Archetypal meaning of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet

#DavidLynch #BlueVelvet


David Lynch is considered to be one of those creators who approaches the process of creation as a process of self-discovery. He states that whenever he creates, he follows his own guides, instead of someone else’s premeditated structures and concepts. These guides send him ideas while he is connected to them through meditations. Who are they, where do those ideas come from? Where is this deep water, where he catches these ‘big fish’ that he refers to?



Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet


The idea behind every story of his is to create a unique journey for the audience who are willing to first get lost and then find themselves in a maze of different emotional images. For that to happen, a creator has to be willing to get lost himself. Logic is less important than emotional truthfulness and while being true to emotions, eventually logic follows.


This is the reason why I am particularly interested in deconstructing one of Lynch’s films to show once again two things: first, that the collective unconscious has its own logic, and second, to show the mechanics behind it. Let’s see what archetypes, our guides of the collective unconscious, have to say about yet another unique story.




For Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan), the main character in Blue Velvet, to become a grown-up man and the head of a family, which entails him starting his own family, first, he must commit to a woman and face his illusions about world’s innocence. This comes down to him having to cut ties with his first family, his mother and father. He can’t be a child anymore; he can’t be afraid of female energy, which both puzzles him and attracts him. But is it going to eat him alive or he can show up as equal in a grown-up world?



Rossellini and Lynch

1. Warrior →Fool (The exposition of a wound — ego) BATTLEFIELD

Pain caused by the wrong identity vs. all possible identities. The main conflict is introduced.

First: When Jeffrey’s father, who is watering the grass in front of their house, suddenly has an accident—whether he has a heart attack or it is just that the garden hose is somehow suddenly tangled around his neck (Lynch says this situation is complicated)– and ends up in the hospital, a journey opens up in front of Jeffrey. His real father appears to be out of the picture for now.

Second:

His mom, who is not going to be emotionally present in this story, is watching a film noir on TV. In this film noir, we see the gun, which is going to be used soon enough by Jeffrey in the scene with the metaphorical father, who he is going to meet toward the end of the film.

This is an emotional battlefield. It is a battlefield because Jeffrey’s father ends up in the hospital after this stage, and this occurs in a domestic setting, on the ideal lawn – or, rather, below the ideal lawn – in the subconscious, where dark bugs are finding their way to scare us.

Let’s dig deeper into this subconscious battlefield to see what else is hidden, what those fears of growing up are really about? Is it the fear of love, of dependency, of losing oneself in the pain of yearning for someone, fear of pain caused by wounds of abandonment, fear of women?

2. Creator →Orphan (A ray of hope) HEART’S DESIRE

Hero’s heart vs. non-authentic relationships.


Jeffrey is dreaming about love adventures, he is attracted to the mysterious world represented by the EAR who he is either going to listen or he will be lost. Whose ear is it and what is it telling Jeffrey?


3. Explorer →Magician (The hero decides to go on a quest) A BETTER LIFE IS POSSIBLE

Wrong belief vs. new vision.


As soon as the hero goes on a quest, he encounters the first obstacle: something or someone who wants to preserve the old system and structures (the Magician is always connected to the rebel archetype, someone who wants to change the system).

Jeffrey decides to follow his passion – he asks for help. The detective is the mentor here, he maybe has the secret knowledge about the subject Jeffrey is interested in, or does he? And is he willing to share what he knows with Jeffrey. It’s dangerous he says, better to stay away.


4. Lover →Caregiver (Wish storyline) LOVE INTRODUCED

Love triggers fear (overprotectiveness).


The detective has a daughter Sandy (Laura Dern) who reveals to Jeffrey what she heard about a woman who is connected to this strange world her father is investigating. She takes him to her building. Jeffrey is already hooked.

Safe love with Sandy vs. unsafe love that intrigues him with the mysterious motherly woman he is going to meet – who is he going to choose?


5. Sage →Destroyer (Healing is possible) REASONS BEHIND SUFFERING

Healing provokes self-destructiveness but also, we can say that here we have Healing the subconscious or destructive fears. This is the realist playing with danger.


Jeffrey takes Sandy to lunch just to present his idea to her: He plans to enter the mysterious woman’s apartment while pretending he is an exterminator, the ‘bug man’ as he says (where did we see the bugs before?)

The Sage is always the cleaner, the healer, an analyzer, a detective. So here, Jeffrey is literally deciding to heal the subconscious that we saw is full of bugs. Jeffrey is in the apartment and sees Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) for the first time. He finds out why she is suffering: she has a child and a husband who have been kidnaped by this awful man Frank (Dennis Hopper), who she is afraid of. Hidden in the closet, Jeffrey hears her talking to her son on the phone: “Mommy loves you,: she says in tears. The archetypes are talking to us through these characters. Sandy is the Healer here, Dorothy is the Destroyer. Jeffrey is the Healer, Frank is the Destroyer. Sandy says to Jeffrey: “I don’t know if you are a detective or a pervert.” And this is exactly what captures this stage the best: the hero is somewhere in between a detective who wants to solve problems and a pervert who would rather obsessively destroy himself by dwelling on them.


6. Ruler →Innocent (On the top of the false mountain) WISH FULFILLED, the fake victory

Controlling the outside world vs. the soul’s real purpose can cause a big loss.


In this stage, Jeffrey, who is the Innocent and not in contact with his ruler, in other words, his inner power, sees (while hiding in the closet again) an awfully controlling, deranged, lonely and sad Ruler (Frank) who is not in contact with his innocence, his inner child. Frank and Dorothy (dark parents) have some kind of sick submissive dominant sexual affair in which Dorothy is hurt by Frank. After Frank leaves, Jeffrey is not sure if she is his mother and he is the child or he is her protector. Dorothy asks Jeffrey to give her what she can relate to – to hit her – but he can’t find it in himself.


7. Fool →Warrior (Need storyline) DOUBLE IDENTITY — FOOL AND GAMES UPSIDE DOWN (INSIDE OUT)

Right (new) and wrong (old) identity meet, the hero is fooled by fools. Metamorphoses begins.


Jeffrey now knows how strange this grown-up world that he was obsessed with is. Even so, he still can’t be with Sandy, who saw in her dreams that love, represented as robins, which are free to fly in darkness, puts people in an emotional jail where they fight all the time.

Jeffrey sees Frank as a sad, lonely man (his mirror side) who cries in the bar where Dorothy sings. Jeffrey goes back to Dorothy, this time not as a child but as her lover (his mirror side). Two storylines (two Jeffreys) finally meet. Metamorphoses begins


8. Orphan →Creator (Loneliness) PROBLEMS IN (CRISS-CROSS) RELATIONSHIPS

Fairness between relationships and the hero’s heart, freedom. Cheating.


It’s all about relationships. All the characters that are part of the story appear here. Sandy’s boyfriend is aware of Jeffrey, and Jeffrey, who is with Dorothy, is now also kissing Sandy. The characters can’t decide with whom they want to be, because they can’t decide who they are. They vacillate between two options.

9. Magician →Explorer (Magic comes from the above) THE TRUTH IS KNOWN

In a sudden change of fate, the hero knows where and with whom he belongs, and this changes the hero’s belief structure.

Jeffrey is drawn to this mysterious, odd, crazy, deranged, magical but also lovely woman– he can’t help himself anymore – if she is going to eat him alive, so be it.

Jeffrey hits Dorothy and this is the invitation to explore darkness fully. Frank’s gang appears, they kidnap him and take him on a joy ride. Jeffrey then sees the whole truth about Dorothy, about the gang, about her child who has almost forgotten her. Jeffrey is afraid, but he finds the power within himself. Jeffrey is meant to be good, to fight against Frank and to protect Dorothy. So he stands up for her, even though it can cost him his life. In this stage, the hero usually meets with death for the first time. Frank doesn’t kill Jeffrey because he sees, as he says to him, that two of them are alike. And they sure are: they both love and are obsessed with Dorothy.

10. Caregiver →Lover (Emotional breakdown) FINAL SEPARATION

Growing up. Vulnerability leads to love/the reward. The Light vs. the Dark.


After he survives, Jeffrey cries for the first time like a baby. He can’t get rid of the image of Dorothy telling her abandoned child him that she loves him: “Donny, mamma loves you.” Jeffry can be a protector, he can be a caregiver, that also means he can be a lover.

11. Destroyer →Sage (Death of an old belief, self) KILL OR HEAL (Change or die)

Facing the biggest enemy (fear) brings healing. The final battle.


Sandy’s boyfriend is chasing Jeffrey. Dorothy shows up naked in the street and in distress to find Jeffrey to protect her. Sandy finally sees the real Jeffrey, he was Dorothy’s lover. How Sandy is going to deal with this, is going to be the most important question while deciding is she is the one – is she able to accept him and allow him to be who he is. In the final battle, Jeffrey meets with Frank and kills him. He kills the dark father, and now he can finally replace his father. This represents the death of an old belief and an old self: accepting the power and rejecting darkness.


12. Innocent →Ruler (Ascension to a new world) LIVE AND SHARE

Controlling the inner world, compassion is the right way to rule and influence.


Jeffrey is now able to hear (EAR) the robin’s song: it was about love, and to rule with love. Sandy was not afraid of the darkness, she had the love within herself for him, the robin eats the bug – darkness, the innocent child returns to his mother – Dorothy. The mysteries of the darkness are out in the open, the light shines upon them, they are not even mysteries anymore, they can’t scare the hero anymore - they are replaced by the mysteries of love.


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