|Papers & Essayes
|The Detective in 'Twin Peaks' by Andreas Blassmann
II. The Gothic
3. The 'Gothic Soap Opera'
I will coin a new term, in order to define one of the many pieces of the show's patchwork of genres. I shall call this new formula the 'Gothic Soap Opera'. Before I elaborate on the new coinage I would like to summarize Cooper's relation to the 'Soap Opera' world of TP. The 'Soap Opera' consists of a fixed set of stock characters and sets. Despite its unconventional style and its parodistic elements, TP moves within the confines of this genre.
In chapter one, I concluded that the detective tries to expand his role as a protector of this world. Cooper actively engages and participates in the goings-on of the setting. As a detective figure Cooper is a wanderer, a seeker of universal truth who uses his emotional and human knowledge to help others; still he keeps a certain emotional distance all the time. In the first season one of the show's regular characters, Audrey Horne, falls in love with Special Agent Dale Cooper. However, he strictly refuses any such deeper emotional involvement. Cooper offers an explanation that turns out to be a cover for his true feelings. He tells Audrey that he is a faithful FBI agent whose sole purpose is to fulfill his duty. This reasoning appears believable and fits the overall characteristic traits of the character. Yet, as we will see, Cooper will go through significant transformations in the up-coming plot development. I will argue that the alteration of the detective character is strongly connected to his emotional opening and the inherent retrieval of the past. Cooper's emotional involvement does not move along the lines of the mind-body coordination that he introduced in the beginning. The tragic love affair that will be revealed in the following seems to belong into a much more conventional genre pattern.
When Cooper decides to stay permanently in Twin Peaks, the detective figure experiences a significant change; planning to settle down in the town of Twin Peaks Cooper has transformed into a participant of the suburban middle class world. In terms of genre one might argue that he has assimilated to the 'Soap opera' plot.24 Assimilation leads to a reduction of Cooper's detectional omniscience. Thus, solution (of the murder case) might really mean dissolution, both for the detective and the world he is trying to protect and inhabit. Although Cooper's increasing involvement with the 'Soap Opera world' of TP becomes evident from the very beginning of the show, his emotional attachment to a certain character will not be as rigorous as in the last few installments of the show.
24 I will not include all of the other obvious Soap Opera elements in TP. The overall TP storyline functions, of course, on the free floating mixture of various TV genres. This montage of genre is often hard to deduce. It would lead to far to disinguish all the various pieces of this postmodern 'cultural compost heap'. Thus, I am reducing the term Gothic Soap Opera to the development of the Cooper character away from the omniscient detective to another player within the overall narrative web of TP.