David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is an exploration of things above andbelow the surface. This surface is really a borderline between not onlyidyllic suburban America and the dark, perverted corruption that liesunderneath but also between good and evil, conscious and subconscious,dream and reality. This Lynch’s films, stands as the theorists’ dream and theaverage film viewers’ nightmare. Several reactions seem appropriate to afilm as opaque as Blue Velvet. A theorist intent on the debasement of manmight conclude that the film settles on the aggrandizement of the violent,primordial beast that yearns for nothing more than a to cause extremeamounts of violence and to simply procreate. Conversely, an antitheticalreading focused around the encapsulating white picket fence would servewell to debunk such a bleak reading. While these diametric readings ofmoralisme and amoralism are interesting, they do little to make sense of whythe film’s is filled with large amounts of physical pain and sexual deviance.Perhaps at the heart of Blue Velvet is a scathing critique of the dominantconstruction of gender, sexuality, and social order. I believe that DavidLynch uses sexual imagery, to depict the battle of good vs. evil incontemporary American society and it’s social ramifications. The simpleformula Lynch uses is as followed; anything sexual “normal” is consideredgood while anything sexual “abnormal” is considered evil. This allows Lynch to easily identify the good people of the film and the bad people ofthe film. The film even goes so far as to explore the idea of good and evil(worth and anti-worth), but also performs a psychoanalytic interpretation ofconscious versus unconscious desires. The pairing of Jeffrey and Frankseems an easy point of entrance. The starkness of contrast between thesecharacters on a social level is unnerving—Jeffrey: the gentle kid at the heartof the community, and Frank: the fringe deviant and community predator.Frank’s company: a few mangy ruffians and whores, and Jeffrey’s company:the epitome of classic innocence and beauty. Most audiences will identifywith Jeffrey not only as the dominant ideal, but also as the valued ideal. Yet,this identification is destroyed by the shades of Frank that exhibit themselvesin Jeffrey, and vice versa. On a surface level, both characters lust afterDorothy, sexually. Both characters are humbled in the presence of Dorothyand her sexuality: Frank is unable to maintain his composure and reverts to aneedy, childlike state that desperately clutches and fondles Dorothy’s bluevelvet; and Jeffrey helplessly obeys each of her commands, going so far asto detach himself from his gentle nature in a disturbing act of sexualviolence. Both are almost unconscious of how much they want Dorothy. It isonly in the unconscious and eventual conscious sexual encounters that bothcharacters have with Dorothy that the clear lines of good and evil are drawn.The similarities of good and evil are also drawn using Dorothy as theircentral focus. After all light cannot exist without shadows and nice versa soif good and evil hopelessly linked. The film picks out Jeffery to be the goodguy because he has normal sexual wishes and fulfillments. He has a girl helikes, leading a normal life with a white pickets and parents who love andsupport her. He is of heterosexual orientation and has a healthy sexualappetite. It is only in meeting and lusting after Dorothy that Jeffery isintroduced into a world of evil. It is only in encountering and being seducedby the evils of the world that Jeffery’s character begins to degrade and hebegins to lose himself. Not only does he begin to lose himself but also heloses his place in society and his world beings to degrade. Frank on the otherhand is the exact social opposite in everyway. Lynch again uses sexualimagery to single Frank out as the evil of the film. Frank has no normalsexual desire. They are all sadistic desire, desires of domination andhomosexual desires. We clearly see his sadistic desire when dealing withDorothy and to a certain extend Jeffery. His sadistic tendencies withDorothy are obvious, he beats and has sex with Dorothy right in front ofJeffery when he is hiding in the closet in Dorothy’s apartment, all the whilederiving great pleasure from the actions of dominating another person andhurting them at the same time. We see glimpses of Frank homosexuality inhis dealings with Ben, the only man Frank respect. Frank looks up to Ben ina very bizarre pseudo sexual way. While almost nothing moves Frank in thefilm, Ben singing a simple song is capable of moving Frank to tears, andonly by exclaiming loudly “I’ll fuck anything that moves” is Frank able tobreak the spell Ben has on him and return to his normal violent hyperaggressive heterosexual standpoint. Even with Jeffery, we see a bizarre sortof attraction that Frank has to him. At one point Frank herds everyone intothe car for a ride. At their destination, he uses his inhaler and begins to pawat Dorothy's breasts (`Baby wants to pinch them'). Frank has identifiedJeffrey as like him, (proving that good and evil are somehow linked) ashaving the same psychic structure. Jeffrey tells him not to touch Dorothy andhits him; now Frank's rage is fuelled by jealousy and becomes violenttowards Jeffery. Frank has Jeffrey removed from the car and has his menprepare him for the rite to follow. Then Frank smears his own mouth withlipstick, inhales, calls Jeffrey `pretty, pretty', and kisses him. He asks to have`Candy Coloured Clown' played, and the tape begins. This is the same songthat Ben sang to move Frank to tears. As the song starts, with its father-sonbedtime reassurances that everything will be all right, Frank tells Jeffrey heis fucking lucky to be alive. At that moment, he commands Jeffrey to look athim. This is a marked moment because when he is raping Dorothy he oftentells her to “look away” instead of “look at me” signifying a reversal ofsexuality. The action of inhaling from the inhaler is significant as wellbecause again this is what Frank normally does before he rapes Dorothy.The significance in these actions and the suggested homosexual that Frankhas for Jeffery is too great to be ignored. Frank then yells that if Jeffreydoesn't leave her alone, he'll send him a love letter. `Do you know what alave letter is? It's a bullet from a fucking gun. You receive a love letter fromme you're fucked forever.' Then Frank speaks the lines of the song's momentof plenitude to Jeffrey: `in dreams, I walk with you. In dreams I talk to you.In dreams you're mine. all . . . (he stops). . . . Forever, in dreams.' Frank thengently wipes the lipstick from Jeffrey's mouth with the blue velvet, for amoment a nurturing father. But as the song turns to the part that Frank hadswitched off, we finally discover the source of Frank's rage. As the songintones, `I awake to find you gone', Frank turns violent. He tells Jeffrey tofeel his muscles and asks if he likes it, marking the shift from nurturing tophallic masculinity (and reminding the viewer of the sexual scene whenDorothy asked him if he liked the feel of her breast). At this point Orbisonsings, `Just before the dawn I awake and find you gone. I can't help it, I can'thelp it if I cry.' Frank asks his men to hold Jeffrey tight for him, and hebegins to beat him as the song, at higher volume, wails. `It only happens indreams. Only in dreams.’ This just ties Frank sexuality to the pain ofabandonment, loss, powerlessness, and dependency. Frank's desire, bothheterosexual and homosexual become visible and we understand just how“abnormal” and, in Lynch’s sense of imagery, evil Frank is.
These examples clearly show that sexual abnormality leads to a pathof evil and sexual normalcy leads to a path of good and that these two forcesare in constant battle, This reinforces Lynch's point that the socialramifications that evil has on society is that it will tear it apart and lead toself destruction. Giving in to evil for a time, in Jeffery’s case, leads to a lossof character and soon after a loss in his place in society. The two, whiledlink in a way, male representative of good and evil desire Dorothy, bothcannot exist together and one must destroy the other in the end, in this caseevil. Franks hold over Dorothy and strange similarities in Jeffery, is defeatedin the end by the good and only then can balance to society be restored. It’sonly in defeating this evil before it can consume him that all is right with theworld. The only way Jeffery can defeat the evil of the world is to confrontthe evil subconsciously and physically. First Jeffery comes to terms withhimself and realizes that, while he may be like Frank in some ways, (both hitDorothy for sexual pleasure) he does not want to be. He then physicallyconfronts the monster that is Frank and in the final scene shoots Frank in thehead in Dorothy’s apartment. Right after Frank dies the scene jumps to oneof normalcy again. We see Jeffery, happy with his sexual normal andheterosexual girlfriend, having a very clam moment in his house. Birds aresinging and all is right with the world. The evil is defeated, Jeffery’ssexuality has returned to normal, and the society is saved.
Blue Velvet is a film that is full of hope. Acknowledgement andreconciliation of the dark underbelly of humanity can give way to a newworld of freedom. In the end, Jeffrey did not choose to simply inundatehimself in the dark world of unconscious desires; rather, he chose to returnto his conscious world with a new understanding of his unconscious self. Itis only in confronting this evil, the sexual odd tendency within his self thatJeffery is able to finally make peace, true peace with himself and his place insociety. He comes out of his decent into the world of evil, a stronger, betterperson. How that he has seen how far humans can go he can easily identifyit, and overcome it if need be. He can now easily confront the evil withinhimself and the physical manifestation of that evil embodies in Frank andovercome it. His reward is not only a return to a normal life (sexual andotherwise) but in a stable society, here where people like Frank and Bendon’t exist. A world where there is no sadistic nature, no homosexuality, norape or rampant bizarre desires. It’s a nice clean boring world. WhatAmerican society deems normal. It is a happy dreamland that cannot beforever because no matter how hard people try. There will always be a Frankin the world and while he might be defeated, even shot in the head the evilhe represents will never truly die. I think Lynch’s was trying to say that theonly way to truly be safe from the Franks of the world is to understand theevil that lurks within all humans. To understand it, to confront it and tofinally acquire the strength to defeat it should the need arise. It is only inunderstanding the demon that the demon has no power over us and oversociety itself.