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The Lost World
c is for cat
All right, Lost. We need to talk.

I'm going to try to get through this without any spoilers, just talking about the show in general terms. I do not consider it a spoiler to say that there are genre elements in Lost. But if you want no discussion of Lost at all or haven't watched anything and have somehow managed to avoid any information about the show at all and want to keep it that way, this entry is not for you.

Without further ado.

Lost, fuck you.

I'm not going to complain that you've been making shit up all along--I know you have and I expect that for long-term storytelling. It's fine. I'm not going to be like OMG WE WON'T GET ANSWERS IT'S JUST LIKE TWIN PEAKS because it's obvious we aren't getting answers and I don't need an Exposition Episode and Twin Peaks had kind of a badass ending that you just know Lost would never have the balls to try. But I do know what's wrong with Lost, particularly what's wrong with Lost this season, and I'm about to throw some truth down here.

Lost is a science fiction show.

Now, they haven't wanted that label from the beginning. First, they assured us that everything had a real-world explanation and it was not science fiction or fantasy at all. This is obviously crap at this point, but they continue to insist in multiple interviews that Lost is a character-driven drama and not a genre show at all.

Oh, I get why you don't want the badge, kids. It may get you the geek love but no one will call your show art and the big meanie procedurals and high-budget crime dramas will kick sand in your show's face and laugh at you. There is a genre bias enforced by this kind of bad storytelling and mealy-mouthed interview sidestepping crap. But Lost is science fiction or at least it fucking was until this season when we suddenly landed in magical fantasy land and got a Dark Lord and a freaking GLOWCAVE and vague mystical nonsense and this is my angry face. I don't normally come down on the side of "get this fantasy shit off my screen" but damn, yo. You cannot resolve a science fiction plot with glowelves and a Dark Master. and has been since episode one. Most of the problems with Lost have in fact been because its creators are, frankly, genre snobs, and refuse to believe that anyone is interested in the mysteries of the show but are instead merely invested in their "characters." I put that in sarcasto-quotes because these characters are terrible, boring, flat, and idiotic. And the only ones anyone was attached to are dead or sidelined. Thanks for killing off all the non-whites and non-males except Kate, too. They do not get that the only people still watching are people who are interested in the island mysteries because they are genre fans. Everyone else peaced out a long time ago.

Incidentally, it's not like Lost is alone in this. Every time some producer claims a show isn't science fiction while standing in front of a huge spaceship set baby robot Jesus cries. Yes, BSG, I'M TALKING TO YOU.

But here's the thing, guys. If you don't want to get tarred with the SF brush, you don't get to play with our toys, either. That means you do not get any of the following exciting action figures: monsters, immortal beings, time travel, alternate universes, glowcaves, Egyptian mythology, electromagnetic magic, insta-healing, psychic powers, Dark Lords, Lords of Light, magical touched by an angel fatecakes, teleportation, mystical islands, or bodily possession. Get your sticky hands off them--you'll only break them. Make a sitcom and shut up, if you want to howl about not being SF. Make a gritty procedural. Make Thirty-Something, I don't know. But don't make an SF show and then prance around telling everyone it's SUPER REALISTIC while trying to conceal your painful giant quantum rabbit erection. You can't trot out all those shiny SF baubles and then refuse to develop them or treat them seriously. I've said it before: the difference between realism and non-realism is that realism has no interest in consistent world-building or rules, or even making anything have narrative logic, because those artists think their work takes place in the real world and therefore requires none of these things. The real world is already built, yo. It doesn't need explanations.

That's why nothing in Lost makes sense. Because to make it make sense you have to admit it's a science fiction show and explain why things happen. You have to treat your own story with respect, and not just wave your hands in the air and blabber about your characters which you never bothered to make engaging in the first place BECAUSE YOU WERE WRITING A SCIENCE FICTION SHOW AND THE MYTHOLOGY MADE UP FOR THE LACK OF AWESOME CHARACTERS. Jesus, it's like Golden Age SF Excuse 101.

But the thing is, in their bitter, black hearts they know that the SF toys are COMPLETELY AWESOME. There is literally not a single realist show that could not be made more awesome by adding robots, monsters, time travel, or magic. You can try to come up with one, but you will fail. Why do you think Buffy and her unfortunately step-children The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, etc are so loved? Because they are 90210 with vampires, and that is better than just regular 90210. Likewise, Lost is Survivor with SF, and that's what made it great. The tropes are interesting and fascinating and they get the geeks in front of the television--and geeks will love you forever, even if you make bad art. Geeks forgive. Geeks endure. This is also why most long-running realist shows throw in a genre episode--under the guise of a dream sequence or a crazycapade or whatever--somewhere in there. These things make an audience hold their breath.

But in an attempt to avoid being genre-shamed Lost has been trampled into the ground and made truly terrible (I'm sorry, this season is just unforgiveable on the heels of the amazing Season 5) by what is, in essence, a bunch of loud kids running into the SF playroom and busting up all the toys because they don't know how to use them. I'm afraid the lesson of Lost will be the same as Twin Peaks and the X-Files: never make a mythology-based arc show because it will only end up disappointing the audience. No answers can ever satisfy.


The lesson should be: if you use SF tropes you have to treat them as seriously as you treat realist tropes. As you do character motivation and miscarriages and adultery. You wouldn't never reveal who someone had an affair with--that would be stupid storytelling. Or much less reveal their face but never give them a name. That makes the audience disengage. Causation exists. Treat the SF in your show as a character. If the SF travels in time, then you have to close all the time loops and make a stab at having it be important to the overall narrative. If the SF makes people immortal, you have to give us the how and why and more importantly how it affects them. Just like if a person in your story got pregnant, she would eventually have to have the baby or people would be upset and confused. Do the characters get closure? Then the SF gets closure. You don't just get to drop things like they're hot because they're the SF parts so you think they don't matter.

Damn. I don't want Lost to kill arc-y shows and make people be all smug about that shit so all we have left on TV is episodic procedurals where everything is the same every week in case someone tunes in to something they've never seen before and jumps out a window in panic and terror. But it will. It and BSG, with that unforgiveable ending. Just know, from here on in, when someone says their show isn't science fiction when it obviously is, what they mean is their show isn't good. Lies do not become us, gentlemen.

Lastly, Darlton, please stop giving interviews because you guys sound like jerks and you can't even remember what you said/promised/insisted about this show last week. Moffat, you too.

I agree SO much with this. It reminds me of all the books that are reviewed as OMGawesome!and!new! by mainstream reviewers because those reviewers have assiduously avoided anything with the genre label. So when something like Kazuo Ishiguro's clone story comes along, it's well-written, but only a revelation to those who pretend that no one can play with clones and still be, you know, artists.

How do you feel about the direction that Alias took with the Rambaldi plots?

I liked the Rambaldi stuff ok until it was taken over by terrible writing in S4--I never even watched S5. But Alias made itself a fantasy/sf show with it, make no mistake.

Excellent rant.

Last week's interview with the creators was also surprisingly sucky. Turns out they wanted to introduce the crazy fantasy sidewind stuff so that they can make sure people know that the Smoke Monster is TOTES EVIL.

I don't even know why they felt they needed to make the point, and especially not by killing the last Asians on the show all in one episode. o.O

Seriously--though why it should be so important to have no ambiguity or interesting moral grey to the show is beyond me. The side universe bores the shit out of me and almost no one I care about is left. Desmond, but he's all happy zombie now.

I tried to watch Lost when it began, and couldn't get past the characters enough to even pay much attention to the one episode I watched.
Recently, I tried to watch the Pilot or first episode or whatever on Hulu or Netflix. Same deal. I just did not care, but in the back of my mind I still thought "maybe I should give it another chance sometime". Your post has just changed my mind on that. I'm not going to waste my time with the show if this is how its creators are treating it. Meh. And it's really too bad because so many people I know have been so in love with this show.

I love it! Right up until this season when the abandoned everything that made it good and went for Lord of the Rings lite.

I don't know what happened, I felt like last season there was a flurry of articles like this one basically stating the show was outing itself as sci-fi. Which made me feel good, and happy with every one, and amused that Evangeline Lilly doesn't get the mythology, because obviously, neither does Kate.

...to say it's not sci-fi now seems... back-tracky.

Well it's kind of fantasy now. They've backtracked and gone back on what they said before so many times--it's always been SF. Also, they said we'd get the MIB's name and that it was a HUGE REVEAL and now they're like: why would you care about that? We're never going to tell you. How weird that you would even think of it.

Indeed. Basically, it's that the writers are still emotionally in junior high, worrying that their love of science fiction and fantasy will result in yet another locker room wedgie. If they'd recognize they're adults and that having a backbone might pay off for more than just them, well... But no, "no one" wants science fiction. That's totally why it became a hit, obviously.

It became a hit because of Kate and Jack and Sawyer OBVIOUSLY. EVERYONE LOVES LOVE TRIANGLES.

I feel that I'm fairly easily entertained because that's just the kind of person that I am, so I haven't been hating this season as much as everyone else is. But you're absolutely right. This is so not the show I started watching six years ago. I made a deal with myself to hold my tongue and see how the season ended, but with this whole "magical light" in the Island... yeah.

Whatevs, we can rant on Sunday. I think a lot of us will be.

They said it wasn't sci-fi? I knew it was going to be sci-fi about half-past the pilot. (Which I then stopped watching because I knew it'd devolve into X-Files-land and three kinds of stupid aliens and massively ridiculous coupleship. I hate being right.)

They've said many times it's not. And then when they started with the time travel they were like but it's still not a genre show it's all about the chaaaaaaracters.

Also, no aliens, and really, the shipping is pretty minimal onscreen. No one's together right now.

Just like if a person in your story got pregnant, she would eventually have to have the baby or people would be upset and confused.

Now I want to see this written. I... think I'm missing the point. :/

No, you're just a genre reader. You wonder "Oooh, what would happen if..." and want to follow the logic through to someplace interesting. :-)

It would totally make an interesting story. (I believe that usually, IRL, the answer is induced labor and/or Caeserian section. What would make that impossible...?)

I seriously stopped keeping up with the show after the 3rd season. My interest in TV as a whole has really waned and it's the sort of show that's hard to get back into if you've missed anymore than 2 episodes in a row. But I do plan on catching up eventually and am still interested in where the show has gone since I stopped watching it.
I hated the supposedly important characters as well, apart from Locke. Kate, Jack, Sawyer = YAWN CITY. Saying the show is all about the characters is so incredibly dumb I don't even know what to say. Like, I love stories that are focused on characters and grow from that level, but come on guys, this is LOST! The hook isn't just the characters, it's the situation the characters are in and the whole mystery of the island and all the awesome things that might be lurking on it. Face it, you're writing SF suspense and there's nothing wrong with that!

Also, I've often thought that most TV series would work better with limited runs, like what they do in Britain. Shows with mythology-based arcs especially.

Well, they limited themselves to 6 seasons and the sixth is by far the worst. Terrible writing, flaccid storytelling.

Also I'd say the lure was never the characters at all, ever. It was always the mystery.

I didn't think LOST was SF in the first episode. It seemed more like fantasy, with ghosts appearing, a smoke monster, crippled people walking, etc. I don't think it took a turn toward science fiction until they got inside the hatch, really. And I was fine with it, because I figured the creators were totally trying to trick mundanes into watching genre, as Abrams did with Alias. I was thrilled when they brought Desmond's time travel into it--you don't get much more SF than that. (Though it reminded me of Slaughterhouse Five, which of course is a literary novel.) Parallel universes? Sign me up. I can't believe they're trying to pass this off as anything else.

That said, I have always cared more about the characters than anything else, including the mysteries of the island. Even though they don't always do a great job with them, this is why I didn't mind the slow slog of Season 3, because they were expanding on the characters' backstory.

In a show about faith, I still hope they can surprise me in the end. The rampant mysticism doesn't sit well with me, but at least it was established fairly early, as opposed to the last minute WTF of Battlestar Galactica.

Edited at 2010-05-19 08:53 pm (UTC)

Which characters do you care about? The only ones I like are Desmond, Juliet, Daniel...well, that's kind of it.

" There is literally not a single realist show that could not be made more awesome by adding robots, monsters, time travel, or magic."

So right. Which makes me think that the logical next step, especially now that Law & Order is off the air (or at least not producing new eps) would be a crime/courtroom procedural with science fictional and/or supernatural stuff being real and acknowledged. I'd say it couldn't miss, but admittedly it would need some really smart writers who could figure out how the legal system might accommodate to the reality of time travel or real working curses, or how a forensic witch might work, and so on.

"Law & Order & Zombies, coming this Fall on NBC!"

I'd say it couldn't miss, but admittedly it would need some really smart writers who could figure out how the legal system might accommodate to the reality of time travel or real working curses, or how a forensic witch might work, and so on.

I nominate the Shadow Unit staff. Heck, maybe I just nominate Shadow Unit.

Of course, it's already been done in comics: http://www.webcomicsnation.com/supernaturallaw/

But that just demonstrates how cool it could be, and it strikes me that it would make for a short and snappy pitch as well.

This entry made me laugh!

There's a glowcave in Lost now?

You've got me thinking though... a party where all the genres turn up as guests. SF, fantasy, romantic comedy, gritty police drama, thiller, horror, extraextraemo etc. Who gets drunk and fights with who? Who holes up in the kitchen raiding the fridge?

I bet someone's done it already though:)

..... am I lucky I never got started with this?