domingo, 26 de agosto de 2012

Lost (1994-2010): We re Not in Portland Anymore: Lost and Its International Others by Jonathan Gray

As many television scholars and producers have argued of late, television is in a transitional era. To Lynn Spigel and Jan Olsson, this is ‘television after TV’,1 while Amanda Lotz writes of a ‘revolu­tion’ in American television.2 If this transitional time is notable for changes and innovations of form,3 and of production, distribution, and transmission at local levels,4 then it is also notable for its increas- ingly globalized nature. The age of the truly national broadcaster and of its one-size-fits-all logic is under threat, challenged from within national borders by narrowcasting and niche marketing, and giving rise to increased discussion of multiple public spheres,5 not a singular, united public sphere.6 Meanwhile, television regularly flows beyond its national borders, sometimes following transnational and diasporic audiences, sometimes as part of a general process of cultural interac­tion and exchange, and often as part of media multinationals’ exerted attempts to establish textual and/or corporate beachheads on all for­eign soil.


The state of national television is in flux, and certainly a great deal of current scholarship examines the specificities of how televi­sion travels, how it is received in foreign contexts, and how business models are changing to account for globalization.7 To date, however, little has been said about how television programmes are imaging and imagining the world now that more of that world is likely to be part of their audience. If television is moving beyond the nation, how - if at all - are its texts adapting, not just as products that are distributed globally, but as narratives, and as sets of meanings? And since it is US television that is particularly successful and particularly aggressively plugged worldwide, how is it adapting?

A scan through US primetime television might suggest that little if any adaptation is occurring. Many US shows still care first, foremost and only about addressing an American audience. Not only do we have American Idol (Fremantle Media North America, 2002- ), America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC Productions, 1990-) and America’s Got Tal­ent (Fremantle Media North America, 2006-), but many other shows focus solely on American characters in American places. Small-town family or teen dramas such as 7th Heaven (CBS Paramount Network Television, 1996-2007), Gilmore Girls (Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions, 2000-7), Everwood (Warner Bros. Television, 2002-6), Dawson’s Creek (Outerbank Entertainment, 1998-2003) and Smallville (Tollin, 2001-) regularly appear to be set not only miles but many years away from a globalized world, following US television’s long- established fascination with suburban life away from the global mix of the city.
Yet even many shows set in the international cities of New York, Los Angeles and Miami have either shown little or no aware­ness of the global in the local, as with Friends (Warner Bros. Televi­sion, 1994-2004) or Seinfeld (Castlerock Entertainment, 1990-8) for instance, or have included foreigners largely as terrorists and crimi­nals, as with 24 (Imagine Entertainment, 2001- ) or CSI: Miami (CBS Productions, 2002-).

When US television does voyage outside the nation’s borders, most often it does so in heavily orientalized terms, either exoticiz- ing (as in travel, cooking or wildlife programmes) or reducing non- Americans to bad guys and their victims (as in The Unit (David Mamet Chicago, 2006- ), Alias (Bad Robot, 2001-6), and the nightly news). US television shows have thus very rarely exhibited any awareness of addressing an international audience, and still too frequently present international settings and characters in ways that belittle them and that bolster Americans’ self-image as the best people on the planet.

Within this framework of Othering and exclusion, we can bet­ter understand how Lost was a stark break from business as usual when it hit the air in 2004. Lost is, first, set outside the USA; second, filmed outside the contiguous 48 states, in Hawaii; third, its regular characters have included an Iraqi, an Australian, an Englishman, a Ni­gerian, two Koreans, a Frenchwoman and a Scot; and fourth, its cast has included Australians, white Brits, black Brits, a South Asian Brit, a Canadian, a Croat, a Brazilian and a Korean. It is thus, to date, US primetime television’s most international show. And it has been suc­cessful, being a breakout hit of 2004 in the USA, still regularly in the Nielsen top 30 and also a huge success internationally. A 2006 study of 20 countries by Informa Telecoms and Media found Lost the second most popular show, behind only CSI: Miami. 8


Importantly, too, its bold act of leaving the USA behind has in­spired followers, with Heroes (NBC Universal Television, 2006- ) pre­miering in 2006 - a show that, at the 2006 fall preview screenings at the New York Museum of TV and Radio, was introduced proudly by an NBC executive as ‘very international, just like Lost - and Life is Wild (CBS Paramount Network Television, 2007-8) premiering in 2007. This chapter will study Lost's depiction of the world and its people outside the USA. As I will show, and as Chapter XI by Michael New­bury also details, Lost suffers from many orientalizing and belittling tropes. However, over time it has also challenged many of these tropes with remarkable skill. In particular, its gradual recoding of some of the island’s international inhabitants, along with its poignant and ever-developing discussion of the nature of home and belonging, has offered a refreshingly complex rendering of the politics of belonging that, if all too rare, is fitting for globalized television and is an encour­aging development for US television.

Iraqi Torturers, Korean Gangsters and Nigerian Warlords: Orientalism and Lost 
As Edward Said notes, European and US attempts to make sense of the rest of the world have long been characterized by a process of Othering. An Other is a psychological foil created as a repository for characteristics, ideas and urges that one wishes to disown, and hence Others serve as projections of that which we do not want to be. Not the products of honest research that they often purport to be, they are constructions and Active renderings. Said notes their perpetuation through history, as yet more anthropologists, historians, scientists, artists and travellers merely replicate the same tired stereotypes, see­ing in other people the difference and strangeness they expect to find. ‘Knowledge’ of the Orient, Said observes, 'creates the Orient, the Ori­ental, and his world’, so that ‘ [i] t is Europe that articulates the Orient; this articulation is the prerogative, not of a puppet master, but of a genuine creator, whose life-giving power represents, animates, and constitutes the otherwise silent and dangerous space beyond familiar boundaries.’9 The Other or Oriental becomes a caricature, meaning the actual human being is always spoken for, never allowed to speak for or of him or herself.

Orientalism and Othering are thus ‘a set of constraints upon and limitations of thought’, since they ‘represent or stand for a very large entity, otherwise impossibly diffuse, which they enable one to grasp or see’,10 reducing complexities of difference to simple binaries. ‘We’ are the civilized ones, endowed with a code of honour, a respect for science and rationality, compassion, and above all individuality and profundity, while ‘they’ become the mass of irrational, barbaric savages or pitiable, laughable simpletons. Not only does Othering represent a failure to engage with those from other countries as real beings but, as Said notes, most insidiously, such binaries ‘could prepare the way for what armies, administrations, and bureaucracies would later do on the ground, in the Orient’,11 ‘justifying’ imperial rule by positing an inher­ent lack in all of ‘them’ that ‘we’ did and do not share.
While Othering as a mode of ‘understanding’ is common worldwide, as Said reminds us, when combined with real world power differentials between the Otherer and the Other, Othering easily begets imperialism.

Said’s Orientalism stands out as a remarkable study of colonial history, but his continued work and criticism until his death in 2003 insisted that Orientalism was still a dominant mode of viewing the non-Western world. And while Said’s own work focused on Oriental­ism directed towards the Middle East in history, literature and pol­icy, many scholars have found Othering and Orientalism of all non- Westerners across the mass media. David Richards has charted the Orientalist gaze across a history of Western art, anthropology and literature.12 Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins examine National Geo­graphic`s systematic Othering in the mode of romanticizing the ‘noble savage’ and his or her ‘primitive’ customs and beliefs.13 William O’Barr finds Othering a common element in advertising images of non-West­erners.14 M. Shahid Alam, among many others, has studied the Orien­talist gaze of international news.15 Sunaina Maira and John Hutnyk have examined Western youth culture’s love of all things Indian as Orientalist, so that, as Hutnyk argues, ‘India becomes the biological/ genetic/conceptual repository and archive for values, concepts, styles, and “life essence” considered absent in the individualistic “developed” West.’
16 Hutnyk has also penned a detailed study of how Western con­structions of Calcutta, through maps, traveller’s tales, film, photo­graphs and tour books, result in visitors replicating the Calcutta they expect, rather than seeking out the complex realities of the city.17 Da­vid Morley notes that the media’s construction of nation and national identity has often relied upon images and notions of the foreign as the threateningly different.18 And, as many studies of media represen­tations of ethnicity within any given nation illustrate, Othering and Orientalism have become common lenses through which many me­dia texts gaze at and make sense of (that is, project and construct) all manners of racial or cultural difference.

Turning to Lost, the show introduced several of its non-Western characters to us in heavily Orientalized terms. As Newbury in this vol­ume shows, the initial treatment of the Korean couple Jin (Daniel Day Kim) and Sun (Yunjin Kim) by the script, camera and other characters is particularly illustrative. Early in season one, Jin comes across as a domineering, chauvinist husband, while Sun appears to be a submis­sive, diminutive presence living under his shadow. Many of Lost’s first images of Jin were of him giving orders to his wife, or reprimanding her in harsh tones. As importantly, several scenes depicted other char­acters seeing Jin give orders and sharing concerned looks, and we were thus invited to share, as part of the ‘we’, their Orientalist gaze and judgment of what at first appeared to be yet another one of ‘them’ - an East Asian sexist brute terrorizing his shrinking violet of a wife. Of­ten Korean dialogue between the couple would go without subtitles, underscoring their foreignness and their difference, separating them from us as viewers as much as from the other islanders, and subordi­nating Jin and Sun to their fellow crash victims.
As correlate to Jin’s language difficulties in particular, he be­came one of the show’s sources for comic relief, as he would stum­ble through attempts to communicate with others. Here, knowing viewers could also appreciate the irony that Korean-American Daniel Dae Kim reportedly had to bone up on his shaky command of the Ko­rean language for the role. Ironic, yes, but the resulting performance was thus clearly coded as one of an American aping a Korean char­acter as penned by white American writers. Then, in ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (1.6), viewers were shocked out of seeing Jin as (solely) a comic element when he brutally beat Michael (Harold Perrineau),
playing into role as the irrational, dangerous Oriental. Furthermore, if Jin appeared to act outside established Western rules of behaviour, by placing Jin and Sun in a repressive organized crime family, the pro­ducers painted Korea itself in broad, reductive strokes, as a place of uncontested male chauvinism, usury and with an absence of rational law or power structures. Sun, we learn, was learning English secretly, intending to escape to the USA, the promised land beyond the reach of Korean law, family and corruption.

Sayid (Naveen Andrews) and Mr Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye- Agjabe) are also initially presented in Orientalized terms, as will later be discussed, with the Iraqi torturer and the Nigerian warlord and drug smuggler respectively conforming closely to the long line of Oriental­ist depictions of the Arab world and to colonial narratives of the ‘Dark Continent’. Beyond mere characters, though, as with Korea, foreign places are frequently depicted as inherently strange and dangerous.
For example, the tellingly titled ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ (3.9) that examines Jack’s (Matthew Fox) time in Thailand is particularly steeped in the exotic. As Newbury in this volume (see Chapter XI) charts with rich detail, the episode reduces Jack’s Thai lover to a combination of tourist sex trinket and mystic, offering Jack (the man of science and rationality) as the lone identification point through which we are in­vited to gaze at the exotic Thai setting around him, and building up to a scene that rocks between a rape fantasy and an Orientalized mystical sexual experience. Finally, the flashback ends with Jack being beaten by a group of voiceless Thai thugs, thereby referencing multiple other Orientalist tellings of the exotic beach tale, such as The Beach (Danny Boyle, 2000) or Turistas (John Stockwell, 2006), complete with the sense of local danger.
Jack’s visit to Thailand occupies the flashback scenes of a single episode, but the general exoticization of Eastern spirituality pervades Lost through the Dharma Initiative. Dharma, the Sanskrit word for a general sense of order in life, and a central tenet of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh belief and philosophy, is used in Lost to imbue the is- land-controlling Initiative with a strong air of Eastern mysticism. Lest the viewer miss the name’s significance, Dharma’s ubiquitous train­ing video scientist, Dr Marvin Candle (François Chau), is South East Asian. Moreover, the Dharma Initiative’s set sign-off is the Nepali and Hindi 'Namaste (meaning, ‘I bow to you’), complete with the South and South East Asian sign of respect, greeting or farewell of placing the palms together. Even when Dharma’s on-island representatives all appear to be white and American, the writers’ choice to surround this experiment with the accoutrements of Buddhism introduces a sense of the unknown, the supernatural and the other-worldly.

Then there is Africa. With the second season addition of Mr Eko, the island now had a crash survivor from Nigeria. Eko’s flashbacks tell a story of a nation/continent in strife, where a mission is desperately trying to help the struggling people, yet is helpless against a cold and bloodthirsty gang who regularly kill with no reason. Viewers would be familiar with this Africa from the news - a lawless, impoverished place run by ‘tribal warlords’ who smuggle drugs and kill for sport.
Lost maintains a centuries-old Orientalist depiction of Africa as ruled by animalistic irrationality and cruelty, its depiction barely more nu- anced than the bones through the nose or the cannibalism of earlier renderings. Even children become killers, which, while a thorough vio­lation of the natural order, is sometimes understandable, given their residence in a supposedly kill-or-be-killed continent. Eko himself is seen as capable of turning off his moral compass to commit consider­able violence. As with Thailand, Korea, and Iraq, Africa is depicted in Orientalized terms.

Admittedly, Lost’s world is a dark one, the USA included. Various flashbacks, for instance, show a USA in which the Mittelos Biosci­ence company can have Juliet’s (Elizabeth Mitchell’s) boss killed in plain sight in Miami. With few exceptions, however, Lost’s USA is still governed by law, and hence by a prevailing moral code and by ratio­nality.
Kate (Evangeline Lilly) is on the run from the law for killing her step-father, and along the way she falls in love with a cop. Ana- Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez) was herself a police officer, and her flash­backs deal with her desire to kill out of revenge, an urge that is coded as un-cop-like, and which leads to her mother/supervising officer recommending that she take time off. Locke’s father (Kevin Tighe) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) may have conned their way around the country, but they were on the move to avoid the law. Though unwit­tingly, Locke (Terry O’Quinn) leads an undercover agent to foil a com­mune’s marijuana-growing operation.
And even Jack’s father (John Terry) must pay for his drunken gurney-side behaviour when Jack ensures that the hospital board relieves him of his duties. Thus, while Thailand, Korea, Iraq and Africa offer no sense of law, the US flash­backs frequently involve a tangible power of law, in stark opposition to the lack thereof in the Orientalized nations.

Lost also includes several white Others, who, though slightly stereotyped - as with Charlie (Dominic Monaghan), the Mancunian rocker suffering from drug addiction, Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick), the Scot who can identify brands of scotch at a distance, and Rous­seau (Mira Furlan), the slightly crazy, non-team playing Frenchwom­an - are spared the caricaturization of their non-Western counter­parts.
Australia, meanwhile, is depicted in a tellingly binary manner. On one hand is the lawful, familiar-looking (that is, USA-like) white Australia, complete with suburbs, fancy yachts and roadside pubs. On the other hand, we also see a mystical, exotic, indigenous Australia, home to a famed healer, and the intended site of Locke’s spiritual quest of discovery. A powerful spirit is posited as resting over the Outback, and Locke’s and Bernard’s (Sam Anderson’s) and Rose’s (L. Scott Caldwell’s) attempted encounters with this spirit pose it as in­digenous.

Lost’s gaze at the non-white, non-Western world frequently be­littles, while relying on careless and diched tropes of ruthless murder­ers, unchecked aggression and lawlessness, or, by contrast, the exotic, mystical and seductive. These depictions make it important that the island is itself in liminal space, seemingly in an unknown location in the South Pacific and peopled not by Pacific Islanders but by Ben (Michael Emerson) and the white ‘Others’.
The island is positioned somewhere between the lawful, rational, scientific USA and the law­less, irrational, mystical rest of the non-white world, its ambiguous location exacerbating the uneasiness stemming from not knowing ex­actly what the island is and under what rules (if any) it operates. So too with the Dharma Initiative, who may seem partly based in ‘Port­land’, yet who are surrounded by Buddhist terminology and fronted by a South East Asian in their videos.
If Lost’s writers have set up an ongoing battle of science and faith, forcing the viewer to continually question which of the two, or how much of each, is at play in any given occurrence, their coding of the rest of the world as mystical, the USA as scientific, and the island and Dharma as somewhere in between amplifies the viewer’s confusion. This liminality even extends to the filming location, since Hawaii is similarly both the USA and not the USA, both ‘here’ and ‘there’ (for more on Hawaii’s liminality see Chap­ter V in this volume).



In numerous ways, then, Lost may appear to conform to a pervasive Orientalism in US television. Jack’s Thai adventure in particular seems wholly drawn from a colonialist narrative, and much of the depiction of Africa echoes colonial-era accounts justifying European ‘civilization’ of these ‘barbarians’. However, at the same time, the show has also proven remarkably unconventional in dynamically challenging tired Orientalist scripts, and in self-reflexively debunking and replacing them. Somewhat characteristic of many ‘progressive’ depictions on television, Lost's images at times take steps backward into regression and racism, yet at other times take bold steps forward in thoughtful and nuanced character development.
The character arcs and development of Jin, Sun and Sayid are es­pecially worthy of closer analysis, since these figures have surpassed their initial stereotyping, both through the writing and the acting. As with any good mystery, and any good serial narrative, Lost’s novelty and narrative pleasures have often come from developing characters, and its writers have concentrated significant energy on shifting per­spectives and on changing formerly comfortable truths. Viewers are turned into analysts who must try to piece together what is going on across time, since no character is who they at first appeared to be. In short, Lost frequently requires the viewer to re-evaluate not only individual characters, but also potentially the production of the ste­reotypes associated with those characters. Hence, while in the above section I argued that many of the show’s non-Western characters and places are initially presented in Orientalized terms, part of the show’s strength lies in its ability to recode these as it progresses.

Season one’s flashbacks in particular specialized in offering char­acter revelations: Hurley (Jorge Garcia) was a multimillionaire, Locke was paraplegic, and so forth. The second Jin and Sun flashback in ‘... In Translation’ (1.17) similarly spun our understanding of Jin. Pre­sented at first as the hired thug and domineering husband, Jin was revealed instead to be a man trying to do whatever necessary to be with his wife. Forced into being Sun’s father’s (Byron Chung) hitman, Jin took to roughing his marks up, but never killing them. His anger, meanwhile, was re-contextualized for us as a sense of failure. Viewers were invited to see that Jin’s inability to communicate with the island­ers extended to his inability to communicate with his wife, to whom we now saw that he was hopelessly devoted. For her part, the more that viewers learned of Sun’s past - of her learning English behind Jin’s back, of her plan to move to the USA, of her affair, of her dis­patching of Jin’s extortionist mother - the less and less she appeared a diminutive Asian stereotype. Aided further by a strong and nuanced performance by Yunjin Kim, Sun has become a confidante, friend and force of strength in the group. Thus, in Jin and Sun, we have seen an impressive metamorphosis, as both were introduced as stereotypes, yet both have subsequently transcended those types.

Following this episode, and the couple’s eventual reconciliation, Jin and Sun have become two of the island’s most endearing charac­ters. While sexual tension simmered between multiple other pairings, Jin and Sun have taken their place as the island’s beloved couple. Ber­nard and Rose are the largely desexualized ‘cute’ older couple, but Jin and Sun are presented both as objects for viewer sexual attractions and as objects for romantic identification. The writers often use their relationship as an emotional hook, as in season two’s penultimate episode, ‘Live Together, Die Alone (1)’, in which the two are separated by Jin’s determination to get Sun rescued and hence to voyage out­wards on the raft.
In such moments, we are no longer invited to look at them with an Orientalist gaze, but to identify with them and to feel for them, not as Koreans, nor even as non-Koreans, but as people. In short, then, over three seasons the two have developed into nuanced, fleshed-out characters. Sun’s character development on the show is all the more impressive, too, since it reflects Yunjin Kim’s triumph at be­coming the first East Asian star to successfully transition to US televi­sion stardom.


Sayid’s development as a character also speaks to a powerful tran­scendence of stereotype.
To begin with, Sayid’s role as torturer occupies peculiar semiotic space in Lost, for while at one moment Orientalizing him as a bloodthirsty Arab, it also contributes to fashioning him as the island’s action hero. Lost shares a televisual moment with 24, and the latter’s Jack Bauer is notorious for his proclivity to torture. Both char­acters are depicted as able to torture anyone, but only willing to do so in dire circumstances. While we should be shocked to see that torture is now an acceptable skill in a hero’s bag of tricks, political ramifications aside, in action-hero generic coding it speaks to their masculine resolve (even if Sayid, contra Jack Bauer, regrets having tortured people).
As a result, Sayid has that most desirable of action-hero attributes: he is someone you don’t want to mess with.

He is also yet another of the cast’s heart-throbs. With straggly hair and muscular frame, and with his go-it-alone attitude, Sayid screams sex appeal. For a South Asian Brit playing an Iraqi, though, this is no easy feat, given centuries’ old codings of non-white men as either sexually dangerous aggressors likely to take ‘our women’, or as effeminate and foppish. Sayid and Shannon’s (Maggie Grace’s) short-lived romance also joined Bernard and Rose’s as a rare de­piction of biracial romance on US television. Granted, Boone (Ian Somerhalder) objected to the relationship, but viewers knew enough to understand it as incestuous jealousy, not an outgrowth of racist sentiment per se.

By no means solely the hired muscle or hunk, either, Sayid is one of the island’s smartest residents, gifted at working with electronics and blessed with a tactical mind. He is driven and, alongside Jack and Locke, one of the island’s unquestioned leaders. He is emotionally intelligent, too, a savvy observer of the island’s social dynamics, and personally wracked with guilt over his own past actions. Action-hero status, sex appeal, tenderness in romance, leadership, moral sense and intelligence: none of these fit the bill of a traditionally Oriental­ized depiction of an Arab man, and put together, especially in a post- 9/11 television environment that is frequently hostile and crude in its depictions of Arabs, Sayid stands out as a unique character on US television. Indeed, the depth and subtleties of his character and the strength of his performance also avoid making him appear a crudely conceived ‘perfect Arab’ counter-stereotype.

In terms of casting, meanwhile, Lost has been notable for hir­ing numerous non-American actors to play non-American roles. The cast’s visible internationalism and the rise of some non-American cast members into becoming stars of the small screen have in their own way ever so slightly displaced the USA and Americans as the natural, rightful and sole centres of big-budget global television.

A central task then becomes one of evaluating the ensuing entangled mess of caricature and character, belittling and developing, shallow­ness and profundity, Othering and identification. It would be easy to castigate the programme for its failures, and merely noting that it is ‘trying’ is not sufficient defence. As Chinua Achebe’s broadside attack on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) makes clear, trying is certainly not enough. Though Conrad’s novel is often praised for ques­tioning colonialism, as Achebe notes, along the way Conrad reduced the Africans to mere set paintings that served as the dark, fearful back­drop to a wholly white British journey into the recesses of the mind. Nevertheless, at the same time, Lost is not Heart of Darkness. Achebe’s central critique of Heart of Darkness is that Conrad might criticize the colonial impulse, but in unproblematically reducing the Africans to backdrop, and in never truly challenging his narrator Marlowe’s way of looking at Africa, ‘he neglects to hint, clearly and adequately, at an alternative frame of reference by which we may judge the actions and opinions of his characters’.19

By contrast, I now want to argue that Lost does offer such an al­ternative framework. Till now, I have been tip-toeing around the fact that this chapter is about Othering in a show with a group referred to as ‘the Others’, and whose third season ended with the suggestion of there being ‘original Others’ and even ‘other Others’. But let me now look beyond depictions of characters and places, and turn to themat- ics, facing the term ‘Other’ head-on and examining what Lost has said in its three seasons so far about Others, and how the show has devel­oped its discussion of Othering, home and belonging.

When first previewing in the summer of 2004, one of Losts key narrative hooks was the fear of the Other. Previews showed the crash survivors trying to make heads or tails of their new environment, grouping together, and the preview then led up a bestial noise from the jungle, followed by Charlie’s question, ‘Guys, where are we?’ Inter­est in the unknown in part sold the show, and in part drove the initial episodes, with some form of beast appearing to inhabit the island. Then, as fear of the beast subsided, a new and more viable threat was posed by the Others. Like classic bogeymen from children’s tales, the Others came at night, dragging children and other survivors into the darkness.
And thus was born one of the island’s and show’s prime dy­namics and binaries: us and them, the Lostaways and the Others. The Others were seen as brutal, savage and primitive at first, with fleet­ing shots of them showing people in rags walking through the jungle; and, most importantly, they acted without any seeming reason, kid­napping, killing and infiltrating the camp through the personages of Ethan (William Mapother) and Goodwin (Brett Cullen). When Jack finally sets out to find them, he comes across a tribal scene of Others hiding in the shadows with torches, faceless but palpably threatening and real. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness again comes to mind, as the Oth­ers, or rather, the Lostaway’s conception of them, conforms entirely to the crudest form of Orientalism and Othering.

Along the way, however, numerous individuals and occurrences begin to challenge the stark binary. First, Sayid finds Rousseau (Mira Furlan), who we are led to believe might be an Other, but who turns out to have lived on the island alone for many years. Then in dramatic fashion, season two’s premiere introduced us to Desmond, living in his hatch, but again, not an Other. All the while, the show’s continual use of flashbacks, each week from a different person’s perspective, and its common trope of beginning episodes with close-ups of characters’ eyes, drew the viewers’ eyes to the issue of perspective.


Suspicions of unreliable narration bubbled up on the fan boards, as fans became more and more aware of the subjectivity of each flashback - as the episode opening scenes often seem to highlight, we know that we are seeing the island through the Lostaways’ eyes. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof cruelly refused to reveal greater truths, as instead we rarely learned anything about the island that one of the central crash sur­vivors did not know. In the midst of this came Goodwin, the second Other infiltrator, yet a likeable character. Before being killed by the edgy Ana-Lucia, Goodwin offered the fascinating proclamation that the Others only took the good people, not the bad ones. And thus the whole edifice of the good guys versus the Others was brought into question. If the Others only took good people, maybe they were ‘the good guys’? And with a growing number of anomalous characters pol­luting the stark binary of Lostaways and Others, the duality Lost its hold.

Then season three continued this reversal. Just as season two be­gan with our first look through a non-Lostaway’s eyes, season three began by placing us in the Others’ book-club meeting. A perfect im­age for quotidian middle-class life, the book club meet in an average suburban-style home, having a mundane discussion about the book of the week. Now ‘we’ as viewers, who had previously only been invited to join the Lostaways, were part of a new ‘we’, being offered a differ­ent perspective. As the season progressed, Juliet was offered as a new point of identification, especially through her pathos-filled flashbacks involving a sick sister and her desire to let her have a baby. And Jack, who had long been offered as a primary point of identification and reference for viewers, was befriending the Others. We even saw Flight 815’s flight attendant at Camp Other, happily insisting that the chil­dren were safe and that all was fine.
What Goodwin had suggested - that the Others were not neces­sarily the bad guys - therefore now had purchase. Throughout season three, viewers were invited into a confusing game of guessing each character’s motivations, and of sorting through their conflicted po­sitioning as both bad guys and good guys. Even Jack became more standoffish, not only to his fellow survivors, but also to audience iden­tification, thereby pushing viewers away from him, yet leaving us un­sure of where to place our allegiances instead. We could still seemingly trust in certain characters’ intent to ‘do the right thing’, but we could not be sure of what the ‘right thing’ actually was.

By the end of season three, the writers had thoroughly confused the formerly easy Lostaway-Other binary. Julia Kristeva has noted of society’s reliance on us-Other binaries that
living with the other, with the foreigner, confronts us with the pos­sibility ... of being an other ... [which is] not simply ... a matter of ... accepting] the other, but of being in his place ... to imagine and make oneself other for oneself


and Homi Bhabha’s theorizing of postcolonial hybridity similarly pos­its the importance of being able to see ourselves as others and others as ourselves.20 Gradually, then, Lost has offered us this experience of ‘being an other’ and of ‘making oneself other for oneself’. However, precisely because Lost has all along been a water-cooler show that de­mands decoding and unpacking with, dare I say, others, it self-reflex- ively challenged notions of perspective, calling upon the viewer to self- reflexively re-evaluate scripts of Othering, and of how and whether to trust the modes of seeing offered them.
When twinned with the character arcs and development of Jin, Sun, Sayid, Eko and others who have broken out of stereotype, Lost has performed the impressive stunt of recalibrating numerous modes and tropes of Othering.

Some might argue that Lost’s voice would have been more resolute if it simply started without Othering in the first place. Ultimately this might lose the value of the experience and of the journey, however. Newcomb and Hirsch wrote of M*A*S*H (20th Century Fox Televi­sion, 1972-83) that an explicitly and firmly anti-war episode in which the characters deserted and went home would have ended the story; having viewers continually experience the wartime suffering of its characters, though, produced a more lasting anti-war message.21 Simi­larly, Patricia Mellencamp posits that I Love Lucy’s (Desilu, 1951-7) continued depiction of Lucy Ricardo’s (Lucille Ball’s) subjugation to her husband’s (Desi Arnez’s) petty insistence on confining her to the domestic sphere might have heightened the experience of injustice for the viewer.
Both examples here point to television’s ability to craft multi-sea- son narratives that offer audiences an experiential message across the show’s life. Yet both shows were generically trapped within a sitcom formula that limits progression. As a serial drama, Lost can develop. And whether individual audience members follow suit or not, the show offers viewers an experiential trip through processes of Othering, to contestation of those processes, to thorough interrogation of perspec­tive. As Glen Creeber argues, one of television’s greatest, if underused, powers is to use narrative hooks over significant time to pull a viewer through new perceptual, experiential terrain.23 If Lost’s early previews suggested it would be a show about interacting with the unknown in an unknown place, the show has lived up to this, offering ideas on how to conceive of belonging, home, ownership, rights over place, the good and the bad, the known and the unknown, and the local and the foreign, in an era of globalization.

Precisely because Lost is a developing narrative, and I write this chap­ter halfway through its six-season life, its writers may yet add other kinks. Such kinks might revert to Othering, leaving much of the above to appear as a rather optimistically naive wish-exercise. Nor, let me reiterate, have the writers transcended Orientalizing tropes, as their depictions of place are still particularly Orientalized.24 Nevertheless, season three ends on a note that particularly illuminates our under­standing of the show’s take on home, belonging and other people.
In­stead of the usual flashback, the final episode, ‘Through the Looking Glass (2)’ (3.23), delivers a flash-forward, to a Lost and scarred Jack. We learn that one of the characters has died, and the fan freeze-fram- ing of the obituary saying that the dead man is survived by a teenage son suggests it is Michael. The funeral occurs at a roadside parlour, and only Jack attends, albeit standing at the back. Later, Jack calls Kate and asks to see her, and the two meet by an airport runway at night. Frantically, fighting tears, he explains that he thinks they were wrong, and that they need to go back to the island.

If, as Juliet’s first flashback episode title and my own title suggest, the Lostaways and the Others found themselves ‘not in Portland’, playfully alluding to Dorothy Gale’s famous observation to Toto in Wizard of Oz (1939) that ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore’, Jack’s state­ment offers a radically different message than did Victor Fleming’s fa­mous film. Throughout the first three seasons, nobody has been click­ing his or her heels louder than Jack. As a crashed-on-the-island story, Lost has a generic imperative towards returning ‘home’. And with its increasing interest in time, and with its stark division between flash­backs from home and scenes from the now of the island,
this move home is figured as temporal, not just spatial. But whereas Wizard of Oz initially gives Dorothy her wish to leave home, only to lead to her even­tual desire to return home, season three ends by granting Jack’s wish to return home, only for him to desperately want out. Jack’s ‘home’ is a world of sterile funeral parlours with nobody in attendance, and of intense isolation and alienation. It seems he feels most comfortable at an airport, a clear symbol for transit and movement.
Season three ends with a poignant message for post-national tele­vision - that home is neither so simple, so warm and comfy, nor so immutable as national television broadcasting has long imaged and imagined it to be. As David Morley notes, ‘home’ was a central concept for national broadcasters. Broadcasters addressed most audiences in domestic spaces, giving them a significant vested interest in posing home as a safe refuge away from the worries and dangers of all that was not-home. Projected out to the macro-scale of the nation, many broadcasters saw it as their duty to create the nation as home.25 As Stuart ,
it was ‘an instrument, an apparatus, a “machine” through which the nation was constituted. It produced the nation which it addressed: it constituted its audience by the ways in which it represented them.’26 And, as was argued at the outset of this chapter, the act of constructing the national home often involves creating crude characterizations of Others and other countries that posit them as inferior foils to the superiority of the national home and its people.

Yet in Lost, the liminal space of the island may be preferable to national homes that are depicted as no safe-havens to which to return. The island is not Portland, and is not the USA - or Australia, Korea, England, Iraq, France, Nigeria or Scotland - but it might be a better home, as many of the Flight 815 survivors have realized. Extrapolat­ing beyond the individual programme, this message has macro-reso- nances. Lost has proven to be a rare instance of a US primetime drama set outside the USA. Yet season three’s ending goes further, suggest­ing that the USA may not be the natural, best and only home, and that home might lie instead somewhere beyond the nation’s borders and, as a result, beyond the former national broadcaster’s conceptual borders, in a hybrid liminal space such as the island’s residents have experienced. Thus while Lost has been guilty of dividing the world into binaries of Orient and Occident, ultimately ‘home’ exists outside this binary, as do the island and its inhabitants. For a primetime US television programme to offer such a message - or for any television programme to offer such a message, for that matter - represents an intriguing step forward towards a post-national television.


Notes

1       Lynn Spigel and Jan Olsson (eds), Television After TV: Essays on a Me­dium in Transition (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004).
2       Amanda Lotz, The Television Will Be Revolutionized (New York: New York University Press, 2007).
3       See Chapter III; Jason Mittell, ‘Narrative complexity in contemporary American television’, The Velvet Light Trap lviii/1 (2006), pp.29-40; Jef­frey Sconce, ‘What if? Charting television’s new textual boundaries’, in Spigel and Olsson (eds): Television After TV, pp.193-112.
4       See Lotz: The Television Will Be Revolutionized.
5       See Richard Butsch (ed.), Media and Public Spheres (Basingstoke: Pal- grave, 2007).
6       See Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. T. Burger (Cam­bridge: Polity, 1989).
7       See, for instance, Timothy Havens, Global Television Marketplace (Lon­don: BFI, 2006); Toby Miller, Nitin Govil, John McMurria and Richard Maxwell, Global Hollywood 2 (London: BFI, 2005); Lisa Parks and Shanti Kumar (eds), Planet TV: A Global Television Reader (New York: New York University Press, 2003); and Daya Kishan Thussu (ed.), Media on the Move: Global Flow and Contra-Flow (London: Routledge, 2007).
8       BBC, ‘CSI show “Most popular in world”’, available online at http://news. bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/5231334.stm, 31 July 2006.
9       Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1978), pp.40, 57.
10     Ibid., pp.42, 66.
11     Ibid., p.123.
12     David Richards, Masks of Difference: Cultural Representations in Litera­ture, Anthropology, and Art (Cambridge: CUP, 1995).
13     Catherine A. Lutz and Jane L. Collins, Reading National Geographic (Chi­cago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).
14     William M. O’Barr, Culture and the Ad: Exploring Otherness in the World of Advertising (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994).
15     M. Shahid Alam, Challenging the New Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on the ‘War Against Islam’ (North Haledon, NJ: Islamic Publications Inter­national, 2006).
16     John Hutnyk, ‘Magical mystical tourism’, in Raminder Kaur and John Hutnyk (eds), Travel Worlds: Journeys in Contemporary Cultural Politics (London: Zed, 1999), p.99; Sunaina Maira, ‘Trance-formations: Orien­talism and cosmopolitanism in youth culture’, in Shilpa Dave, Leilani Nishime and Tasha Oren (eds), East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2005).
17     John Hutnyk, The Rumour of Calcutta: Tourism, Charity, and the Poverty of Representation (London: Zed, 1996).
18     David Morley, Home Territories: Media, Mobility and Identity (London: Routledge, 2000).
19     Chinua Achebe, ‘An image of Africa: racism in Conrad’s Heart of Dark­ness’, in Bart Moore-Gilbert, Gareth Stanton and William Malley (eds), Postcolonial Criticism (London: Longman, 1997), p.118.
20     Julia Kristeva and Homi Bhabha, both quoted in Morley: Home Territo­ries, pp.222, 265.
21     Horace Newcomb and Paul Hirsch, ‘Television as a cultural forum: im­plications for research’, in W. Rowland, Jr and B. Watkins (eds), Inter­preting Television: Current Research Perspectives (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1984), pp.58-73.
22     Patricia Mellencamp, ‘Situation comedy, feminism, and Freud: discours­es of Gracie and Lucy’, in Joanne Morreale (ed.), Critiquing the Sitcom (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2003), p.49.
23     See Glen Creeber, Serial Television: Big Drama on the Small Screen (Lon­don: BFI, 2004).
24     Moreover, while I find the multi-season interrogation of Othering im­pressive, this interrogation could have been considerably more mean­ingful if the Others were at least multinational and multiracial, thereby requiring viewers to connect Othering to Orientalism and to age-old scripts of national and racial chauvinism.
25     See Morley: Home Territories.
26     Stuart Hall, ‘Which public, whose service?’, in Wilf Stevenson (ed.), All Our Futures: The Changing Role and Purpose of the BBC (London: BFI, 1993), p.32.
















In:Reading Lost. Perspectives on a Hit Televison Show. edited by Roberta Pearson I.B. Tauris, London, 2009, pp. 221-239

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