Tuesday, June 10, 2008
lost: an open letter of criticism
Dear Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse,
I have been a fan of Lost since Season 1, and I have done my fair share of recruiting other fans under the assurance that Lost was the greatest show on television. Unfortunately, you have lost that title to Battlestar Galactica (a title that previously belonged to Firefly). Season 1 showcased a wonderful display of contemporary binaries - faith vs. logic, leader vs. follower, male vs. female, passive vs. aggressive - and the characters were more realistic (which is ironic considering the characters had very little background in the beginning, a tabula rasa indeed). Whereas Season 1 dealt with the reconstruction of a civilized society (focusing primarily on self-assigned identity vs. culturally-defined identity - via Kate the Fugitive and Locke the Disabled), Season 2 focused on the protection of that society, giving the Losties a newfound 'togetherness' (as a single entity rather than individuals with specific archetypal duties) that was lacking during the reconstruction. Season 3 lost a lot of fans, but I stuck around because Michael Emerson is so frakkin' amazing and because it introduced the idea of time-travel through Desmond's clairvoyance. But Season 4 completely disregarded all that was set up in previous seasons... and here are the specific problems I have with the show:
1. Slow-Motion-Instrumental-Music-No-Talking Scenes.
Every week, Lost has a slow-motion-instrumental-music-no-talking scene. These three aspects loudly signify that the audience should be crying, and this method is used whenever someone leaves the Losties (Season 1 finale on the raft), returns or reunites with someone (seen often, but most recently used when the Oceanic 6 are reunited with their families), or someone dies (ha, so many to name... but Charlie's death stands out). Peter Jackson overused this cinematic technique in all LotR films, and now Lost is bludgeoning the technique. Why not use a close-up of a character, showcasing raw emotion (total despair or complete jubilation - which you only seem to execute with scenes regarding Desmond's relationship with Penny...)? I find it hard to believe that every character is happy/excited/sad/scared at the same time. Take the time to isolate certain characters during 'big' scenes like these. And get rid of the slow motion. Don't tell me to be sad... make me feel sad by honest development. No more tricks.
2. Does curiosity not exist on the island anymore?
Ben says the Orchid Station involves 'time-traveling bunnies' and Locke just says okey-dokey? The orientation video says not to put metal in the machine and Locke just (barely) mutters, 'Uh, huh, maybe you shouldn't do that...'? Really, Locke is going to be the new leader of the Others? He's not much of a leader. (And no, shooting Naomi on such little evidence does not make him a leader.) This aspect of the show has bothered me since the Losties met the Others back in Season 2 and Jack didn't ask Mr. Friendly any questions. No 'Who are you and what the heck is this place?' No 'How convenient that you speak English too!' It just seems like situations arrive and no one investigates. People know that something is amiss or that people are acting shady, but no one actually verbalizes anything. I really doubt that people would be so internal and quiet about their concerns. Kate goes to Jack with her concerns and he ignores her... so why doesn't she turn to someone else? Why are there 14 major characters and only half of them do anything? Bernard was given a gun last season; why isn't he asking questions? 'If Rose is happy here, then so am I' is fine (and romantic), but it doesn't mean he can't ask questions. Have people become accustomed to the Smoke Monster? Just because a few of the characters have seen it doesn't mean that the other characters are no longer curious about it. And I know you guys understand this problem because you use Hurley to wink at the audience. Like when Ben tells Locke's camp that Michael is his spy on the boat - Hurley says, "Yeah, we knew a while ago, dude.' That doesn't fix the problem. Hurley brings up major questions and just accepts a change of subject? Unacceptable.
3. The dialogue is remarkably unrealistic.
Why aren't people more upset about the deaths on the island? People hated Michael for killing Ana Lucia and Libby, okay, but upon seeing Michael again, no one thought he would kill them too? Michael set sail in a boat with his kid; why wouldn't the characters assume he was a bad person with flexible morals? In my opinion, Ben is the only character allowed to be vague. As a fugitive, I would understand Kate being secretive or talking in lies, but she doesn't and she's too in people's faces to be as passive as she is. Ana Lucia is the character Kate should have been. (FYI: I think Kate is the worst written character, the most inconsistent, and the most annoying... but that's an entire post on its own.) So Ben can be vague to Jack or Sawyer or Hurley or whoever... but not Locke! Locke is his successor so leaving out the back door without so much as crumbs is ridiculous. Jack - the only person to ever show concern for sustainability on the island - abandoned his original purpose by saying, 'Whatever Juliet says, I believe her.' Okay, trust is great and the friendship is sweet, but Jack can trust Juliet and still ask, 'Why were Charlotte and Daniel trying to gas us/save us?'
And how is Sawyer so knowledgeable? He makes wonderful cultural references that are fun to spot, but it remains to be understood how he knows so much - like, why would/when did he read Of Mice and Men? Was literary intelligence part of his training in the Art of Con? Why does Kate only say things that further the plot? Why doesn't she talk like a normal person having a conversation? The last time I saw a realistic conversation on the island was revolving Jin-Sun-Michael. It made sense that Michael's friendship with Sun would be misinterpreted as flirtation by her husband, his jealousy (and subsequent fighting) was justified. But when was the last time the characters were fleshed out so well? Now, I understand that the show is not entirely realistic - time travel, anyone? - but the characters are set up to be realistic, and so, even if their situations aren't realistic, they should at least have realistic dialogue. Instead, I feel as though the storyboard gets multiple rewrites and the dialogue passes on first drafts.
4. The Jack-Sawyer Switcharoo.
Jack and Sawyer switched roles. In the beginning, Jack was the leader (though not self-appointed) who put others before himself, and Sawyer was the jerk who made Kate kiss him if she wanted to know where Shannon's asthma medicine was. Am I to believe that Kate changed these men a full 180 degrees? Now, Jack is the guy who will do anything to get off the island and is blinded by his love for Kate, and Sawyer is jumping out of helicopters and protecting Claire? I'm not saying it doesn't make sense, because it does; it's understandable that these characters would grow in these directions. I just don't understand why it happened. It makes sense that Jack would be so overwhelmed by his leader status that he would eventually become selfish... but he's still not selfish. He's just narrowly concerned about certain people. Because the show set up a close bond between Jack and Juliet, I thought those two would scheme on their own... but they haven't and they won't. Why set that up if it wasn't going to develop? (And why, in the future/present, does Jack want to go back to the island? Because of guilt? Because he sees the ghost of his father? Jack just isn't the type to break down... so they better develop that rather than just lazily assigning his breakdown to visions and guilt.) And it makes sense that Sawyer would become protective of Freckles, but Claire? He never had a close relationship with her, with Aaron, or with Charlie. (Speaking of Charlie, why was Hurley all of a sudden Charlie's BFF? Why didn't Desmond, who was the last person Charlie communicated with (big moment!), speak up after his death? Desmond was silent the whole Season 4 premiere.) Sawyer has always been a loner hero - but in a confident, arrogant, insecure kind of way. He didn't want others to help him because of his pride. But there was no reason for him to all of a sudden take Claire under his wing.
5. The Laziest Use of Freud and Philosophy.
It's not just that everyone has daddy issues - Hurley, Claire, Jack, Kate, Ben, Sun, Locke, and Sawyer - but it's that 'daddy issues' is the explanation for why these characters act like they do. It's as though the writers read Ch. 22 of Idiot's Guide to Psychology and based a MAJORITY of the characters off of ONE psychology term. Why can't a character just have a fear of intimacy? Why does that have to relate back to a missing father? Why can't a character just be arrogant and reclusive? Why does it have to be because his father was killed? Why can't a man just want to be a better man? Why does it have to relate back to his father challenging him rigorously? And at the beginning, the use of philosopher's names was cute (and it made sense because of how influential The Social Contract/noble savage and The Two Treatises of Government/human nature were) - and I felt intelligent for knowing who each of them were - BUT now it's just ridiculous. Rousseau and Locke were obvious but they were only two at the beginning. But then came Desmond David Hume? Jeremy Bentham? Mikhail Bakunin? And most of the time the characters don't relate to the names, or, if they do, it's a limited relation. And what's even the point of changing Locke's name to Bentham? Just to confuse the audience? Just to throw them off? It's just lazy. The characters can be summed up as "So-and-so is that way because of Daddy Issues..." and the use of philosophers is officially overkill.
Now, Luke Skywalker had daddy issues...