We've been watching Twin Peaks: The Return, and Dougie Jones (Kyle MacLachlan)—the saga of Dougie Jones—falls into one of our society's weird media tropes. As Suzette puts it: He's one of those "men who cannot fuck up their own lives no matter how hard they try." Today, we dig into the plight of Dougie Jones and what it means to have so much privilege you can't ruin your life.
Obviously, this includes spoilers, so, you know, do what's right for you.
SUZETTE: Groundhog Day is a great example of this. Withnail and I another. Harold and Maude, The Pink Panther. I’m sure lots of examples come to mind.
MEGAN: Yes! Movies where men behave terribly and it's like nothing happened. Dougie can't say more than two words at a time, he can't go to the bathroom by himself, and he scribbles on his work papers. And there are no consequences at all! I think you pointed out that he's even rewarded for it by ladies taking him to the bathroom and offering to kiss him? Meanwhile, Janey-E (Naomi Watts) does all the heavy lifting.
SUZETTE: Yeah, Janey-E leads him around and attaches meaning to the way he just echoes statements back at her. Which is, sure, another Lynch joke about how people are pleased to have their own thoughts echoed back at them. We only meet the real Dougie for a couple minutes but we're led to believe this isn't even that far off for him. He's just an empty vessel with a nice job with benefits and a big house in Nevada.
MEGAN: Everyone seems completely oblivious to the fact that he doesn't make any sense. I saw a theory that Dougie's a construct created by BOB, so maybe he's literally an empty vessel.
SUZETTE: It's hard, being someone who has worked so hard for so much stuff in my life to watch a white guy flail around and repeatedly mess up everything around him and people just help him out. I mean, with Dougie, but with life, too.
MEGAN: Yeah, he's not even mediocre. It's a good example of how you don't have to be entitled or pushy to benefit from having privilege. And also how you can behave in a completely incomprehensible way and be protected by your privilege.
SUZETTE: This is probably why I don't understand so much of white male comedy, which is built around a sense of entitlement. Why shouldn't I have a girlfriend? Why shouldn't I have a nice job? Why shouldn't people show me respect on the street? Like, dude, you are not entitled to any of that.
MEGAN: Yeah! There are always these very basic men with very good lives and beautiful wives and charming children.
SUZETTE: (reaches for the plot of an Adam Sandler movie and fails)
MEGAN: I think there were a bunch of sitcoms in the late '90s that rely on this premise.
SUZETTE: I don't remember any of them! I've blocked them out, but Adam Sandler movies are where I want to base my argument. But, yeah, anyway Dougie Jones. I couldn't believe that he's following glowing lights and drawing shoots and ladders on all those files and his boss is like, "Let me make sure I look through all of these to make sure you drew garbage on all of them!" And then he's like, "This garbage is genius! Thank you for bringing it to my attention."
MEGAN: Makes me think of all the emails I get from male artists who make bad art asking me to write about them. "Look, I made trash! Reward me now!"
SUZETTE: It's so weird when I have to be like, "Just keep plugging away at it and don't make your friends feel weird. Just keep making stuff until your stuff is so good that people want to write about it. It's not you, dude."
MEGAN: I DO think something notable about Twin Peaks is how it always portrayed the male characters as these kind of bumbling dummies or straight-up villains. Meanwhile, the women hold up the entire town. Like, Norma's Double R Diner is this communal, female-dominated space and even the Packard Mill is run by women. When Courtney and I reread The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, we concluded that Dr. Hayward is one of the only good men in Twin Peaks.
SUZETTE: I can't wait until we get Coop back in action. No more of this Dougie shit.
MEGAN: Yeah, Coop is such an exceptional person it's really hard to see him reduced to a man rewarded for his incompetence... You know who I think the ultimate Dougie Jones is? DONALD TRUMP. Does everything wrong, dumb as a post, becomes president.
SUZETTE: People have said this a lot, but Donald Trump is such a disaster that he's making George W. look good by comparison. I guess conservatives just like having a figurehead in there.
MEGAN: Yeah, I mean George W. is like an adorable bad painter now and I think it's giving us selective memory. But I think you're right. Republicans like being in power, no matter how bad the leader is. The danger of being a Dougie Jones is anyone can commandeer you for their own evil agenda. OMG, in this analogy, does that make Mike Pence... BOB? In that case, maybe George W. is a Dougie too.
SUZETTE: We've definitely fallen off of whatever it is Mike Pence is doing. Getting the AHCA passed. That's BOB levels of evil, I suppose.
MEGAN: Yeah, I think BOBs and Dougies are two different categories. Come to think of it, maybe Leland is kind of a Dougie too?
SUZETTE: Yeah, totally. Leland was a Dougie right up until he died.
MEGAN: I think maybe Dougie-like men are easily corrupted. And that's why BOB picks 'em! They make good hosts. This works with your figurehead argument re: the GOP.
SUZETTE: Laura Palmer wasn't an empty-enough vessel.
MEGAN: That's why she died. Because she resisted BOB. That's what I love about Laura Palmer—that she was too strong and smart to be controlled by BOB. And how true that women end up getting destroyed when they fight back.
SUZETTE: Yeah, or how she was this stereotypical blonde, what everyone thinks of as an empty vessel to project desires onto but she turned out to be way too much of a person to be possessed.
MEGAN: Yeah, that's something I really love about Laura Palmer. She's introduced as a trope—a beautiful dead girl—but Lynch actually seems invested in telling her story and acknowledging her trauma and giving her a rich inner life.
SUZETTE: Although at first everyone in the whole town is projecting their idea of Laura onto her but then it turns out she had this secret self, it does end up being an exploration of the victim more than the murderer.
MEGAN: Yeah, Laura is allowed complexity. Her murderer is not—he's literally a demon. In a way that makes it subversive.
SUZETTE: Yeah, I hope they never really try to explain him.
MEGAN: I think one of the most important aspects of Twin Peaks is that elemental good/evil thing. The men who do bad things aren't complex Walter Whites or whatever the fuck. They're possessed by elemental evil, because that's the only way to explain their behavior.
SUZETTE: It's funny to have this fictional view of white knight altruistic FBI agents on the other hand.
MEGAN: Yeah, it's funny because Twin Peaks is so violent and dark and yet it has this very innocent sense of morality. I've always enjoyed that about David Lynch.
MEGAN: He goes way dark but you're never expected to feel sorry for a sex murderer. And you're right that that may be at the expense of complexity for some of the characters, like Good Coop. But maybe the fact that Coop is inhabited by BOB shows that he was corruptible in some sense?
SUZETTE: Coop does have a simplicity to him, a single-mindedness. I wonder what will break him out of his Dougie state. When Coop was possessed it seemed like it was simply to break our hearts, the absolute worst thing that could happen. My theory with Lynch is that he arranges these ideas he has which are heavily influenced by his subconscious and then we all go crazy ascribing meaning to them. I don't know that Lynch is saying stuff about men who can't fuck up their own lives with Dougie.
MEGAN: I think that's very true.
SUZETTE: He's just arranging symbols and I'm reacting to them, like a Rorschach test.
MEGAN: He has a book about his meditation practices, Catching the Big Fish, where he says he doesn't know what the box and key symbolize in Mulholland Drive. Maybe blaming it all on the subconscious works as a way to avoid answering questions.
SUZETTE: So he writes this very traditional character: gentle idiot that needs to be led around, and I'm furious because everyone liked that guy better than me at my last job. Earlier I was saying it's hard to make weird decisions about the series so far. I'm at this place of let's see where this gooooes... because the dismount from Dougie (probably an electrical shock? Or will they really need to kill Bad Coop first?) will say so much about Dougie and what my thoughts on him will be. Just right now he frustrates the hell out of me. But I'm also into frustration as a legit experience in art.