Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The power of nature in Lost

Lost is a brilliant show in that it's one of the few well-executed attempts to "multi-layer". In other words, there are so many different ways to look at the show, even to the point that authors were convinced for a while that the show was, in fact, a video game. They have backed off of that a bit and claim that the show is merely set up like a video game - and this is particularly true if you listen to the dialog closely and realize that everyone is in different roles at all different times. This "multi-layering" is part of what makes the show appealing to so many; sure, you need to follow the events of the show, but the viewer can become as involved as he or she likes, and still gain satisfaction from viewing. Satisfaction, of course, is relative to just how much information we learn before cutting to black each week and having to wait seven more days for answers - or, in some cases, months.

Obviously, the "Godfather" on the show is John Locke. This is confirmed in the first episode when we see Locke smile at Kate with an orange peel in his mouth, much like the similar occurrence in the Godfather, when Vito did the same to his grandson.

The most rewarding part of Lost for me, is that the show has made the island itself a character. This is the producer's way of inviting nature into the show. Boone, a character from Season 1, needed to die as it was "a sacrifice the island demanded". Some viewed this Season 1 quote from Locke as insane, but others who view nature as a cycle and a process we are merely a part of and not above, don't fear death in the same way. Boone's death was a device. This is confirmed when Locke & Jack have the conversation about Boone, during which Locke says, "Boone was a sacrifice that the island demanded. What happened to him at that plane was a part of a chain of events that led us here -- that led us down a path -- that led you and me to this day, to right now." Whether or not one believes in destiny or actual sacrifices, the point is the same: Boone's death was necessary for the eventual strengthening of the survivors (or, through the video game lens, was a necessary step to advance to the next "level".)

The most obvious application of nature on the show also occurred during Season 1, when Charlie, very weak and drug-sick, has his drugs taken from him by Locke so he can go "cold-turkey" off of heroin. Locke allows Charlie three attempts to get his drugs back from Locke, and on the third time, Locke says he will give the drugs to Charlie. In the end, the result is the same; Charlie will die of an OD, or will be forced to rehab eventually (assuming the survivors have to stay on the island a long time). Charlie, in his addictive state, doesn't realize this of course. So Locke shows him a moth cocoon to depict how Charlie should embrace his struggle rather than reject it.

Locke: [Talking to Charlie about a moth cocoon] You see this little hole? This moth's just about to emerge. It's in there right now, struggling. It's digging it's way through the thick hide of the cocoon. Now, I could help it - take my knife, gently widen the opening, and the moth would be free - but it would be too weak to survive. Struggle is nature's way of strengthening it.

Since the island is a character and also happens to be the place the survivors have to live, it is very different from modern society, where one can get drugs, gasoline, television, and foods enriched with sweeteners and preservatives, many times all on the same street corner (or "strip mall", as we now call it). The island represents nature in all its terrifying glory; it shows the characters certain things, it decides who lives and who dies, and it is represented by black smoke that cannot be captured or tricked. Unfortunately, some people will make the obvious parallel here to a Christian or Jewish "God", a singular consciousness in the sky deciding the fate of people with a snap of the fingers. I choose not to take this approach (both in life and on the show), but again, since the producers have to produce both ratings and a well-executed show, some temptations are hard to resist when trying to apply Island life to the viewers' everyday lives.

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