Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lost Musings


I've just watched the season premiere of Lost, and it was epic in its awesomeness. But while I digest which parts I really want to talk about (The Last Temptation of Hurley, or Hugo Reyes & the Hotpocket of Doom), I had a more general thought.

I read a couple of message boards, and I follow the Lost threads at Television Without Pity pretty faithfully during the season. There are some terrific theories to be found there, and, bless their hearts, they do a lot of the heavy lifting of finding screencaps or catching tidbits that I missed to help further my discussions with Mark. But sometimes you see a post along the lines of "God, I hate how [character X] was acting tonight. It was totally off-base," and this response:"Well, [producer, writer, or showrunner of the moment] created that character, so they would know best. It's their character, not yours."

I see the logic of this, I really do. But as a semi-recovered Xena fan who had some serious issues with how that all went down, I think I have to disagree.

On the one hand, yes, of course, they created that character out of whatever font such creations come from. The character would not exist without them, and would not be the same character if someone else had created it. And if these creations were hermetically sealed in that mythological mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnall's porch, I wouldn't have a leg to stand on here.

But they're not sealed away. They've been set loose on their own, for better or worse, and that's how we encounter them. Think about it. If a different actor played the part, it would be a different character. If a different writer wrote that episode, it would be a different character (the difference might be minute, but it would be there). If a different director directed that episode, it would be a different character. Is it too much of a leap to posit that we, the audience, have a claim on these characters, too? After all, with a different audience, there would be different feedback, and the plot & characters would spin off in a different way.

And Lost in particular caters to their audience. They tease and drop hints in places only the truly rabid would notice. They create real-world games to amuse the faithful in the off-season. They interact with fans via email, blogs, videos, and message boards. And I believe that this interaction has an influence, however small, on the final product. Remember Nikki & Paolo? Remember the awful attempts to ret-con them into the show's mythology? TPTB may deny it, but when it was clear that Nikki & Paolo were a terrible mis-step, they were summarily 86'd via an arachnid ex machina so ridiculous it was never referred to again.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that my take on Character X is right and its creator's is wrong. But I am saying that other interpretations of the events of the show and how the characters carry them forward have some validity, and we have every right to spit nails if, say Demon & Curse keep saying things like, "Jack is the man Kate should be with; he'd be good for her," or if Libby disappears off the face of the earth with no explanation of her connection to Hurley or if Rousseau is killed after promises of backstory but before any backstory is given.

The showrunners have the final say on how the events will turn out. We can't control that. But we can certainly look at that final product and make our own decisions about what it all means, even if our conclusions don't always agree with theirs. The beauty of Lost is that it encourages and expects a level of participation from its audience, and that's one of the reasons I keep coming back, even when characters or events or creator commentary infuriate me.

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