characters on television at the time.
It is never made explicitly clear as to whether or not Denise Bryson self-identifies as transgender. However, it should be noted, that the character presents herself as a woman in both her professional and personal life. In fact, the only time that viewers see Denise revert back to Dennis is during a sting operation when the agent had to disguise herself.
The casting of a transgender character on a network television series during the 90s was pretty groundbreaking and it was both surprising and refreshing to see the character used in a way that was not just a punchline for a joke. In fact, she had some pretty heroic moments. Dale Cooper’s future could have turned out quite bleak without his old friend’s intervention.
Sexual activity was pretty fluid in the tiny hamlet of Twin Peaks. Physical affairs were sparked left, right, and sideways. None of this is more evident than with the character of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee)… the emotionally tortured homecoming queen whose death in the pilot episode ignited one of the most memorable murder mysteries in television history.
It is probably unfair to label Laura Palmer as bisexual. However, it was strongly implied during the events of Fire Walk With Me that she had a physical relationship with both Ronette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine) and Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley). Jennifer Lynch’s companion piece, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, also alluded to the fact that she was carrying on a tryst with Josie Packard (Joan Chen) during their English tutoring sessions.
Flash-forward to twenty-five years later. Fans are on the cusp of revisiting the town of Twin Peaks. Much has changed in the country with regards to LGBT rights and representation. It is pretty safe to assume that these advancements, in some way, will be reflected in the third season of Twin Peaks as David Lynch has never been one to shy away from LGBT themes in his work (Mulholland Drive).
Follow Shaun N. on Twitter at @datura1979.