Deep Dives

The Angriest Cartoon in the World

He is our treasured resident alien, visiting from a dimension where shadows are rooms and movies are bad dreams that change reality. That’s one kind of way to think about David Lynch, and there are thousands more. For most observers, characterizations of the artist often begin and end with the idea of Lynch being merely a spontaneous subconscious on legs, a savage “Surrealist” (oh, the misuse of that word) burped out of the heartland. The reason for this seems from any distance to be barely repressed bafflement—the word “Lynchian” has emerged and served its purpose eloquently because, from many perspectives, no other existing word does the job.

But “Lynchian” has become such a commonplace outside of discussions of the man’s corpus, and that should tip us off that there is something larger going on. How much of what and who we already are is Lynchian? Perhaps more than we can swallow, and so here’s another way to look at Lynch: as the modern age’s most distinctive and uncompromising anatomist of the American marrow. Cubbyholing Lynch as a freak only unleashing his id can conveniently ignore his psychocultural relevance. Lynch’s national vision is by now iconic: a soulless painscape of innocence raped and annihilated, of vestigial mutations and radioactive sexual psychopathy, of twisted power figures, errant electrical charges, hidden homunculi, blood-painted outposts, inexplicable wavelengths, deranged undergrounds, an LA haunted by doppelgangers, a Northwest stalked by man-beasts, a Cosmic-Kitsch Hotel Lobby of the Dead. As a composite canvas of American psychoses, violence and strangeness, from The Grandmother and Eraserhead to Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart and Lost Highway, to Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, to Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire and Twin Peaks: The Return, his oeuvre is unrivaled in its original and strange modern congruity.

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