Cat 1, Smoke Monster 0

by wjw on May 31, 2010

Over on her blog, Cat Valente lets Lost have it with a multi-barrel chain gun. It had me hopping up and down and clapping my hands with glee, it did.

Lost is a science fiction show.

Now, they haven’t wanted that label from the beginning. First, they assured us that everything had a real-world explanation and it was not science fiction or fantasy at all. This is obviously crap at this point, but they continue to insist in multiple interviews that Lost is a character-driven drama and not a genre show at all.

Oh, I get why you don’t want the badge, kids. It may get you the geek love but no one will call your show art and the big meanie procedurals and high-budget crime dramas will kick sand in your show’s face and laugh at you. There is a genre bias enforced by this kind of bad storytelling and mealy-mouthed interview sidestepping crap. But Lost is science fiction or at least it fucking was until this season when we suddenly landed in magical fantasy land and got a Dark Lord and a freaking GLOWCAVE and vague mystical nonsense and this is my angry face. I don’t normally come down on the side of “get this fantasy shit off my screen” but damn, yo. You cannot resolve a science fiction plot with glowelves and a Dark Master. and has been since episode one. Most of the problems with Lost have in fact been because its creators are, frankly, genre snobs, and refuse to believe that anyone is interested in the mysteries of the show but are instead merely invested in their “characters.” I put that in sarcasto-quotes because these characters are terrible, boring, flat, and idiotic. And the only ones anyone was attached to are dead or sidelined. Thanks for killing off all the non-whites and non-males except Kate, too. They do not get that the only people still watching are people who are interested in the island mysteries because they are genre fans. Everyone else peaced out a long time ago.

Incidentally, it’s not like Lost is alone in this. Every time some producer claims a show isn’t science fiction while standing in front of a huge spaceship set baby robot Jesus cries. Yes, BSG, I’M TALKING TO YOU.

But here’s the thing, guys. If you don’t want to get tarred with the SF brush, you don’t get to play with our toys, either. That means you do not get any of the following exciting action figures: monsters, immortal beings, time travel, alternate universes, glowcaves, Egyptian mythology, electromagnetic magic, insta-healing, psychic powers, Dark Lords, Lords of Light, magical touched by an angel fatecakes, teleportation, mystical islands, or bodily possession. Get your sticky hands off them–you’ll only break them. Make a sitcom and shut up, if you want to howl about not being SF. Make a gritty procedural. Make Thirty-Something, I don’t know. But don’t make an SF show and then prance around telling everyone it’s SUPER REALISTIC while trying to conceal your painful giant quantum rabbit erection. You can’t trot out all those shiny SF baubles and then refuse to develop them or treat them seriously. I’ve said it before: the difference between realism and non-realism is that realism has no interest in consistent world-building or rules, or even making anything have narrative logic, because those artists think their work takes place in the real world and therefore requires none of these things. The real world is already built, yo. It doesn’t need explanations.

That’s why nothing in Lost makes sense. Because to make it make sense you have to admit it’s a science fiction show and explain why things happen. You have to treat your own story with respect, and not just wave your hands in the air and blabber about your characters which you never bothered to make engaging in the first place BECAUSE YOU WERE WRITING A SCIENCE FICTION SHOW AND THE MYTHOLOGY MADE UP FOR THE LACK OF AWESOME CHARACTERS. Jesus, it’s like Golden Age SF Excuse 101. But the thing is, in their bitter, black hearts they know that the SF toys are COMPLETELY AWESOME.

There is literally not a single realist show that could not be made more awesome by adding robots, monsters, time travel, or magic. You can try to come up with one, but you will fail . . .

And much, much more.

Oz June 1, 2010 at 12:54 am

Yes, I read her rant. Most excellent. Must admit I've never seen any of Lost. Not a smidge. But I believe she's hit it on the head. They want our toys because they're so very cool. But they want to slap a different name on them. Convincing worldbuilding is f'ing hard to do. It takes me years to think through my worlds and their logic. Good grief.

See ya shortly.

Ralf the Dog June 2, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I watched Lost. I started downloading the series off of iTunes about a year ago and just finished watching it about the time the series ended.

Lost is many things, I would not call it science fiction. I might call it science fantasy. They did have quite a bit of talk about causality and time travel. Most of the series was about Greek and Roman mythology. Most of that was not directly stated but implied.

If I had to describe the series, I would call it covert Greek/Roman religious fantasy.

I did, think it was cute how they established the fact that time travel was theoretically possible, but you could not violate causality and the many worlds hypothesis was wrong, then spit the show into two different time lines.

I will not give any spoilers, but I will say, they found a rather brilliant way of fixing the problem in the last episode.

halojones-fan June 4, 2010 at 7:34 pm

It's always fun to see someone come in and tell us all how they're going to do SF right. Like we've been screwing it up for years, y'know, forget about Niven and Heinlein and Clarke and Dick and Ellison and those guys, we got J.J. Fucking ABRAMS on the scene now!

Ralf the Dog June 4, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Halo, I like Abrams. I am one of the three people who liked Cloverfield. The new Star Trek movie was great! I understand his remake of Sound of Music will be fantastic. I thought the decision to place it in Iran was a bit strange.

Abrams may not understand science. He does understand fiction.

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