Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More on "The End" of LOST

I did not anticipate that I'd spend as much time unpacking my reactions to "The End", the finale of LOST, as I've been doing the past day, considering I was not a devoted follower and had no business having any feelings at all about it.

But now that I've had a day to reflect beyond my non-reaction reaction yesterday, here are my thoughts.

(My rambling reaction, with content not suitable for the unspoiled, plus how it relates to The X-Files and other general TV theory, below).

It has taken me a day to have some thoughts coalesce. I spent some time wondering why I was so unsettled after the ending of Lost. After all, I wasn't a devoted fan, and I went into it with no expectations or requirements. But, nevertheless, when it ended, something just didn't feel right to me.

I was having a very basic discussion about it with Shanna, who is absolutely a devoted fan of the show, and I was glad that she was happy and satisfied with how it all turned out. I think your satisfaction level at the end depends entirely on what you needed to get out of it. This also goes into a topic I swear I always mean to write about, but haven't formed into something readable yet, and that is that there are two general typologies of TV viewers with different narrative priorities capturing their attention and driving their devotion to various shows: The Plot and The Characters. If you are a Plot Person, you wanted more answers from LOST by the end of the evening. You were driven to watch to unravel the mysteries and wanted to know how every puzzle piece fit, how each pixel lined up. If you are a Character Person, you wanted to have some kind of emotional resolution for the characters you've grown to love. Each puzzle piece didn't matter, there could be unclear or missing artifacts at detail level as long as there was a pleasing picture to see when you stood back. If you were strongly the former, you were probably the most disappointed. If you were the latter, you were probably very happy with how it all turned out. Of course, there are degrees in between.

I also believe it is true, as I said earlier, that this finale was not, and should not have been, designed for the non-devoted follower. Shanna always said LOST was not for the casual viewer, and I think that is very true. In order to fully enjoy it, you had to be willing to engage in discussion and long contemplation with fellow fans. You had to speculate and come up with satisfying theories to sustain you, which may have been validated or subverted by the finale, but if (as was largely the case with the evolution of the end of the series) you did not get definitive answers to those questions one way or another, you already had your own answers to fill in those gaps.

Perhaps the loss in viewers the show experienced in its midsection can be attributed to this. Not everyone who watches TV also engages in in-depth discussion about it. A lot of people, like one of my aunts, were intrigued by the show for the first couple of seasons, but could not sustain interest because they were not the type to hash it all out online. LOST was a communal experience, and much like one of the metaphors of the series, was not really an endeavor for those going it alone.

So, why was I uneasy with the ending? I can live in a universe where there are smoke monsters and moveable islands and glowing caves into the heart of the earth/humanity. I like the mystery, and I like answers, but I can live with the revelation that those really weren't the answers to be found in that universe. After all, I lived through X-Files fandom, where there were bees spreading alien conspiracy viruses and even when they "solved" some of the cases, it was often with a wink to the audience (ie "So, this isn't an alien or a miracle, it is a highly improbable yet technically possible scientific anomaly.... or is it?!?! [wink]). I can accept that Sunnydale and Bon Temps look much like the universe we live in but have vampires and whatnot.

For me, I think there is just something that didn't sit right with me about the nature of the not-on-the-island, not-exactly-purgatory Sidewaysverse. If this is some kind of mental/spiritual construct we see from Jack's point of view, with the exception of creating pseudo-resolution reunions for all the rest of the characters for the VIEWER, why did all the other reunion-awareness moments take place in Jack's Sideways Los Angeles when he was not involved in them? Why follow them away from Jack's awareness of them? Was it so HE had is own subconscious, third-person omniscient creation of happy endings for those particular people as well (filling in gaps and re-writing their endings to get to where he needed to be)? Was it always a shared construct, so that all of their spirits were participating in his version of the Sideways LA, and he in theirs? Did they all experience it as LA, or in, say, Jin or Sun's version, do they experience it as Korea, but with all the spirits/consciousnesses of all the others populating it the same way they did in Jack's version? Can they all simultaneously populate these multiple quasi-purgatories outside of time without that awareness moment?

(Oh, Lost. You've done to me what you did to your followers all along: given me more questions.)

But, when I think about it, this is the problem I've always had with metaphysical concepts. If we have souls, what is their nature apart from our bodies? If God exists, who created God? What is beyond the universe? What happens when we die?

It isn't a storytelling problem (although some could see it that way), it is my individual problem related to my relationship with matters of faith.

I can't know these things, and a long time ago I decided that those answers didn't matter and had no effect on how I live my daily life. Once I accepted that, I was able to let go of the anxiety I felt over spiritual matters and felt a little bit more at peace.

"The End" of LOST resurrected in me that feeling of unease with the unknowable, (and to be honest, I was feeling some resentment surrounding it, too) but now I can, to paraphrase Christian Shephard, let go and move on.


Another discussion about LOST I'd been following all season, to help me deconstruct a lot of stuff I was ill equipped to process and keep up with the season-long revelations, was the ongoing conversation over at the Slate Lost TV Club. The three writers are an interesting mix of those whose devotion was still strong going into the season and a little bit of disillusionment, with varying degrees of expectations, and a lot of insightful background knowledge.

As always, I have to point in the direction of Television Without Pity. Not the source I relied on for catching up on full recaps for LOST (though it is always high on my list for keeping up with many shows), but the recaplet for The End seemed like a good example of the kind of info-emotion-dump that most fans were going through in the wee hours after the series concluded.

ETA2: (also via Shanna) Jezebel has a great, satisfying wrap up (yes, with spoilers). I particularly like that it gets into specific, spiritual parallels of the non-Christian variety.


Other notes:
Clearly, the masterminds behind LOST learned from shows like The X-Files. Of course, there is the similarly long-arc, internal mythology-heavy, supernatural-mystery storytelling, but importantly The X-Files was a study in early internet-era fan response. The now ubiquitous term "shipper" referring to fans who want characters on a show to get together originated from X-Philes wishing for a Scully/Mulder union. At the time, shows foundered with how to tell their stories while receiving instant substantive feedback from their fans and critics. Shows are now very carefully navigating that tension between their professional storytelling knowledge, their creative instincts, and fan reaction.

Also, I'm guessing they learned how to END a story like this from the poorly handled ending of The X-Files, which foundered when there was not an agreed upon end point before they lost focus and alienated a lot of fans. It was frustrating and heartbreaking. Even though there is no way to please all fans, sometimes not even most of them, I think LOST made some choices and stuck with them, and that matters.

Monday, May 24, 2010

FINALE LOSTRAVAGANZA (now with spoilers)

This post is a safe harbor for discussion of the LOST series finale.
There may be SPOILERS.
You have been warned.

I don't have much to actually say about the end of LOST. I feel overwhelmingly unqualified to pass any kind of judgment on it, not being an established fan of the series. I will say that clearly, and absolutely correctly, the finale was not intended to satisfy the casual or late-coming viewer like myself.

Linda Holmes (as always) at NPR's Monkey See Blog has a great overview which sums up the impressions that I got from the finale.

I may add more to this post, including links to other recaps, reviews, summaries, and impressions, as I come across them.



But I do have to say that I watched last night's finale LOSTRAVAGANZA (as I've been calling it in my head) and while the story itself did not influence my subsequent dreaming, there were very meta elements in my dreams ABOUT watching the finale.

I also want to say that I fully respect people's requests to not openly discuss, or even make telling, even if oblique, references to (either the story itself or the reaction to the story), the finale. I feel the same way about many other Important! Pop Culture! Moments!

But there is a certain kind of entertainment consumer who are total wet blankets on areas where discussion does happen, and those are

the overzealous spoiler police. Mary Elizabeth Williams articulates this phenomenon pretty well in an article over on Salon.com.

Bottom line:

1) It is consummately douchey to intentionally reveal plot points and story elements that are meant to be enjoyed as a surprise to the audience.

2)It is definitely inconsiderate to not take reasonable care when discussing such stories among those who might not have had an opportunity to enjoy such revelations for themselves, within a reasonable period of time.

3) However, it is also very douchey to enter what should be considered "safe spaces" for such discussions and rant about spoilers. It should be assumed that a discussion board with the topic "What did you think about [insert name of story] finale?!?" will, in fact, contain information on the finale, and you are a d-bag if you insert yourself into these conversations to weep and wail about how now everything is ruined for you forever because OMG the story is now spoiled for you.

I think all of the people I associate with abide by this etiquette pretty naturally. I just had to laugh when this morning, imdb.com posted a discussion question on its Facebook page asking what people thought of the LOST finale, obviously inviting commenters to discuss it, and lo and behold, someone a couple dozen responses down cried out "Don't spoil it for me! I haven't seen it yet!" To which the response was mostly "Then why are you reading comments discussing the outcomes, idiot?"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A note to Survivor(tm) contestants with big egos (aka Russell Hantz)

Just because YOU don't like someone (or they do not like you) does not mean that they have "no social game".
You don't get to decide what that means.
Saying it aloud does not make it so.
You will never understand this.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I'm just posting something here to remind myself that this blog still exists. Yes, I know that is ridiculous. I will also delete this post when I get around to basically an inundation of (now kind of irrelevant) backlogged posts on this season of Survivor.
But, I do have a little bit more free time, theoretically this week, being between classes and with work slowing down. I have several posts planned in my head, and some even partially planned "on paper" (ie drafts in Google Docs), about things that are NOT Survivor, or even LOST. Shocking, I know. I hope to get those out of my head and onto the internets, well... at least over the summer when there's less "regular" TV on. But I'm a big liar when it comes to my promises to post things, so no dramatic breath-holding as we await these posts, okay? I can't have that on my conscience.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Behind, and feeling left behind

I haven't posted a Survivor chat since episode 6. And OMG finally stuff has happened! Perhaps I will get to it this weekend. The end of the season (May 16) is creeping up on us (like that crafy Sandra prowling around the jungle and eavesdropping while everyone else is scheming!)

I'm still watching LOST: The Final Season. Again, I regret not being emotionally invested in how everything turns out for each of the characters, especially in light of how the show is slowly (...slowly) describing the fates (...or whatever?) of everyone. I'm sure opinion varies on this even among the most devoted Losties, but I'm feeling impatient with how it is all coming together. I'm sure that there is this unbearable tension within diehard fans

between "OMG I want LOST in my life forever please don't really end!" (or something to that effect, which is a feeling I have had in the past for many a show, so there's no judgment there) and "OMG PLEASE just finally tell us what the fuck is going on!" Because I'm not fluent in so many of the details and nuances leading up to this final season, I'm finding it hard to appreciate these episodes. I keep wondering "Wait. Have we really gotten any closer to figuring anything out? With 6 episodes left? 4?" I hear they've extended the final episode by a half hour, though, so is that a good thing? There needs to be even more time to make it work? Or is that just a little bit of reward to the fans, giving them another morsel of what they enjoy so much?

At any rate, I plan on watching it all come together on May 23rd.