The Sexist

Sexist Beatdown: The LOST Women of LOST Edition

jackshepard
Ugh.

In this edition of Sexist Beatdown, Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown and I reconvene to solve the enduring mystery of ABC's LOST: Why have all the compelling female characters been systematically eliminated from the plot, while Jack is allowed to live on as Dr. McFixALot, a character who exists only to fail unspectacularly at everything and shoot enduring looks at Kate?

Theories:

a. The plane crash unhinged Jack from space-time, forcing him to relive the same moment in his life over and over again. In that moment, Jack attempts to fix something in the dumbest way possible, and fails unspectacularly at it;

b. Jack is an agent of the smoke monster, sent to the island to torture women into killing themselves;

c. The Island represents the purgatory between the states of Jaded Spinal Surgeon With Daddy Issues and Bearded Alcoholic With Lady Issues;

d. Jack's asshole is a black hole.

SADY: Hi there! Are you LOST? Have I LOST you? It would be a shame if I LOST my internet connection! Also, kill me.

AMANDA: Wait, let me do one: I'm beginning to think i have "LOST" interest in LOST this season.

SADY: I have LOST track of all the times I have LOST interest in LOST, really.

AMANDA: It's part of the whole deja vu thing.

SADY: It stems from the fact that we seem to have LOST 98% of all the female characters.

AMANDA: Right. I think we're down to two now! Wait, plus, Ana Lucia 2.

SADY: Yes, that Ilana chick! I do not know what is up with LOST (not letting go of the caps!) and the death of all the ladies. It is true, however, that it is a big hit on some fronts! For example: having more than one character of color, and having them have conversations with each other. Conversations that do not go like, "I am an Asian man! I hear that you are Latino! Truly, neither of us is a white person." Instead, they talk about Star Wars fan fiction. Which is fine by me!

AMANDA: Sure. And all-capital LOST has always had a tendency to dispose of characters after their most compelling storylines have been drained, or before even. I mean, a lot of people die on this show. What I want to know is where this murderous impulse was when Jack was bloated on pills and drunk at work and wouldn't shave and was trying to make his fake baby fly back with him to a magical island? I could have dealt with Jack dying.

SADY: I can constantly deal with Jack dying. Every episode, I hope it will be the one where Jack makes a cry face or starts to make a speech about "fixing things" and then a polar bear sneaks up behind him and eats his entire head. My problem with the "most interesting story lines" though, to be troublesomely ladybusiness for a moment, is this: Claire's most interesting story line was having a baby and a boyfriend. Sun's most interesting storyline is having a husband and a baby. Kate's most interesting story line is having two potential boyfriends, between whom she cannot choose, and also a baby eventually. Juliet's most important storyline was that her boyfriend might have thought for 1.5 seconds about liking another girl so she had to fall down a mine shaft and explode three times on screen.

[youtube:v=ksVUXrfi6F8]
Some LOST fan actually made a slow-motion YouTube tribute to Jack's awful need to fix everything all the time. Soundtrack: Coldplay's "Fix You." Super bonus: Not the only LOST fan with this same idea.

AMANDA: Shannon has the best ladybusiness storyline, which is revealing to viewers that she's not a stuck-up bitch by making sweet love to a man she had previously regarded as a terrorist. I had forgotten that Shannon even existed until LOST had to go back and reset this whole thing. But yes. Yes. Juliet's death is the one that really bothered me, because she is this woman who always had really interesting motives that had little to do with which boyfriend she wanted to pick. And she was never all that likable. She was the woman you were supposed to not root for while you were rooting for Kate to claim both of the boyfriends. But then, LOST turns her into the Dharma initiative's model wife – a role that she has played before, except that she was unhappy and independent and rebellious in that role. And after LOST made Juliet accept that role happily, boom. Dead! Storyline resolved.

SADY: Yeah, precisely. And I want to believe that she just exploded because she got a role on a TV show! But it is true that she showed up, and she had all of these complicated, unreadable motives, and this completely complex and interesting back story, and then she was like: hey, a boyfriend! I love my boyfriend. Oh no, my boyfriend! EXPLODE. And this is a thing that is interesting to me, because: I don't think LOST is great art. I think LOST is good-to-great pulp fiction. I have a high tolerance for good-to-great pulp fiction, as it happens. But it's so masculinized — it's seen as such a boy thing — that the only roles for women (or plotlines for women) are things about love interests. The boys are all saving the world and the girls are all saving their marriages.

AMANDA: Yeah. And we have to make sure to fix Jack so that Jack can get back to saving us. But can we turn to one of the only remaining original ladies for a moment, the one with the most explicitly ladybusiness plotline?

SADY: Yes! Let us do so!

AMANDA: I am speaking, of course, of Sun, who crash-landed on a desert island with her abusive husband and then gradually taught him not to be such a huge jerk anymore so they could fall in love again.

SADY: Ha, yeah. And then we learned that she had to keep her cardigan buttoned on a tropical isle because SHE WAS A CHEATER! CHEATER! And he was insecure.

AMANDA: The interesting thing about Sun's plotline now, is that if the plane hadn't crashed, we see Jin being taken away by customs and Sun escaping him. And we're supposed to be... sad... about this development, because we know that if Sun had just WAITED IT OUT on a DESERT ISLAND, Jin would have come around.

SADY: Ha, yeah. And here is where my feelings about feminism and romance and storytelling get all complicated, because: I actually do love the romance of Sun and Jin on some levels. I like that it's a story of a marriage getting into this unbelievably shitty place, because two people misunderstood each other, over and over, profoundly. I know that story. "I was trying to be what you wanted! So now I am unhappy! And mad at you!" "Yes, well, I was trying to be what YOU wanted, so now I am EQUALLY UNHAPPY, and mad at YOU." And I like that it's a story about two people getting to re-know each other. But, yeah: Sun getting away from Jin in the airport? Not such a bad idea, given the story we were told! Actually!

AMANDA: Yeah. And I feel like a lot of long-running stories like this often engage with storylines where stuff like abuse is eventually just forgotten in order to preserve these relationships between the show's main characters, when really: Kate, a person who BLEW UP HER STEPDAD because he abused her mom, would probably never have indulged Jack in his fantasy to crash land herself on the island, given his extremely unstable behavior in front of the child they were raising together. But Kate and Jack, it must endure, so of course they are going to go back together.

SADY: Right. I mean, Jack? Unstable, abusive, alcoholic stalker. With lady problems. Who will not trust a grown lady doctor to do a basic surgery on him without passing up anesthesia so he can be hyper-critical of her operating moves the whole way through. THE ROMANCE OF KATE AND JACK MUST NEVER DIE! Because... they gave each other sexy looks in the pilot episode? With all the plot threads they have exploded or forgotten or just plain shrugged and said "sorry, not going to happen" about, I really am puzzled as to why THIS is the one that they will just never, ever, ever drop.

AMANDA: Right. And I was discussing with someone earlier how the most exciting thing about LOST has always been figuring out the rules to the game, but now that we're getting to the final season, it's becoming more and more obvious that there are no real rules to figure out, and that the creators are more interested in putting the finishing touches on these longrunning personal relationships. Perhaps they will surprise me in the end! But from where I'm standing now it looks like they're putting more effort into reestablishing John Locke as Disabled Character who falls off his wheelchair out of pride—I mean really?—than explaining to me where the fucking black hole is or whatever

SADY: Yeah. The plot points are being doled out! However, what is more important, for some reason, is making sure that we know who ends up with who running whose temp agency. So... okay. My prediction is that Hurley and Kate end up together. That's what I'm pushing for!

AMANDA: Haha. I know. I love how that was set up as such a MYSTERIOUS REVEAL. It is ROSE who runs the temp agency!

SADY: "Welcome to Healthful Lectures Employment Services. How may I lecture you today?"

AMANDA: So, I've been watching the episodes this season around my male companion, who has not watched the rest of the show

SADY: Oh, FOR REALS? That has got to be a bucketload of explanations!

AMANDA: Well ... he just overhears the dialogue. And so I have on many occasions had the opportunity to hear his reaction to the dialogue in these episodes, and his reaction is, "This show sucks so hard." And he's not wrong. It is often terrible. I'm not going to stop watching it, but I do wonder how much I'm going to end up hating it when it's over.

SADY: I know. I'm hoping for a "Battlestar Galactica" finale where the answer turns out to be, like, Cavemen. But I do love the final seasons of shows, because you have to stop dicking around and decide what you are saying and amp up all the drama and emotion as far as you can. And for that, I am enjoying this season immensely. When it is over, however, I am confident that I will have learned one thing: JACK NEEDS TO FIX THINGS. That, I will never forget. Give Jack a thing! He will fix that thing! He needs to fix the thing you gave him! Does the thing need fixing? Jack Jack fixing fixing Jack fixing Jack.

AMANDA: And of course this final season is about Jack Returning to Being A Person Who Can Fix Things and Not a Dangerous Alcoholic Stalker Who Cannot Fix a Drink Without Spilling It All Over His Ridiculous Beard. It is Jack's greatest fix of all. Fixing himself.

  • http://graduallygreener.wordpress.com Gradually Greener

    I totally agree that the problem isn't so much that female characters get killed off too much, but that male characters get to live too much. There are a lot of male characters whose storylines have been more or less resolved (which is usually a death sentence on LOST), but have gotten to stick around because they're perceived as fan favorites. But plenty of female fan favorites have been axed. For example, I think Sayid should have been killed off (and for real) two seasons ago. He hasn't been interesting for a while. Juliet? Totally still interesting, and dead before her time.

  • jb

    You're insane. Sayid is the best character on the show.

  • Brennan

    Thank you. This has been bugging me about LOST for a while now. (a *long* while actually. Ever since Jack first looked at Kate and said "Say, do you know how to use a needle?") I still love it and watch it, but it's become a guilty pleasure. It's frustrating, because it didn't have to be this way. Smokey should have killed Jack in the pilot and then that would be that. >:D

  • Brennan

    Sayid is eye-candy. Don't get me wrong, I like him and am quite attached, but he hasn't had an interesting arc since the mini-Ben storyline and that wasn't played to completion; it got swept under the rug for the Jack-Kate-Sawyer SAVE TEH CHILDREN storyline, never to be heard from again.

    Sayid's arc is stuck in an infinite loop. He leaves his past behind. Times get tough. He compromises his morals. He has a moral crisis. He defers to Jack's leadership. He leaves his past behind. Lather, rinse, and repeat. I've given up on any lasting character development there. Which makes me sad because he is so very pretty.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Remember when Sayid was almost dead for like 5 episodes, and then he was dead, and then he wasn't dead anymore? So close! Whatever virus he's got better be VERY interesting.

  • Doughty

    From a Lostpedia page on the pilot episode:

    "Jack was originally intended to get killed off in the pilot episode, with Kate replacing him as the de facto leader of the survivors. However, due to strong notes from the network against the death, the writers decided to keep Jack and introduced the short-lived pilot character instead."

    Too bad they don't do a simultaneous LOST arc where Kate is the leader. Would she become a fixer who must fix things? Would everyone hate her cause she has ladybits and is trying to lead and call her a bitch all the time? Probably the latter, but we'll never know.

  • conrad davis

    Counterpoints:

    Men in Lost season six have been systematically reduced to slavery by the non-human (and therefore beyond gender) characters Jacob and that dude from deadwood.

    Locke- enslaved
    Sayid- enslaved
    jack- impotent self absorbed jerk
    sawyer- southern moron, loses wife, becomes intense moron, but still has best "fish eye" expression EVER.

    Kate-kills abusive father, flees from patriarchical US justice system, becomes moral center of the show.

    And really, sun and penny's stories haven't been told yet. They're very significant characters, rite?

    And, finally, when has a woman on a network show ever been able to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the world? When have you ever seen a woman smashing a hydrogen bomb with a rock to save her friends? Juliet was portrayed as a hero. Does the fact that she won't be in the last 8 episodes of a show that will have about 100 diminish that portrayal?

  • ritchey

    I agree with Conrad. Also, about Sun escaping Jin in the airport...I think one of the major points of this show is that "you can't turn your back on your experience." Like, the point of the L.A. thread is how melancholy it is. That these friendships and experiences they all had together on the island--even though they were scary and horrifying--DIDN'T HAPPEN is somehow even worse. That slow-mo scene of them all getting off the plane in L.A.! I cried! To think of all that life being erased. So, I think that the reason it is sad when we are pulled back to Jin being an asshole and Sun escaping him in the airport, the reason that is sad is that WE HAVE SEEN what Jin becomes (a kickass sweetheart loyal self-actualized human) and how happy they become together on the island, which was super redeeming for both those characters, because it was emo how much they both sacrificed to be together and then to have their marriage go so sour...was sad! The island redeemed their love! So now, in the airport, I think it is triply crushing to see them back to misunderstanding/abusive/shitty marriage style. How can we root for Sun to escape Jin? We love Jin! We have seen what Jin is capable of--what Sun is capable of--and how great it is, and now that the island never happened, THAT will never happen. Which is sad.

    About the other stuff, though, I agree. Claire spent like five episodes getting bonked on the head and rescued by Sawyer and then she disappeared for an entire season. Kate has gotten so lame but I do appreciate that she is so inscrutable. I begin to suspect she doesn't want any man, which would be cool. But seriously, many times during this show I have wondered "Why isn't Kate becoming the leader?" The show does a lot with its female characters (more than most shows I can think of, besides, like, Six Feet Under or something) and I appreciate the different races of people involved who are all totally human and not just defined by their race...but I really do wish the ladies would be more front and center.

  • OldPandaDayz

    So I read something on a LOST message board recently that may have some bearing on this if it's true. It's pretty well known in the LOST (all caps!) fan world that the original plan for the show was to kill off Jack's character in the pilot episode. Rumor is the plan was to have Jack be portrayed by some big name (possibly even movie) star, not an out of work Party of Five actor, and kill him in the first ep. to sort of shock everyone into watching this new weird show. In the course of production or whatever the plan changed. BUT someone posted on this message board that part of that original plan also involved Kate taking on the "Jack" role of de-facto leader of the 815 Survivors. I can't vouch for truth of this etc. as I'm actually not a very big LOST fan, nor does it erase all the horrible-ness they have wrought upon her character over the past couple of seasons.

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