Tuesday, October 26, 2010

LOST: Flawed TV show unfriendly to gays & women

I've spent the last few months watching Lost via Netflix and while I was hooked because of the exotic setting, the cliffhangers and the moral ambiguity of some of the characters, I feel there are a couple of things I need to say. In criticism, not of the unanswered questions but because despite this show's popularity and intensity, it failed to touch me on a personal level. In fact, it annoyed me, really annoyed me.

I'm not even going to warn you about all the spoilers here. Who cares?

First off, in an enlightened world, you would think that there might be some gay characters in the drama. Yes. There's one, Tom Friendly, but he's a villain at the outset and you only learn about it offhandedly when he tells Kate she's not his type and then later he kisses a man. That's it. That's all we have for the one gay character.

And he's killed! No chance for redemption. 'Bye gay character. You could have been a contender instead of belittled and dead, which is what you were.

As for women: Kate was a great character. But I wish Kate had looked a little less good in jeans, you know what I mean? This was network television which means the viewers need eye candy and so do the sponsors.

In fact, every time one of the women characters, from Kate to the forgettable Zoe, they've either got cleavage or cling to their bodies. Rose Nadler wears loose, drapey, comfortable-looking clothing. Is that because she's a bit overweight or older? Does she not have to exude sexuality because she's the Island's mystic for a while? And she's married. What does that say about sexuality? You get married and you don't have to be sexual?

What a relief--you don't have to shake your thing once you've got a ring on it!

While we're on the subject: tokenism. Once the black cast members, Michael and Walt leave and Rose and Bernard kind of fade to the background, they're not important they're not there there every week. And by the way, is Bernard Nadler Jewish? We don't know. Anyone who dies on the Island is buried with a cross. Churches and other religious and mystical symbols seem to play an important role in Lost. And it's not until the finale that we get to be in a church that seems to have lots of religious symbols from the Muslim Star & Crescent to the Magen David of Judaism.

Which brings me back to more stereotyping: good mothers and evil mothers.
Good mothers: Claire, Kate, Sun, Cassidy--all eye-candy.
Evil mothers:
--Jacob & Man-in-black's adopted mother (she kills their mother, deceives them about their nature and is just icky) played by the remarkable actress Alison Janney--who is magnetic and watchable, but not "sexy." I love that she speaks Latin with the boys' real mother.
--Eloise Hawking: Not only do we encounter her mostly aged, but she kills her own son--tries to kill his soul by making him put aside his music and then shoots him some time in one of the time traveling sequences. At least she had an affair with Charles Widmore, the wicked thing!
--James Ford's mother has an affair with the con artist Anthony Cooper. Of course she's killed and her son is affected by it for the rest of his life.
--Shannon & Boone's stepmother. Ugh.

By the way, the Boone & Shannon thing...they're half-siblings and it's pretty sticky.

The "good" mothers are all in peril. They either lose their lives & babies on the Island due to some weird disease, or they lose their lives & babies due to the Others kidnapping and killing them. The "evil" mothers by the way, have immense power and they do the killing.

Maybe this would be fine if it weren't Hollywood men writing the story. Maybe I, as a complicated, morally ambiguous female human might feel that I could empathize with some of the characters. Well, I did with Rose--because she loves her Bernard and they grow old together and they just live their lives.

You know, although I believe there's an awful lot of good writing on HBO, I'm glad Lost was NOT an HBO production. You think Lost's sadomasochism soft-porn was bad? Think of what it would look like with full frontal nudity--or mostly female frontal nudity. Think it was frightening when Kate, captive, had to put on that dress and break rocks in front of leering men? What about any time Sayid has to torture someone? Think of that under HBO or Showtime.

Just sickening.

In the final analysis, it's women's bodies (oh yeah, there's plenty of masculine eye candy too for those who like that sort of thing)--or the symbolism of women's bodies being used to sell a TV show and therefore advertising.

For excellent and angry critique of the abuse and exploitation of women, I urge you to read this great blog by NineDeuce: Rage Against the Man-chine. I don't know if there's a post about Lost. In any event, I might just swear off TV.