The Scourge of Fandom: Why Lost Owes Us Nothing

The Scourge of Fandom: Why Lost Owes Us Nothing

January 28th, 2010

If you haven’t seen it yet (which seems unlikely, but whatever), The Onion’s fantastic bit of satire surrounding the final season of Lost making fans more annoying than ever is a wonderful piece of work. With the help of executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, they capture the sense of obsession that surrounds the show’s fans, and there’s just enough nods to the show’s mythology (and to other fandoms: check out the ticker for a shout-out to The Wire that slayed me) to make even the most obsessed crack a smile.

Final Season Of ‘Lost’ Promises To Make Fans More Annoying Than Ever

However, I believe that the Onion has failed to represent an even more annoying segment of Lost viewers that will threaten to destroy the internet as we know it come February 2nd (which is, let’s remember, only five days away). These are the viewers who have either predetermined how producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse must end the show or predetermined that they absolutely cannot end it to their satisfaction. These are the people who believe they deserve to have their questions answered, and that they are in some way owed a finale that lives up to their precise expectations.

And they’re the real problem here.

[Before reading the remainder of this particular article, you are required (okay, okay – urged) to go check out Maureen Ryan’s fantastic, spoiler-free interview with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, which I’ll be referring to liberally throughout the piece. You can find Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 at her blog]

I want to be clear that I don’t mean to suggest that people are not allowed to have expectations heading into Lost’s final season, or that everyone needs to love the episodes that will start airing in just a few weeks. However, I do think we need to separate those who wanted something different (or, speaking objectively, better) and those who believe they were owed something different, which is pervasive in any finale/final season situation (and here, as Lindelof points out):

“And what’s the matter with saying I want Season 6 of “Lost” to be the greatest season ever? But people won’t say it because it’s easier for them to approach it as, ‘It’s going to let me down, it’s going to disappoint me, it’s going to prove that they were making it up as they went along, they’re not going to answer the questions that I really care about.'”

In my mind, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse owe us nothing. They have been gracious and open with fans over the past five seasons, and the world they created has inspired many fans to take that world as their own and turn to the sort of obsessive behaviour the Onion video sends up. While we all have our opinions of missteps they may have made over the past five seasons, I think it’s a pretty well accepted fact that Lost’s creative team is amongst the most well-respected in network television. As Mo said herself, “I just feel like a show that’s given me this much pleasure deserves to go out the way it wants to go out.”

I tend to view fans who are basically threatening Lindelof and Cuse that they have to answer particular questions as the scourge of fandom. Lost is a show that very much invites fans to make their own theories, and I like that Lindelof and Cuse respect the audience enough to inspire their obsession. That’s why I find it disrespectful for fans to then take their theories and push them back on Lindelof and Cuse, as if the reason Lost’s mysteries exist is for us to solve them and then force the show to adhere to our ideas. We all have questions that we are interested to see answered (Alan Sepinwall’s collecting some of them over at his blog), and we are all allowed to have our subjective opinions on what Lindelof and Cuse eventually deliver. However, the idea that the writers are beholden to us as an audience, that in some way their vision has to match ours, is an idea that I know I’m going to be battling against all season because of my inability to avoid these conversations – the amount of time I spent arguing that Ronald D. Moore could do whatever he wanted in Battlestar Galactica’s final season, while simultaneously arguing he could have done a lot of it a hell of a lot better, has told me that much.

I’m hoping these types of people are reading the coverage leading up to the show’s premiere, because Lindelof and Cuse are already firing the first shots in this war. Throughout their lengthy (and fantastic) chat with the Maureen Ryan, Lindelof and Cuse address less the show itself and more how they expect people to react to the final season. And while I could highlight any number of passages, from their argument that taking away all mystery is counterintuitive to the insanity of judging a show purely based on the final image of its finale, this point from Cuse captures what I hope viewers take to heart:

“All we can do is trust our guts, which is kind of where we’ve been from the beginning. We started the show sitting in my office every morning having breakfast, talking about what we thought was cool. And whatever we both would get excited about would go into the show and that’s how we’ve approached it [all along] and that’s how we approached it at the end…So, our barometer can only be: Does this ending feel satisfying to us and to the other writers? And if we can achieve that, we feel like we will have done what we can do and what we should do.”

Based on comments like this, I trust Lindelof and Cuse to deliver. My one hope is that people, instead of viewing the season as something owed to them or answers they deserve, respect what Lindelof and Cuse are trying to accomplish, and base their opinions of it on a relatively objective criteria as opposed to a narrow-minded image of what the show is in their mind.

Cultural Observations

  • To answer Alan’s question of what the one question I’m most interested to see answered, what I’m most excited about is fully understanding the life of Richard Alpert. I don’t have any real expectations with the “big” questions, but the omnipresence of Richard Alpert makes his character an important conduit to the island’s past, and I look forward to seeing how the character fits into the puzzle.
  • I’ll probably be writing something in advance of the premiere on Tuesday, but I don’t quite know what it’s going to look like: I wrote a whole lot about The Incident when it aired (although I did renege on my commitment to write a piece trying to suss out the white flash, but I still have no idea what’s going on there), and don’t really want to get into any advanced theorizing, but I promise I’ll do something.
  • My one question right now, that I would have loved to have seen answered in an interview, is what *single* episode of the show would be most advantageous to rewatch heading into the season. Is it the pilot? Is it an episode with a lot of smoke monster? One of the show’s finales? Or is it just “The Incident” for a second time? I’m tempted to revisit some parts of the first season, but I’d be curious what Cuse and Lindelof would suggest.
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15 Comments

Filed under Lost

15 responses to “The Scourge of Fandom: Why Lost Owes Us Nothing

  1. I’m happy to say that I don’t know what I want from the show, other than whatever new narrative shift they’re making to be as rewarding as the past few have been. (I gave on theorizing about the mythology around S3, so feel a bit freer to enjoy the narratives they engage in.)

    That said, I’m with you on Richard. He’s become the biggest question mark for me in terms of the show’s mysteries (I campaigned to have people NOT watch “Cane” because I wanted Carbonell back on “Lost” and it was a very successful campaign). But I have no idea what/who he is, but I simply cannot wait to find out.

    From what they’ve said, I suspect Darlton would say to go back to S1 for rewatching.

  2. lylebot

    Well, I don’t know about “most important”, but I watched “White Rabbit” from S1 recently, and I suspect a lot of things that are first brought up there (both textually and subtextually) are going to come back in force in S6.

  3. JP

    Which news item from the ticker referenced The Wire? It totally went over my head.

  4. sucks hard

    wait so there’s not one twist that will explain everything??!!?

  5. Heather

    I don’t think you need to take the fandom so seriously. Maybe I’ve missed something but I don’t think fans take it quite as seriously as they are assumed to. If they did, I think they would have lost their minds a looong time ago. You have to a sense of humor to properly enjoy this show, imho.

    The ending of Harry Potter went smoothly despite it’s obsessive, over-analyzing fans (me being one of them). Why should this be any different?

  6. sin

    people should understand that the show is made for them, at this point only fans can watch the show and truly understand it.. newcomers can’t join in now.. (unless they watch it all of course.)
    that means that this fandom is what holds the show and the writers to keep the show as it always was.. the first show on television ever that made everybody KNOW that they’re about to be SURPRISED.. which weird and somewhat paradoxical.. but yet, they did it!
    all that means that what the fandom, the real fans should expect is nothing but a surprises! not something they want to see.. but something totally else.. just like it has always been.

  7. It is very hard to stay reasonable about this show. As a crazy Lost fan and a blogger I find that the more time we spend away from the show (over the hiatus) the crazier I get. This year I tried to dial everything back and stop trying to guess the ending (I’d be wrong anyways). But I still find there are things that I feel I have to see.
    Mostly I just want to see Walt come back to the Island.
    I’ll try to be more reasonable this season.

  8. Thinking about LOST, all that I hear in my head is the chanting of this phrase: “All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.”

    And by the by, not thinking about the Battlestar Galactica quotation but the one from Peter Pan.

  9. mendie

    being a die hard lost fan from the beginning i am one of the soft spoken group that doesnt need everything answered. for me it will be enough if at the very end i can sit back and say “damn that was amazing” as I have done many times during its past 5 seasons.

  10. Lost owes us a good ending. I don’t care what it is and what questions it answers or doesn’t, but it does owe us that much.

  11. Yet another Internet sermon about entitlement.

    It’s not about the writers owing us anything. Viewers are heavily invested in this complex story and have a right to be aggravated if it doesn’t play out well or leaves too many unanswered questions. Darlton owe it to the story they’ve created to end it well.

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