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Lost: Island of Monsters

John on January 19, 2006 at 11:50 pm

This Christmas my wife got me the usual assortment of books (some of which I plan to review soon). But, of course, all of those gifts came off my Amazon wishlist and weren’t exactly a big surprise. Because she likes surprises, she decided to buy my season 1 of Lost on DVD.

I’d seen 2 episodes of lost (or pieces of episodes) and thought it was so-so. But I kept hearing how good it was. Anyway, I said all the right things to my wife when I opened the gift, but truth be told I wasn’t expecting much.

It’s good to be wrong sometimes.

We watched the entire 24 episode season in 9 days. That’s a lot of TV for anyone. But Lost isn’t your average show. In fact, Lost is easily the best show on television right now. I haven’t enjoyed a show this much since the X-Files was new.

A Spiritual Allegory

I’ve seen a number of blogs comment on the meaning of the show. People seem to read all sort of things into it, but one thing that seems beyond doubt at this point is that Lost is a spiritual allegory. My suspicion all along has been that everyone on the plane died in the crash. Because really, how could they have survived? The writers of the show even seem to suggest this is the case. At least twice they have had characters refer to the fact that “we’re dead.”

The story of Lost then is the story of a group of troubled people who exist in a kind of purgatory where they must work through the sins of their past on The Island. And the show is explicitly teleological on this point. Everyone on the doomed plane was there for a reason. In fact, the show seems to suggest at times that the characters were not only there for themselves but because this specific group of people has the potential to help one another.

In that regard, my favorite character is Locke. As a Christian, I seen in John Locke an image of a pastor or priest, or at least what one should be. He is not perfect but he seems to understand better than the others the nature of their existence on the island. He often acts as a catalyst character, helping others to deal with their problems. And more than anyone else he seems to appreciate the beauty of the place. When it rains, he smiles. It’s the best depiction of a man of faith I’ve ever seen on TV. That’s one reason I love the show.

The Monsters

The island itself is a character in the show and has many interesting aspects. The most interesting to me is “the monster.” I’m a huge 50′s monster movie fan. I’ve seen them all. I even have a fairly large collection of old movie posters. And before I was a Christian I never missed an installment of Nightmare on Elm Street. My tastes have changes some over the years, but monsters still fascinate me. To the point that I intended to write about them for a Christian publication a year or so ago. Then I discovered this book, which I found to have excellent insight on monsters from a Christian perspective.

To boil it down to a sentence: Monsters are a metaphor for sin. They arise out of a failure to acknowlege sin and their purpose is to get us to turn back. They are a signpost at the edge of a cliff. And, in a metaphorical sense, they exist for our benefit. Monsters are scary because they want us to run the other direction, to repent.

Case in point, I read a review of the new gore extravaganza film HOSTEL recently which pointed out that the first 40 minutes of the film is soft porn followed by a sudden shift to gore and horror. The reviewer seemed to think this was cliched and showed a disappointing lack of creativity. What he failed to realize was that sin (often sexual sin) is simply a prerequesite for horror. In fact, where there is no sin, there is no horror. I challenge anyone to name a horror movie where this is not the case.

So back to Lost. These smoke monsters aren’t a random event. They fit perfectly into the allegorical meaning of the show. They are, in their own monstery way, there to help. When the characters change, when they come to a different view of their own sinfulness, the monsters, I predict, will go away. Or at least, appear as something quite different. Already, Locke has seen them and smiled.

Finally, there are “the others.” Again, I’m going out on a limb here, but I think it’s possible the others aren’t really bad guys. Why do they take the children? The characters seem to think they’re murderous cannibals of some kind. But isn’t it also possible that they’ve taken the children to spare them, not to harm them? The children, after all, have no sins to work out.

The show was created with a 5 year plan in mind. There’s still a lot to come, and I’m always skeptical about anything coming from Hollywood…but I’m hooked. I’ll be there to the end.

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