Friday, February 08, 2008

Lost needs to strap on a pair.


I like Lost. Actually, I love Lost. It’s smart and strange and oddly familiar. I picture the meeting where it was conceived, and I imagine the pitch went something like, “What if Stephen King were writing Survivor?

I got the first three seasons of Lost for Christmas, and in early January, I set about watching the entire series with a couple of people who’d never seen any of it before. In the third season the quality of the writing noticeably declined, but the show managed to keep me riveted by introducing new characters and new intrigues, and the season finale was one of the best I’d ever seen. In moment that perfectly answered the question, WWSKD?, it even redeemed the inexcusable hippy-dippy shark-jumping episode where the survivors discover the VW bus.

People are lost and people are found. I was unhappy to see Mr. Eko killed off in the third season, but Juliet is a compelling character. From her first appearance, I looked forward to seeing Kate smack that smug, enigmatic smirk off her face. There’s at least one fight in every episode of Lost, and I wasn’t exactly disappointed by the eventual girly brawl, but boys really do hit harder, don’t they?

But let me get to my real complaint: the handling of Sun’s potentially fatal pregnancy. In a show that has given us the most internationally diverse cast I’ve ever seen on mainstream TV, that has dealt with all sorts of sociopolitical issues in a sensitive and enlightened manner (with the vilification of the former heroin addict, Charlie, being a shameful exception), that the women would be treated as expendable fetus incubators is unconscionable. It’s vile. It’s spineless. It’s pathetic. I understand the writers not wanting to bring up a question they can’t answer, or being curtailed by the squeamishness of the viewing audience, but this is a show where every other character is a murderer, a show that had an Iraqi soldier torturing other survivors, that had a father shooting innocent people to save his child. Are these scenarios somehow more palatable to the American viewer than the question of abortion? Because if that’s the case, then the writers should have preserved their integrity and come up with a plot device other than the inevitability of island women dying in their second trimester of pregnancy.

There are two doctors on the show. It’s completely implausible that one of them would not introduce the idea of terminating a pregnancy to save the mother. It’s ridiculous, and it’s already too late: it should have come up in the episode where Juliet gives Sun an ultrasound, confirms her pregnancy, and reveals that as a physician, she's presided over the deaths of nine island inhabitants in their second trimester of pregnacy. To omit the question of abortion at this point has made the show irredeemable in my eyes. I’ll still watch, but I'll watch with my lip curled in contempt.

Am I being too harsh? Am I being unfair? Lost has given me high expectations, which makes its failure here seem all the more odious, but perhaps the Lost creators face the same dilemma as Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy, who concedes that his control over the Buffy franchise only extends so far, explaining:

[I] don’t want it to have my name on it if it doesn’t reflect what I want to say. Because once you get to the position of actually getting to say something, which is a level most writers never even get to, and is a great blessing, you then have to worry about what it is you’re actually saying. I don’t want some crappy reactionary show under the Buffy name. If my name’s going to be on it, it should be mine. Now, the books I have nothing to do with, and I’ve never read them. They could be, “Buffy realized that abortion was wrong!” and I would have no idea. So, after my big, heartfelt, teary speech, I realize that I was once again lying. But I sort of drew the line. I was like, “I can’t possibly read these books!”

It’s not really the same, though, is it? It’s not like the creators or the writers have no input on the show itself, yet on It’s not really the same, though, is it? It’s not like the creators or the writers have no input on the show itself, yet on Lost, abortion is never discussed as an option for Sun. Juliet doesn't offer to terminate Sun’s pregnancy, and Sun never mentions it, either. This is tantamount to a character having a giant bug with its teeth sunk into his flesh, poisoning him, and everyone just accepts that he’s going to die. No one considers how they might remove the bug.

I’m glad that over on Slate's XX Factor Blog, Ellen Tarlin has resolved her Lost confusion to her satisfaction, but me, I’m still bothered and bewildered. And disappointed. Really, really disappointed.

5 comments:

Thomas Paine said...

Very nice, Dawn.

Of course I have not actually seen the show, so for all I know, you are just making up shit!

Your point about the fact that they never even considered abortion is a good one, and is the sort of cowardice that seems to infect virtually all network programs.

Dawn Coyote said...

Hi Thomas!

I'm rarely just making shit up, more often I'm twisting things to suit my ends. Too bad about that entrenched cowardice. It's evident in political candidates, too.

Good to see you back around these parts. The place isn't exactly like it was when you last stopped by, huh? If I'd known you were coming, I'd have dusted and straightened up.

Thomas Paine said...

As you might have noted (not that there is any reason you should have done) I have recently resurrected my own blog. And have started checking in here and on the blogs of several of the individuals who post here.

I have been looking for your work, as I always enjoyed reading your blog, so was very happy to find this article.

I don't see much TV these days -- I only get 2 channels -- the local (Seattle) Fox affiliate and a crap channel from Victoria (OK for news, but otherwise seems to have virtually non-stop celebrity news or reality TV)!

Are you writing anyplace besides here?

Dawn Coyote said...

I did notice that you were back in the neighbourhood, but I haven't added your blog to my feed reader yet. I'll fix that oversight. I'm not writing much lately, except for the usual pissy comments in the usual places. I'm feeling the creative urge returning as real life settles down, so I'll have more to say soon, I'm sure.

It's great to see you around again.

Dawn Coyote said...

Posting comments from my phone. Oops.