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The show’s non-linear structure is comprised of character flashbacks and flash-forwards that contain a thematic relevance to the situations that occur on the island.
Back to the Future, to the Past, and to the Present In season 5, the crypto-drama further complicated it’s narrative structure by employing a frenetic time-travel element. This device begs the viewers to constantly ask themselves “When Are We?”
Each survivor harbors their own dark secrets and confront their own personal demons on the island. These shifting protagonists can be viewed upon as tragic failures before the crash of Oceanic 815.
Born To Run Jack Shepard-Issues with father/failed marriage Kate Austen-fugitive/wanted for murder James “Sawyer” Ford-Confidence artist who utilized “the long con” to swindle money from his marks. John Locke-suffers a life altering experience at the hands of his father. Also worked with drug dealers and experienced a series of failures that made his pre-island life to be immersed in misery.
Strangers in a Strange Land Initially, the survivors are strangers. As the show continues, the audience discovers an existence of connections between various characters.
Building a Mystery The island presents mysterious elements and secret societies that initiate fan gossip. These elements include: The Smoke Monster The Mysterious French Woman The Black Rock Jacob The Hatch Secret Society s1-The Losties Secret Society s2-The Tailies Secret Society s3-The Others Secret Society s4-The Freighter People Secret Society s5-The Dharma Initiative
TABULA RASAThe Thematic Elements of Lost Redemption and Change Faith and Science The show also presents various instances of thematic inversion
Diversity In Racial Composition
Breaking Racial Stereotypes Sayid is Iraqi and former member of the Iraq Republican Guard who the audience views as a one of the show’s beloved heroes. Interracial relationships (Sayid and Shannon), (Rose and Bernard). The seamless and abundant use of subtitles for storylines involving Jin and Sun. Instead of being written with racial stereotypes, each character is presented with depth and complexity.
The Personality of Cult They are objects of exceptional loyalty and commitment. Unique Style (Pushing Daisies) Intricate Mythology (Battlestar Galactica) Pioneering Themes (Big Love) Controversy (Tell Me You Love Me) Subversive Humor (Arrested Development) Political Standpoints and other topics that defy mainstream sensibility (South Park, Dexter, Weeds)
Hopelessly Devoted To You These shows usually have a small but devoted audience ( there are few mainstream exceptions such as Lost and The Simpsons.) The show must create a unique world in which a hierarchy is created that determines one devotion to the show. Fan’s of these shows are able to recite dialogue, create trivia, and transfer the fictional world of the show into their own reality.
Elements of Classic Cult TV The complex narrative of Lost contains elements seen in other cult-television classics Sci-Fi/Horror (The X-Files) Supernatural (Twin Peaks) Time Travel (Quantum Leap, J. J. Abrams own Felicity also used time travel as well) Elaborate Mythology (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Magical Realism (Six Feet Under)
Defining the Complex Narrative Complex narratives are long form.
They can be multi-episode(ex the 3-part Ferry episode of Grey’s Anatomy), season-long (ex. Buffy’s “big bad”)or multi–year (ex. Lost) arcs.
They expect greater engagement from audience-the audience tries to actively understand the complex storyline points.
They foreground plot development—character development flows from plot development—relationships flow from plot.
They reject the need for closure-they are open text. (ex-Sopranos finale)
They have innovative storyline strategies(ex-the premise for 24—24 episodes a season-told in real time –one season=24 hrs)
They are unafraid of disorientating the audience.
Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes There are various changes that contribute to the rise of the prevalence of the complex narrative Technological Factors TV on DVD –encourage binge viewing (watching an entire season of Lost in one day)and re-watchability VCR’s-Time shifting Internet-extension of program universe—immersion in programs Digital entertainment-interactive video games Cultural Factors TV’s appeal to creators-producer driven medium-attracted people from film such as Joss Whedon, Jerry Bruckheimer, JJ Abrams, David Lynch Economic Factors Rise of newer networks-like the WB, CW—lowered expectations-they had smaller yet dedicated audience that were young and/or affluent. Ex WB/CW-Smallville, Buffy, Gilmore Girls (young, dedicated) HBO-Sopranos (affluent, dedicated)
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door Many major characters have been “killed off” since the show’s inception. In season 3, fan-favorite Charlie heroically sacrificed himself in the third season finale entitled “Through The Looking Glass” In season 4, three major characters appeared to have been killed off in the season finale.
America Has Voted……. Reality and Talent Eliminating Shows such as Survivor and American Idol set the stage for showrunners to eliminate major characters from their show’s canvases. When it is leaked that a character will be eliminated on Lost-it generates intense fan speculation which parallel the weekly discussions of “Who Will Be Going Home Tonight.” on American Idol.
The Viewers Have Spoken…. The showrunners decided to kill off “Nikki” and “Paolo” because viewers voiced their contempt for these characters through message boards, letters, blogs, e-mails, etc. This is an example of how the cult audience possesses an intense ownership of Lost.
We Don’t Need Another Hero Despite the fact that many of the characters perform heroic acts, they also stray from their moral center. The characters are all anti-heroes. Many of these moral relativist have committed acts of murder. The writers provide justifiable motivations for these amoral acts to illicit sympathy from the viewers.
Sympathy For the DevilThe Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions Michael kills Anna-Lucia and Libby in cold blood to protect his son. Is the protection of family an excuse for committing mortal sin?
A Time To Kill These shifting protagonists also have committed acts of murder and heroism.
All You Need Is Love Desmond Hume’s romanticism counteracts the darkness that lies in the souls of characters such as Jack, Sawyer, Kate, and Locke. His actions are motivated by his love for Penny Wydmore. Their love story brings a heightened sense of romanticism to the show.
FLASHBACK THE ORIGINS OF A MAINSTREAM CULT SENSATION
S.O.S A NETWORK IN NEED OF A RESCUE
For several years prior to September 2004, ABC was in the ratings doldrums. The only successful dramas were the aging NYPD Blue and The Practice. However, neither of these shows were the ratings powerhouses of their heyday. The network was devoid of a signature ratings smash (ex. CBS –CSI, NBC-Friends, Fox-24)
A Message in a Bottle to J.J. Abrams The series began development in January 2004 Lloyd Braun, head of ABC at the time, ordered a script based on his concept of a recombinant of Lord of the Flies, Cast Away, Gilligan’s Island, and the reality smash Survivor. After receiving less than desirable scripts, Braun contacted J.J. Abrams, who was at first reluctant to do the show-however, Abrams eventually agreed upon the condition that he could add a supernatural element to it. Abrams developed Lost with the intentions of making it a cult show.
J.J. Abrams collaborated with Damon Lindelof, and Jeffrey Lieber and all were credited as co-creators of Lost. Prior to Lost, Abrams co-created Felicity (1998-2002) with Matt Reeves. Abrams then went on to be the creator and executive-producer of Alias (2001-2006) Neither Felicity nor Alias were ratings blockbusters. They both have maintained a devoted cult following through their accessibility in the form of reruns and DVD.
THE RESCUE OF ABC
Lost premiered September 22, 2004 The show became an instant ratings smash. In it’s first season, Lost garnered an average of 16 million viewers per episode.
Lost, along with the female-driven Desperate Housewives, rescued the ABC network from the Nielsen’s abyss.
The network's ratings skyrocketed to unprecedented levels thanks in part to the shows' critical praises, high publicity, and heavy marketing over the summer prior to their debuts.
Lost Received Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 2005 and a Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Series in 2006. In 2007, Terry O’Quinn won an Emmy For Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series for his portrayal of the enigmatic John Locke. In 2009, Michael Emerson won in the same category for his portrayal of “Benjamin Linus.”
Play The Game In a 2005 article published in The Boston Globe, writer Joanna Weiss described Lost as “part metaphysics seminar, part jigsaw puzzle, part scavenger hunt. It is a collaborative experience, a game to be played and shared.” Lost utilizes the videogame aesthetic of uncovering and exploring clues.
The Intertexuality of Lost Intertextuality occurs frequently in popular media such as television shows, movies, novels and even interactive video games. In these cases, intertextuality is often used to provide depth to the fictional reality portrayed in the medium, such as characters in one television show mentioning characters from another.
Sawyer-isms Sawyer’s nicknames of the show’s characters mostly consist of pop culture references. The viewer’s knowledge of these references also determine their level on the cult hierarchy.
SAWYER-ISMS Locke “Colonel Kurtz” (Apocalypse Now) Ben “Gizmo” (Gremlins) Kate “Sheena” (Sheena: Queen of the Jungle) Jin “Mr. Miyagi” (The Karate Kid) Jack “Hoss” (Bonanza) Ana-Lucia “Hot-Lips” (M*A*S*H) Hurley “Stay-Puff” (Ghostbusters) Walt “Tatoo” (Fantasy Island)
Alex, I'll Take Lost for $1,000The Trivia of Lost The show makes extremely subtle references and connections to pop culture to maintain strict parameters around fandom. For Example - this was the name of the book that was being discussed in Julia’s book club in the season three premiere episode?
Break On Through to The Other Side Not knowing that it is “Carrie” is enough to break through the fandom parameters. To break through to the other side, one must also have to make the connection that the principal in the book is named Henry Grayle which bears a striking similarity to “Henry Gale” - Ben’s pseudo-identity.
Literary References Lost features numerous references to classic and modern literature. Some of the referenced titles include: Carrie-Stephen King Catch-22-Jospeh Heller Through the Looking Glass-Lewis Carroll The Fountainhead-Ayn Rand Heart of Darkness-Joseph Conrad Moby Dick-Herman Melville The Pearl-John Steinbeck Harry Potter-J.K. Rowling Valis-Phillip K. Dick The Wonderful Wizard of Oz-L.Frank Baum Evil Under the Sun-Agatha Christie Dirty Work-Stuart Woods
You Know My Name Fans also research character names to make a connection by the real-life figures with the fictional characters. John Locke, Desmond “David” Hume and Rousseau are named after historic philosophers. Anthony Cooper, Locke’s father, is named after Anthony Ashley-Cooper who was a mentor to the philosopher John Locke in 1666.
Servant of God/Servant of the Island? The real-life Dr. Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass) is a noted psychologist and Hindu spiritualist. In 1963, he was dismissed from Harvard University for his research (in collaboration with Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg and others) into psilocybin, LSD-25, and other psychedelic chemicals. He later traveled to India, where he was given his Hindu spiritual name "Ram Dass", which translates as "Servant of God".
Hurley’s Numbers In the Hurley-Centric episode “Numbers”-the viewers were presented with this mysterious number configuration. Variations of these numbers also play various roles within certain story elements-however their significance has yet to be revealed. Fans attempt to uncover the connections of these numbers to the plot to climb the cult hierarchy.
Time Is WaitingWe Only Got 108 minutes to Save the World In season two, the numbers were also revealed as a code that must be entered into a computer every 108 minutes to prevent catastrophic consequences. The computer was found in an area known as The Swan (the hatch) on the island. The numbers were also imprinted on the outside of the hatch. Coincidentally, the sum of Hurley’s numbers 108. Since Hurley won the lottery with these numbers (but then had bad luck since)—millions of people in real life played these numbers in their state’s lottery drawings.
Something to Talk About Through blogs, message boards, websites, published novels, etc.-fans of the show can climb the cult hierarchy by fan gossip and reading the interpretations and theories presented. Many media theorists believe that Lost could not have existed in the pre-internet era. Some popular Lost sites include: thefuselage.com, thetailsection.com, abc.go.com/primetime/lost lostpedia.com
Narrative Pyrotechnics Jason Mittel describes the narrative spectacle as moments that push to the foreground the operational aesthetic which calls attention to the constructed nature of the narration and entices the viewers to marvel at how the writers accomplished such a feat.
Flashback: Moonlighting/Angel Moonlighting (1985-1989) and Angel (2001-2004) are two historic examples of shows that engaged in narrative pyrotechnics.
Flashback: Moonlighting “Atomic Shakespeare” from season 3 took its principle cast and recast them in roles from the taming of the shrew. The viewers were watching actors that they knew in roles that were foreign to the standard Moonlighting narrative.
Flashback: Angel “You’re Welcome” from season 5 featured the character of Cordelia Chase recovering from a coma and assisting the gang in a fight against an evil opponent. At the end of the episode, the viewer learns that Cordelia never recovered from the coma and actually died. Viewers were then propelled to rewatch the episode and detect the dim arrows that signified that Cordelia was not corporeal.
Dim Arrows Dim Arrows are the opposite Of Flashing Arrows which author Steven Johnson refers to as narrative signpost which are planted conveniently to help the audience keep track of what’s going on. On Lost, dim arrows are the subtle clues that usually can be retrievable in re-watching an episode. Active viewers are able to locate the dim arrows within the episodes.
Lost in the Masquerade Deception on Lost is conveyed eloquently with the application of narrative pyrotechnics. Practically every episode employs visual masquerades to render the viewer speechless and deceived. The showrunners apply various types of strategies to masquerade the settings, timeframes, and the reality of images that are being presented to the viewer.
“The Snake in the Mailbox”The Reboot of Lost
Through The Looking Glass On May 23, 2007, ABC aired the third season finale of Lost entitled the critically adored and audience favorite episode entitled “Through the Looking Glass.” The exhilarating episode contained the death of a major character, the mysterious re-appearance of Walt, a hope of a rescue, and a sensational twist that presented a new presentation of the show’s narrative. Executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse called the twist “the snake in the mailbox.”
GOTCHA! In TV Guide, Lindelof and Cuse explain: “We’re calling it ‘The Snake in the Mailbox.’ We were just joking about how scary, that would be if you came home and you stuck your hand in the mailbox and there was a snake in there. So we thought, ‘Well, that’s actually a good metaphor for the surprise of our Season 3?”
An Example of a Dim ArrowFrom “Through the Looking Glass”
Hoffs/Drawler is actually an anagram for Flash Forward
Find Your Way Back On January 30, 2008 ABC re-aired the “game-changing” third season finale “Through the Looking Glass.” The episode aired the night before the fourth season premiere. The "enhanced" version of this episode included text on the lower third of the screen and was designed to “let viewers in” on clues in the show, as well as gave back-story to catch new viewers up for Season Four.
The Rising This enhanced presentation of Lost was presented to assist new and returning viewers an opportunity to elevate themselves on the cult hierarchy. In subsequent weeks, ABC presented “enhanced “ episodes of season 4 to help keep viewers high on the cult hierarchy.
Flash-Forward uture of Lost
SEASON 4: THE OCEANIC SIX The fourth season of Lost premiered in the top ten and the viewer response to the episodes was exhilarating. The use of flash-forwards and the mystery of the “Oceanic Six” offered incredible jaw-dropping revelations such as: --------- is now a killer who is working for -----. Kate is living with -------- which means that ------- could be dead. Hurley is residing in - --------- ------------. Tragically, the audience learned that --------- died. (or did he/she?)
Season 4: New Characters of Mystery Season 4 also saw the introduction of 4 new ambiguous characters that added new mystery to the show’s narrative.
The Frozen Donkey Wheel Showrunners Carlton and Cuse used the phrase “The Frozen Donkey Wheel” as a metaphor for the fourth season’s spectacular three part finale entitled “There’s No Place Like Home” The two showrunners left viewers asking "What the hell are they gonna do?" with the finale, hinting at another possible change in the narrative structure of the show. "There might come a time in the show where the word 'flash' becomes irrelevant," Lindelof says. "If you stop and think about what we've done this year, there's the story on the island which we perceive to be the present, then there's the story of the Oceanic 6, which is happening off the island in the future. "But if you were to switch perspectives and were off the island, focusing on the Oceanic 6 trying to get back, that would be the present, and what happened back on the island would be either a parallel present, a possible future a possible past, who knows. When you hear the 'whoosh' noise, the question becomes, Where does it take you?"
Destiny Found In May 7, 2007, ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson announced that Lost will end during the 2009–2010 season with a "highly anticipated and shocking finale.“ “We felt that this was the only way to give [Lost] a proper creative conclusion," McPherson said. Matthew Fox says Lost creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse will prove they knew where they were going all along when the show ends in "an incredibly powerful, very sad and beautiful way. I think it is going to be pretty awesome.“ The only cast member to know what that crazy smoke monster is and how the show ends said, "I think it is going to be very satisfying and cathartic and redemptive and beautiful. I've talked to Damon pretty extensively and every time I talk to him it's sort of surprising how moving it is just to talk about it."
We Have To Go Back! The first half of Season Five centered around why the Oceanic Six must go back to the island. The final scene of the season 5 finale “The Incident” foreshadows another change in the show’s narrative structure for season 6. The intense exploration of such elements of time travel, quantum-physics, and the complex history of the island has left viewers addicted, astonished, ecstatic, and confused. Knowing there is an end date in sight, viewers will be motivated to “remain on the island” and to conquer the highest levels of the cult hierarchy.
Unwrapping the Mystery In regards to the final season,Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse tease their viewers by saying: “This season, its like the audience is finally opening up a present that was actually bought and wrapped years ago.”
The Legacy of LOST Time Magazine lists LOST as one of the greatest television shows of all time. In a way it's a misnomer to call Lost one of TV's best shows—it's a fine show on the level of character and writing, but what makes it a classic is that it's the finest interactive game ever to appear in your living room once a week. An elaborate fractal pattern of intersecting stories concerning plane survivors on a not-quite-deserted island, a secretive international organization and a monster made of smoke, Lost only begins with the 60 minutes you see on TV. Its mysteries, clues and literary-historical allusions demand research, repeat viewing, freeze-framing and endless online discussions. And in a medium where executives assume that viewers will flee anything that remotely challenges them, Lost proves that millions of people will support a difficult, intelligent, even frustrating story—as long as you blow the right kind of smoke at them.