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Lost and Proud of it

January 27, 2010

In a photo from the early 1990s, my sister is dressed as a stubbly-faced fleece-wearin’ man with her arm around Lost cast member Evangeline Lilly.

It’s quite the picture. I wish I had it to display here.

Long before she became pouty ne’er-do-well Kate Austen, Lilly was a teenage camper at Green Bay Bible Camp near Kelowna, BC. My sister spent a summer as a ne’er-do-well camp counsellor. On a costume-themed night, my sister went to great effort to make her 120 pound frame look remotely mannish. It didn’t hurt the appearance of faux-masculinity to have her arm around the petite, feminine Lilly.

Granted, it’s a tad tenuous for a connection, but it’s my Kevin-Baconesque tie to one of the most popular dramas of recent memory. After 8 months off the air, Lost is beginning again on February 2nd (NEXT TUESDAY!!).

For the last couple of months, I’ve been watching old episodes, making up for years of inattentiveness to television drama. At first it was casually viewing as I did chores or cooked supper. But as the show went down the hatch and through time, I progressively became hypnotized by the enigmatic clues the show routinely serves up.

Lost is eminently loyal to its fans, offering complex characters while confounding plot expectations. As I got into season 5, I began perusing the AV club’s lost page after each episode. With its hundreds of comments, it’s not for the faint of heart.  Since then, I’ve pored through the mobisodes, podcasts, and DHARMA orientation films. Yeah. Obsessed.

It got so bad I can appreciate this hilarious video from the Onion: Final Season Of ‘Lost’ Promises To Make Fans More Annoying Than Ever

Hopefully I’m marginally less annoying than the worst fans, but I have a theory why the island inspires such irritating levels of loyalty:

1. Our brains crave the challenge of mystery. Given a bunch of unconnected details (polar bears, mysterious numbers, and dreams of axe-wielding hippies), we’re naturally inclined to search for pattern and meaning. I have my own theories for the way things work (such as Ben Linus’s tantalizing claim of a box which contains whatever you want). But check the AV club comment boards or a few of the nearly 6,000 articles on the lostpedia wiki page, and you’ll know there’s theorizing aplenty. Usually, I’m just resigned to let it all wash over me and not sweat it.

2. Losties bring the devout together, religious or unaffiliated. And like the world of spirituality, I’m sure there are casual viewers out there. But nobody really notices them, do they? Aside from those who just drift away because they can’t make a lick of sense of it, there are recent converts and loyal followers. After five seasons, they are the chosen remnant: there’s something to be said for a shared experience of 12 million viewers in a fragmented media market.

3. Lost is full of iconic moments. I’ll never see backgammon, nosebleeds, or hieroglyphics the same way. From the opening dilating eye to the fade to black (or white!), Lost makes amazing use of curiosity, repetition (and variation). I, for one, love the craziness of DHARMA and Egyptology on the same show. Genre-defiance of the best possible type.

4. Lost raises all the questions of meaning in a non-parochial way. The Island itself is philosophically intriguing. Beyond the fact that half the people have recognizable names and nobody seems to be remotely hungry or malnourished, islanders are always asking key questions most of us are too damn sleepy to raise aloud: Am I in it alone or living together? Am I free or confounded by destiny? Am I a leader or a follower? Am I being lied to? No wonder the Oceanic 6 were lured back after returning to boring old everyday life.

So, in summary, isn’t life just a matter of piecing some pretty weird stuff together and trying your damnedest to live together and not die alone? Consider me among the losties, and try not to roll your eyes.

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