The City of Absurdity Papers & Essayes
The Detective in 'Twin Peaks'  by Andreas Blassmann

4.5. What is BOB? A Return of the Repressed

BOB and Cooper in the Lodge I already started to define the question of BOB's identity in 2.6. I concluded that TP reaches a turning point after the solution of the murder mystery. BOB, a higher force and evil spirit, is named as the killer and the mystery is thus elevated on a different narrative level. With the final episode of TP the narrative has reached the end of a circle, namely a disturbing form of closure.

The diffuse nature of BOB is never really specified within the TP narrative. This abstract figure apparently represents the common motif of a repressed returning. As in the classical gothic story, BOB represents the 'Other', or the monster threatening normal, middle class society. It is also a common Gothic motif that this threat takes on the form of a doppelganger, or of a split self. However, it should be noted that BOB physically causes his victim to split into a double. In contrast to the conventional inner split in Freud's sense, we find an outside force that initiates the schizoid division: "What for Freud was inner ... Lynch brings out into a space of fraught transaction between inner and outer" (Stevenson, 75).36

The interesting aspect of BOB is that is both a wandering spirit and a physical appearance. Stevenson states that the "violence has two expressions in Twin Peaks, physical and metaphysical, the one embodied in ... the serial killer, the other in BOB the demon" (74). The evil spirit BOB has the ability to take possession of a human body. BOB, as he is possessing Leland or later Cooper, is not a conventional type of doppelganger. Rather than merely being a shadow self of the person seeing him in the mirror, he is a parasite inhabiting its host, devouring him, and, finally, leaving him 'full of holes' and his soul empty.

The creators of TP keep the figure diffuse and confusing. Yet, it seems appropriate to identify BOB as a return of deeply hidden secrets that go back to the origin of mankind. As I mentioned in my analysis of the BOB discussion in chapter 2.5, Cooper successfully denies the true nature of the possessing spirit, therefore repressing a truth that will eventually lead to his own failure. Pollard states that Cooper has established a "signifying regime" that re-creates (a new) order within society. (Pollard, 299). BOB, however, does not fit into that kind of a system. He functions according to another sign system, a system that lies beyond human understanding:

While the letters retrieved from beneath his victims' fingernails may well spell out the name of BOB, the name tells us nothing. He is just a phantom, a shape-shifter in the tradition of Native American folklore, who can, for a time, inhabit the body of Leland Palmer or disappear to take on some other guise even the shape of Agent Cooper. (Telotte, 167)

BOB moving into the tradition of Native American Folklore seems a legitimate assumption. His physical appearance resembles the archetype of the 'evil Indian', with "his long oily hair...his grimace and threatening postures" (Carroll, 291). In that sense, BOB would also mirror the 'noble Indian' Hawk who informs Cooper about the nature of the Lodges in the first place.

BOB, like the Puritan 'black man of the forest' and the evil Indian as he appears throughout American mythology, is a projection of the psyche, for like the evil Indian, BOB lurks, first and literally, in the dark wilderness, and second and metaphorically ... in the Euro-American imagination as an archetype of the unconscious that is projected outward on the original inhabitants of the land that, like the unacknowledged dark side of the subconscious, must be, according to the authoritarian superego, 'tamed'. (ibid.)

BOB exists at the borders of American civilization. He dwells in the wilderness of the dark forest, a region that the citizens of TP experience as uncanny and evil. With BOB taking over Cooper's body and soul, it seems as though archaic nature would have its revenge on the civilized WASP. If one reads BOB as a 'projection of the psyche' the rejection of that evil spirit comes clear. White middle class man like Cooper cannot completely understand forces that are opposed to their beliefs in a civilized society. Cooper's aim is to protect consumer society. An original creation, as the dark wilderness, is coined the evil in the woods, an unknown and uncanny force that has to be fought and rejected. Thus, Cooper's general mission naturally prevents him from a harmonious union with the supernatural force.

Cooper has employed and embraced Twin Peaks' nature throughout the narrative. The demonstration of his Tibetan method was just one example that I analyzed in greater detail. However, it seems that Cooper has always been striving for the bright side of the natural surroundings, e.g. pastoral Douglas firs or ducks on a lake, yet he has never incorporated or understood the dark side of Ghostwood. Carroll and Kimball attach an Emersonian quality to Cooper who is moved by the sublime and pastoral quality of the nature in Twin Peaks (comp. chapters 1.5 and 2.5). Pollard compares Cooper with Whitman, however, he concludes that Cooper "sees threatened the community that capitalism created, the very one that Whitman feared" (Pollard, 298). Cooper's psychic contacts and his consumerist's ZEN buddhism do not seem to be enough in order to understand the realm of BOB. Thus, his merging with the 'Other' does not lead to a harmonious unity in a Romantic fashion.

Hague actually offers a more positive reading of the whole possession affair and Cooper's doubling when she applies Cooper's abilities as an infinite player once more:

BOB's invasion of Cooper, which eliminates another boundary in the game, is an inevitable result of the psychic openness that characterizes Cooper both as an infinite player and as an intuitive investigator willing to abandon ego-barriers in order to fuse with what exists outside himself. To understand the nature of evil and its 'shadow' relation with good, he must completely experience it. (Hague, 142)

This reading emphatically embraces Cooper's new and innovative approaches, as I introduced them in former chapters. Indeed, Cooper's openness could enable the detective to cope and understand the infinity of an archaic spirit.

Thus, Cooper keeps his infinite nature, eventually he truly understands what infinity is all about, namely to leave the constraints of society (the limitations of middle class America) in order to experience the archaic origins of America.

Of course, the narrative ending of the series enhances a rather negative outcome altogether. There is no denying that Cooper does neither save himself, nor the middle class Soap Opera world of TP, in the end. Thus, it seems necessary to ponder Cooper's, and thus BOB's, role within the setting of TP, a setting that is more or less completely destroyed in the course of the show's final episode.

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36 "In Freud's discussion of the doppelganger, as in Otto Rank's before him, the focus is strictly inner: The doppelganger is created out of the psyche, as the paranoid projection of a narcissistic crisis for Rank, as the uncanny manifestation, for Freud, of a threatened return of the repressed." (Stevenson, 76)


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