Lost Rant Follow-up: Live Together Or Die Alone

29 May

My rant about Lost – I never expected it to take off like this.

Thursday on WordPress, for instance, The Curse of Future Tom was the 40th most popular blog. Doesn’t sound like taking off, until you realize there were nearly 300,000 different posts that day.

With a few days to think about it, since I posted my open letter, there are a couple of things I’m not completely in love with about it, but I’m glad I wrote it, and I stand by it.

An overwhelming number of the responses have been positive – people who felt just like me, who were simply happy to see their thoughts and emotions on the finale articulated and defended.

Closing in on ten thousand page views so far, I’ve blocked about thirty posts by people who I simply didn’t feel like arguing with. I was clear in the letter – I wasn’t opening a debate. And so if you showed up emulating the qualities I was talking about, well I didn’t feel obligated to post your comment on my blog.

My thinking was – get your own blog. It’s not that hard.

To be fair, most of the comments I blocked were either about my possible homosexuality, or about how stupid blogs were in the first place, so it seemed fitting.

But a funny thing happened. A lot of People Who Thought The End Of Lost Was Awesome showed up, disagreeing without emulating the qualities of the People I’d been talking to. I posted their comments, and we usually had a civil and interesting exchange.

Frankly, they had a lot of good points. Not enough to make me like the ending, certainly. But good points. I just couldn’t see moving on without acknowledging that.

So today, I’m going to clarify a couple of things about the letter which I think need clarified – based on some really insightful and calm responses to it, and also based on some personal reflection.

First, there was something weird about who I was talking to. I mean, I spent eight paragraphs really clearly stating, if you liked the show, and you’re still comfortable with people who didn’t, then I wasn’t talking to you.

It seemed like I couldn’t have been clearer about that.

However, sure, reading it over and over, I can see that by the end, I was really blurring the line again. It started to sound like I was yelling at everyone who liked the show, not excluding the people from the first eight paragraphs anymore.

Sure, I asked you to stop reading if you were just a regular Person Who Thought The End Of Lost Was Awesome, and not the pseudo intellectual variety, but I really doubt anyone did. I doubt anyone said, cool, see you later. At least, not because I told them to.

But again, that’s what I said, and although I was blurring it toward the end, I reiterated that sentiment. I even apologized. So when I received responses saying that I really didn’t mean that and that I really was insulting everybody, I was puzzled.

I mean, I could see how you might say, Tom doesn’t know what the writers of Lost meant, or Tom doesn’t have the right to tell them how they have to end it – sure. But the letter is a different story. I wrote the letter. I know if I meant the eight paragraphs or not. I meant them. But yes, I got many responses telling me that I meant something else.

Again, this letter was addressed to bullies, plain and simple. A lot of us felt really let down by the end, despite the fact that we understood it just fine, and a lot of people immediately began to insist, you either liked it or you were some kind of moron who didn’t get it. And I mean, over and over again, on site after site, that’s what you’d see, anytime anyone said anything about not liking the end.

The problem was, it was like arguing politics, trying to do it in comment form. Lost is like health care reform or immigration – it’s so complicated that it’s not conducive to sound bites or sniper fire. So I sat down and knocked out that letter in about an hour and a half, trying to articulate exactly how one could dislike the end, and still not be a moron.

But Tom, weren’t you also being a bully, in your letter?

No, I don’t think so. I think I was being Walker, Texas Ranger. I don’t think it’s still called bullying, when you push a bully down.

But to be sure, a lot of people sitting around enjoying the show without being a bully got beer splashed on them, when I started flipping over tables and calling the bullies out. That was really rude, and it turned out to be insulting to some people who most definitely were not asking for it. For that, I am truly sorry.

There was a lot of poison in the letter. Generally, I’m not crazy about spewing poison into the universe. But you also use poison to get rid of rats, and just as there were a lot of people who didn’t have the letter coming, there were an awful lot of people who did.

For that, I’m definitely not sorry. I turned out to be speaking on behalf of many thousands of people, and I received praise and sincere thanks a lot more than anything else.

Another blurry concept: “I could write a better ending.”

Yeah. A lot of people jumped on that line. To be fair, a lot of them jumped on it in a good way. I bet you could, Tom. Or, I wish you would, Tom. Or, it’d be hard to write anything and not have it be better than what we got, Tom.

And then a lot of people had a good old time, pointing out that I’m nobody and these guys wrote a show of truly epic of historic proportions. Who cared what I thought?

Fair enough.

I still think I could write a better ending, but all that means is, I think I could write one I liked better, one that the thousands of people who identified with the letter would like better, and that I could do that leaving the rest of it intact.

That I could let the People of Faith keep their redemption themes, their symbolism, their characters and resolutions, and that I could have given the People of Science a lot of the hard answers they were looking for. I guess I wouldn’t let you keep all of it, Faith Crowd. If it were up to me, I’d have gotten rid of that whole cork in a cave thing. I’ll stand right by that – I thought it was one of the most uninspired images I’d ever seen.

It seems to me that if an ending addressed both of those groups, instead of declaring the Faith crowd the winners, then it would have not only been a better, more satisfying ending, but that it would be in keeping with one of the central themes of the show – that we have to live together so we don’t die alone.

I’ve said before, I’m of the school of thought that symbolism ought to run parallel to a story, not be used as a heavy plaster to patch giant holes in the plot. That’s about how I felt about Lost. The hardest thing I could imagine about writing the show was pulling it all together, and then they just sort of said, we’re not going to do that. Put their hands in the air like Pee Wee Herman and declared, “I meant to not answer questions.”

Which brings me to another regret: If a stoner, etc, has to explain your show to everyone, then you wrote it poorly. That was clearly the most asinine thing I said, right there. The writers of this show are obviously not a bunch of crappy writers.

I’m going to characterize that remark as similar to something you’d say when you’re playing poker, and your pal busts your flush with sixes over sevens. It was a childish thing to say to a crew of writers who really obviously kept me hooked for six years. I didn’t get what I expected, and that doesn’t make me stupid, but it doesn’t make them crappy, either.

And all of that brings me to the end, where I called them sons of bitches – again, that was supposed to be in a jocular manner. The way you’d say it to your pal with the full house. You son of a bitch. I thought that by bookmarking it between the word “Namaste,” well, that the irony would be clear and so would the tone. So that’s not something I want to apologize for at all, but yes, I’m over it. Whose turn is it to deal?

Because what I was saying, was true. They grifted me, and they grifted a lot of people like me.

Someone in an interview would say, here are all these questions, do you guys know where you’re going or what? And they’d say, we’ve known the end since the beginning.

That doesn’t necessarily mean, we’re going to answer all the questions. Every time they responded, I believe they were intentionally trying to give the impression that they’d answer these questions. That maybe lying is too strong a word for what they did – they just misled us.

Even the series build up – THE TIME FOR QUESTIONS HAS ENDED!

A little bit of a difference, isn’t there, between that and “THE TIME FOR ANSWERS HAS ARRIVED!”

Do I think they SHOULD have answered more questions? Yes, I absolutely do. But it looks like they didn’t promise it. They just knew we were thinking it, intentionally misled us, allowed us to keep right on thinking it.

They played with our expectations, grifted us, and they even said they were going to do it, in the episode “The Long Con.”

To be clear, I don’t appreciate that any more than I appreciate getting sharked or tricked or grifted, for real. But again, this wasn’t a matter of not understanding the end, it was a matter of expecting a different one. A meatier one.

That doesn’t mean I’m a Person Who Thought The End Of Lost Was Awesome now. No, it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But I’m finding it easier to direct my anger only at bullies, and I’d like to put something a little more positive out there in the universe, especially since suddenly, thousands of people are listening.

Lost was all about the Jack’s journey from Man of Science to Man of Faith. Lots of us think the journey ought to go the other way, but the writers of Lost didn’t, and that’s their choice. I don’t have to like it, but I do like their central theme about living together so we don’t die alone.

I also wanted to thank the thousands of people who took the time to read my rant, the thousands of people who said that it really spoke for them. For my part, I got a lot of my rage out, and it’s not healthy to rant forever. I might have hated the end, but I did love the show for a long time, loved it in a completely unique way, as far as television goes.


Posted by on May 29, 2010 in LOST, Television/Movies


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

11 responses to “Lost Rant Follow-up: Live Together Or Die Alone

  1. Ryall

    May 30, 2010 at 5:48 am

    I’ve had a chance to step back and view this differently too Tom, sadly what the writers of LOST need to know is that millions of people are laughing at them.

    No matter how much I liked some parts, if I had to give it an overall ‘like or dislike’, the ending will make me click dislike.

    Whenever there was a ridiculous plot hole during the series, it was only the hope (and quite reasonable expectation) that the end will wrap it up, that kept my viewership.

    I wonder if we’ll see a ‘from the makers of lost comes a new series’ because if I heard that I’d laugh and change the channel.

    what was the monster: bad vibes
    what were the numbers for: no reason
    why is walt wet and talking backwards: no reason

    why leave unanswered questions? keeps interest in an otherwise average soap.
    why keep interest? the need to make money
    why are they writing the story? to make money

    does the ending really matter if you’ve made your money?

    if viewers are disgusted with the ending, do you need to do or say anything? no

    if the people making the show don’t care about the viewer reaction to the conclusion of half a decade of viewing, should we? no

    should I just quit this now because I’m reminded of all the absolute crap they fed us, and it’s making me angry? yes

    • thomaschalfant

      May 31, 2010 at 7:07 pm

      There’s no doubt – I could get angry all over again, listening to you. And yes, I agree 100% about the idea that one of the things that kept me watching was the idea that this would come together. And that not tying it together, saying “I meant to do that,” well, you know how I feel about that.

      Main reason I wrote this was because I meant the first eight paragraphs of the original letter, where I said, “If you like Lost and you’re not being insulting, I’m all for you.”

      Certainly a lot of people didn’t feel like that was very sincere, after I spent a couple thousand words blasting the show.

      So yes, I wanted to give people who liked it a little respect, but no, that doesn’t mean I changed my mind about the ending. It just means I’ve made my peace with it.

      There’s a video circulating out there, of all the unanswered questions, which I think was over at College Humor. Did you see that?

  2. Chris

    May 30, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Two quibbles, after these qualifications.

    I am basically an agree to disagree type like you on the finale. I get the outrage. As the finale was ending I felt it to a degree. Jack fixing the cork seemed too easy. Killing MIB ultimately too easy. Obviously, many un- or under-answered questions plot-wise. But I nonetheless enjoyed it a great deal and the outrage over plot for me was overwhelmed by resolution over character and a sense (best word I can think of for it) for me from a story (as opposed to plot/question) perspective that things had actually been largely wrapped up. Plus, the Richard and Jacob/MIB back stories showed me (and I didn’t feel entirely outraged by it) that the ultimate island plot was operating on the level of myth (not just “symbol”) and would read like an ancient myth and not an intricate sci-fi thriller/who-done-it. With so much invested in the show, I accepted this, whether that is intellectually honest or not, I really didn’t care with the end approaching. Not to mention that I always felt that the “Long Con” as you mention and just the notion of being “LOST” was being used by the writers on the audience (not just the characters) throughout the show and I did not expect that to end entirely at the finale.

    Also, haven’t read all of the rant, just didn’t feel like it honestly, no offense intended. And certainly did not read all of the responses to it, so I apologize if I repeat anything.

    First, in response to a point from your follow-up here to your rant, I have seen too often the sentiment that LOST was “all about” Jack’s journey/redemption/purgatory, etc. It wasn’t. Not even close. Jack was not in a whole lot of the episodes for a story “all about” him. I know you are using a rhetorical device there, but Jack, too, was a device. The lead character and the narrative “eyes” (as the story so clearly pointed out to us) through which we modern People of Science got to primarily view the LOSTieverse.

    But even as the lead character of Science was pulled into a world of Belief as a part of his redemption, I don’t think that was THE point of LOST. I was devastated by the earlier point in the show where THE character of Faith in the show was duped, badly. Locke was by far my favorite character throughout the show, but midway through Season 5 (a season I think you basically think was a waste along with the last one (forgive, if that is an over-generalization)) they made him appear a fool and killed him. But I had FAITH (as a sci-fi geek and lover of superheroes) and when he resurrected on the island a few episodes later I thought it was Locke’s grand plan coming to fruition, only to find the opposite to be true: Locke’s faith allowed him to be the ultimate tool of the “devil”. Because I knew I was not alone in loving Locke, I thought this was anything but a cop-out (as you seem to feel Seasons 5 and especially 6 were), but instead one of the boldest pieces of writing in the history of series TV. Not just killing off everyone’s favorite character but making him appear a fool, and leaving the audience without there favorite character for 1.5 seasons, up until the last 45 minutes of the entire series.

    Anyway, my real point here is that you can’t possibly interpret, IMO, this complicated series as just a “Faith wins!”parable. At worst, Jack becomes a balance of both, but that is a deeper analysis than we have time and space for now (I am already writing way more here than I planned). But this show was just not “all about” Jack by a longshot (and the purgatory was not “Jack’s” either–I believe Christian saying that it was essentially all of theirs that they “created”).

    Second, in your rant, you state that Jacob could have just appeared in the second episode, walked up the beach and explained everything rather than waiting until the end, which was just a plot contrivance. Well, that would have made it a very different show, wouldn’t it have? Plus, it would have gone against what the character of Jacob believed–I guess you could call that a plot contrivance, too.

    Let me just say that your point is the ultimate statement of the man of Science (in addition to needing every answer answered, btw). I mean, if God (or whatever you want to call it) exists, then just show yourself and speak and get this Faith/Belief business over with. Then we can just follow along, right? That’s what you (or any modern person of Science) would do, right, if God came down from the sky and told you so, you would just follow along and love every minute of it?

    Of course, that is not the world we live in, nor is that at all the point of lost. To want “God”, or in this case Jacob, to just step in and take care of everything from the get-go kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Obviously, it wasn’t meant to be that easy in the LOSTieverse–or in the case of life in the real universe we inhabit it just isn’t that easy, either because God wants it that way or He/She/It isn’t even there to begin with. So allegoricaly to this life, that would make no sense.

    But on a story level, whether you ultimately bought it or not, the point was that Jack and the others needed to go through what they did to get where they ended up. And my real point is, if you don’t buy that, maybe the storytelling failed you on some level, but I would submit that you just didn’t actually buy the show in the first place.

    Or maybe you were just kind of throwing that point out there and kidding, and I just wasted all those characters on my points?

    I hope you can reach a better place with LOST. I struggled momentarily, but got there pretty quickly. By Monday afternoon (after thinking about the finale much too much—which seems to be true of haters and lovers of it), I was quite satisfied and starting to even think/say that I “loved” it despite still having lots of logical/intellectual misgivings. Even with the plot failures, I think there is a lot there to love from the best writing/production ever on network TV (at least for most of 6 seasons IMO) to satisfying character arcs to even some interesting philosophical/moral musings and observations. No devoted fan, IMO, should just let all that go because they wanted to know more about Walt, the numbers or infertility or they didn’t like the “cork” or the subjective “rules” that seem to be arbitrary and make no sense (which, btw, any person of Science should love the implications of when you think about it).

    • thomaschalfant

      May 31, 2010 at 7:19 pm

      You’ve got a lot there, so a couple of things:

      First, I appreciate your commenting and no, after my rant, I’m certainly not going to get offended by any responses.

      Yes, I would agree that “Faith wins” is an oversimplification, or at least if I had really wanted that to be my thesis, I would need to really support that.

      I do think there’s this: The show usually opened on the eye of the character central to each episode. The first episode was Jack’s eye opening, and he was a man of science. The last episode, his eye again, and he was a man of faith. So, yes, an oversimplification, but not crazy or baseless or anything, just really for brevity’s sake.

      I was also devastated by what happened to Locke. I’m with you, there.

      And yes, I know that Jacob of course couldn’t really show up on day one. Just like in Avatar, carpet bombing the tree city from orbit would be a much simpler way to deal with the natives, but then there’s no movie, is there.

      A nice and civil and thoughtful post – thanks very much for it.

  3. von snark

    May 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Chris, I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments and really appreciate the clarity with which you articulated them.

    Tom – although I didn’t share your vitriol for the finale I really enjoyed reading your rant and certainly wasn’t offended by it. This is the internet, after all. I’ve seen people get in worse flame wars over the best method for cooking eggs.

    I loved the show, didn’t love every decision the producers made, but in the end it felt like a series that was every bit as innovative and well-produced as we’d believed it was along the way. The way they chose to end it did not diminish the quality of the series.

    • thomaschalfant

      May 31, 2010 at 7:23 pm

      Can’t argue with that. Glad you liked the show and the rant. That’s usually one of the most satisfying responses I get, someone coming from your perspective.

      I’ve had a few people who loved the rant and had never seen the show at all – love that, too.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. ecossie possie

    June 2, 2010 at 1:02 am

    Love your witt an writting style glad I found this site. Be reading you in this life Brutha

    • thomaschalfant

      June 2, 2010 at 3:12 am

      That is fantastic, looking forward to hearing what you think!

  5. JoeyJoeJoe

    June 8, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Just read this after getting an email from posting on your previous letter, just dropped in to say:
    You’re alright by me Tom.
    My initial views of you made you seem angry and a little childish but in retrospect I can totally see why, and don’t blame you. I’m sorry I assumed the worst of you without really knowing you, and I’m glad to have read both these blog posts.
    Still love the ending, but I’m completely fine that you hate the ending.
    I reckon I’ll be sticking around and lurking about reading your blog when I can.

  6. Raistlin

    June 14, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    To start, this is a post both about Tom’s opinions and the comments found subsequent to them.

    Firstly, can we dispense with the “I liked it, but its ok that you didn’t” stuff? This is, of course, his blog, on his site, and his choice of words and opinions. It’s sorta like walking into someone’s house and saying you don’t like their deco, but its ok by you if they do. If you’re gonna argue, do it! Or if you’re going to agree, do that.

    Perhaps this is me flaming, and perhaps I don’t have the right to make such a request. I only do it in hopes of exploring the issue rather than placating each other.

    Onward! I agree with most of what Tom is saying. It was essentially a conversion of Man of Science to Man of Faith. Could they be implying that the essence of Locke and Jack merged into one being? Maybe. Could I go along with the idea of purgatory without too many holes? Perhaps. Certainly explains the infertility, but then why are there children who don’t belong in Pizza Party World?

    I think the overall consensus of Those Who Do Not Approve, to utilize your categorical capitalization tool, is that even Faith abides logic. I cannot argue for 100% of all faith based religion, but I can argue for nearly all of religion which is based on written text or ideas that are passed through the ages, if you’re wondering what that leaves out, the papacy is a start.

    Most faith follows a logic which it constructs for itself. If religion is then used as a cudgel and rules are bent, well I do not abide that, nor do I count it, as it is an exploitation. Even Catholicism has its rules and its logic at heart, and its symbolism can be found in one of the most famous epic poems ever written, Dante’s Divine Comedy.

    I digress, the POINT, I am making for myself, and perhaps others, is that they setup rules. They asked for and dished out faith. The answers they gave, the story construction, the implications, and the rationalizations did not follow any real logic. If you were to argue that faith does not require logic and rules, I would chuckle a bit. Maybe your idea of faith is different, and that is respectable, innovation is key to evolution.

    Yet, the ideology the writers and producers imbued in the story are not innovative, the whole story supports the Greco-Roman ideology base, combined with a sci-fi twist in attempt to create both depth and conflict. Thus, your opinions of faith, if they differ from those mentioned, do not apply here, as we are analyzing the decisions of the story, not necessarily how one can find a way to relate the story to something it wasn’t about.

    *Sigh* there is just so much to say, and I’ve already said so much.

    In short, “All will be revealed” and “We have a plan” are blatant lies, I agree on this point. Can you find happiness in the ending? Surely. Can you find a nice logical base, a cause-effect relationship, a truly meaningful and nearly beautiful genius-level wrap up? No. And is that ok? YES! The ISSUE isn’t that the ending didn’t deliver as it should have, regardless of what you think should have happened, the ISSUE is the writers and producers acted and continue act as if it actually had.

    And there is, to note, a difference between logical flow and a miracle. Just because a story is based around faith and thus logic as well, does not exclude miracle like situations (such as Desmond’s resistance abilities) from happening. If there is a “plan” as God has a plan, as Jacob has a plan, as the writers had a plan, then you must concede that logic must exist within the story, it must bind the story, for the story is ABOUT said plan. If you disagree, then you are either suggesting there is no plan (and are again diverging from the actual base-line of the story) or you are saying that plans can exist outside the confines of logic. Well, then I would say it isn’t much of a plan, and maybe we would agree.


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