Wednesday, May 13, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, thoughts on the first season

So what all happened during the first season of LOST?

1. Oceanic 815 crashed onto the island
2. Pieces of each of the main surviving characters' stories were told through flashbacks
3. The survivors found ways to live together but weren't rescued
4. Dangers such as polar bears, a mysterious monster made of black smoke, and a group of others living on the island threatened the survivors' lives repeatedly
5. A secret hatch was found, uncovered, and blown open
6. A small group of the survivors built a raft and left the island to seek rescue

LOST as a unique frame story:

In the book Getting LOST (edited by Orson Scott Card), Evelyn Vaughn identifies the narrative of LOST as a "frame story," similar to literary works she has studied such as Boccaccio's Decameron or The Canterbury Tales (56). These stories are composed of different inner stories and narrated from multiple accounts but focus on one central event that maintains the theme that unites everything. In LOST's case, the plane crash could be seen as the one central uniting event, but the island itself needs to be identified as more than just a setting---certainly it's a unique environment but with time we see that it's also a container and character, with both healing and threatening properties whereby all the various happenings throughout the season are made possible. No other known environment could manage this narrative; LOST has given viewers something never before seen.

Of course there would be no show without the initial crash, but many of the happenings on the island (the smoke monster, the polar bears, Ethan) were presumably carrying on with whatever they had been doing beforehand, making the island itself seem overall more important (and more of a framing device) than just the crash. Thus, the island becomes the show's central uniting factor and survival (from starvation, from the monster, from Rousseau, from the others), its theme. One almost gets the sense of a sort of updated collection of Twilight Zone episodes within a contained universe, each featuring a different survivor but revealing and linking several commonalities as the episodes build toward their shared conclusion.

Philosophy on the island:

It's difficult to pin any one character down to any clearly defined philosophy. Chief among the obvious differences in philosophy of the survivors are Locke's devotion to faith and Jack's to science, but as we've seen through several episodes, there's more than meets the eye with both men, their respective experiences, and how they approach leading. Locke, having experienced the miracle of his own healing after crashing on the island, is more trusting and intuitive toward this new environment. He respects the island and its mystery, almost blindly, but also considers the needs of individual survivors over the larger group's best interests in the spirit of Emmanuel Kant (discussing Jack's issues with Christian in "White Rabbit," Walt's desire to be involved in hunting in "Special," and Boone's separation from Shannon in "Hearts and Minds"). Does he do this because he is trying to treat each person as ends and not means or simply because he just happens to know what's best for them? Maybe both, maybe his faith in himself is as strong as his faith in the island.

Jack also focuses devotedly on the individual in providing medical care (shown mostly in his handling of Boone's injury and subsequent death in "Do No Harm," but also in several of his flashbacks throughout the series and in the situation with the dying marshal early on). Both Locke and Jack have shown they are able to make decisions for the group and have done so with a utilitarian approach (do what will bring the best outcome for the greatest number of people), but the motivation for these decisions, especially in regard to dealing with each other, seems to be frequently at odds. Worth mentioning of course is the use of the name "John Locke" as one of the main characters; the philosopher John Locke believed in the freedom of men and their will to live according to reason within the state of nature. The idea of a "Tabula Rasa," (blank slate) was something he explored in his writings, and was used fittingly early on in the series as the survivors struggled to adapt to their new surroundings. If Locke is patterned after the real John Locke's philosophy, what, if anything does this mean for Jack?

Exodus, part 3
Exodus, part 2
Exodus, part 1
Born to Run
The Greater Good
Do No Harm
Deus Ex Machina
In Translation
Hearts and Minds
Whatever the Case May Be 
All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues
Raised by Another 
Confidence Man
The Moth
House of the Rising Sun
White Rabbit 
Tabula Rasa
Pilot, part 2
Pilot, part 1