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.
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.
- 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.