‘Lost’ (S3): More “bad father” theories
”Dear Mr. Lost Producers: My readers and I love your show. We can’t wait for tonight’s episode. Can you prettyprettyplease give us a small hint as to what we might see? Sincerely, Mr. EW Lost Columnist.”
In a nutshell, that’s the request I typically make each week of executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. But not this week. Two reasons why:
1. I didn’t need to. As it happens, I know lots about what happens in this evening’s Charlie-centric tale, so there was no need to trouble the producers for teases. Tonight, you will visit a new Dharma station. You will see the terrifying revival of Jack, Bad-ass King of the Castaways. You will see Charlie — destined-to-die ex-druggie; happily reconstructed one-hit-wonder rocker; Claire-smitten surrogate Aaron daddy — make an extraordinarily courageous choice that in many ways sums up what Lost is all about for me. So perhaps we can let those bits stand as a tantalizing preview.
2. I didn’t want to. I write these words on Tuesday morning in the wake of some interesting spoiler-related developments in the Lost nation. It seems that there are some fansites out there who claim to have every single detail about the last two episodes of the season. Naturally, I was tempted to take a peek at these allegedly revealing reports. But then an even stronger desire took hold — a desire not to know. This is an alien desire for me; usually, I want the scoopage NOW. But not this time. I want to be surprised. I want to be shocked and awed by The Thing That I Did Not See Coming — and I get the sense that just such a thing is lurking around the bend. So that’s why I didn’t ask for a tease this week.
If you come here every week for a piece or two of insight from the producers — you’re gonna get it. For I have in my possession an answer from the producers to one of season 3’s most burning questions. And it kicks off this meaty, controversial, head-spinning reader-mail edition of Doc Jensen.
THE ”BAD DADDY” FIXATION OF LOST
Jack. Locke. Kate. Sawyer. Hurley. Jin and Sun. So many characters on Lost have been wounded and warped by their relationships with their fathers or father figures. Season 3 has doted heavily on this theme, so much so that in the wake of last week’s episode, which revealed that even über-Other Ben had a bad daddy (a mean, manipulative, lonely creep — proof the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), reader Kristie felt compelled to request an official investigation. ”I can’t seem to find any explanation for all the father issues,” she wrote. ”I would like to see someone thread together all the daddy loose-ends to see what kind of theory to which it might lead.”
Well, Kristie, I do have some theories, as do some of your fellow fans. But before we get to them, let’s hear from the producers themselves. Last week, I asked them the question: ”Whassup with the preponderance of pops?”
Carlton Cuse’s response was to the point: ”I don’t think there is anything more powerful in film than father-son relationships, maybe even in literature, too.” Now, I’m sure some of you might quibble, especially if you’re some brainy college student writing a dissertation deconstructing patriarchal ideologies and perspectives to smithereens. (You know who you are.) But keep in mind that in some ways, Lost comes from a very personal place for the producers. Damon Lindelof elaborated: ”Ironically, I had a fairly awesome (if not slightly complicated) relationship with my father. I suppose the fact that he died shortly before we began writing Lost had a great impact on where my head was at [at] the time, but he was an amazing guy who is pretty much responsible for my love of all things storytelling-related. He never even TRIED to steal my kidney. That being said, I think, mythically speaking, all great heroes have massive daddy issues. Hercules. Oedipus. Luke Skywalker. Indiana Jones. Spider-Man. It all comes with the territory. We dig flawed characters on Lost, and a large part of being flawed is the emotional damage inflicted on you by your folks.”
And then Lindelof added: ”For the record, Mommies don’t fare much better…we just haven’t focused on ‘em as much yet.”
Watch out, mothers: Next season, the focus might be on YOU.
But back to Daddy-bashing, and to build upon what the producers said: When I consider the father themes of Lost, I find myself linking to Postmodern writer Donald Barthelme, whose ”flash fiction” short stories ”The Balloon” and ”The Game” (about two guys trapped in a hatch) have some intriguing Lost resonances and whose essay ”Not-Knowing” has a lot to say about Lost’s aesthetic and worldview. But the book that has Lost written all over it is Barthelme’s The Dead Father, a surreal novel about a group of people literally dragging the massive body of a monstrous and monolithic ”dead father” across the country to its final resting place. The dead father in The Dead Father is symbolic of so many things that shape and form us — bad parents, corrupt institutions, f—ed up philosophies. I believe Lost shares those same thematic concerns. The show is an allegory about a new millennia yearning for a new hope but still haunted by the despair of the era past; about a culture burdened by the crushing weight of our dead fathers and forefathers. We want the clean slate of John Locke, but dammit if the awful chalk scribbles of our stupid teachers can’t be erased. Lost, then, isn’t about burying the past, but finding the grace to live with it. (By the way, I say all of this as a son who thinks his parents were AWESOME and as a student who lives in the profound debt of his former instructors.)
Lest you think I’m just talking out of my butt again, there are others among us who agree with me. Or maybe they just like talking out of their butts, too. Take this theory from a reader who didn’t sign his/her name:
”By interpreting Lost through its themes I think the inevitable path of the show becomes clear. In my opinion there are only two important themes: 1. Science vs. Religion (or Reason vs Faith); and 2. The Failure of the Father Figure. This second theme ties into the first. The micro-universe of The Island is a mirror for the conflicts of the larger world. All God’s children are lost, doomed by their conflicts and their deadly technologies. At the heart of this conflict sits Jacob, the alleged leader of the Others. But rather than a spiritual Superman we find Jacob to be an old, flickering half-man, half-spirit, seemingly drained and in need of John Locke’s help. Jacob can be understood on two levels: literally, he is the patriarch of the Others; and metaphorically he is the weakened, exploited Father of a corrupted society. His estranged partner is the Mother, Science, who is represented in the show by all the dying mothers on The Island. The only way to save them, to heal Jacob, and solve the Valenzetti Equation [aka ”The Numbers,” a mathematical formula developed by The Hanso Foundation that predicts the end of the world] is to reconcile the two worldviews of science and religion.”
DOC JENSEN REPLIES: Amen!
AND TO WHICH YOU SAY: ”WOULD YOU SHUT UP PLEASE?!”
In which a complaint is voiced in response to Doc Jensen’s recent investigation into Postmodernism in Lost and his overall interface with the show.