That Was Laura, But She’s Only a Dream

Beauty is immortal, and provisional. Specious, and sensational. Rare, and therefore suspect. Donna Tartt wrote of the condition: “Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.”

In ancient Greece, to be beautiful was to be wise, and thus good. They had a phrase for it: kalos kagathos. A quality translated to marble, bronze, terracotta, and the Neoclassicist pottery that told stories of Achilles and Penthesilea, of athletes and maenads and muses. The Greeks had another phrase to describe Pandora, the world’s first woman: kalon kakon, or “the beautiful evil.” Female, or: of malicious origin.

Laura Palmer—a woman; beautiful, evil—is a Gen X Pandora in saddle shoes. Ethereal in the headlight of her boyfriend’s motorcycle, terrifying as a cackling Black Lodge specter. The creation of Mark Frost and David Lynch for their landmark television series, Twin Peaks, she was its most salient marketing hook. Dead before the show begins, her corpse—Persephonic, with river stones like crystals in her hair—sold the mystery premise: Who killed Laura Palmer? Fans wondered, and some still wonder. Twenty-five years after the reveal, the optics of her death still shift with Twin Peaks: The Return, the show’s sequel series, where her origins transition from a casual victim of male ultra-violence to something nuclear, prophetic, mystic.

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