‘Lost’ (S2): Jeff Jensen answers your e-mails
”Brilliant!” ”Impossible!” ”I didn’t understand one word of it!” ”You have wayyyyy too much time on your hands.”
Yep: Doc Jensen's Lost Super-String Theory certainly got a reaction out of you — a whole heaping bunch of ‘yous.’ As I write these words on Thursday morning, less than 12 hours after the ''Maternity Leave'' episode of Lost (Claire! Eko! Scary needles! Even scarier close-ups of Rousseau’s haunted French face!), your e-mail responses continue to flood my inbox. Sample: ”Your theory sounds an awful lot like the plot to Akira,” writes Jesse. (Dear Jesse: You’re right! Mad props to manga auteur Katsuhiro Otomo!) ”Wow, that’s some deep stuff and I must admit I LOVE it,” raves Mindy Cardenas. ”You have been officially labeled a Crazy.” (Dear Mindy: I wear ”Crazy” with great pride. Namaste!)
Of course, there was also this from a reader named Hen: ”Such crap.” (Dear Hen: ”Hen”?) And Haneen Hussein was even more succinct, writing simply: ”Lost.”
Indeed, even among those who really dug my argument — that the island is being controlled by a powerful disembodied psychic named Aaron who’s conspiring to take possession of Baby Aaron (let’s call it ”the Aaron Theory” for short) — there were some nagging doubts and burning questions about my kooky conclusions. So here’s what we’re going to do. This week, I’m going to answer some of these questions, and in the process, throw some radical new ideas and analysis at you. (Can’t wait to get your feedback on my ”Satanic” interpretation of Lost — see below.) Then, next week, I’m going to report on all your theories — from Sean Dunleavy’s elaborate comparison of Lost to Animal Farm, to Patrick Lucy’s ”nature versus nurture” meditation, to the countless variations of the popular ”I think everyone’s dead and stuck in Purgatory” theory. So, without further ado:
BURNING QUESTION: How does the new information about the Others disclosed in ”Maternity Leave” affect the Aaron Theory?
ANSWER: The Aaron Theory stated that the Others are working to put Evil Aaron’s disembodied mind back into a body. ”Maternity Leave” didn’t offer any proof to the contrary — though the discovery of costumes, fake beards, and makeup glue in the Hospital Hatch indicates that the Others aren’t the tropical hillbillies we thought they were. Perhaps this Cult of Aaron is akin to the real-life Raelian movement, a high-tech UFO religion fixated with immortality and cloning. Regardless, it appears the Others — who may be part of the Dharma Initiative, or may be a separate group that has hijacked or co-opted Dharma’s facilities — have a flair for the theatrical. Which makes me wonder if creating drama — or psychodrama, to be Freudian about it — is part of their plan.
BURNING QUESTION: Why does Doc Jensen believe that the Aaron Theory’s disembodied psychic — a former Dharma test subject who went psycho from Skinner-box experimentation — is, like Claire’s baby, named Aaron?
ANSWER: Your most frequently asked question. I based this idea on the incident in the episode titled ”The 23rd Psalm,” in which Mr. Eko asked Claire why she named her baby Aaron. ”I just… like it,” she said. This struck me as conspicuously ambiguous, and led me to wonder if perhaps some subliminal force — say, a certain disembodied psychic entity — prompted Claire to take a shine to this name.
BURNING QUESTION: How does the Aaron Theory explain the incredible coincidences in Lost — everything from Desmond, an acquaintance from Jack’s past who was found in the Hatch, to the way all the characters intersect in the flashbacks?
ANSWER: Your second most frequently asked question. And the answer is: synchronicity — as in Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity, a subconscious force that binds all life. The Police recorded a song about Jung’s hypothesis, and Sting’s lyrics do a much better job of summing it up: ”A connecting principle/ Linked to the invisible/ Almost imperceptible…” (In fact, the song ”Synchronicity” may sum up a lot of Lost. For example: Does ”They know you/ They know me/ Extra-sensory/ Synchronicity” = The Others and Evil Aaron?) The upshot of synchronicity is that nothing is coincidental — we just can’t see the complex sequence of factors that shape what we call ”reality.” In this regard, synchronicity is echoed by various theories within the field of quantum physics. Now, sci-fi writers looooove synchronicity theory and quantum mechanics, because both allow for the possibility that that the fabric of reality and even the space/time continuum can be manipulated by psychic minds and mad scientists. Hence, someone who could access and wield these forces could do things like, say, forge connections between strangers, or even alter reality so that people could survive a plane crash. Specifically, how does this explain Desmond? Given the clout that Jack has among the castaways, the good doctor is a significant threat to Evil Aaron’s plans. The attribute that Jack possesses that makes him so threatening is his skeptical, hyper-rational mind. Therefore, it’s in Evil Aaron’s best interests to make Jack doubt his own instincts. What I’m saying is that Desmond was brought to the island to basically fry Jack’s logic grid. But that’s assuming that Desmond is actually real; he could easily be a hallucination.
BURNING QUESTION: So? just how did Doc Jensen come up with the Aaron Theory?
ANSWER: By following the clues, dudes! Lost has a conspicuous habit of name-checking books, like The Turn of the Screw, The Third Policeman, and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. Screw is a trippy ghost story/psychological thriller; Policeman’s main character is a dead guy; Bridge is about a guy who fantasizes about surviving his own execution. Now: All three books are examples of trickster fiction that employ what lit majors call an ”unreliable narrator.” With that in mind, consider anew the Hatch, a.k.a. Station Three: The Swan. In fact, go to this website and check out the Station Three logo: Is that really a swan surrounded by I Ching symbols — or is that a serpent trapped inside a snake charmer’s basket? Now, click on that swan/snake and watch the orientation film. That music at the beginning and the end — that’s snake-charmer music, people! And Dr. Marvin Candle’s closing salutation, ”Namaste”? You can anagram that word into ”Me Satan.” Finally, remember the episode ”One of Them,” which introduced us to an alleged Other named Henry Gale? The episode is actually an elaborate homage to the classic Twilight Zone episode ”The Howling Man,” in which a reclusive religious order captures a man suspected of being Satan. YOU MUST WATCH ”THE HOWLING MAN”! The phrases ”Dharma,” ”Lost,” and ”One of Them” are all conspicuously referenced. Am I suggesting that Dharma was trying to capture Satan, or perhaps cure mankind of ”original sin”? Maybe. But at the very least, these devilish little details — combined with the Skinner-box nature of the Hatch — strongly suggest that nothing is what it seems when it comes to the Dharma Initiative. Which is why I think the orientation film is totally bogus. Now, a skeptical mind could conclude that the Dharma mythology, combined with the costumes and fake beards found in the Hospital Hatch = ”giant hoax.” However, ”giant hoax” doesn’t quite explain the monster, or how all these people could have survived that plane crash, or Hurley’s cursed numbers, or Walt’s peculiar psychic abilities. So what I decided to do was pull a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup: I combined ”supernatural” and ”giant hoax” into one great taste! And there you go: the Aaron Theory.
BURNING QUESTION: How come Locke can walk?
ANSWER: Many of you wondered why the Aaron Theory failed to address this question. Simple: I ran out of space! Locke’s ability to walk anew is neatly explained by the popular Purgatory or Hallucination theories of Lost. But the Aaron Theory works, too: Evil Aaron could have repaired Locke’s legs, or, because the island is suffused with ESP energy, Locke could be subconsciously harnessing it and willing himself to walk again — a true example of mind over matter. HOWEVER: I’m betting that Lost is plotting a big twist about Locke’s legs. After all: we’re only assuming that Locke was paralyzed or paraplegic. What if he wasn’t? What if Locke was in a wheelchair because of a psychosomatic illness? Yep: I’m thinking Locke could walk all along — he just thought he couldn’t. (Forgive me for being simplistic about a serious psychological malady.)
BURNING QUESTION: Was the Aaron Theory incorrect in claiming that the Numbers were ”retired Yankee jerseys”?
ANSWER: Apparently so, according to dozens of e-mails we received from various New York Yankees fans and astute sports nerds. Paul Bosler wrote: ”…the number 42 is NOT retired. It is still worn by Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ closer. Major League Baseball has requested that every team retire 42 because of Jackie Robinson. As far as I know the Yankees are the only team that has not done so.” We stand corrected, though in our defense, the Aaron Theory survives this inaccuracy, because it argues that The Numbers were a string of arbitrary digits that originally had no intrinsic meaning or function, but became ”cursed” as a consequence of a psychic catastrophe. Nonetheless: We should have been more careful with our facts and words, especially around touchy Yankee fans. We’re sorry. Now: Can you stop flooding my e-mail box with Bronx cheers?
BURNING QUESTION: Why couldn’t Doc Jensen just make it easy on himself and fall back on the Purgatory Theory to explain everything?
ANSWER: Purgatory is, by far, the most popular Lost theory out there. Personally, I’m not wild about it: Purgatory is both a very specific religious idea and a pretty nebulous creative concept. Sure, purgatory as an abstract notion could explain all of the show’s baffling details — but it would be as unfulfilling as chalking everything up to magic, or saying it was ”just a dream.” However, I would be willing to accept the Hallucination Theory — specifically, a mass hallucination, built out of bits and pieces of everyone’s imagination. In fact, I was actually torn between running the Aaron Theory and what I’d like to call the ”Fear of Flying” Theory. I am specifically referring to a comic book story called ”Fear of Flying” that was published in Swamp Thing #71, circa 1988. In this tale, Swamp Thing is flying through the sky and encounters a ghostly plane filled with disembodied souls who think they’re still alive and still travelling to their destination. Notes the hero: ”As a group, they have refused to accept the loss of their physical bodies. So they carry on, as if nothing happened. Reinforcing each other’s skewered vision of reality. Haunting the sky itself.” I think this idea can be applied to Lost without asserting that the characters on the show are actually dead… but that’s a theory for another time. As for why we ultimately decided to go with the Aaron Theory, and its contention that the island is a real place… well, because it was more interesting. And frankly, anything else — even Hallucination — feels like a cop-out.
BURNING QUESTION: How does the Aaron Theory explain Smokey the monster?
ANSWER: Back in January, I postulated that Smokey was created by the Dharma Initiative to serve as a quality control agent on an island that is basically a giant factory designed to manufacture better, more enlightened people. Some of you asked if the Aaron Theory marks a repudiation of my original Smokey hypothesis, to which I say: ”Yes.” I now believe that Smokey is actually the manifestation of Evil Aaron’s superego, responsible for squelching all of the island’s bad ideas — and perhaps, Evil Aaron’s own dark thoughts. It could be the case that Evil Aaron is actually at war with himself: Smokey the superego could be trying to stop this mad plan to hijack Baby Aaron’s body. However, Smokey could be a separate bundle of weirdness altogether. If you belong in the camp that believes that the island was enchanted well before Dharma and the Others got there, Smokey could serve as its guardian — much like the Marvel Comics character Man-Thing, a twisted twin of Swamp Thing. Man-Thing is a mindless beast that has a nasty habit of killing anyone who shows fear — shades of Smokey, no? Moreover, Man-Thing’s job is to protect something called ”The Nexus of Realities” — a portal to alternate worlds. Wouldn’t it be funny if in the end, Lost is revealed to be a crazy synthesis of Swamp Thing and Man-Thing comic books?
BURNING QUESTION: Does Doc Jensen REALLY believe in his ”Aaron Theory”?
ANSWER: Honestly, it doesn’t matter. For me, Lost is an allegory for a troubling age of catastrophe and confusion, manipulation and misdirection. Lost is a mythology show about mythology shows; it dramatizes the romance of mystery and the impulse to impose order on chaos and how the two compliment and nullify each other; it shows how far we’ll go to find something to believe in — and how far we’ll go to not believe in anything. That’s Doc J’s real theory of Lost… but writing about disembodied psychics is so much more fun!