I have known Laura Palmer. Not the fictional character, obviously, but young women whose lives mirrored the tragic figure, young women who have been abused by the very people who were supposed to protect them. When these young women acted recklessly in response, doing drugs, having lots of sex, and driving dangerously, they were written off as troubled teens instead of being offered any kind of help. In a review for “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” from 1992, critic Todd McCarthy says: “Another significant drawback is that Laura Palmer, after all the talk, is not a very interesting or compelling character and long before the climax has become a tiresome teenager.” He also laments that the series already answered all the “questions” that “Fire Walk With Me” posits, therefore removing any potential conflict.
“Fire Walk With Me” isn’t a mystery, and the core drama comes from empathizing with Laura during her downward spiral. Women are often objectified instead of seen as full human beings, and that doubles when they’re beautiful, dead blonde girls. Laura doesn’t owe anyone anything more than being a “tiresome teenager,” and the film serves to make her a fully formed person and not just the idealized memories left behind. Decades before “Gone Girl” would make audiences fall in love with the idea of an “unlikable female protagonist,” Laura was breaking the mold.