I was a big fan of the ABC show Lost, which just ended back in 2010. It had a good 6-year run, as a new type of epic television show. At the time, I claimed it was the best thing ever that happened on television. It was significant to me, in part, because I gave the show so many hours of my life. At first, I wasn’t a fan. But my friends kept telling me to stick with it. In the end, I was glad I did, despite some of them giving up themselves. I remember thinking at the time that it was worth my investment in time (like ploughing through a long, 1000+ page novel), and that someday, I would return to it.
In case you weren’t caught-up in Lost from 2004-2010, this bit is from the Wikipedia article, linked above:
Lost is a drama series containing elements of science fiction and the supernatural that follows the survivors of the crash of a commercial passenger jet flying between Sydney and Los Angeles, on a mysterious tropical island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean. … A critically acclaimed and popular success, Lost was consistently ranked by critics on their lists of top ten series of all time. The first season garnered an average of 15.69 million viewers per episode on ABC. During its sixth and final season, the show averaged over 11 million US viewers per episode. Lost was the recipient of hundreds of award nominations throughout its run, and won numerous industry awards, including the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 2005, Best American Import at the British Academy Television Awards in 2005, the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama in 2006 and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series.
I never did return to the show, of course, and a few more years might have passed before I made this choice. But a G4 channel marathon of Lost one evening forced it upon me just a few weeks ago. In two different nights, I saw 6 episodes and then I was hooked. Saddle up. Buckle up, I was in again.
Last night I finished the series again, thanks to Netflix. I’m awake now, partly due to sinus medication keeping me up, but partially because of the huge emotional impact of this TV series. I could write about the significance of a TV show like this – say, over a traditional movie. Most shows we watch, like sitcoms, are a series just like Lost. But if I were to compare, say, an epic sitcom like Seinfeld to Lost, there are significant differences. Whereas one is a series of views into character’s lives, the shows aren’t tightly connected. Today, I could watch almost any Seinfeld episode, and the order wouldn’t matter. Lost was different in that each hour was a chapter of a book. The story wasn’t always linear, of course, but the choice of the sequence was the producers’ to make.
As the credit came at the end last night, the big word “LOST” in the center of the screen, it hit me like it had not the first time. Yes, it was about folks who became lost on an island. But watching the second time around, it was more obvious now that “Lost” referred to the people themselves. They were “lost souls,” ultimately in the end, just like that had pretty much been “lost people.” The show was chock-full of referneces like these, with double meanings. It’s what got the show so many of its award nominations, I’m sure.
The whole idea that you realize this “lost” quality about yourself (by finding yourself waking up on an island) isn’t available to us, of course. I had forgotten how powerful this show had been. In reading, I learned that the last episode is the “most pirated” TV show ever via bit torrent networks. Over 20 million people tuned in on the last night. Countless more have enjoyed the show through other means, such as DVD and services like Netflix. Aside from the adventure and wonder the show provided us as entertainment, there’s definitely some appeal in the more universal concepts of a life worth living, finding a purpose, not taking things for granted, surrounding yourself with those you care about, and perhaps even doing something about finding your own self, lost.
Stories are our way of teaching others and communicating. As a person who was raised in a Christian environment, I’d hear about stories that came from the Bible. They were “teaching you something,” and we sort of didn’t question them because of the authority of the book from where they came.
There’s a lot to think about in the story lines from Lost, and I’m not sure they’re any less valuable, just because they came from a television show. Some of them even were based on Biblical references, if that matters. Interesting to me from the show were the two sides of James Ford, aka Lafleur/Sawyer. In one story line, he’s kind of a jerk. In the other, he’s responsible and trustworthy. In the third chance he has (purgatory) he’s pretty responsible again, as a cop. The same goes for the Miles Straume character. He’s not a good person coming into the show, but by the time he’s sent back in time, he’s helpful and a team member. In the end, he’s Sawyer’s better half in the police force. Which all brings about issues of our true self vs. the self we are. What conditions in my life (or yours) has made us less desirable than we have the potential of being? If we had a chance, say to start over in a new town, with a new life, what aspects of our being would we keep? Which ones would we shed? Given that starting over is impossible, what could we do tomorrow, next week, or next year, to become that person that’s closer to our true essence?
I’m not even sure that’s possible, but it makes for some interesting contemplation.
How do we balance our feelings about Benjamin Linus? I have to say Michael Emerson was my favorite actor in the series and I always liked his character, despite the obvious flaws he had. I took comfort in knowing he wasn’t a real person. For most of the show, he’s an awful person who kills his friends, and up to the end, we wonder which “side” he’ll take. He seems to choose the Man in Black, so he can be left with the island. But that wasn’t the MIB’s ultimate plan, and when he discovers this, he chooses to stay with the island, rather than go to the real world. We realize all at once of how broken a man he is. We can somehow forgive him as viewers/judgers I think because we’ve seen what a horrible life he had as a child; we also see the other side of him, as a responsible school teacher. In the end, of course, he’s the “lostie” that chooses not to move on. At least not yet. It’s somewhat sad, but also appropriate, I guess. I think as a character we can finally accept him knowing he made this self-judging decision, but also because in the end, he chose to help protect the island with Hurley.
I could go on, but resources like the Lostpedia already do a comprehensive job at collecting the details, cross-referencing the themes, and help us make sense of all the stories. I thought this linked article on the front page was interesting, about a Lost college class.
I think in the end, for me, the time I’ve spent with this show is best-used by thinking about several essential things:
- Who do I find in life who is lost?
- Can I help those lost find themselves, or their calling?
- What about my own life is lost?
- What traits about characters on the show do I admire? Why? What can I do that’s useful with that?
- If given second chances, what might we do differently, knowing ourselves?
- Can we find opportunities for those second chances?
One thing that bothers me about the show is the “lost” knowledge that inhabitants of the island once possessed that never really made it, at least, to the Lost characters. Jacob’s experience on the island was valuable, as was the writings on the wall at “The Temple,” not to mention the writing on the stopper at the center of the island. It bothers me that no one ever took any time to try and figure out what all of that was.
I think my writing about this, or anyone’s effort in thinking about how a story like this can affect them, is likely the same thing. In a parallel way, I think that’s why I take the time to write about the music I review here. And I’m only scratching the surface, I know. Ultimately I think the value in art is the kickback to the observer/watcher/listener/viewer. When a novel causes us to think, or a movie makes us change the way we live, or a piece of music can profoundly change our mood… each of these are powerful events that justify why we, as humans, make and “consume” art. Our reaction to something doesn’t need to take the form of a public blog post. But it could be the creation of our own art, just a few minutes thinking about it, or sharing our reaction with a friend. Thanks for reading. You need to know that I believe that reacting to art, no matter how profound it may be (or may not be), is an important part of a uniquely human process. Not all art will “speak” to us. But art that does, isn’t that kind of awesome?