Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Last Post About LOST....Maybe***Updated at the End, and Now I'm Really, Really Done :-)***

In which I write an impossibly long post that probably no one will read.

I feel kind of dumb writing about a TV show. In the grand scheme of things, it’s just a TV show, after all. Who really cares? But I did have a few things to say, some directly about LOST, some more indirect but that the season finale left me thinking regarding how I process things like TV shows and books and stories and pop culture.

I enjoyed the series LOST. I did not love the ending, but after thinking about it and reading some blog friends, I don’t hate it like I did right after watching it. It is not the direction I would have taken the show, but I know from some reading that it is where the creators always intended it to go, and they are the ones who wrote it, so they get to decide.

Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer pretty much summed up how I felt about the ending in her post here. For a show that was incredibly plot driven and character driven, it was a let down at the end to find that the plot twists that were developed in agonizingly slow and meticulous detail during parts of the series weren’t really all that important at all. In fact, so unimportant that I kind of wonder what some seasons were about anyway. Some questions were left hanging to the point where I don’t really see why they were there at all. For example, who were the Others really and why were they so antagonistic toward the Losties when so many of the Losties were Jacob’s candidates? My only answer for that one is that the point seems to have been that the Losties’ main objective was to survive on the island, and the Others gave them a lot to survive against. What about the BIG deal that was made about Walt and the raft and the Others during that season? Turned out to go nowhere, really, except that it did cement the friendship between Jin and Sawyer. And don’t come swooping in here telling me it’s because the actor who played Walt grew up too fast. They really dropped the ball on that whole story line - in fact on the whole ‘Others’ story line in my opinion. The biggest unanswered question for me is, “Why did the people of the Dharma Initiative have to be murdered? Who ordered it?” It just doesn’t fit to me for it to be Jacob, yet Richard was there and a part of it, and we thought the Others were following Jacob. I’m not so sure about that, because I think maybe Ben thought he was following Jacob but it was really Smokey/Man in Black all along. Telling us it wasn’t about weird stuff happening on the island but really just about the characters just doesn’t cut it for me.

Anyway, now that we’ve seen the finale, it is clear that none of that mattered. It wasn’t about the island minutiae as much as it was the main characters, and especially Jack. I always thought it might be largely about Jack and his ‘redemption’ and it turns out that seems to be just what it was about - I don’t really like to use that term because ‘redemption’ in LOST terms is NOT Christian redemption by any means, but for the purposes of discussing this strangest of shows, I’ll use it here. The other characters were important, too, but the show was really about Jack, it seems. I did enjoy reading Leslie’s take on the ending and the discussion following her post. Helped me not to hate the ending but to more dislike it.

I get that the show was very character driven, and that people matter and that we should care about their stories. What was disappointing in the ending, however, was to find that it was really ONLY about them. Because, I don’t know about you, but the build up with the plot devices really led us down a roller coaster to get to the point where we find that they were ONLY a device to get these characters together to interact and learn to ‘live together or die alone.’ Great lesson, great emotional moments, but, really? The plot really was that unimportant in the end? I didn’t expect them to answer everything, but the whole purgatoryish ending was just sappy to me. The way I felt after the finale was like craving good chocolate but all you get is that nasty cheap Easter bunny chocolate instead. It's chocolate alright, but not nearly as satisfying as, say, a Ghirardelli chocolate. I almost would have liked a more sci-fi ending where they got to live an alternate reality or something and have some other meaning to the island mysteries than just that it wasn’t really about the island at all. I get the point that people are really what matters, I’m not dense, but still....

I did like some of the emotional moments at the end as the characters remembered who they were, especially Sawyer and Juliet - to me that was the best part of the whole finale. That was done very well. Looking at the show as a whole, taking a long view of it and blurring out the details, the writers did a great job of showing how the characters grew and learned to give to and for others and by bringing their story arcs to a resolution. Well done. Now that I know it was really about that, I can appreciate the ending in that way. It's just that during the journey they really led us to think the story details were more important than they ended up being. One thing I didn’t like was I wish Charlie had not been such a reprobate in the in-between time. Even though they didn’t remember their lives, shouldn’t it have reflected some of the growth they’d worked so hard for on the island? Jack’s character did. And Charlie, especially, had changed so radically on the island, it was disappointing to me to have him be such a mess in the in-between time.

I didn’t like the implication that was made quite overtly, quite obviously, quite heavy-handedly and so totally in your face that faith doesn’t really matter at all but that it’s about self-redemption and knowing yourself and learning to live together so you don’t die alone that ended up being THE message of the entire show. I told you I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like the faith implications once the ending came, and I was right to think so. Before you jump on me and tell me that I shouldn’t expect a show from Hollywood to match my worldview, hear my point, please. I didn’t expect a Christian resolution. I wasn’t watching for one or hoping for one and it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a show if they don’t hold my worldview. I can still appreciate the show for what it was. And, for the most part, I did enjoy it.

BUT, if you think that the writers weren’t trying to send a message with that ending, think again. There have been hints all along that ‘faith’ isn’t always a good thing, and that’s exactly where I was sure the show was heading, and it did. One thing I disliked about the show all along was the subtle subversion of religious faith, and some of it was very subtle. Another thing I didn't like was the blurring between good and evil that was never resolved, even in the end. That scene in the ‘church’ where all the religious symbols were there? I would have liked the ending better if they’d been a little less obvious and left out the symbols and just ended it and let viewers draw their own conclusion. The fact that they very obviously placed those symbols prominently in what was clearly a gateway to ‘moving on’ in the afterlife was clearly making a statement, and not a subtle one. In a show where the people behind it were not shy about saying all along the way that they were exploring and discussing ‘deeper’ questions, it is not wrong for me to point out the dangers of the conclusion they are clearly drawing, that religious faith is pointless, what really matters is community and learning to love and live together and sacrifice for each other and redeem yourself through that - faith in yourself and your purpose and your relationships and not worrying so much about who is ‘right’. The writers are free to push that view, but I’m also free to point out how empty it is ultimately. Precisely because they showed us in the end that the plot itself wasn’t that important but it was always about the characters shows me that this was the message they intend to send - humanism in a postmodern mindset.

I know it’s just a TV show. I get it. I know that they don’t have to hold my worldview. Fine, they’re free to advocate any agenda they want. But I watch everything filtered through a biblical worldview, and what I couldn’t help being bothered by is that, though it’s just a TV show, it did deal with deeper life issues and thoughts. And people are discussing those things, which is a good thing. So, as part of the discussion, I’m adding here that self-redemption won’t cut it. As good as community and working together and love and marriage and all those things are, they are empty in and of themselves. There is a hereafater, and there is a God who will call all men to account. Apart from Christ there is no hope of peace in life or death. And what bothers me is that the view presented at the end of LOST really is what a lot of people hold if you get right down to it - that it will all be okay as long as you’re true to your ‘purpose’ and you sacrifice for others and learn to love others, that’s what matters, and even if you’re not, there will be a way to make it right. Seems to me the message here was let’s just all get along and not worry about religious truth claims because they are irrelevant in the long run. Getting along is what matters. In the LOST view, it didn’t even matter if they were ‘good’ people before ‘moving on’. Like I was saying about Charlie, shouldn’t his in-between existence have shown some residual of the growth on the island?

The only reason I even bother to think any of this through is because everything influences our worldview. Everything we read or watch or talk about influences how we think, and we need to know how to discern even our entertainment. I’m not saying only watch and read things that agree with a Christian worldview. I’m not saying LOST wasn’t a good show. I enjoyed it and enjoyed the discussion and thought it provoked. That’s good. I am saying be aware that once you strip away the trappings of the island this show really reflects how a lot of people in our culture think about issues like faith and religion and the ‘deeper’ issues the show explored. I am saying be aware how very subtly things like TV shows and books and pop culture can influence the deeper way we think about things and don’t be afraid to digest even entertainment through a rigorous look at the worldviews behind it. That’s not a bad thing to do. And in all of that be grounded in the word of God so you can adequately discern what is good and what is not in everything.

And now you can go ahead and tell me to lighten up, Beck. It’s just a TV show. Yeah, okay. In spite of all I just said, I did enjoy the series. I’m glad it’s over, but I’m not sorry I watched all six years of it. I’ve enjoyed the discussions along the way, and even the openings it’s given me to talk about matters of faith and the gospel.

***Update***A friend on Facebook passed this blog post along. I don't know how legit it is, but after reading it I can concede that we, the viewers were actually given more answers than some of us gave them credit for, but I was just looking for something so different I didn't see them for what they were. I didn't realize just how much of their weird 'spiritual' speculations and worldview mishmash they were actually pushing throughout, and just how committed to it they actually were. I was looking more for just an interesting story, not an extended speculation on 'faith' and the 'afterlife' from people who don't look to the Bible as our sole authority for such discussions. I think their weird spiritual syncretism is so far off the grid for me I just wanted to see it a different way. Looking back over the last season, I can buy all that about the Others being people Jacob brought who were corrupted by MIB and the show being an exploration of free will and faith vs. science, etc. In fact, I don't know why I didn't see it more clearly. We were actually told that, if you think about it, in one of the early conversations we see between those characters before we really knew who/what they were when MIB asks Jacob why he keeps bringing them when things always go badly.... Anyway, I think what I dislike most about the whole thing is the weird spirituality, but you knew that would be my concern anyhow, right? The blog author says the show ultimately comes down on the side of faith, and that's the issue, isn't it? Faith in faith or faith in your own made up system or worldview really isn't very helpful and is ultimately damning, if you want to be honest. The only faith that really has saving power is the faith that clings to Jesus Christ alone. But that is not what our world wants to hear. And in a postmodern society, absolute truth claims like that are taboo, but it's just fine to push a mishmash and feel good 'faith' where you're given lifetimes to connect and progress. But the thing is, there is true truth. And that, my friends, is probably why I had the strong reaction to Lost that I did, and why I really wasn't that surprised after all the hints we'd been given along the way. And now I'm really, really done with Lost. :-)


Leslie said...

1. I couldn't agree more with you regarding discernment and entertainment. Right on.

2. You mentioned the purpose of the Others... This may not help, but I think the episode that told the backstory of Jacob and Brother established that Others were always Smokey's people. Jacob brought people to the island and Smokey tried to get to them and turn them. They were pawns who were used and manipulated by Smokey so that he could find his loophole to kill Jacob. It's obvious why he wanted to capture children -- they're young and easily trained to think a certain way. (Though, I agree with you in that the creators totally messed up with Walt.)

3. You're right about Ben, too. I think he was being used by Smokey all along, never by Jacob.

On the other hand, he could have been used by Jacob once. Smokey always appreciated the curiosity of people who came from "across the sea." I think he probably wanted in on the DI. Jacob could have been behind Ben killing the Dharma Initiative. The DI was bringing people to the island who weren't summoned by Jacob and doing experiments with the island that he probably didn't want them to do. As protector of the island, he may have had to kill them and he used Ben (via Richard) that one time.

4. Yeah, why didn't they make Charlie better? I kind of think he kept thinking that he had to kill himself to have that "beautiful" experience and see Claire again. He didn't know he was already dead. On the island, though, people's opinion of him never really moved past drug addicted rock star. Maybe in their collective, virtual imaginary world, they needed him to be that way in order to recognize him?

5. I don't know at what point it was decided that the whole series was going to be about Jack. I've heard Matthew Fox say that Jack was supposed to die soon after the show's pilot episode. So, at some point, probably when they determined they would stop with six seasons, they focused on the ending and Jack.

Rebekah said...

Okay, I think you're probably right about the Others. I guess that would make Richard function as Jacob's eyes and ears to know what's going on w/Smokey's people and maybe keep them from going along with him too far perhaps, and that fits. I think Ben may have thought it was Jacob because Smokey had deceived him, possibly. That makes sense.

Still not completely sure about DI, but your theory makes as much sense as anything I could come up with.

Wow, the show wouldn't have been nearly as good if Jack had died early on. One of the things that made it work so well was watching his character evolve and grow. Really that's what held all the weirdness together, so I assumed it was always meant to be that way.

My brother and my husband both posed the theory independently that they thought the whole thing might have just been Jack's dying imagination - no one else survived at all, seeing how the pilot opens with his eye opening and ends with it closing and he's in the same spot and Vincent kind of lies there next to him. But that's just too depressing to me, and I really don't think that's what they mean by the show. I did hear that the ending was written, loosely, at the same time the pilot was, and that it was always how they planned to end - that's why some of the seasons were so poor in moving the story along until they had an end date, because they weren't sure how long they had to stretch out the middle that they were still writing. I don't know.

Rebekah said...

Another question I forgot to put in the post: Why did Mother and Jacob each say an incantation over the drink before passing on the responsibility, but Jack didn't? Also, Hugo did not have an "ah ha!" look on his face when the responsibility passed to him like Jack did. Is there significance to that? Apparently not since they don't address it at all. Then why have Mother and Jacob do it? See, the mystery had NO meaning at all - didn't matter and wasn't important, and that's just frustrating.

On the other hand, LOST was actually the perfect picture of a postmodern show and worldview. Good and evil are blurry, the journey matters much more than the destination, finding yourself and being true to your personal truth or purpose is what it means to be 'good', tolerance and community are more important than true truth, plus the faith thing we've already discussed, questions are never answered fully and when you push for answers all you get are more questions and a patronizing attitude because you want real answers, free will trumps everything, the people who are sure of anything or who see absolutes anywhere are the 'bad' guy, etc.

Leslie said...

Yeah, I noticed the lack of the incantation when Jack passed the bottle to Hurley....maybe it's because each Island Protector can set his own rules.

I posited my theory about DI and the purge on a blog called The Thinklings. Some of the comments after mine thought my theory was a good one, but the one person gave a good reason for why I'm wrong. In some ways, it's good that the writers didn't tell us everything...it's more fun to think about and imagine our own answers. I know I've enjoyed talking to friends about their theories and reading blogs about the show.