May 20, 2010

Why I Like Lost - Part II

This is the second post explaining in some detail why I like the TV show lost.   Please read the first post here, then continue with this list below...

Why I Like Lost - Part II

The Character Depth Goes Beyond the Story

"Uh, the bald guy's name is 'John Locke'?" I said to my wife.  I knew that naming a character after one of the biggest philosophers in history had to be more than just a minor oddity of the show.  It meant something.  But what are these writers doing?

Let's see.  A bunch of people stranded on an island and its looking like rescue is not coming soon, if ever.  What would that give them?  Ah, a clean slate, Tabula Rasa, as the real life John Locke would have called it.  The character John Locke relies on this philosophy and derives encouragement and confidence from it.  His view?  The survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 get a fresh start on the island;  an opportunity to start over without prejudice.  They now have free will to choose a different path because of this opportunity.

This could be the theme of the show.  Unless John Locke's postulations are wrong, then of course, some other philosophical point of view may be more relevant to our story.  Fortunately, we have a character named Desmond David Hume, whose namesake tells us about determinism, which would indicate that there is no blank slate, but instead, our destinies have already been predetermined by our environment.  Everyone was going to end up on that island one way or another, no matter what.  It was fate.

Why is this kind of thing relevant at all?  Well, see, on the island, a new society is being developed, and someone has to be in charge.  Who should the leader be?  How will the society be governed?  Who gives the orders and who follows them?  What if there is division or criminal behavior?   This new society must get developed politically somehow.  If everyone has a clean slate, then anyone could morally qualify to lead.  But if not, then people cannot escape from any sins in their past.  This will affect who leads and how.

Fortunately, a character named Rousseau is on the scene, a nod to the savvy viewer that a Social Contract (as presented by the real life philosopher named Rousseau) must be formed one way or another.  There is no way around that.  Unless of course you want anarchy, then lucky for you, we have another character named Mikhail Bakunin (aka "patchy") who creates quite a bit of chaos.  That should be expected because the real life Mikhail Bakunin was a Russian anarchist philosopher who rejected every kind of governing system and a real critic of Rousseau. 

But what if philosophy, the search for truth, is resolved by a religion?  Well good news, we have that too, especially Christian references.   We have Bible characters such as Adam and Eve, Ruth and Naomi, and perhaps more importantly, Jacob.  We even have a mysterious character who appears to have risen from the dead named "Christian Shepherd."  Isn't that a title for Jesus?  Is he the Savior or just a false Christ?  Maybe he came to seek and save what was ... 'lost'?

Perhaps we should inquire from a character named Charlotte Staples Lewis, who interestingly, shares a similar name with the famous Chronicles of Narnia writer C.S. Lewis.  The real C.S. Lewis is also a famous Christian writer, using the Narnia stories as an allegory for the Gospel.  Is Lost then an allegory for a Christian worldview?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I think you'd get an objection to that theory from Jeremy Bentham, another character who would advocate keeping religion and government separate, if his namesake has any bearing on the discussion.  He's not much of a fan of natural law either.

Can you see how this is totally mesmerizing and addicting?  Do you know now why Lost fans are so annoying?  This can go on and on.  Turns out, most if not all characters are named after (or otherwise reference) famous philosophers, scientists, literary figures, writers, mathematicians, physicists, and Biblical characters.  It is a significant part of the Lost story.

If you haven't watched it yet, just wait until you meet Henry Gale, who shares his name with the Wizard of Oz character.  Henry Gale's character might in fact be the best television character of all time.

Oh and by the way.  If a character or two don't seem to have any reference at all to a real life person, then maybe you should take their name and enter it into an anagram server.  You might just find a clue or an idea that will make you wonder.  You may even discover that one man you think you know is really an other man.

The characters are great on their own and the exposition above isn't necessary to enjoy the show.  Each character is well developed and interesting.  Truth is, they don't stay consistent to their namesakes above anyway.  However, knowing who they are named after does add a significant element to the show and a depth that I have never seen, outside of the Bible anyway.  Its those genius writers again.

For your enjoyment, a speed drawing of our hero (?),  John Locke:





... Why I Like Lost - Part III - Coming Soon...

SCF
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