Saturday, May 22, 2010

As Lost Turns

So, they're hyping the heck out of the Lost Finale. I'm interested, but I think it went from being a really good TV show, to a mildly entertaining show, to a chore in relatively short order. I think a three season show minus a whole bunch of the claptrap would've been better, but hey, they're rich, so they must be right- right?
I bring it up because of this interview . Specifically, there's bit where Carlton Cuse says
We want people to have a chance to digest, discuss, debate and interpret the events of the finale. And we think there’s going to be plenty of things for people to discuss and debate, just like every year. We don’t want to be out there saying, no no no, you must think this or you must think that. We don’t want to sort of spoil the process, which is to let people process the finale and arrive at their own conclusions about it.
Then, Damon Lindelof says
The interpretive element of "Lost," the fact that you immediately need as soon as the episode is over to seek out a community of people to express your own thoughts about it, understand what they thought about it and form an opinion, that’s the bread and butter of the show. The more we talk about what our intention was, the more we take it away from the audience. And we have no interest in doing that ever.
Now, in theory, I can get behind that- the notion of Art being a process of communication between the Artist and the audience is a dear one to me. But, it seems to me they're using a kind of misinterpretation of that process of communication to justify and rationalize their artlessness. The interpretive element works if you're talking about non-narrative art. If it was some kind of visual tone poem, they might have something there. But, they're engaged in a pulpy form of genre-writing that's dependant upon narrative form. They're combining Science Fiction and mystery writing. That's it. It's the same combination that both "Twin Peaks" and "The X Files" employed. So, what kind of postmodern nonsense is it to say "Oh, we're leaving interpretation up to the audience"? Quite frankly, that's simply not so- they're just lacking the courage to answer the mysteries they tried to invoke, and now, they're dodging continuity and logic, and structural bullets by caveat, hoping that the audience will rationalize it for them. They didn't write Haiku's, here- they produced a genre show! Narrative Art depends upon the narrative-which is to say, upon the Artist knowing (Gno- look it up) what they're saying. In other words, they can say "oh, we've explained the numbers" by citing a scene or two where they are discussed, but that doesn't mean they've explained the narrative function of them-and therefore by not completing the function, they're copping out. This is why the (original) Prisoner is still a work of Art, and Lost is still just a TV show. Watch any of the first 16 episodes of the Prisoner, and it both serves as a poetic metaphor for a societal force, and a fully formed narrative story. The last, 17th episode is precisely a visual Tone Poem that abandons narrative function in order to achieve a truly meta- narrative about the show itself, and the process in creating it. That's high Art, and it left no questions hanging- Number 6 was a prisoner both of himself, and of his culture. The Village was a system of control, just as all cultures are system of control. Along the way, it was determined that neither absolute control, nor absolute autonomy was truly desirable, but that a bargain must be struck between the individual and society. Yes, all of this was demonstrated clearly. Faith and Reason both played into this equation, as did love and war. Meanwhile, Lost cannot even resolve whether Faith or Reason is even valid, it cannot decide whether the individual or society is important- it cannot answer any of the narrative questions it has posed, it simply exists as commercial entity. Which means, again, it's just a genre show, like a soap opera, or a situation Comedy. That means talk of the function of Lost being some kind of facilitator of interpretive creative communication between the audience, the Art and itself is just a pretentious cop out.
Now, I've got friends and family who think that Lost is the best TV show, ever. I'm not here to say they're wrong, exactly. I'm just here to say that it's not high art, and it's pretty deeply flawed on its own terms. Now, the argument can be made that all Art is flawed, and that the distinction between high and low art is a false one, and that since all art is therefore destined for failure, it's not a question of if the show succeeds, only if it entertains- and that's a valid point of view. I just don't buy it, myself. I think that the show jumped the proverbial shark somewhere in the 4th season, and went from a good show to a poor one. By now, I think the fans really could write a better show ( which is another possible subtext of what the shows own producers are saying, and, if so, what better evidence that they have failed at the narrative imperative is there?) and I hope somebody does. By far, the best elements of the show have not been of the show in a long time- between the Blogs, the ARG's and the fan-generated speculation some truly innovative storytelling has been constructed- but doesn't that derive more from people's dissatisfaction with the paltriness of the show's construction than from its design?


  1. Oh- here's a thought- maybe the design was always intended to be incomplete- so they could keep stringing you along with more product:
    I'd seriously hope that folks bootleg this ASAP. Hopefully, before the product even reaches shelves. I still won't download it, because I'm just not that way, but it'd be fantastic if all the extras ended up on Bittorrent by August. No, I'm not advocating, just expressing disgust with how much Commerce has destroyed Art....