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January 28 2005

Zap2it: Unlocking the Philosophy of 'Lost'. Zap2it article about the philosophical questions in 'Lost' compares it to Buffy the Vampire Slayer among other series, and mentions David Fury and Drew Goddard's involvement.

"John Locke, which is also the name of the Enlightenment-era British philosopher..." Wrong. John Locke was a seventeenth-century philosopher. His famous "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" was first published in 1689.

But the article's point is well taken: the creators of "Lost" must have philosophical pretensions. Naming one character "John Locke" could have been coicidence or meaningless, but -- something the article didn't mention, I don't think (I admit I skimmed) -- is that the mysterious French woman is named Rousseau, like Jean Jacques.
None of the character names are accidents. They were all thought out very deliberately. This from Fury.
<<"John Locke, which is also the name of the Enlightenment-era British philosopher..." Wrong. John Locke was a seventeenth-century philosopher. His famous "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" was first published in 1689.>>

While the Enlightenment period is seen as occurring mainly in the 18th C - it is often traced back farther - to Hobbes Leviathan (1651). So...might be stretching, but not wholly inaccurate.

That said, I agree that there is a philosophical "conceit", if you will, underpinning some of the show. Just gives us all a bit more to chew on. I wonder if the Lost universe has/will spawn an equivalent to the excellent "All Things Philosophical on Buffy the Vampire Slayer" website.

Also, they didn't mention Rousseau in the interview, but many people have noted it.
I have only recently started watching Lost, so though I'm all caught up I haven't learnt much about the references and things like this. I seem to remember reading, though, in the TWoP forums, that there were other characters with referential names, apart from Locke and Rousseau.
Although I'm sure I'm stating the obvious for some, "Tabula Rasa" was also a title of a sixth season Buffy episode; the one where Willow tried to affect Tara's memories, and inadvertently wiped the memories of all her friends. "Blank slate" indeed.

I'm growing fascinated with Lost but strangely not in an obsessive way that I've sensed with X-Files, STNG or Buffy. There's simply not enough meat presently to sink my teeth into. Is the future of this series going to be literal? Will everything have a rational explanation? Or will it eventually enter into the surreal or fantastical? Up until now pretty much everything can be explained away. Locke's miraculous ability to use his legs could mean that his previous parapelegia was psychosomatic. Others seeing things could be due to deprivation of healthy food and water. Perhaps the entire island is contaminated with nutrients that adversely affect human beings' sensory perception when animal or plantlife on the island is consumed. There will come a point though, where the producers have to pin themselves down to answer the questions they have posed.

When X-Files started pinning themselves down, it ruined the magic of the series. When the producers confirmed that yes there are aliens, and Mulder's been trying to expose men who had been playing a dangerous political gambit with said aliens, everything after that felt anticlimactic. The man behind the curtain was revealed to be a guy with a box of chocolates in his lap. The whole series started to feel like a Penn & Teller Las Vegas act.

..Oh. I forgot to compare this to Buffy, which was my intent. In the first episode of Buffy, everything's laid on the table. There are vampires. Buffy's the slayer, and the entire theme of the next seven seasons is laid flat. The primary 'secret' of the series is something that we the viewers are let in on. We're with Buffy the whole way. She alone has the power to stop the evil and end the apocalypse. She's in control, she just doesn't quite know what to do with her power. So by series end when Buffy works with Willow to literally claim that power and choose to share it with everyone else? We're there with her. We share with her the accumulation of all the clues that she needs to come to this conclusion. Other things are hidden from us but that's because they're hidden from Buffy, and still other things we're let in on, but then the suspense comes from waiting for Buffy to figure it out. So we're with the protagonist. We're not left in the dark any more or less than she is. Lost isn't quite working that way. Yes, we're as in the dark as the others, but some of the characters are holding back information from us, and we're unable to interrogate them to get that information. It's a form of storytelling that's unfair to the viewer. This is one thing that makes Buffy a much better series than Lost is showing itself to be.

Right now, Lost feels like a fun spectacle, but not knowing where the proverbial magician is hiding the rabbit is starting to get frustrating. Compare the first episode of the BBC series "The Prisoner" where we're shown things along with Number Six and are racing about for answers, to the last episode, where the spoilers are given away and yet everything's so surreal one doesn't know what to take for granted and what to dismiss. I fear Lost is destined for a similar breakdown in storytelling, and the answers the producers are hiding from us, if in this moment they actually know what those answers are, will be anticlimactic.
Lost isn't quite working that way. Yes, we're as in the dark as the others, but some of the characters are holding back information from us, and we're unable to interrogate them to get that information. It's a form of storytelling that's unfair to the viewer.

I agree, and I think that Lost may start losing some of its following if it continues to be obscure without much pay-off. I know several people who are very frustrated with the show and the fact that they aren't getting any answers, but instead what should be an answer turns into another mystery that is not brought up again. (The miniature plane, anyone?) Having only just started watching, I'm not yet frustrated, but I'm wondering how they can manage to keep this going for more than one season.
Thank you Zachsmind for articulating what I couldn't quite pinpoint - why I am dis-satisfied with Lost. It is unfair to the viewer to withhold information. It is taunting and so, unpleasant. Too much more of this and I will walk away saying "Well, I don't care what your secret is. So there!"
It's the same thing I didn't like about Alias, and still don't. Just when Jennifer Garner's character thinks she knows what her world is like, it gets turned on her ear. Then just as everything was settled, suddenly she just loses a couple years of her life and everyone thought she was dead. Shock for shock's safe just to keep the audience off-balance is almost meanspirited storytelling, and I just don't like supporting such behavior with my patronage. I have a similar problem with Desperate Housewives, and therefore have stopped watching it too.

I am giving Lost the benefit of the doubt because I happen to really like the characters. They've developed some very interesting people on this island, and I'm curious how they're going to interact with one another and survive. However, if it turns out they're on some magical island, or they're all already dead and the island is purgatory, or some other cockamamie explanation rather than something at least vaguely housed in reality, I'll be very put out.
With polar bears and some giant unseen beasty surviving on a tropical island, I'm not certain we are "vaguely housed in reality" even at this point. However, I am enjoying Lost. I'm not troubled (at this point) by the slow pace of revelation of answers. I will agree that I'll be pretty angry if all of this turns out to be Locke's dream or something, but I'm hoping that the writers would have more respect for the viewers than the writers of Dallas did.

I have to agree with the problems Zachsmind identified about Alias. The show lost me as a viewer last year, and I was an inconsistent viewer the year before. However, the last two eps have demonstrated much more interest in character depth and development, an interest in changing the pace of the show to allow for said development, and greater sense of humor. Not to anyone's surprise, I think, it's the addition of the Whedon-team writers to the show that has made a difference, and I'm back on board as long as they keep this up.
True, many shows have an element of frustration in their premise. Zachsmind mentioned the X-Files already, and I agree the culmination of the Aliens plot should've been the end of that ongoing story element. It had been revealed. And that's the problem: quests, searches or mysteries, once revealed, are over. And if you keep stretching things out to prevent the story from reaching that point frustration inevitably sets in.

So we get sidetracked and the great premise sometimes turns into background for 'case of the week' stories.

'One day I'll find the one-armed man. But in the meantime I run into these people here....'

'One day I'll prove my innocence in that murder, but in the meantime let me help these folks'

'One day I'll cure myself of being the Hulk, but right now I'll help these people'

'One day I'll be back in my own time, but while I'm in this body let me help this estranged father and son'

They usually bug me afer a while.

X-Files' better stuff was often the stand-alones because they were FBI agents and it's quite normal that they work on new cases all the time. Same with Buffy. She didn't have a 'point to reach' or a 'mystery to solve in the end'. The cases she came across didn't feel like a break from the 'big story' because her daily life as a protector *was* the premise.

Lost has gone a different way with the slow revelation of the characters' past and it's a nice touch. But I can't shake the feeling of 'okay but what is behind all this' while I watch, knowing that if that was revealed the show would be over.

I also wonder what happens if they run out of pasts to go through. Still I like it enough to keep watching. If the frustration becomes bigger than the enjoyment, I'll stop.
Interesting commentary here. I'm at a bit of a crossroads with Lost myself. They are revealing things slowly, being intentionally vague, and some characters (and their flashbacks) are untruthful -- and yet I remain hopeful and trusting that this team of writers along with JJ and Fury can keep things together.
I'm surprised that no one's guessed the secret of Lost: the plane was picked up by aliens and transported to the "amusement planet" of original Star Trek's "Shore Leave" -- where everything one thinks of becomes real. Hence, the mysterious appearance of polar bears, dead fathers and giant monsters.
SaveAngel: I'm guessing your last post was tongue-in-cheek? Because it's written in such a dry tone as to be somewhat alarming to those readers who are extremely spoiler-skittish . . .

It should go without saying that any *real* information anyone may have, or even darned good speculation and astute thinking about what's "really going on" in Lost, should be put in invis-text, as explained in the Help section of the site. Ta.
Personally, I really enjoy Lost. I don't think it is unfair at all to hold back information from the viewers. It's a perfectly normal convention of storytelling.

Lost is working on a few levels of plot that keep me interested: 1) the present of the survivors living out their time and trying to survive, etc. 2) the past of the individuals (which really is pretty much unlimited as far as storytelling potential, since they don't seem to be too stuck for extras, sets, etc. to use in these sets (certainly Buffy could've covered such ground with its budget)) and 3) the mythological level of the island and the bigger issues at work.

I don't need to know all the answers about level 3, because the pacing and structure of 1 and 2 are keeping me interested.

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