The Affective Behind-the-Scenes Paratexts

Curator's Note

Official paratexts usually serve a straightforward function: per Jonathan Gray (2010), they can hype a new work, provide legitimacy to authorial perspectives on the creative process, demystify the production process, or reinforce connections between viewers and the official realm of media industries. It is rare that an official paratext such as a DVD extra creates an emotional impact (aside from frustration), as they usually aim to inform rather than move us. This is why I find this clip of Angelo Badalamenti so compelling.

On one level, it works like many behind-the-scenes paratexts, informing dedicated viewers about the process that went into creating a beloved media text. We learn about the origins of Twin Peaks’ (ABC, 1990–1991) iconic musical score, hearing Badalamenti tell the tale of his collaboration with David Lynch to create some of the program’s central musical themes. Intellectually, this is interesting because we learn that, unlike the vast majority of film and television production, the score preceded the filming of the series, at least by Badalamenti’s account. But this paratext resonates with me much more on the affective dimension than the informational one. I have watched this clip many times not just to be reminded of his composition process, but to experience it. It is Badalamenti’s performance, both of the music and his recounting of his conversation with Lynch, that makes the clip so memorable. We feel as if we are there in the originary moment, with Lynch evoking the imagery that we viewers know well and Badalamenti composing the score seemingly before our ears. Badalamenti captures a pleasure of discovery that transcends the typical behind-the-scenes facts to genuinely convey the magical spark of creativity that makes us love a text like Twin Peaks.

Of course this paratext has a secret weapon that most other making-of clips lack: music. Badalamenti’s score is so emotionally affective that we cannot help but be swept into the mystery, suspense, and revelation that he expresses musically. Even though my experience of this paratext is primarily affective, it does truly change how I understand Twin Peaks: its lasting legacy is tied to the program’s uncanny ability to simultaneously be ironic and sincere. Listening to Badalamenti reveals how much of Twin Peaks’ sincerity comes from his music, creating an emotional resonance that is deepened by learning of its almost mystical creative origination.

Work Cited: Jonathan Gray, Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts (New York: NYU Press, 2010).

Comments

Ross P Garner's picture

Really Interesting Approach!

Thanks very much for posting this, Jason. It’s a really insightful argument and I think there’s a lot of mileage in trying to approach paratexts in affective terms rather than solely discussing ideas of pre- or post-interpretation. I wonder how to go about analysing this from a methodological perspective. For instance, how to capture and debate the ‘thrill’ I experienced earlier in the week when the first official Showtime poster for TP was released? I’m also taken back to seeing the first trailer for the new Doctor Who back in 2005 and the excitement that generated… Obviously, the two examples mentioned here are more overtly ‘promotional’ than this clip but I think the interweaving of fan subjectivity, affect and paratexts is a really interesting pathway.

Jason Mittell's picture

Paratextual affect and serialization

Ross, yes I think that there are good parallels between these different affective paratextual experiences. In all of them, serialization is important - they build on pre-existing franchises that, for both DOCTOR WHO and TWIN PEAKS, have had long dormant gaps to cultivate fan interest. So much of our affective thrill links anticipation for the new with nostalgia for the old, especially the experiential feeling of the old having been new. This musical clip similarly is built upon my initial viewing of the series, contextualizing the score and letting me relive its emotional power.

For me, TWIN PEAKS season 3 is wrapped up in my viewing history of having been a college student during the original, and my collective viewing in a dorm lounge is what TWIN PEAKS means to me - and now as a college professor, I want to vicariously watch my students experience the new season in an entirely new medium context. (I discussed this nostalgic viewing memory in this conversation with Dana Och and Amanda Klein - and Derek Kompare brings out the DOCTOR WHO parallel in the comments! http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/10/11/debating-the-return-of-twin-pea...)

Feedback

No one has reviewed this post… but you need to login to submit feedback