The Sexist

LOST Has A Mommy Track

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ABC's LOST—spoiler alert!—is a television program set upon a mysterious tropical island marked by strange electromagnetic properties, hot-weather polar bears, smoke monsters, time travel, reincarnation, hippies, and nuclear experimentation. Somehow, though, gender relations on the island remain largely unaffected!

Several of LOST's female characters have been on a slow march toward wifey since the series' inception. My colleague Sady Doyle encapsulated the lady-half of the series thusly:

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.

The trend continued in the series' penultimate episode. Guess what? It's job interview time on LOST! And when sleepy-eyed island guardian Jacob convenes the surviving members of his "candidate" pool he had chosen to replace him, he finally explains one of the enduring mystery of the series—why are all the surviving "candidates" totally guys?

Let's find out!

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Jacob explains why he scribbled a bunch of names in a cave and then systematically crossed them out until he found the right person to take over his position—if he didn't, everybody ever would die! So anyway, at last count, the five remaining un-crossed-out candidates for the job of protecting the entire world from evil were James "Sawyer" Ford, Jack Shepard, Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, Sayid Jarrah, and either Sun or Jin Kwon (now we know that the candidate was almost certainly Jin—more on that in a second). Then, Sayid and the Kwons died, leaving an all-dude cast of Sawyer, Hurley, and Jack to duke it out.

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So then Kate is like, "Why did you cross my name off the wall?"

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And Jacob, to his credit, is franker than most biased interviewers! "Because you became a mother," he admitted. "It's just a line of chalk in the cave, the job is yours if you want it." That's right: Kate just got mommy-tracked! For the job of saving the world from evil by preventing a half-human-half-smoke entity from leaving this tropical island divorced from time. Funny how the laws of physics don't apply here, but gender roles are still holding steady.

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And then Kate—who traveled back to polar bear island for the express purpose of not being a mommy anymore, and returning her accidental foster baby to biological mother Claire (long story)—is like, "oh, fuck."

Hey! Guess which of the remaining candidates was also a parent?

* Jin Kwon: Dad. Since Jin's wife Sun was a mother, we can assume that Jacob nixed her from the candidate pool as well, meaning that Jin was the Kwon still in the running. Sun had raised her daughter alone while Jin was lost in time for a while, so he had never even seen his only daughter; he had spent the last several years trying to find a way back to his family. Of course he would be interested in taking this thankless desert island job that would have alienate him from them forever!

* James "Sawyer" Ford: Dad. Back in the real world, Sawyer inseminated a woman he was attempting to swindle out of some money. Sawyer has also never met his progeny, daughter Clementine, but he did throw her some anonymous cash at some point. Awww.

* Jack Shepard: Daddy! When Kate and Jack left the island with Claire's baby, he took on fathering duties for the displaced kid. Then Jack grew a beard, got addicted to pills, and abandoned his foster child to go back on another zany island adventure. Sounds like a capable protector of all human life to me!

But none of them are mommies, so—hey—would they like a job?

  • Ben

    You are right about the mommy track aspect to it, but the show did go through a slight twist on the way you describe it. Jacob said that everyone was a candidate because they had some big hole in their lives in the non-island world. He crossed Kate's name off because she stopped having that hole in her life when she adopted that kid, whereas Jack and Sawyer both obviously still had big fucking issues. It's still misogynistic when you look at the big picture and how much you have to turn your head and squint for this explanation to work, but it's misogynistic in a different way than you describe.

  • Richard

    I think an interesting exception or counterpoint to this larger mommy track narrative is the turn in Ben's story, where once off the island he is finally able to reconnect and become the father figure he was always supposed to be.

    Now that I think about it, it's also sort of interesting the huge emphasis placed on Jack's family life as well.

    I would certainly say that family themes for everyone off the island seem to take precedent.

  • astraea

    He crossed Kate’s name off because she stopped having that hole in her life when she adopted that kid, whereas Jack and Sawyer both obviously still had big fucking issues.

    Except Sawyer seemed to be just fine and on the path to figuring out his own life with Dharma. He and Kate had the same development... they both found some stability and were building a family. If she was crossed off because she had filled a hole in her life, then Sawyer should have been, too. What was his big fucking issue? He was happy with Dharma and was going to marry Juliet.

  • Lostie11

    I would argue that Juliet did have a purpose besides her love story. She was the one that made the ultimate sacrifice to explode the bomb? But yeah... none of the other female characters..