Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Lost Souls of Lost's Show

Continuing the theme of cultural media week, I want to briefly examine the show Lost, which my wife and I sometimes watch. We're way behind, but it's fun to occasionally watch an episode, a luxury afforded us by the DVD sets the show has produced. Lost is an engaging show with an interesting premise, good character development, and generally clean entertainment. There are occasionally snags, but for the most part, for a major show airing at a primetime hour, Lost is pretty clean.

But the main thing I'm interested in is the show's worldview, which slowly unveils itself through the diverse characters who are marooned on an unknown tropical island. Once the characters shared only a plane ticket; now they share life together. It's quite interesting to watch various racial, social, spiritual, and gender-based conflicts play out on the show. In addition, the show frequently jumps back to the lives of the main characters before the plain wreck. The resulting picture is most interesting for this one reason: all the characters on Lost are in fact lost. I'm not sure that this is the main point of the show; perhaps the writers are very clever and it is. Or, perhaps they're just making a show about a bunch of random people on a desert island, and their show just happens to make a fascinating point. Regardless of the truth of the matter, Lost portrays humanity in all its various forms as just this: lost. The characters come from wildly different backgrounds--medical doctor, rich Asian married couple, unwed pregnant twentysomething, African drug-runner, female renegade. The characters have in common almost nothing--but that almost makes all the difference. They are all lost as lost can be.

In this way, Lost reflects the fact that postmodernism--out of which the show comes--does make some good points. Postmodernism suffers from huge and terrible flaws as a worldview, but it is not cheerful about the state of mankind. It comprehends that men are twisted and complex characters, capable of both great good and great evil, though most fall somewhere in between. In exposing the flaws of all its characters--the courageous MD is just as messed up as the drug-taking rock star--Lost paints a realistic and powerful picture of humanity. Young and old, successful or beaten-down, up-and-coming or down-and-out, the characters of Lost are all, in their own ways, desperately searching for something, something that evades them, frustrates them as it does so, leaves them confused, pained, and ultimately, angry.

The show thus makes for a fascinating character study. Noone is painted with a perfect brush. Noone is perfect. Everyone is in their own way struggling, and everyone is lost. The show is great fun to watch, and many will really enjoy its smarts, its mystery, and its generally clean character. The show's chief value, however, is that it shows its viewers that the world is a difficult place, and mankind is a haunted race. In this sense, Lost is not really entertainment. It is a Hollywoodized form of life as it really is, and men as they really are: a race hunted by a foe they cannot see, haunted by a hopelessness they cannot dispel, desperate for the God whose very existence they hate.


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