Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hey, we're in a desperate struggle for our lives against the incarnation of evil, but can I get a second to homoerotically comment on your salt and pepper?

Or: A word about Lost.

I once wrote a very short story that had a twist ending. In it, the main character dies without the reader being made aware, and only in the final sentences is this misrepresentation awkwardly suggested. My story offered a happy resolution in the promise of a blissful afterlife, shared with those whom the protagonist loves. It was an abrupt revelation, not earned by prior narrative but simply put in place in order to ask the reader to think more of his time expended than was warranted. It was as transparent an act as this introduction, in which I narcissistically compare a high schooler's three pages that couldn't even place in his college of choice's young writers' competition (won by some poem about butterflies or whatever) to the six years of dissatisfaction and chicanery that was Lost.

My story was set in an unexplained post-apocalyptia and a young boy's mother abandons him to search for food, I guess, and dies out of view in the process, or something. I was content that these mysteries needn't be answered or were self-explanatory and, in truth, I was probably right, considering how they conform to basically understood tropes. There was nothing there that challenged the medium in the way that, say, a giant smoke monster would. And when the mother makes her longed for reappearance at the end, to represent the transition into a serene afterlife for our young protagonist, it is a joylessly rushed exchange written under duress of the competition's word limit.

Resolving mysteries is a hard, hard business.

So, Lost has been a thing of the past for some months now, and my sense is that people either enjoyed its ending or accepted it complacently, although this could just be a self-absorbed assumption on my part. As the final season wound on, it was becoming clear that the island had been explained to its creators' satisfaction and this, surprisingly, didn't bother me as it might have. Much in the same way Lady MacBeth didn't, I seemed to have little trouble washing my hands of the thing as the aforementioned realization dawned. This could be attributed to several things: that I was never that attached to the show in the first place; that there are so many other, better shows; that I am in the process of renouncing all investment in fiction and, as my waistline would have you believe, becoming the Buddha.

Or, simply, there is a consistency to Lost which I have always incorrectly identified as a flaw in its writing but which was actually the essence of the writing itself. A belabored sentiment, sure, but I believe that what I once perceived as Lost's impedimenta which had to be overcome by its final season was truly a conditioning factor of the series, there in order to soften and bring about acceptance in a poor, swindled viewer.

I don't need to justify calling Lost viewers swindled, do I? There can be no question to that, can there? Lost's mysteries were a frivolous lot of cryptic meandering with no true resolution. Even when resolution was offered, it disappointed - and this is not, as the creators are so quick to say, a midi-chlorian situation in which revealing too much would by necessity disappoint. Oh, how Damon and Carlton loved to employ that comparison, I must say vindictively. You see, in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, there was a scene in which Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi (note that I have no affinity at all for the Star Wars franchise and I am suddenly feeling very silly about myself as I write this) measure Anakin Skywalker's midi-chlorians as a means to detect the Force within him. This scene has become quite controversial for introducing a quantifiable, biological element to what was an ethereal concept. That is, it demystified the mystery of the Force and left everyone wishing, I suppose, that answers had never come.

Except that the Force never really was a mystery, was it? It clearly existed and it was simply a means of explanation for the magic that characters in Star Wars were able to wield. There is absolutely no similarity between it and the tantalizing questions proposed by Lost such as why Walt is able to summon birds. And yet the people behind Lost played the midi-chlorian card whenever they were pushed for answers, stating that giving away answers would be akin to demystifying the Force and that they must tread forever lightly in the enigma of the island. And what is most worthy of contempt in the face of it all? They believe it. They are not cynically lying to the fans, they actually believe that Lost's many mysteries were put in place all in service of what they consider the series' true strength - its characters.

A dry, bitter laugh belongs here.

It doesn't even need to be stated that Lost was outclassed by so many when it came to what was meant to be its greatest achievement. Its main characters were divisive amongst fans, to put it mildly, and its more intriguing characters were so intriguing because half of their dialog was devoted to furthering the hollow perplexity of the show.

This was a series written by children. A cluster of savants who excelled at establishing cryptic hooks early on but whose ambitions were ultimately so shallow that the ultimate resolution of "They all live happily ever after, in Heaven, no less" was seen as the best way to serve the six years prior. And I hate to be a critic, I truly do; I know that this blog post isn't a work of art, that my own writing doesn't earn me any credence or credibility, and that, truthfully, my aforementioned short story wasn't as good as some poems about butterflies. I just simply wanted to say a few things about Lost - not to criticize, but to bury it. To leave it behind, as we all must, and accept that calling it a disappointment isn't fair because it never really was that good in the first place.

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