Skip to content

Lost: For those who were not so lost

June 7, 2010

Lost was a unique drama. Though thoroughly enjoyable, it was not limited to that. It was deeper than the cast, the setting, the special effects and even the characterization. It had a message to convey and it delivered on that promise. The viewers may disagree with the final message, but the drama was successful in delivering it, though with some obligatory postmodernist confusions.

From the first season it was clear that the message behind Lost was Christian. The sixth season left no doubt about it. The gathering in the church, the statue of Jesus, the ritual of baptism and Jack’s Christ-like sacrifice left no doubt about it. Though there was a bit of multiculturalism thrown in, shown by the ethnic range of the cast, by Saeed-Shannon relationship and by the multi-ethnic Church murals. Nevertheless, the symbolism was overwhelmingly Christian.

The symbolism boils down to this: there is a fight between ‘good’ and ‘evil’; ‘evil’ often generates from curiosity; Life is misery; Man is sinner; Man cannot save himself; he needs help from outside; faith is better than reason; reason and faith are mutually exclusive realms. In short, Christian theology repackaged.

Sixth season had mixed reactions. While some loved it, others plainly hated it. The viewers stand divided on the same lines on which Jack and Locke were, in the first season; on one side are the men of faith, on the other the men of reason. Men of faith are completely satisfied by both the message of Lost and the way in which it was delivered; men of reason are dissatisfied over the message.

Being no enemy of reason, I have my share of resentments.

In the drama, the fight between Faith and Reason was symbolized by the fight between Jacob and MIB. As the faith concerned here is Christianity, so we could say that it was a fight between Christianity and Science.

MIB is curious about how things work while Jacob believes blindly in whatever his ‘mother’ says. MIB wants to know what lies across the sea, while Jacob does not want to leave the island. MIB asks the reason of the murder of his real mother, while Jacob does not even think about it. MIB wants to know the mystery behind the Light, while Jacob is content to protect it. MIB thinks that the Light should not be defended because there is no rational explanation behind it, while Jacob defends it without knowing about it. MIB is brains, while Jacob is all brawns. MIB represents unquenchable thirst for objective knowledge, while Jacob stands for blind faith. So when Jacob is supposed to be good because he has blind faith and MIB is supposed to be bad because of his rationality, the viewer becomes skeptical.

The side of Reason is ridiculed. The experiments of Dharma Initiative are said to be stupid by Linus. The organization is subsequently liquidated by the followers of Jacob. Jacob’s mother never explains the mysteries to Jacob, considering his curiosity contrary to ‘faith’. When, at last, Jack, who originally stood for Reason, volunteers for the job, he also has no questions, and Jacob considers it good that Jack wants to remain as ignorant of the mysteries as him.  This is the final victory of faith over reason. As for the reason of this: everything Jack touched, except the island, was ruined and hence the conversion. Absurd reason, but enough for believers and postmodernists…

The good-bad analogy of Jacob-MIB struggle is not very convincing either. The ‘mother’ murders a woman because she thinks that her ‘people’ are evil. She defends the Light without enquiring about it and expects her ‘sons’ to do the same. She does not want MIB to leave the island even while he is a grown-up man and wants to enquire about his own history. She murders all of MIB’s companions and destroys his scientific inventions. When Jacob takes over, he also causes a lot of people to die, just because he thinks that the Light should be defended, again without enquiring about it. And we, along with the castaways, are supposed to have faith in this.

Christianity has punished curiosity from its very beginnings. The heretics were burned because they searched for answers outside Christianity. Bruno and Galileo were persecuted because of their curiosity. Alfred Wegener was ridiculed because he contradicted the Biblical premise of immovability of land. Darwin was hated because he proved the Creationism of the Bible wrong. Just like that, MIB is punished in Lost because of his curiosity, because he couldn’t put his faith blindly into something he didn’t understand.

This is not the first time I have felt sympathy for a ‘villain’ in a story based on Biblical themes. The Satan of Paradise Lost is a wronged creature. I wonder whether Milton intended to generate the sympathy for this evil character, but either way, I, along with many, feel that he was wronged at the first place. Here, we have another parallel with MIB’s story. MIB became a monster because Jacob made him so. So who was the root of that evil? MIB or Jacob?

Was not Shylock a victim first and a perpetrator later? Was not the Jew of Malta a victim too? And was Dr. Faustus’ quest for knowledge so evil? Was it really the fault of Saruman to study the ways of Sauron very deeply?

The way the Island gave everyone the feeling of being a sinner is also uncomfortable for men of reason. Jack’s actions are fruitless. He can help only by ‘letting go’, which means, letting ‘faith’ take care of things. Siding by Reason for six seasons, at last, he gives in.

Those who are familiar with eastern philosophies like Buddhism and Taoism are not comfortable with the Sin theory of Christianity. According to them, potential of good and bad is inside every human and so is the strength of developing either of them. The help has to come from inside. No savior, however great, can save others.

I am not making a case for radical individualism here. Sacrifices have to be made for a great cause. But there has to be a cause. If one finds that behind the façade of ‘faith’ there is nothing, disappointment is inevitable.

Jacob’s version of story will convince only those, who are already convinced. As I was not convinced before, I remain unconvinced after.  This is not to say that I did not enjoy Lost. I have my disagreements with it, but just as I never fail to be enthralled by Paradise Lost and The Merchant of Venice, I will never forget Lost and the fact that I enjoyed it so much.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2010 3:04 PM


    I really liked this review and i have the following observations to make :-

    1. Your comparison between the theme and the christian ideology is bang on target. I had never noticed the symbolism, so i will probably watch a couple of episodes again with that perspective in mind.

    2. The problem with lost is – the one you did not mention – that is became very incoherent at times. There are many things which just dont add up. It seems that while preparing the srcipt, the writer thought of a lot of exciting ideas but failed to fit them all into the big picture. Because of that obscurity and mysteriousness, i stopped following the serial.
    It requires a lot of patience to continue to watch something that doesnt make a lot of sense 😛

    Nevertheless, it was a nice review and one that will stimulate me to go and watch a couple of episodes again .

    • June 7, 2010 3:14 PM

      The problem of incoherence is an overdiscussed problem by Lost fans, that’s why I did not discuss it.

      They excuse all the unexplained mysteries on Lost by saying that its postmodern! Of course, the ultimate answer! Modern academic Rambaan!

      “It requires a lot of patience to continue to watch something that doesnt make a lot of sense”

      Love how you put it!

  2. June 7, 2010 6:11 PM

    Great recap! I approached the finale from a different perspective than you, but you articulate your points really well. And while I love Jacob, I also feel sorry for MiB. I disagree that Faith and Reason must necessarily be mutually exclusive; I think Daniel Faraday is one character who strikes a good balance. I am a little surprised that the finale tipped so far on the Faith side; I thought it might be more ambiguous, given all of the dichotomies throughout the show.

    I think it’s clear that Jacob made a lot of mistakes and can’t be considered the ultimate representation of Good, and that his brother’s initial curiosity was simply wanting to know about the world around him, and his evil nature mostly was a result of what Jacob did to him. Their “mother” was wrong about a lot of things too. So they were just regular guys like everybody else on the show, they’d just been around a lot longer. I still wonder if we might get a little more of their story…

    • June 7, 2010 6:16 PM

      Thanks Erin! Keep visiting! I was also hopeful that the religious symbolism at last won’t be so overt and final, so the finale disappointed me a little.

      Faraday was one good character! Good point!

      I hope too that we had little more knowledge of MIB’s and Jacob’s histories but with that postmodernist bent, I don’t think the producers cared for final explanations…

  3. June 7, 2010 6:13 PM

    yeah.. post modernism at its best !! good that we have terms for everything now …

  4. June 7, 2010 9:03 PM

    The problem of incoherence is an overdiscussed problem by Lost fans

    LOST’s incoherence is the “elephant in the middle of the room”, isn’t it? So saying that’s an overdiscussed topic is sort of like saying unemployment and debt are presently “overdiscussed” among economists and financial analysts. Many share the opinion that huge problems with LOST are not being satisfactorily dismissed by apologists for the show. This remains by far the best commentary which I’ve read.

    • June 7, 2010 10:35 PM

      Yes, I have gone through the post you mention. I was just saying that I did not focus on that particular problem as many were discussing it. I just limited myself to the objections about Biblical themes.

  5. June 7, 2010 11:04 PM

    Well, that’s another thing I find laughable. LOST isn’t any more or less Christian than any other TV show which features a plot with moral dimensions. Finding parts of a story that remind one of a morality tale from some timeless religious text is not difficult to do for 95% of what’s out there.

    • June 7, 2010 11:09 PM

      Oh, that is not the case! It IS explicitly Christian! There is no way it can be compared to others like Prison Break or 24.

  6. June 8, 2010 8:53 PM

    This is an analysis I haven’t seen before. It sheds a whole new light in the series for me.

    I guess I’m of reason because I was pretty angry about the ending and how so much was left unsettled and unanswered. I want answers. I thought it was poor writing, but with this perspective, I think maybe it was planned that way from the beginning and for a reason.

    Very interesting!

  7. Nandini permalink
    July 1, 2010 6:53 PM

    One sweet review this has turned out to be. A little disappointed with no mention to particular characters like Ben and Sawyer. They being my favorite characters from the show. Season 6 came across as quite a disappointment I agree. More so, because it lost track. I was hooked on only for the thrill element because it indeed stopped making sense and had way too many timelines to keep a track of. The time travel concept is ridiculed by most of the present day people. Except for the ones who are on the faith side.

    Lovely lovely review!A totally new insight to the show. A lot deeper, a lot meaningful.


    • July 1, 2010 11:53 PM

      Thanks for visiting Nandini! I did not, by any means, intend this to be an exhaustive review of the series. I just had to made my point, because I thought that the point I was making, was an under-appreciated one and so I could do well by focussing on it.

      And yes, I love Sawyer and Ben is also an enigmatic character.

      I hope your keep visiting here!

  8. July 5, 2010 5:49 PM

    First of all, congratulation for your excellent blog, but if you are interested we can link and spread our blogs here is my website blog thank you for your help advance.

  9. Sandeep permalink
    July 29, 2010 7:57 PM

    Please read A hindu refutation of Christianity by Sree Vidyadhiraja Parama Bhattaraka Chattampi Swamikal (1853-1924)

  10. September 28, 2013 11:29 PM

    Thanks 🙂 Please do visit again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: