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!