Monday, May 31, 2010

Lost on Lost

While scanning through some TV show recordings that have piled up the past few months, I happened to catch stretches of the Lost finale. I was reminded of why I never watched this show. I had, like the characters themselves apparently, no clue what was going on, despite the highly distracting running commentary along the bottom of the screen.

I can't really criticize the show effectively, since I never watched more than a few minutes of any episode. But it certainly appears at a casual glance to have been an agglomeration of nonsensical purple prose and over-the-top acting.

Worse, I can't escape the feeling that the whole thing was an outgrowth of that most dreadful of aesthetic principles: muddy the waters to make them appear deep. In this case, they appear to have been stirred up thoroughly and mixed with large helpings of too-pretty and too-ugly people combined with a dollop of weepy alternated with lots of teeth gnashing.

Not my kind of show, for sure.


Anonymous said...

I watched the first two seasons of Lost and then dispensed with it because it looked like Abrams had dispensed with causality entirely. (Heroes suffered from the same problem.) Peikoff pointed out in one of the original objectivism lectures that the essence of soap operas was that they did away with plot; that is, the reasoned causal approach to the progression of events. If I remember correctly he parodied soaps as a woman falling love and then killing her lover and having amnesia and then having a sex change operation and so on and on. Just episodic occurences without regard for why or how.

Abrams' work tends toward that approach. I once described his writing style as throwing random spitballs at the wall and then going with what sticks. Because he never ties up a plot point and when it gets to complicated, he just starts a new one in hopes that we will be distracted long enough to never realize he never resolves anything.

For instance, in "Alias" there is an episode where the team recovers a technological artifact built by a renaissance inventor on the order of Da Vinci. From the context one has to assume that the artifact is reovered from the place the inventor had left it, 400 years before. This place just happens to be in an ice cave under a glacier floating on a body of water. And we are supposed to believe that it sat there for 400 years!

There were only two ways that this could have been resolved. 1. Time travel where the inventor had place it in situ shortly before the team recovered it. 2. The device generates some sort of stasis field that keeps change from occuring in its immediate vicinity. Because, of all the unstable geological situations, an ice cave under a glacier on top of a body of water has to rate pretty high.

Abrams never answered that. And in many subsequent episodes similar things occurred. It's almost like Abrams treats causality like soap operas treat characterization.

Two seasons into "Lost" I realized he was doing it again. So I stopped wasting my time.

I liked your summary description, "Muddying the waters to make them appear deep." I think that is the best characterization of Abrams style that I've yet heard.

C. Andrew

Jeff Perren said...

Thanks C. Andrew for your comment and welcome to Shaving Leviathan.

I can't claim that phrase is original with me. It's a classic, though I can't remember where I first read it years and years ago. It sounds like G.K. Chesterton, but I hadn't read him back then.


madmax said...

Good comment on Lost C.Andrew. I actually watched the show to its end and while it was mildly entertaining it was a philosophic trainwreck. The conflict b/w reason and faith ended up a total victory for faith. Reason? What's that? The show spit on reason. Also, the show ended up explicitly glorifying altruism. One of the main characters ends up being an updated version of Jesus Christ.

In the end, Lost was a fantasy epic modeled on Lord of the Rings or Narnia. In fact, the more I think of it, I see it as a modernized version of Lord of the Rings with the Island being a stand in for Middle Earth. The plot ended up being a battle between the forces of good versus the agent of darkness to protect the island. And the ultimate victory over evil required the self-sacrifice of a selfless, faith-driven man. And all of this set to touching music designed to pull at the heart strings.

It was the perfect show for our culture and our era.

Here's some funny humor showing how bad the writing of Lost really was:

VH said...

I'm with you, Jeff. And C. Andrew gave the best comment to "Lost" that I have read. I watched the series for the first two seasons and was frustrated with everything being open-ended all the time. I moved on.