Overthinking Lost: Episodes 2.9-2.16

Overthinking Lost: Episodes 2.9-2.16

The OTI readers who have seen all of Lost ask someone who has seen only one and a half seasons their burning questions. This’ll work.

Question 5: What do you think of Lost’s take on race?

Personally—and bear in mind this is coming from a very pale white girl—I’m pretty happy with how the show is dealing with race.  I love the diversity, not only because I love diversity on TV in general, but because it’s fairly realistic.  My perception may be skewed because I fly out of New York, but airplanes seem to be diverse as hell.  Lost gets more points for having a cute interracial couple, having Hurley bring it up briefly as an aside, and then ignoring it.  Nice work.

That said, when I first started watching, it did sometimes seem like the casting director was filling quotas.  Here’s the Asian couple; here’s the black guy; here’s the Arab; here’s the black woman; here’s the fat one.  So color me shocked when Mr. Eko shows up.  WTF!  TWO black men on a TV show?  And they’re not related?  Whoa.  Of course, when that happened, Michael promptly ran off to The Others, making Mr. Eko the sole black man.  I guess there cane be only one.

This question was posed by Saint, who also wondered if Lost perpetuated the idea of the “Mighty Whitey.”  In other words, the inhabitants of the island are savage and need the awesome white man to bring in technology, religion, and civilization in general.  I can’t really speak to that yet, because I’m not sure if The Others are more or less technologically-advanced than Team Jack.  It wasn’t like the plane crashers came in, stuck in a flag, and started converting the natives.  And, as I said above, it does seem like Lost is trying to set up a question along the lines of, “But who are the bad guys, really?” with Team Jack being the evil Western invaders and The Others being the mysterious but ultimately innocent natives.  As I said above, I don’t think that works, because The Others are clearly not innocent.  They go around kidnapping and killing people, and every time Jack or someone else tries to talk with them and get some diplomacy going, they act all mysterious and say, “Go away; this is our island.”  Which is also crap, because the show is leading me to believe The Others somehow drew the plane to the island in the first place.  So I don’t really believe Lost is a Mighty Whitey narrative.  At least, not yet.

Saint, you also mentioned another interesting point:

More than once, we see the white characters get sophisticated, long-term, recurring narratives while the rest of the cast are used symbolically or for emotional effect, and then rarely (if ever) heard from again.

Again, I don’t know how true this is, because I haven’t seen the whole series yet.  But, so far, I don’t think this is the case.  Clearly, white characters like Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Locke are getting much more screen time.  Unfortunately, this is the way American television works.  It sucks.  But I have to give Lost some credit.  I think Michael, Jin and Sun, and Sayid have been getting great storylines.  I think they are all strong characters in their own right.  Ana Lucia is also on her way to becoming a very strong character, too.  Mr. Eko, I can’t tell yet, but, boy, do I find him interesting.  We’ll have to see what he does.

Take all of this with a heaping tablespoon of salt.  I’m a white white Jew.  Hey, speaking of which, where are the Jewish characters?  This plane was going to L.A., folks!  Probably half the plane was Jewish!  Mr. Abrams!  J.J.!  (Can I call you J.J.?)  You’re part of the clan!  Help a sister out.  You had a baptism on the island.  How ‘bout a Bar Mitzvah?


Question 6: Fate or free will?

Eric asked this question specifically about the hatch button.  Let me start my answer with my old caveat that I’m an atheist rationalist materialist whateverist.  Whenever these fate vs. free will questions come up , my default answer is always “free will.”  I’m a fan of free will.  Big fan.

That said, I’m going to reiterate an idea I brought up last week.  Inasmuch as the members of Team Jack are being forced to push the hatch button, their destinies are fated.  But, to me, Fate always takes on a religious undertone.  God, or the gods, determine your fate.  Otherwise, who or what is?  (A physicist might argue “space-time!” but I don’t think that’s what Lost is going for here with all the religious imagery.)

The hatch button certainly is in some ways religious in nature.  The counter counts down from 108, a mystical number in many eastern traditions.  The hatch belongs to the Dharma Initiative; dharma is a religious concept.  The remainder of their film strip is found in a Christian Bible.

But, as far as I can tell, the people who run the Dharma Initiative are people, not gods.  They may be dressing up their experiments in religious clothing–maybe they’re pretending to BE gods–but they are people.  And people, as we know from the Greek myths, can’t fool around with destiny.

Or maybe they can.  Perhaps, like in one of my favorite anime, The Vision of Escaflowne, the Dharma Initiative has some sort of “destiny engine,” which alters people’s fate.  That I’ll accept.  But then it’s not a religious type of fate.  It’s scientific fate-altering.  It’s people screwing with the forces of nature.

Last week I made a similar point.  Locke’s been saying everyone should have faith for a long time now.  Only when he discovers the button does he start saying people should have faith in the Dharma Initiative.  Not gods.  People.  So, are Jack and Kate and Hurley and the rest “fated” to push that button every few hours?  If God isn’t making them do it, no.  They’re being forced.  Maybe they’re being forced by people pretending to be gods, but that’s different than the real gods determining one’s destiny.  Here’s an analogy.  If a guy dressed as Jesus Christ points a gun at you and says, “Walk in front of that car,” and you do it, that’s not Fate.  That’s duress.  You have the free will to make whatever decision you want in that awful situation.  Jack and the rest, likewise, have the free will to stop pushing the button whenever they want.  They’ll just have to deal with the consequences when they do.


Question 7: Who’s hotter, Sayid or Sawyer?

Sayid’s pretty and Sawyer’s damn fine.  And Jin…  Well, Jin looks like he’s cut out of stone.  Does that answer your question?

Just so I’m not sexist or heteronormative or anything like that, let me also point out that the women on Lost are very attractive, too.  But that goes without saying.  Every woman on TV is attractive.  That’s part of the job description.


That’s it for this week’s Lost Q & A.  If you have any more questions, comments, insights, feel free to write them below.  I’ll probably answer them the next time I can’t think of a topic for OTI.  Special thanks to everyone who submitted questions.  I’d be…LOST…without you.  Get it?  See you next week, and remember (say it with me now), no spoilers!

<!–[if !mso]>

20 Comments on “Overthinking Lost: Episodes 2.9-2.16”

  1. Jess #

    “Does this mean that we have found the man behind the island’s curtain, so to speak?”

    *bites tounge*


    You’ll know what I mean, eventually.


  2. Gab #

    From the moment he first showed up, my fellow Lost fans and I called “Henry Gale” “Not-Henry.” We just didn’t trust him at all. Why? Because LOCKE didn’t. Oh snap.

    So, here are two more: Do guns or people kill people? And, Are drugs bad?

    “The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say *this is mine*, and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had someone pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: ‘Do not listen to this impostor. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!'”

    This quote from Jean-Jacques Rousseau sings to the character of Danielle from the show. Danielle is Jean-Jacques’s ideal Man- she sees through the BS, calls it out, and does what she needs to do to survive. But she is empathetic and looks out for others as much as she can, so long as it doesn’t directly interfere with her own self-preservation. She is Man pre-social contract. And she’s friggin’ awesome. I can picture her taking those stakes and telling that guy where to shove them, if not actually shoving them for him. (And I just love that quote, too. “Simple enough.” Heh.)

    The follow-up question is, “Where does Henry Gale fit into the political structure, so far?”


  3. Matt #

    You forgot the most important question of all! Mr. Eko: Badass or GREATEST Badass?


  4. Matt #

    Oh, and Mike Westen couldn’t be on The Island, it’d solve too many mysteries too quickly. “When you’re a spy, you learn to recognize when con artists are trying to play you, and you play them instead.” And, BOOM, Kate and Sawyer are out of the game. I guess the smoke monster might give him a little trouble, but the Burn Notice gang would end all the backstabbing in the Land of (the) Lost. Although, I would totally watch that crossover and buy the DVDs.


  5. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Matt – I haven’t seen a lot of Lost. But I’ve seen enough to know that as badass as Eko is, Adebisi could destroy him. Adebisi rules.

    (I’ll save you the trouble of Googling – Simon Adebisi is the character Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko) played on HBO’s prison series Oz. I wouldn’t really call Oz a “good” show, but it’s very entertaining. It’s about a prison where the inmates are totally free to wander around and socialize. Predictably, they all kill each other in horrible ways. It is without a doubt the stupidest prison ever.)


  6. stokes #

    Incidentally, Harold Perrineau (Micheal) also had a major role in Oz. He delivered an opening monologue in each episode, which usually boiled down to something like “Are we trapped on the Island? Or is the Island trapped on us? Think about it!”


  7. stokes #

    Re: Michael Westen, Matt is right. It is inconceivable that Westen et al would sit around punching in those numbers with their existential thumbs up their butts. The first episode of that nonsense, he would be tearing the hatch apart to figure out how the system worked. I won’t say whether that would be a good idea or not – I stopped watching the show right around this point, so I’m honestly not sure – but it would certainly speed things up.


  8. Saint #

    Burn Notice has got to be the most-referenced show in the comments that never gets an article.


  9. Saint #

    Nevermind. There was a gigantic article about Burn Notice just three weeks ago. I’m a doof.


  10. Gab #

    Re: Eko.

    Even if his character from “Oz” could beat him up, the way Eko stared down Smokey was just so mind-bogglingly badass that my mental diaper needed a change.


  11. Eric #

    Glad you used my suggested topic. I like your take on it. But keep in mind there may be other ideas of what fate or destiny itself is, not related to religion. Maybe fate is just knowing what will happen, not actually creating it.


  12. Gab #

    Whoa, I missed the third page… So one more thing about the race issue: The initiation videos are hosted by an Asian man. Does that count for anything?

    And another point: I can’t remember which man I preferred at this particular stage in the series; but now, after the most recent season finale, I’m tied between Sawyer and Desmond.

    So the big spoiler you were spoiled for hasn’t shown up yet?


  13. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Gab: No, the spoiler hasn’t shown up, though the events happening now in the episodes I’ve been watching suggest it might show up fairly soon.


  14. Tom P #

    The show kind of loses its way for a bit here as they figure out this storyline is not open-ended and they need to set an end point to avoid episodes where nothing happens (and there are quite a few of them between now and the middle of S3). Until they break out of that, just enjoy the awesomeness of Michael Emerson.


  15. John #

    I think “Henry Gale’s” scene towards the end of 2.16 is one of the key scenes all season 2. The one where he asks about where the food and the hatch comes from, and expresses surprise that the Losties aren’t more curious about the place they find themselves in. In essence, he points out that they have been asking the wrong questions.

    And as interesting as the parallels to “Lord of the Flies” may be, it might be worth overthinking the fact that this is a place where the crippled walk. Where some survive a plane crash with a few scrapes where most do not survive while strapped into their seats. Where a column of black smoke wanders the jungle killing some, and leaving others. A place in the South Pacific that freaking big that is somehow unnoticed by the outside world. The biggest question on the island is not “Jack vs Locke vs Sawyer,” although most of the time so far Jack, Locke and Sawyer might disagree.

    I like to make the parallel between this scene and the one in Season One where Michael and Jin are about to fight, and Locke bursts in with his “WE’RE NOT THE ONLY ONES HERE (FOOLS!)” speech. Our Losties like to be distracted with their own dramas whenever bigger issues rear their heads. In fact, the Losties make a habit of it.

    Con men, like magicians and some television writers, like to make a lot of noise to make sure you notice one of their hands. The real magic is taking place in the other hand.


  16. Eric #

    Well said, John.


  17. Jayemel #

    My comments for this week will be short and sweet and refer back to a couple previous entries.

    Last post, you mentioned people starting to question Jack’s power position. I’m extremely surprised you didn’t mention Sawyer’s speech in “The Long Con.”

    If you go back to my comment on your first post, I point out that, in contrast to the two you suggest, there are three places the characters can exist: the caves (with Jack), the jungle (with Locke), and the beach (with ??). Could the beach be with Sawyer? Do we have a third leader (and philosophical alternative) emerging? Is he intended to be more “American” than other characters?


  18. James T. #

    Interesting bit of trivia: the bit where Kate points out that John Locke is called John Locke was filmed but cut; probably they thought the reference was too painfully obvious already.


  19. manscaper #

    regarding your comments on race in Lost. If you’re watching on DVD be sure to watch the special features on season 1, specifically about casting. The show went out of their way to be open about race, even for specific characters. For instance the actress who plays Sun originally auditioned for Kate, but then they created the role of Sun for her to capitolize on her huge success in Korean films. Also Hurley originally auditioned for Sawyer…ect, most of the characters didn’t have an assigned race until the role was cast then the writers worked with the actor in mind (obviously, in case of somebody like Sayid there are exceptions)


  20. Dee Rush #

    In regard to the series’ approach on race, I suggest people should read Maureen Ryan’s book, “Burn It Down”. It’s very illuminating.


Add a Comment