Bourgeois Deviant

Thursday, September 22, 2005

LOST Thoughts

As I write this to you from a phone bank for one of the world’s most established financial institutions (which is about as thrilling as you might think), my mind wanders in between rings to last nights season premier of LOST. As television shows go, this one is really good. Like, the only other show I have been this jazzed about was Twin Peaks. That is saying something. But the question is: Why?

LOST presents to its audience a really stimulating, broad polarity for a viewing experience. On the one hand you have an incredibly obtuse story with many ambiguous threats that seem to defy explanation. Then on the other hand, you have an abundance of extremely minute detail that, upon first glance seems inane, but after time you realize that resonates an insane amount through every show. Many times it is not even discussed. For instance, these numbers: 4, 8,15,16,23 and 42 keep popping up everywhere. Seat assignments, departure gates, prize money amounts, as serial numbers on hatches, times of death, dates of birth… It is crazy (which is good).

Then there is the obvious. The people are pretty. Fit women, strong men and everyone seems to be perpetually well groomed (for as much as they can be on a desert island) and sweaty at the same time. The island landscape is both equally and/or more beautiful and just as much a character as any of the people. There is a core group of players that move the story along; however, they are not the only survivors of Oceanic flight 815. There are a host of others that go unnamed and are fertile ground for development. The network has announced that they will be adding in a few more big TV names (i.e. Katie Segal, among others). So if the show starts to lag, just swap in a celebrity. I wonder how long it will be before we see Heather Locklear.

These afore mentioned factors by themselves are cool and make for good viewing, but there is more at play here. Without intending to sound grandiose, I would like to put fourth the idea that some of the themes within LOST are resonating in the American zeitgeist. For example lets look at the idea of uncertainty. The LOST crew is on a strange island with a lot of strange stuff going on around them. They aren’t even sure how they survived the crash. The last time I checked, the American public is pretty darned uncertain about a whole host of stuff such as economy, war, environment, federal government. All these things are pretty important and central to the American life right now, and none can be lightly overlooked. So, we, like the LOST crew, aren’t sure how thick the ice is right now.

Fear is another key player in the LOST and American experience. One could argue this goes hand in hand with uncertainty, but they are not exclusive partners. The LOST island is pretty spooky. There is a monster, for lack of a better term, that roams about and rips trees off their roots, opens gaping chasms for people to fall into and makes some god awful noise (both animal and machine in nature). And it is invisible. The only trace of it aside from its footprint is some blurry smoke. One could reasonably argue that this horrible thing without form could be construed as the viewing publics' fear of terrorism made visual metaphor. Think about it. What do we, Joe Public know about the terrorist threat to our nation? Well, we know what it is capable of. We know how it does the things that it does, in principle. But we have no idea as to the size, breadth and intention of it. Well, actually we do, but again, only in the abstract. The LOST folks are trying to get their head around this demon just like the American public is trying to get its collective psyche around terrorism.

Maybe this is a poor comparison, but it seems to make sense to me. Again, sometimes it is difficult to articulate why we like something or why it touches us in some way. But when it does, we know it. I think these reasons I have discussed may be a fair start to this exploration. It would be great to know what you think. Plus, ain't it fun to talk about?

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