It is that time again, that time of the year when I rewatch *Twin Peaks*, that time of the year when the owls are not what they seem.
I have been thinking a little about the role of the internal soap opera, “An Invitation to Love” in *Twin Peaks*. It’s a structure Lynch likes, an embedded object of comparison for the embedding object. What is “Invitation” doing embedded there?
Certainly the embedding show, *Twin Peaks*, has the superficial structure of a soap opera: lots of beautiful characters, presented in kaleidoscope, constantly at work but never working, with little to do in their afternoons; melodramatic dialogue; romantic and monetary entanglements of extraordinary historical and momentary complication; etc. “Invitation” ironizes this structure, and in so doing, asks the audience: What is the difference between *Twin Peaks* and “Invitation”–and, more pointedly–what are the differences between aiming at art and aiming at entertainment?
That question gets its point from the risks *Twin Peaks* runs. It aims at art. “Invitation”, at best, aims at entertainment. Lynch invites us feel the differences in those aims, the differences in the risks run. For example, the risks run in aiming at entertainment are fewer and less severe in part because entertainment can be formulaic, and often is. That there is a formula does not mean that everyone can succeed at it, do it, but it helps. Put it this way: the rules of entertainment are external to the making of the object that is to entertain. It is possible to consult the rules. But the risks run aiming at art are more numerous and more severe. Art is not formulaic: the rules of art are internal to the making of the object that is to be appreciated. There are rules; but they cannot be consulted. They come to be as the art object comes to be. (This is one reason medium matters in art as it does not (in a way that it does not) in entertainment. Entertainment shows a possibility of a medium, but art shows the conditions of a possibility of the medium: entertainment ‘empirically idealizes’, art ‘transcendentally idealizes’.) Lynch also wants us to feel the differences in the demands made on us by *Twin Peaks* and by “Invitation”. Entertainment requires an audience but it does almost all the work for that audience–there is no need for the audience to do work in order to be entertained (in fact, doing work and being entertained typically exclude one another). But art requires appreciators who are, in a limited way, collaborators, who are working in order to appreciate–who are bringing knowledge and experience and understanding and sensory refinement to bear on the art object. Lynch wants us to recognize that watching *Twin Peaks* makes that sort of demand on us. “Invitation” does not.
(I mean this to apply to the first season and part of the second. It is a shame that the second season of *Twin Peaks* sinks into “Invitation”. I wonder if that is why “Invitation” seems to disappear in the second season–it disappears into ubiquity, swelling from object of comparison to form?)
While of course Lynch cannot withstand comparison to Shakespeare (but, then again, who can?), it is worth considering how the relationship between *Twin Peaks* and “Invitation” shares features of the relationships between Shakespeare’s source materials and his plays, and the alchemical, metabasis eis allo genos changes that the source materials undergo as they reappear in the plays. Often enough, Shakespeare made art out of entertainment, body and blood out of bread and wine.