"Lost" in Translation: Sympathy for Goofus


Mom always liked the Marx Brothers best, actually….

Another hour closer to The End (but please, please, please, ABC, can we NOT set the whole 2.5-hour climax to the dull-witted college-boy philosopher drone of Jim Morrison?) and now comes an episode-long peek back in time takes us to the birth of Jacob and his mysteriously unnamed dark-eyed twin, and then to the glowing (literally!) headwaters of some of the most crucial riddles at “Lost”‘s heart: Is there a connection between the golden light of faith and the piercing Klieg light of science? How will the show be able to explain the distinction between the two, and the bond that links them?

More questions: Are Jacob and his twin brother merely fancier versions of Goofus and Gallant? Why are the show’s good guys just as capable of lying/murdering/pillaging as its antagonists? How will they ever bring the most intellecutally, philosophically and sc-fily sprawling series in the history of American tv dramas to a satisfying conclusion?

Forget about that last one. Already this morning the blogosphere — including the level-headed James Poniewozik at Time, who is always my go-to guy for day-after recaps — is bristling with crankiness over the episode titled “Across The Sea,” musing on the line between too much information and how-the-hell-could-they-NOT-resolve. . . .

JP raises excellent questions, as ever. Still,  I just can’t kvetch about “Lost” with a lot of conviction, no matter what happens in the next two weeks.

And, by the way, I also thought “Across the Sea” did a fairly miraculous job of explaining a lot of the series’ most complicated moral, philosophical and sci-fi-intific assertions. Let’s take them one-by-one…

but after the jump.

Jacob and the Man in Black’s creation myth: Turns out their mother was a sweet-faced dark-haired woman (see also: Rousseau) who washes up at the island heavily pregnant, only to be greeted and cared for by CJ Cregg from “The West Wing,” who turns out to be the worst mid-wife ever when she ends the birthing process by bashing mom’s brains out with a rock. She seems a bit melancholy about the whole thing — even apologizing before she goes after the helpless and nice-seeming mom — but also entirely confident of the moral purpose behind her frankly psychotic behavior. See, she’s responsible for protecting the island’s unique powers, and keeping the inherently wicked humans (“They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt and it always ends the same”) at bay. Though when it comes to fighting and destroying it’s awfully hard to out-do a murderous midwife, now, isn’t it? And why, exactly, does her goal of finding the next Island Protector mean more than another woman’s right to live? We’ve been running through these questions ever since “Lost”‘s pilot episode. And also in millennia of real-world events, e.g. the mysterious chain of mass murders currently taking place in China’s schools. Is there an Island portal somewhere in the People’s Republic?

Black/White; Good/Bad, and why there’s often no real distinction between them: Because often it’s the biggest self-described do-gooders out there (CJ, Jacob, Pope Benedict, name your favorite religious extremist here, plus also the good old United States of America) who end up doing exceptionally vile shit in the name of truth and justice. While the black-cloaked smoke monsters among us (Man in Black, etc.) have their reasons/justifications that also kind of pencil out. And when it comes down to it, who would you rather hang out with: The pompous, fruit-sharing, door-holding Gallant or his bad-ass, wickedly funny brother Goofus? Which one has the good collection of Stones records? And which one only has Michael Bolton cd’s in his Prius? I think we both know the answer to that one.

The connection between faith and science: Seemed to me they did a brilliant job with this one: Denied access to the golden waters of the river of faith, the MiB figured a whole other way of accessing the same energy: through the practical, unsentimental processes of science. Thus the stone-and-wood versions of the Dharma Initiative’s hatches and gravitational-power sources. The kvetch on the Internets is this revelation somehow crossed the line between too much info and the crucial magical realism that needs to be left mysterious. But just imagine the shitstorm of invective that would follow the finale if they DIDN’T reveal this one. See also: “Aha, they really were making it all up as they went along!”

Bad parents and everything else: Your high-functioning types always seem to be working through some serious parental bullshit – disconnection; emotional dysfunction; etc. –  and so no surprise that even the twin personifications of dark and light have inner childs with matching scars from their own self-appointed step-mom, the well-intended psycho-killer who lies, cheats, mass-murders whole villages and bashes the brains out of everyone who seems to stand in her way, including her adopted kid. . .whose name she never, ever utters, and if you think THAT isn’t kind of hurtful, well, just think about it more.

Self-determination? Not so much: Original sin. Weird parents. Emotional scars. These are the only constants that can move through time without getting their noses bloodied. Do what you like, try as hard as you might. Treasure the rare moments when you actually do seem to have some measure of control. You’re still working with the raw genetic material, and rawer-still parental/situational experiences, that someone else handed you when you stepped off the boat. Mom always liked someone better, didn’t she? Gallant will never stop handing out orange slices to prove he’s the rightful heir. And Goofus will always get crap for taking the apple. But apples don’t come pre-sliced and easily shareable. And maybe you didn’t want an apple, anyway. Maybe you and Goofus were planning to get a Slushie, or a case of beer. No matter, Goofus is taking the fall. He can’t win, but that’s how it goes in the bifurcated universe of black and white. And at least Goofus is a beautiful loser.

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