Dale Cooper and America’s (current) midlife crisis (SPOILERS)

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Dale Cooper and America’s (current) midlife crisis (SPOILERS)

Postby tmurry » Sat May 27, 2017 8:19 pm

Cross posted on Reddit.

I have two understandings about the original show that could shed some light on the nature of the third manifestation of Dale Cooper (I’ll call them doppelCoop who is the dirty murderous one, OGCoop who escapes from the red room, and doucheCoop who is married to Janey-E).

One is that a major theme of the original show is the baby boomer mid-life crisis as a crisis in America. Specifically, the conflict created by the identity rift between the hippie ideal and the reality of becoming “the man.” This plays out largely in relation to Ben Horne (Richard Beymer), shady business man who has an actual crisis where he tries to flip the outcome of a major historical event to (up is down, down is up) create the timeline where he wound up the “good” version of the 60s vision.

He is aided/abetted in this quest by several foils – his brother Jerry who gives personification to the hedonistic tendencies that led him astray; Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn), the road not taken of the spiritual seeker aspect of the generation who is currently a little worse for wear (as is what was left of that spirit); and two younger reflections in Bobby, who is trying to emulate him, and Audrey who is rejecting the very basis for his current life. Jacoby is especially interesting due to casting – the two were male leads in West Side Story, where Beymer played the leader and Tamblyn the heart of the gang. Later, Beymer dated Sharon Tate and Tamblyn gave a ride to Charles Manson. That they wind up in this position on the show fits the paths of the dual sides of the male 60s psyche. Do you throw responsibility away and Easy Ride it or stay bathed in the world you were sucked into then made, having to face what you’ve become.

It is evident that this is not just an inner war in men of Frost’s age but a struggle for the soul of the culture. The Regan years had the boomers struggling frantically to both live in the hyper material world and convince themselves they had not sold out. The vestiges of closer community, living less compromised lives, and a deeper seeking of understanding were relegated to crackpot behavior, as Jacoby illustrates. Jerry plays the smirking unbridaled id of the generation. Meanwhile, Bobby and Audrey are straight out of Family Ties – Alex trying to emulate the capitalist and Mallory criticizing the materialism (while depending on it). This is a nice assemblage of mirror relationships with Ben at the center.

The second thing is the nature of Cooper himself. His white knight nature tends to obscure the darker facets hinted at in the character. He is a guy with an obsession with women who have desires and are destroyed when they afoul of bad men, or rather when the existence is crushed by a system of dominant male will. He wants to protect them, these women who try to become people and explore who they are in a world of a reinforcing cycle of predatory maleness, but he is completely entangled in the system that causes it. He must save the Judys, the May Queens. But he places himself into a position where it is too late. Coop’s obsession is also a national/worldwide thing – the need for upstanding men to revere and witness the defilement of women, to venerate and annihilate them for standing up. It also kind of cheats as an extension of the Boomer story - he exemplifies all the positive attributes of the culture the 60s reacted against, a firm belief in the goodness of this without seeing how those aspects are entangled with the bad beyond his ability through personal force of will to only allow the good to out.

Coop joins the FBI for this reason. He is attracted to this idea of women, as an opportunity for acting good in a world characterized by the bad side he rejects (but must watch as it consumes so many). This is not healthy or good. However he only uses violence when he has to and he is trying to “fix his heart.” Earle screws this up good. What I believe happens in the real world that corresponds to the events in the Black Lodge is that Coop enters the cycle of male violence and domination by killing Earle in anger as, in the striking down of Annie, he loses hope that he can ever forge a relationship that allows him to see women as people.

This is the Coop that we see at the beginning of the new season. Metaphorically, the good angels of Coop’s nature are “locked up” in his mind while the version made of his suppressed darkness runs free. Meanwhile he has manufactured an identity of a middle aged schlubb who is faithless and without a real compass. There are three Coops… if we take this as a metaphorical story, what does this mean?

DoucheCoop is the Coop the world sees – a given up, going through the motions tool. His wife means little to him and he seeks cowardsy thrills, shirking responsibility, living in the capital city of self-indulgence. DoppleCoop is how he has chosen to see himself – the rogue, sexy adventurer to whom life and sex are cheap. But he is in a moment of crisis. The better angels of his nature seek to reassert themselves. He pushes his manufactured self aside, but his wife and child have begun to see this better side, unfamiliar with the world, start to hesitantly come out. His self-image wants this OGCoop, good Coop, dead, but attempts to make this happen all seem to fail (wonder why...).

The slipping of the manufactured identity shows up visually as a literal war between the small gold core left in him and the toxic oozing cratered planet of disgust that is how he esteems himself. The kernel of good seems to win. We need to see how this plays out precisely, but I think the Coops need to merge – the good Coop needs the dark Coop to be whole but control needs to be reasserted by the light side. Good riddance to the “face he showed the world.” Again, this appears to be political commentary as well as psychodrama. The country is allegorically presented as at war between a mean, violent conspiracy of self interest and the nation’s good impulses which have been dormant and now are kind of fumbling around. This is all with the public image of a tasteless, rudderless, hedonistic nihilistic populous with money problems. I think this is just another presentation of the mid-life crisis of rapacious materialism vs. soul 25 years later... a bit more up to date. Does the western world give into its impulse to cruise around in a cool car with long hair bangin’ chicks like it has been or does it rediscover some fundamental reason to live. That’s for episodes 5-18 to tell. (spoilers… it chooses the later)

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