home Commentary, Society, TV “LOST”: Sublime Transcendence and… Hey Sawyer, Take That Shirt Off!

“LOST”: Sublime Transcendence and… Hey Sawyer, Take That Shirt Off!

A lot of my intellectual friends (the sort of people who, with a dignified cough, announce that they do not “indulge in mass media entertainment,” and other, less extreme types) repeatedly ask me why on earth is it that I watch “Lost.”

They talk to me like one would talk to an otherwise normal girl who, for some unfathomable reason, decided to date the biggest loser in one’s zipcode – complete with police record, regular stint in mom’s basement, and the miasma of unwashed socks.

“Why, Natalia? Why do you put yourself through that?” *deep sigh* “If you need help you know where to find me.”

I’m not one of those people who’ll threaten to chain you to the couch, tape your eyes open, and force you to watch every single episode while humming “Shambala” and cackling maniacally. If you don’t like “Lost,” you’re free to tell me that you think it sucks (or, as one esteemed blogger put it, that it’s better to “take a large amount of peyote and watch Gilligan’s Island” instead).

I’m all for television democracy, because, let’s face it, I never liked “Seinfeld,” I don’t watch “The Wire,” and “The Sopranos” just succeeded in making me feel that the world is a horrible place (perhaps rightfully so).

However, I do feel compelled to explain why is it that I love “Lost.” Now that the fourth season is upon us, the doubters have come out like zombies after dark:

“Three more seasons of that crap?” “It doesn’t even make sense!”

Well, you’re right, it doesn’t. But that’s not the point.

I’m not one of those “Lost” fans who waits for each new mystery to be explained. I enjoy being toyed with. The show’s bizarre nature, it’s tone shifts and pointed ambivalence, speak to me on a visceral level as to the weirdness of life in general. “Lost” is a dream-like show, appealing, at least in part, to the twilit reaches of one’s brain, the territory where the unconscious mind stirs and strange and awesome things tend to happen.

I’m sure the writers are working their way toward an explanation – or several explanations, as the case may be. I’m honestly not at all worried whether said explanations will be hugely satisfying. What’s satisfying, to me, is the sequence of oddities interspersed with human dramas and sly nudges towards anything from French philosophy to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” “Lost,” for me, transcends the need for ultimate clarification.

Although I sincerely hope that “Lost” does not end up a grisly train-wreck like, for example, “The X-Files,” I am committed to enjoying the good times while they last. There is so little goodness in the world. One must take it where one can find it. Pry it away with a crowbar and treasure it, if one has to.

Speaking of goodness, here is another major reason as to why I love “Lost”: sometimes, it’s hard to tell who the “good” guys are. As much as I empathize with the leadership of Jack and Kate, I can’t discount the fact that the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 have killed a lot of people. As much as I adore John Locke, I can’t ignore the fact that his absolute faith in the power of the island he presently inhabits might have made him go bonkers. Michael may have killed his own people, but his top priority was his kid – and you can’t deny how devotion to a child can affect one’s actions.

The fact that the characters are hard to pin down has to do with both elaborate plot-twists and the fact that the writers respect the viewers enough to develop differing opinions, to argue, throw drinks in each other’s faces, and generally have fun with the show.

Then, of course, there is the hotness.

I’d like to tell you that the hotness is no factor at all in my worship of J.J. Abrams’ creation. Taking note of the hotness and enjoying the hotness can easily get one blacklisted, separated from serious writers who write about serious things. It’s a good thing that I’ve already taken that plunge a long time ago, having unequivocally stated that: a) Hot guys are great, and b) I’m allowed to gawk at them as much as I damn please.

Hotness, of course, is not just the sum of physical parts. Fortitude, charm, and the ability to, say, catch a tasty fish from the vast ocean surrounding your very own mysterious island, all figure into hotness. See, I don’t just like Jin because of the way nature designed and sculpted his Architectural Digest-worthy cheekbones – I like him because he combines the above factors, and then some. The cheekbones are just there to help out. Much like Sawyer’s chest and smouldering gaze. And Sayid’s… Well, you get it.

This is why my favourite character is ultimately Hugo “Hurley” Reyes. In the hands of a bad writing team, Hurley would have ended up as a walking punchline: fat guy crashes on island! Hilarious hi-jinks ensue!

Instead, Hurley is portrayed as both deeply sympathetic and potentially dangerous. His good nature, combined with frequent usage of the word “dude,” is undercut by the tendency to slide into madness. Hurley is fascinating to watch – because he’s infinitely likeable, and because he has issues. In pop culture, psychological problems are usually portrayed with at least a hint of gratuitous glamour, that prurient fascination for all things “deep” and “dark.” Hurley, by contrast, acts crazy in a way that’s disturbingly mundane, and heartbreaking.

This, right here, is great writing, and the ultimate force behind my love of all things “Lost.”

Great writing, I believe, is not limited to whatever bears the rubber-stamp of Harold Bloom’s approval. Great writing isn’t even limited to what is being taught in classrooms. Great writing is, quite possibly, being transmitted to you via that monstrous spectre of mass media. While I ultimately want every intelligent person to have their own opinion, I would also like to point out that, too often, intelligent people pass up greatness due to issues of guilt by association: “It’s prime-time television! It’s there to rot my brain and turn me into a latte-drinking, Croc-wearing Slave to the Machine!”

Except when it’s not, of course.

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Natalia Antonova

Natalia is a writer and journalist. She’s the associate editor of openDemocracy Russia and the co-founder of the Anti-Nihilist Institute.

2 thoughts on ““LOST”: Sublime Transcendence and… Hey Sawyer, Take That Shirt Off!

  1. ” I would also like to point out that, too often, intelligent people pass up greatness due to issues of guilt by association: “It’s prime-time television! It’s there to rot my brain and turn me into a latte-drinking, Croc-wearing Slave to the Machine!””

    A-fuckin’-men.

    There is a lot of brilliant stuff in this world, even that a lot of people may like.

    And i’m with ya on lost…their focus on each character’s backstory has really made the show.

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