Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Review: 'Lost Humanity' by Pearson Moore

The TV show 'Lost' was a global phenomenon, inspiring millions of viewers to spend endless hours analysing and speculating - what did it all mean? As the unanswered mysteries piled up, it became obvious that not everything would (or could) be answered satisfactorily, but everyone agreed that at least the major questions would be resolved, and spent the hiatus before the final season compiling lists of essential answers (some ran into the hundreds).

That final season splintered the fanbase. Many people were quite happy with it, and thought it a rousing send-off. Many others were anything from dissatisfied to outraged, and voiced their displeasure long and loud. Neither side quite understood the other. But there was a third group, too. Midway through the season, a number of those who blogged and reviewed and publicly pronounced on 'Lost' began to say: you know what, the answers don't matter, it's really all about the characters (or the journey, or the themes, or whatever). Well, who wants to admit they spent six years of their life on something without meaning? This book is of and about that third group, an attempt to justify the lack of solid answers by explaining the show away as something too subtle and profound for ordinary minds.

'Lost', says Pearson Moore, is a new, unique and brilliant form of TV: it is metadrama. It is not amenable to rational analysis or logic because it is intentionally chaotic. Science is not applicable, you can only understand it if you have faith. It is, in fact, beyond reality. This leads to prose like this: "Every day we become the Smoke Monster. Every day we unleash on this world, in ways small and large, in thoughtlessness and cruelty, the full chaos of our unmeasured lusts. Chaos is the antagonist, and we are the creators of its confusing and ill effects. Chaos has no linear etiology, no clear chronology, else we could approach the problem as an exercise in scientific empiricism."

Well, fine. Whether you think this is deeply profound or pretentious tosh is a matter of taste. But it creates some interesting moments when the author attempts to demonstrate the inherently chaotic nature of 'Lost' with examples - the fact that some of the Losties on the Ajira flight were tossed back in time, but not Sun; or why some people bounced around in time after Ben turned the frozen donkey wheel but not others. Sure, these outcomes may seem irrational, but perhaps there is a more down-to-earth explanation - the writers needed things to happen that way purely for plot reasons, to make the story more exciting. Not metadrama, then, just dodgy writing.

The author takes the offensive position that those who were dissatisfied with the lack of answers, or with the answers provided, were simply not prepared to put in the effort to work out answers themselves, were not fully 'immersed' in the series. He himself has no problem: "...the corpus of LOST resolves almost every question that I have read or heard." Well, of course there are answers - for every question left unanswered on the show, fans have come up with five or ten plausible answers of their own, all different, some even contradictory. Is that satisfactory? I would say not - the only acceptable answer is the one the writers had in mind themselves. If indeed they had anything in mind at all.

This book is a classic instance of humankind's innate ability to create patterns from anything, to rationalise anything. The author looks for patterns in the events of 'Lost', and, seeing none, declares that this chaos is intentional on the writers' part. Others interpret it as lack of planning by the writers - they threw in huge numbers of intriguing happenings to make the story more dramatic, without any rhyme or reason. Which camp each of us falls into says more about us than about 'Lost', frankly.

For those who were happy with the ending of 'Lost', you don't need this book. For those who expected at least some rational explanations, this book won't help. But for anyone who felt there was something more to 'Lost' that they just didn't quite understand, this book may give you the rationalisation you need. And hey, it's cheap. Two stars. [First written July 2011]

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