Lost is a Four Letter Word

Curator's Note

Franco Moretti writes that in literary works “each space determines, or at least encourages, its own kind of story…What happens depends on where it happens…specific stories are the product of specific spaces…without a certain kind of space, a certain kind of story is simply impossible.”

Lost is Oahu. In securing the show as a local production, the Hawaii Film Office ensures its competitive status as what Michael Curtin terms a “media capital” by acting as a full-service production centre rather than merely a location backdrop. It has been estimated that 70 per cent of the budget of the first series was spent on location costs – an expensive form of product placement by anyone’s standards.

If you’re making a TV show in Hawaii, it makes sense to draw inspiration from all of the materials conveniently to be found all around you. In narrative terms, Lost unravels as an allegory of Oahu, and it conforms to one simple and overarching dramatic principle: as the mysteries deepen and the characters’ pasts unfold, the island gradually opens up. Season one thus allows us tentatively to explore Oahu’s stupendous landscapes – golf, anyone? – while season two travels to the ‘North Shore’ and symbolically brings the two parts of the island ( the ‘windward’ and the ‘leeward’) together. Season three incorporates a story arc involving submarines because location destination Pearl Harbor is situated just outside Honolulu: at this point, Lost demonstrates that Oahu encourages stories involving submarines, or that without Pearl Harbor as a location backdrop, stories involving submarines may never have found their way into Lost in the first place. Based on these principles, can we make any predictions for season four? Logic decrees that Lost’s scriptwriters may in the future feel compelled to make creative use of one of Oahu’s greatest natural resources – volcanoes (see ‘The Man Behind the Curtain’).

This particular Hawaiian island is known locally – and aptly as far as Lost is concerned - as ‘the Gathering Place’. Sensing their cue, the show’s producers long ago found Lost’s ultimate meaning and purpose. Oahu.

Comments

Will Brooker's picture

Fascinating (and now four

Fascinating (and now four out of five “Lost” clips aren’t from the show at all). For me, this recalls Jenkins’ work on Survivor spoilers, and prompts me to wonder whether fan satellite surveillance could reveal anything about future plot developments (filming activity visibly shifting to another part of the island). Is anyone doing work on Lost’s effect on tourism, parallel to LOTR and NZ?

Finally, the possible link between the Pearl Station and Pearl Harbor never stuck me before. Lostpedia reports that this is the only Dharma station that *isn’t* named from greek mythology.

Roberta Pearson's picture

Going back to the value

Going back to the value added question, interesting that Will cites Lostpedia as a source. We tell our students not to cite Wikipedia or similar sources and yet we ourselves have recourse to them when we need quick facts. I’m currently using TV Without Pity’s obsessively detailed episode guides to prepare a lecture on the Sopranos and intertextuality. So the fans are doing a lot of our work for us. Is the fact that we then put these facts into a larger framework what distinguishes academic practice? Or does it just make us even worse parasites than we already are?

Re work on Lost and tourism, staff in the business school here at Nottingham are doing great work on UK tourism and UK cultural industries. Once again, this is a case of academics contributing to and refining industry practices.

Jason Mittell's picture

To follow Roberta's tangent,

To follow Roberta’s tangent, the example of user-created wikis are even more problematic, as many academics are also participants in creating & editing wikis. I’m an avid Lostpedian, and was one of the SysOps during the Lost Experience - the page detailing the game’s revelations for the narrative was a particular focus of mine, making it a site at least co-written by a television scholar! But the architecture of wikis foregrounds collaborative writing rather than authorial claims - perhaps the role of authorship & its associated functions is one of the key differences between fan-produced and scholar-produced television analysis?

But, we must crassly remind any readers here, there is a level of quality & sophisticated analysis that is exclusive to the world of TV scholars - perfectly captured in Reading Lost, coming this fall to a bookstore near you…

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