GOOD MORNING ALL David Lynch’s film, ‘Blue velvet’, a 1986 cult-classic, depicts the tale of a college student, Jeffrey Beaumont, who one day stumbles across a severed ear, leading him to start his own investigation, discovering the dark underworld that lies beneath the white picket fences and freshly mowed lawns of a seemingly normal suburbia. Through certain characters and events that take place during the film, Lynch explores the notion of a corrupted American Dream, However, to fully understand this, one must first be familiar with the American Dream itself.
I define it as the exact essence of most American icons, an ideal aspiration one could achieve. Some might say it is the ability to buy and own ones home, fame, succession. But in actuality, the American Dream is named for its opportunity, for rugged individualism, freedom, the Jeffersonian principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Creating a classic deconstruction of the American dream, Lynch is conveying a simple idea. Nothing is what it appears to be.
We simply live in a world of illusion, where the grass is just a little too green, the people just a little too friendly. That under all of the perfection of a seemingly idealized lifestyle, in reality the true essence of the American dream, a dream steeped in the United States Constitution has, since its creation, been corrupted over time. Through psychoanalytical film theory, one can capture the essence of blue velvet itself and its relationship to reality and the individual viewer.
Like the concept of the film theory, Blue Velvet stresses the viewers longing for a completeness which the film may appear to offer through identification with an image (in this case, the idealized small town), an image which is never anything but an illusion and the viewer is always split simply by virtue of coming into existence. This can be seen in the very first opening sequence, a scene adorned with slow motion shots of white picket fences, perfectly kept gardens, happy children crossing the road to school, and suddenly a man suffering a heart attack whilst he is happily watering his front yard.
This scene not only epitomizes the classic meaning of the American Dream, but also abruptly destroys it at the same time. The camera then zooms into the grass, and underneath it, where ghastly beetles are savagely feasting on dirt. This particular shot exemplifies Lynches take on the American Dream. That perfection hides the deeply rooted rot of reality. One of the most prominent aspects of mise-en-scene Lynch uses in Blue Velvet is colour. This is shown in the scene where the sadistic Frank rapes Dorothy, whilst Jeffrey is watching hidden in the wardrobe.
Dorothy’s sparsely decorated, red-walled apartment in contrast to her blue velvet dressing gown and pale skin, almost mirror the look of the North American flag, symbolizing the essence of the American dream itself. The unsettling event of the rape taking place in such an area reflects Lynch’s concept of the lost American dream, a dream which has been unwillingly violated by the likes of those similar to Frank. As Jeffrey is watching the affair, he is shrouded in complete darkness, except for the light shining through the slated grill of the closet door.
While the slits of light shining on his body represent the beginnings of Jeffrey’s realization of the awful reality hidden in his town, the darkness personifies the lie he once lived, where he was shrouded from the reality of life, quite literally “in the dark”. This concept is similar to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 novel, The Beautiful and the Damned, where, like Blue Velvet, the true meaning, the true essence of the American dream has become corrupted.
Only unlike Blue velvet, where the protagonists search underneath perfection to uncover reality, the protagonists are already living in the very center of it, unknowingly bringing a life of deceit and fraudulence upon themselves. Shown through the use of specific techniques and characters, it is suffice to say that David Lynch’s Blue Velvet offers a concept of the American dream, a concept that since its creation has been corrupted and demoralized over time, leaving that of an illusion.