This week in ZOMG Lost, fellow insanely obsessed Lostie Brad Reed of Sadly, No!—who also has the dubious distinction of writing possibly the only post in history to claim I make sense—asked me if I'd like to do a mini-salon on Lost. To which, since I love talking about Lost more than just about any other topic, I promptly answered, ";lkajh;fwhbelfj;ka;lfa;wegfaw yes!" [As always, spoilers reside herein.] Enjoy!
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BR: As a feminist, what's your take on how women are portrayed in the show?
M2: Well, in my typical way, I'll be all mushy about it and say it's a mixed bag. Generally, the female characters are more well-rounded than just about any other female characters on television, especially in ensemble casts—but, let's be honest, that wasn't exactly a rigorous challenge, lol. It's interesting that pretty much the only competition is in sci-fi stuff...and Lost looks more and more sci-fi-esque with each season.
It's further interesting that the show looks increasingly to be making an oblique but advanced commentary about the patriarchy. Daddy issues abound for both women and men—and it's always wise to remember that the etymology of patriarchy is "father," not "man." The Lost fathers (Benry, Widmore, Paik, Shephard the Elder) are archetypical patriarchs—rich, powerful, well-educated, well-connected, straight, and white, with the exception of Mr. Paik, who's in the ethnic majority of his country of residence. It is within the battle among these patriarchs that everyone else is caught; it is to their whims, and their arbitrary rules and preferences, that everyone else is subjected. That's clearly framed as Not a Good Thing, which rather suggests a feminist critique of the patriarchy.
Also see, as examples, the dim view taken of Jin's oppression of Sun, or how every time Jack undermines Kate's autonomy or tells her to stay behind, etc., it ends up biting him (and often the whole group) in the ass. The more possessive he is of women, the worse things get for him. When he pressured Bai Ling to tattoo him against her will, he got the shit beat out of him. There are repercussions for his disrespect and failure to treat women as his equals…
The bit where it was discussed that Widmore "changed the rules" and went after Ben's daughter, for example, can also quite easily be read as a critique of chivalry, where there's been a "gentleman's agreement" to not brutally mistreat "other men's women," even as those women are still oppressed within their own spaces by their ostensible protectors. We've seen Penny and Alex be manipulated and hurt by their own (chivalrous) fathers, but their protection from external danger was part of the agreement made by the men who hurt them.
One of the things I think Lost also does very well, actually, is show that heroism isn't always "big," or what we define as traditionally action-oriented "male" heroics. One of the most heroic moments for me has always been when Sawyer tells Jack about having met Christian in a bar. That level of emotionalism was obviously not easy for Sawyer, but he was facing death and knew telling Jack was a now or never proposition, so he sucked it up and did it. Sawyer isn't becoming a better person, and looking ever more like he's got the destiny of a tragic hero, because he physically rescued Claire, for example, but because he thought to rescue her in the first place. The character arcs have been, since day one, about self-reflection and emotional growth—and getting un-Lost via empathic expansion is a decidedly progressive concept, if not a strictly feminist one. (As is de-othering "Others.")
So, all that said, I view a lot of the complaints that the female characters' storylines are too limited through a prism of patriarchal critique. Meaning, I think the limitations are least partially deliberate—and I hope (and actually presume) there's going to be some serious ZOMG women rockingness before this thing is through.
The little surprise that Sun pulled on Daddy Paik last night was a good omen in that direction.
I'm really disappointed Rousseau is dead, btw.
BR: The actress who plays Rousseau apparently asked to be written out of the show. They didn't really want to kill her.
M2: Ah. Same thing that happened with Mr. Eko. Too bad. I really liked both of them.
BR: Personally speaking, I think Lost does a pretty good job of making its women dynamic and interesting, although none of the characters is nearly as awesome as Starbuck in BSG—but I digress.
Your point about forms of bravery that aren't traditionally seen as "masculine" is well taken. I think one of the things I find so annoying about Jack a lot of the time is that he sees tromping off into the jungle as the only form of bravery that matters, even when it's completely counterproductive. This week was a perfect example—he could have done a lot more good for the people by doing what Daniel did and helping people get on the boat. But nope, that doesn't fit into his Heroic Jack image! I personally loved Sawyer's line about Jack not getting to die alone. The way Sawyer has developed as a character has been terrific.
Oh, and as for Sun's little trick on daddy, yes that was brilliant (although seemingly not realistic—how much money does Oceanic Airlines have to give these people???). My prediction is that she knows Jin is still alive on the Island and she's going to use all the resources in her father's company to find the Island again. Should be a pretty awesome set-up for the fifth season!
OK, so let's move on to the obvious question for next week: Who do you think is in the coffin?
M2: It seems to me it's got to be Michael or Walt, and I lean toward Michael. The scene strongly suggested it was in a predominantly black neighborhood—in which, as we've now seen, Michael's mother lives. The coffin looked small to me, which made me think Walt at first, but maybe that was just a trick of the camera. What makes me lean toward Michael is that no one else showed up to the showing and Jack said the person in the coffin is neither friend nor family, which seemed rather too cold a response if it were Walt.
There's also the subplot about how the Island won't let Michael die until his work is finished. His being in a coffin is the logical ending to that subplot.
BR: I actually don't think Michael is in the coffin, and here's why: I think it would be something of a cop-out since most fans don't care much about Michael anyway. I think that whoever is in that coffin is going to be someone really big that will completely jolt the audience—think Locke, Sayid or Desmond. We already know that Ben is after Penny—what if he has Sayid take her out and then either Desmond kills himself or kills Sayid in revenge? It's all too brutally depressing to contemplate, since Sayid and Des are, along with Ben, Hurley and Juliet, two of my favorite characters on the show. But I think they're going to pull Something Big on us for this one.
M2: My first question for you is: Is Claire dead?
BR: There's a lot of evidence to support the idea that she is. No one could have survived that house explosion, and Miles—who can see and interact with dead people—seemed particularly fascinated with her.
Yet at the same time, I think there's something else going on here. The fact that the Island/Jacob specifically sent Christian Shephard to retrieve her says to me that she has some important role to play on the show; after all, you didn't see Nikki and Paulo get that kind of celebrity treatment when they kicked it. Remember the message from Charlie that Hurley gave to Jack: "You're not supposed to raise him," with the "him" very likely being Aaron. So if Jack and Kate aren't supposed to raise Aaron, who is? My guess is that the baby belongs back on the island with Claire. And since it's Claire's destiny to raise him, the Island isn't letting her die.
As an aside, I hope they pursue this storyline vigorously throughout the remaining seasons, because Claire is one of the most criminally under-used characters on the show. It's sorta understandable in a way, because she can't go tromping off into the jungle with the baby in tow, but I'm glad they decided to give her something new to work with.
M2: LOL @ Nikki and Paulo. Nice thought about the Island keeping her alive to raise Aaron. I've been wondering if Aaron is "special" in the same way Walt is "special," and whether that specialness is related to Richard Alpert's seeming immortality. I'm getting an X-Men mutant humans vibe—which would not be an unwelcome development at all, IMO.
On that note, your next question is: Why do you think Richard Alpert hasn't aged?
BR: My thinking on this is that Alpert is one of the island's original inhabitants that Ben referenced in his first flashback episode last year. These original inhabitants, it seems, were responsible for some of the older artifacts on the island, such as the ruins where Ben tried to get Locke to kill his father and, most crucially, the four-toed statue. We still have no clue as to the nature of these native islanders, but my personal guess is there's something not-quite-totally human about them, hence the four toes on the statue they made.
So basically, I think Richard's immortality is related to the fact that he's not-quite-human. Those who are like him—and Ben said for whatever reason last year that there were very few of them left—for whatever reason are immune from the time-space restrictions that we mortals must live with.
I think this is going to be something they'll explore in a lot more depth in the last two seasons, since the deeper mysteries on the Island seem to be going progressively backward in time: from the DHARMA Initiative to the Black Rock all the way back to the ancient civilization that produced the four-toed statue.
M2: I'm totally with you. Good recall on the four-toed statue. I'm going to stick with my mutant human theory. Also: Mama Shakes says she's going to be pissed if aliens have anything to do with mysteries of Lost. Heh.
BR: I'll be pissed if it's a little-green-men-from-Mars sorta thing, but I like the idea of the Island existing within a wormhole in a parallel dimension where people have developed with only four toes. Oh, and speaking of wormholes and parallel dimensions, what do you think Locke will find in the Orchid?
M2: Ooh, good one. I've got no bloody clue! But I can tell you what I want him to find—I want it to be an old Atari 2600 joystick. Regular directional capabilities are enhanced by pushing the red button, which allows you to pop the island into another place on the time continuum.
BR: Personally, I'd like it to be a mix of the old Nintendo Robbie Robot and the Power Glove.
Lindelof and Cuse actually released an Orchid orientation film last year as a teaser for the season:
You can see that there are two #15 Bunnies in the film, and Marvin Candle is very, very freaked out to see them. My take: in the future they sent Bunny 15 backward in time, and he popped up in the past right before they were about to conduct the experiment (don't think about it too hard—your head will hurt). And clearly, having the same two entities from different times in the same room together is dangerous—think about Marty McFly avoiding his future self in Back to the Future II. Whatever is in the Orchid, it has to do with moving matter through space-time. I also think it's how Ben popped up in the middle of the desert a couple episodes back. To exact revenge on Widmore, he put himself in the Orchid and zapped himself into the future.
M2: Okay, final question: Why doesn't Sawyer leave the island?
BR: This one's easy for me: Sawyer is just a better person on the Island. Even though Sawyer was a dirtbag in his off-island life, part of him was always really uncomfortable with it. The Island offered him an opportunity for tabula rasa, as Jack noted in the first season. Why the hell would Sawyer want to go back to his life of being a skuzzy con man? On the Island, he's respected, appreciated and the ladies seem to really dig him.
I think my big question is less "Why doesn't Sawyer leave the island," but why the hell does Kate not want to stay? Even though she does get off the hook in the future for all those crimes she committed, she doesn't know about that now. What's true for Sawyer is equally true for Kate—far from being a criminal on the island, she's one of its respected leaders.
M2: What put Kate on the wrong side of the law in the first place was her desire to the right thing. Unlike Sawyer, who generally always knew (pre-Island) whether he was doing the right thing or the wrong thing, Kate's calculations were sometimes off; she thought she was doing her ma a solid by blowing up papa! She didn't quite get for a long time why she was wrong; now she does, and that same old desire to do the right thing means she's got to go back and face the music, whatever the consequences. She needs to make amends in a way Sawyer doesn't. So…yeah, her leaving doesn't perplex me—but her shacking up with Dr. Drunky Possesso does!
BR: Welp, this was really fun! I'm always happy to find fellow geeks to nerd out about this stuff with! I'll send you some questions for next week's finale! Namaste!