Watching a David Lynch movie (or show in the case of Twin Peaks and others) is hardly ever a “comfortable” viewing experience, especially on the first watch. You never know what to expect out of any scene, only that it’s probably not going to make a lot of sense. To fully enjoy a Lynch movie, you have to put everything you know about film to the side for a few hours and just let it come at you. Analyzing everything too deeply as it pops onto the screen will only confuse you more, and this is exactly what Lynch wants out of the viewer. He wants you to turn off your brain and embrace the confusion.
Lynch is a master at telling a story through abstract means. Scenes that seem like they’re cut from another movie altogether, dialogue that seems to go nowhere, imagery that makes your skin crawl while also being hauntingly beautiful. It’s this dedication to abstraction and absurdity in storytelling that makes both fans and foes of Lynch. It’s also what makes his work such a driving force in the memeverse.
In the 21st century, when Big Chungus and low-res GIFs of cows dancing to Polish music can be considered top-tier humor, Lynch’s directorial style is almost made to meme. The first time you saw Big Chungus, you probably weren’t sure what you were looking at. You may not have found it funny at all. Then you see Big Chungus again, and again, and again. You see him in new contexts and situations, and you start to realize that the absurdity of the meme is the joke. You might be able to find some deeper meaning from meme to meme, but why bother when you’re already so entertained? From that point, you’re either all-in on the Chungus train or you’re getting off at the next stop, refusing to ever get back on.
This same philosophy can be applied to the Lynch filmography, and even to Lynch himself. Either you’re into it or you’re not. You understand that understanding isn’t the goal with a Lynch property and you enjoy it all the more for that, or you turn off Inland Empire, pull it from your DVD player and toss it into the nearest lake.
Unsurprisingly, memers realized this long ago, and the internet has since been blessed with more David Lynch memes than we can even keep track of. One of the most popular platforms for Lynch memes seems to be Facebook, where multiple niche meme groups exist specifically for “Lynch-posting.”
The most popular is a private group called Twin Peaks LogPosting, a page with over 80,000 members dedicated to memes about everyone’s favorite bizarro murder-mystery show, Twin Peaks. More broadly, pages like David Lynch Shitposting and Ethereal Lynchposting offer memes from across the Lynch canon, including memes about Lynch himself and the bizarre public life he seems to lead.
A lot of these memes won’t make sense if you haven’t watched the Lynch property they’re associated with, but even if you do, they still won’t make all that much sense. They defy sense and they’re happy to do so, many often using the lack of sense found in Lynch properties as a punchline. Others make jokes about those who over-analyze the films and try to find hidden context in images and phrases that are better off left without it. David Lynch said it best himself:
“It makes me uncomfortable to talk about meanings and things. It’s better not to know so much about what things mean. Because the meaning, it’s a very personal thing, and the meaning for me is different than the meaning for somebody else.”
Some of the earliest Lynch memes play with the consistently bizarre and recognizable Lynchian style, applying it to more straight-forward properties. On YouTube between 2007 and 2014, people began uploading fake trailers for various movies in the style of Lynch. Then there was the Larry David Lynch Tumblr page that combined Twin Peaks stills with Curb Your Enthusiasm captions.
In 2018 we saw a massive crop of David Lynch WWE Parodies, where Twin Peaks music is edited over WWE footage (typically between-fight narrative scenes) to highlight the sheer absurdity of WWE acting. Seeing films and shows with straightforward narratives and styles in a Lynchian lens highlights the absurdity in everything. It’s easy to forget what you’re watching when binging through Lynch WWE edits, and it acts as one of the best ways to put yourself in the shoes of Lynch. Arguably, watching these memes even helps the viewer warm up to and appreciate Lynch to a degree. Lynch edits add a level of discomfort to properties that are otherwise comforting, while doubling as great jokes, allowing us to accept the absurdities and discomforts of life.
“I don’t think that people accept the fact that life doesn’t make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it.” – David Lynch
It would be easy to spend all day discussing the memes of David Lynch, just as it would be easy to spend all day discussing his films in general. It would also be just as easy to spend all day discussing Lynch himself, whose life seems to be one of the most Lynchian things imaginable.
Back in 2006, Lynch sat at the corner of La Brea and Hollywood Boulevard next to a live cow and a poster reading “for your consideration Laura Dern” to try and get Dern an Academy Award for her role in Inland Empire. In a 2007 interview with David Lean, Lynch touted his film Eraserhead to be his most spiritual film, and when asked to elaborate, simply said, “No.”
These days, Lynch can be found on his YouTube channel, David Lynch Theater, uploading daily weather reports that he garners simply from looking out the window, as well as a number of the day. He’s been doing this for six months now, and you might ask yourself why, but a better question would be, “Why not?” You might see this as Lynch embracing or even forcing a meme, but you’d be mistaken. Lynch weather reports are just another example of Lynch being Lynch, highlighting the absurdities in everyday life in a way that very few will accept. What makes Lynch’s weather reports any more absurd than watching a trained meteorologist tell you the weather? Nothing, really, but also everything.
Whenever Lynch releases a new product, you can be sure that the memes are only a few steps away. His latest Netflix release What Did Jack Do?, a short film depicting the interrogation of a capuchin monkey who may have murdered someone, resulted in a wide variety of memes on Twitter.
New memes are consistently popping up based on his older properties and life as the younger generations, already acclimatized to absurd humor through memes, discover his filmography and find a treasure-trove of material to work with. Few artists have had as consistent and explosive success in the memeverse as Lynch. We live in a strange world that’s only getting stranger each day, and Lynch has been seeing the world that way since he first entered film. His vision is only resonating more and more with the younger generations, and they’re expressing that resonation through the most wide-reaching medium they know: memes. We really do be living in a Lynchian society.
“It’s better not to know so much about what things mean or how they might be interpreted or you’ll be too afraid to let things keep happening. Psychology destroys the mystery, this kind of magic quality. It can be reduced to certain neuroses or certain things, and since it is now named and defined, it’s lost its mystery and the potential for a vast, infinite experience.” – David Lynch
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