"Lost" – It's all an allusion

Is this gonna be on the test?

By PETER AMES CARLIN and NICK GORINI

So a month into the final season we’re still made to wonder: What is “Lost” really about? Is it a show about philosophy? Is it a vast analogy about the wages and moral toll of imperialism? Or is it all, somehow, about the polar bear?

So many ideas, so many direct quotations, so many books turning up everywhere you look. But a lot of that stuff is pure Maguffin; a graduate school of red herrings.

So we here at PAC.com’s “Lost” central – including our shadowy leader, Guru Dev Nick Gorini, lit the candles and fired up the incense, took a dunk in the hot tub of wisdom and attained clarity. What follows are the REAL moral/intellectual/narrative headwaters of “Lost.”

THEORY THE FIRST: “LOST” IS A METAPHOR FOR RISE AND FALL OF THE BEATLES

John Lennon is the Man in Black: A little bitter, more than a little sardonic, determined to escape the bonds of the utopia he helped create (to say nothing of the wide-eyed fans who reside there), he’s possessed of an explosive temper and, when you least expect it, deep sensitivity. When the MiB told Sawyer that Jacob and the other Island cultists were killing one another over nothing he was really saying: “Imagine there’s no countries/it isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion, too. . . “

Paul McCartney is Jacob: Handsome, charming, a trifle melancholy, deeply in love with his own illusion. Jacob/Paul is more than a little manipulative and never shy about picking a fight. Many people believe he’s dead, though his regular appearances – often looking far younger than you’d expect – argue against it. Convinced that ebony and ivory can live together in perfect harmony, but there sure are a lot of names scratched off his cave ceiling. . .

George Harrison is Sayid: Meditative, eastern, suffered at least one near-fatal attack before actually getting killed. Reincarnation important to both. George didn’t seem to return from the Other Side as quickly as Sayid. . . but something in the way he moves just might remind you of another lover.

Ringo Starr is Hurley
: The perpetual baby brother, mostly adorable and funny, but a surprisingly capable hit-maker. See also: “It Don’t Come Easy,” which Hurley discovered all too clearly when his lottery winnings seemed to spell nothing but doom. Later turns out to be far more intelligent and better-adjusted than anyone expected.

Stu Sutcliffe is Charlie: Artsy, sensitive, troubled, not quite able to stick with the band. Doomed to die young, but given immortality in the name of his legacy and the spiritual impact he had on those who would go on to greatar glory.

Pete Best is Ben: The very foundation of the rock-and-rhythm, the drummer is always a group’s secret leader. Until the group calls for a new drummer. Now Ben is in his own spiritual Liverpool, sentenced to a life of woulda, coulda, shouldas.

Yoko Ono is Kate: Beguiling, not always friendly, perfectly capable, and willing, to kick anyone’s ass at any moment. Just when she seems charming – that’s when you should be afraid. Very afraid.

Linda McCartney is Juliet: Blonde, smart, no evident musical ability, but a natural-born matriarch. Dies tragically young, leaving behind a shattered partner who rebounds quickly into another, extremely ill-considered new partnership.

Brian Epstein is Locke: A man of faith whose reach often exceeded his grasp. And yet his spirit was pure, his belief in his cause unwavering, and his success so astonishing as to be inarguable.  All this despite being shockingly ill-equipped for his role, and more afraid than anyone would guess. Died young under conditions so murky no one can say for sure if he committed suicide, died accidentally or was murdered.

Allen Klein is Charles Widmore: Shadowy, scary, will do anything and kill anyone in order to get what he wants. But even when he wins the battle, he always seems to lose the war.

THEORY THE SECOND: “LOST” IS A METAPHOR FOR THE GW BUSH WAR TEAM: 

After a cataclysmic event, a group of empowered surviviors gathers together to fight back, survive, solve life’s greater mysteries, and tackle the essential question of man’s nature. Was it fate or free will that led us into war? Both groups are/were lost in many ways. Let’s briefly break down some of the key players:

George Bush is Locke: After a life riddled with failure and endless daddy issues, finds himself in a position of great power. A man driven by faith who doesn’t spend much time using logic or thought to make decisions, the power goes to his head. Like Locke, Bush’s reputation is deader than a crab-riddled corpse.

Dick Cheney is Jack: The REAL power broker in the group, almost too coldly analytical, and unwilling to listen to anyone, even when the truth is staring him in the face. Convinced he can fix anything, and that anyone who doesn’t understand what he’s doing or where he’s coming from, he rarely tells anyone in the group what his motivations are. The only difference between Jack and Dick? Jack has a heart.

Saddam Hussein is Ben: Am I telling truth? Am I lying? Am I your ally? Am I your enemy? Sure, I do awful things, but you understand, it’s for good reasons. I may be a tyrant, but I provide you some stability. I sure love all this power. Oh, wait – are you getting sick of this game yet? Sorry, I’ll tell you truth about everything! Wait! Wait! Damn, too late. I’ve lost all my power…

Donald Rumsfeld is Smokey: More than ready to head to war, nearly salivates over it. He just wants to go home, if home means a world where Capitalist-based Christianity reigns in every nation. He’ll do anything to get home. He’s tired of the game of balanced diplomacy. A war needs to happen, and there has to be one winner.

Colin Powell is Jacob: Strong and reserved, a peaceful warrior, if you will. He tries to guide the group towards what is good, but ultimately, he is not in a position to affect choice. He can only show them ‘The Way’. Like Jacob, he can never go outright and just say what he wants. And like Jacob, he ends being symbolically sacrificed (his political career, that is).

Condoleeza Rice is Kate: Strong, smart, sexy and easily influences the men in her group. She isn’t above compromising some of her evident morals for people she loves, she’s torn between bad guys and good guys. Can she/we even tell the difference anymore?
George Tenet is Sayid: Both like to torture people, ALLEGEDLY, and are decidedly good at it. Can they elevate their morality and use their power for good? Doubtful…

John Ashcroft is Jin and Sun: Essentially good, but surrounded by a lot of destructive ideas, and an old-world view that limits personal growth. Resistant to change, but not incapable of it. C’mon, John – Let the Eagle Soar!


Ari Fleischer is Sawyer
: Strong, charming and sharp-tongued, he can speak for the group on many levels, and people really, really like him, even when he says or does some really dumb things.

"Mad Men" #5

Spooky, haunted, as surreal an hour of “MM” as ever. And the visions, surreal and real, were right on: The casual chill of the ’63 maternity ward; Duck’s tug to the future (having a nosh with the youngsters in his turtleneck); Roger eating a hot fudge sundae at his desk; Betty visited by the spectral Gene, Ruthie and Medgar Evers: Blood, love and boundaries: “See what happens when you speak up?”

And all of this takes place, of course, with the backdrop of the early ’60s, and the cultural upheaval this is just beginning. And it’s this combination of cultural, social and personal conflict that animates the heart of this brilliant television drama. And while this episode, titled “The Fog,” might strike some viewers as a meandering, confusing trip to nowhere in particular — so many great TV dramas, from “The Sopranos” to “Lost” to “Mad Men,” have suffered the same critiques — I think it’s obvious that the show has far too many stories to tell, too many visions to paint, too much going on even in its digressions, to get too wrapped up in how the central narrative is (or isn’t) unfolding.

I’ll invite you to turn to Tim Goodman‘s blog for a thought-provoking analysis of the individual moments in last night’s episode. But when it comes to themes and ideas, here’s what sticks with me:

1. Duck Phillips in his turtleneck, and his grooving on the “secret bond” between Pete and Peggy. Which he perceives as a mutually-productive workplace scheming, rather than the real secret of office couch sex and subsequent pregnancy. Duck is just getting started in the groovy department, but he’s on a whole new path: dressed down, grokking psychic connections, realizing that Peggy has just as much, and maybe more, to offer than her male counterparts. “Now’s your time,” he tells her. Gloria Steinem couldn’t have said it better.

2. Also trying, but falling as short as any spoiled rich kid would: Good old Roger Sterling, the silver-haired husband of a 22-year-old (can’t wait to see how she blossoms come the summer of love) gobbling up a hot fudge sundae at his desk, sometime before lunch. Which isn’t to say that he won’t wield the paternal whip when the opportunity presents itself (e.g., upon the hide of poor old Pete, for having the temerity to urge Admiral TV execs to pursue the negro market. Roger flails away, only to walk away unfulfilled: “It’s never as good as you think it’s going to be,” he grumbles.

3. Every image of familial disconnection/paternal failure: VIrtually everywhere. In the hideous chill of the maternity ward; in the sad pleas of fellow expecting father Dennis’s prayer/confession to Don to be a “better man,” even as the both of them are whiling away the hours by getting tanked on whiskey. The spectral Eugene’s unwillingness to show his face felt tragic, and the unconditional love he beamed toward Betty when he did look up seemed all the more so — consider how jagged their relationship was when he was still alive. Even scarier: the withering warning issued by Betty’s spectral mother, Ruthie, who pointed to a still-bleeding Medgar Evers (whose assassination had been noted in passing on a news broadcast a bit earlier) as evidence of “what happens when you speak up.”

4. None of which was even close to being as scary as that final scene, of an exhausted Betty stumbling out of bed to tend to her new, squalling baby.  Her face a mask of exhaustion and (worse) indifference. Which made me think, with a sinking feeling, of something Don had told Sally’s teacher earlier: “Children don’t belong in graveyards.” No, they really don’t.