Academic Writing

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Getting Lost

So I recently took on the task of catching up on all 5+ seasons of ABC’s mega-hit Lost. Why you ask? Well, to begin I should preface this by saying over the past 5 years I have been adamantly against watching this show. I had seen an episode back in its inaugural season and hated it. I was bored, confused and unimpressed. But over the years with all its great press, buzz and my friends going on and on about it, I’ll admit to a little bit of Lost FOMO. So when I stumbled upon the entire series on, I figured I’d give it a shot. My friend Elana and I decided to take on this task together so we’d be able to bounce conspiracy theories off each other and try to navigate our way through the series. It was going to be great, we’d watch a few episodes on our own or get together a few times a week and watch a couple of episodes here or there with the hope that we’d be done in time for the series finale.

I watched the first episode on February 3rd and was intrigued. The narrative structure of the show is arranged in such a way that the viewer is actively engaged in the story line. The characters were interesting, covering a litany of personalities and character types. The show is a pure televisual experience, utilizing all facets of the medium, stimulating in sight, sound and story. I instantly recognized that this was not a show during which I could multitask; it would require my full attention. When I get home at night and begin to go through my DVR, rarely do the shows get my full attention. They have to share the time with cooking dinner, blowdrying my hair, talking on the phone, doing homework and cleaning my room. However, when I tried to do this with Lost, I was utterly confused and had to rewind. I also realized that I would not be able to only watch one or two episodes at a time.

After 2 days I found myself on episode 7 of season one and I was entirely hooked. When I checked in with Elana to see how she was doing, she had barely finished the first episode, and I realized that I was on my own. Survival of the fittest, if she can’t handle the intense Lost-watching schedule I had already decided I was about to undertake then she was left behind. Sorry honey, live together, die alone! Another friend, Dov, had been a fan since the beginning so he became my sounding board for all my ideas and questions.

I must say, I don’t know if I could have done it without his help. Every episode introduced a slew of new questions and he helped me sort through those which were going to be important trends (like what’s the deal with those numbers?! What is that smoke monster thing? Why can’t anyone find them? Who keeps stealing people? And on and on…) and then there were the not so important ones which he helped me get out of my head (Why does it rain all the time?) Most of our communications took place over gchat, and sometimes when I needed him the most (I can’t believe he just killed them! is she really dead, like forever? Who are those people in the village?! Or I KNEW we’ve seen Desmond before) and he wasn’t there I would just send him the messages anyway so when he signed online he’d be barraged with a million “while you were offline” messages. Thankfully he was happy to oblige in my craziness and he answered all my questions, always making sure never to give away crucial plot points. He also filled me in along the way with what I missed from the Lost blogosphere and the fanboy culture that grew around it. He also filled me in on Lost trivia. Thanks Dov, now I can’t get my receipt from the cab without PTSD of Smokey attacks.

All was going well with my schedule and I was averaging a season per week. At this point I had hopes of catching up well before season 6 was in full swing and maybe I’d even start reading all those blogs, in REAL TIME! When, suddenly, in the middle of season 2 when suddenly what all internet viewers dread the most occurred…Buffering. Hulu stalled buffered for seconds, even minutes on end! What was a girl to do! Thankfully, Dovie was there once again with his DVD collection. Seasons 1-4…what more could I ask for? I went over on Saturday night and got seasons 2 and 3 from him. That weekend happened to be President’s Day weekend and I had a full schedule of things that needed to get done, schoolwork, apartment stuff, etc all had to get done. Too bad I spent the majority of the time watching Lost. Lying in bed with remote in hand I kept saying to myself after episode after episode ended that its ok, just one more and then I’ll go to bed. Suddenly it was 4 am and the birds were chirping and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer to find out what would happen with Ben’s surgery or with Sawyer’s pacemaker, so I went to sleep. The next morning I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer, so another 3 or 4 episodes ensued before I got that “too much TV” crankiness and headache and realized I should probably get some fresh air before nightfall. And plus, I knew I had a whole other day to watch, and that my schoolwork and trip to the library would just have to wait.

I finished season 3 by the time Tuesday rolled around. My friends who were all keeping up with my progress were impressed and little shocked by the speed in which I was getting through the episodes. At one point after hearing “last week on Lost” blast from the DVD, my roommate, Mira, said from behind her closed door, Judith, you’re a machine. I couldn’t get enough. By this time I had my own theory on the metaphors for the show. Probably based on my upbringing, I began to see the show as an allegory for the Arab/Israeli conflict. The show is about the survivors of a crash who are now on this land without any way to get back and they are being tormented and tortured by those who claim they were there before them. These so called “others” had made the island their home and saw it as theirs. However, they neglect to acknowledge that neither were they the native inhabitants of the land and that Ben actually had killed off those who came before him in favor for the other “others,” a group still not understood. However, as the seasons progressed we learn that the crash survivors were actually brought to the island for a reason; they were meant to be there to protect and serve the land, much like the way the Zionists felt in regard to when they came to Israel. They were there to cultivate the land that now belongs to them after years of being in exile. While not a perfect analogy and I won’t be able to fully work it out until the series has ended, it does fit quite nicely. There’s even a temple which seems to have healing powers surrounded by a protective wall, a clear allegory to the Jewish temple. Hopefully I will have more worked out as the season comes to a close. We shall see.

About a week later, I was all caught up. Done by March 3 and ready to join the rest of the Lost world in progress. I had begun DVRing in preparation for this momentous day. My first episode in real time was Lighthouse, where Hurley and Jack learn more about the island and possibly why they are there. It was definitely a strange feeling watching it along with the rest of the world. Among the oddities was not being able to IM Dov and ask him what the heck was going on! He didn’t know either and this was really strange, no one knew anything and people were asking all the same questions I was with no possible answer. I was used to having the answers at my fingertips if I wanted them. had become an off-limits zone so I wouldn’t come across any unwanted spoilers. Now I found myself researching all I could to have as much of a grasp on everything so I wouldn’t be overly confused.

FAIL! I was overly confused. This was partly due to plot becoming so muddled and complicated. Another factor was due to my Lost binge and I was having a hard time retaining some of the details. Someone compared it to cramming before a test: you spend a short amount of time getting all the details into your brain during this massive binge right before you purge that information out onto a test. However, there was no single test to purge the information, so it just sorta seeped out. I now find myself more confused than I would had I had a real opportunity to watch each episode, let a week or even a season go by so it could sink in. So now I find myself going back and watching clips of old episodes and barely remembering those episodes even happened. But, it’s all ok because I still have Dov and now Doc Jensen to lead me through to salvation, if those Lost producers ever give it to me.

Oh, and I think Elana is still on season one. Only the strong survive!

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