How Being a LOST Fan and a Church Member is Pretty Much the Same

AdamFmedia, Mormon, television 12 Comments

New Convert:
“I watched them all back to back this year on DVD. And I’m very glad I did. And I’d do it again.”

“If you didn’t like the Lost finale, you’re an idiot! Literally, you probably just didn’t understand it. You have my sympathy.”

“After so many years spent on this show, I feel cheated.”

“The people who actually watched all 6 seasons and LIKED it suffer from a form of TV induced Stockholm Syndrome (a term used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors that appear irrational in light of the negative experience of the victims). Sorry for those that liked it. The first step is admitting there is a problem. ;-)”

“Probably not the answers we’d all hoped for… but anything that can make me feel something besides contempt and disappointment is just fine with me.”

While there are some interesting similarities in content between the show and the gospel—such as the fallen evil dude (the brother of Jesus!) wanting a body—I am more interested in how the process of being a fan of the show and being a member of the church have been strangely similar to me. Think how rather than what. Here are the top three observations about being a fan of the show that came up over the last six years, as well as some honorable mentions:

3. Varying but predictable reactions

With every new season, many complained about the show jumping the shark. Plain crash on a deserted island? Cool! Underground hatch with a button that has to be pushed every 108 minutes? Um, what? Start traveling through time? Lost half the viewers. In each case, a significant amount of viewers predictably fell away, or became more disgruntled. Not just major changes caused these hard feelings though—general disillusionment, feelings of being lied to (not kidding, some people feel lied to), and cries of “it wasn’t what I thought it was” were guaranteed to happen. Some complained about giving up 120+ hours (READ: 2 years!) of their life for the show. Any of this sound familiar? On the other hand, there are viewers like me loved the show, enjoyed the changes, and generally found it immensely satisfying, while being aware of the flaws. Some people are inevitably going to be disappointed, disillusioned, or feel abused (really, one person compared it the finale to spousal abuse… and I thought Richard Dawkins was crazy).

2. A lot of good, a little bad, a dash of ugly

  • The good: amazing acting (Michael Emerson anyone?), great character development, intriguing mysteries, huge fan community, meaningful symbolism, and hilarious podcasts. Not to mention an amazing locale with Hummer Tours! (Yeah, I went on one.)
  • The bad: Walt and Aaron are important! You really should be thinking a lot about them… no wait, no they’re not, please forget everything we ever said.
  • The ugly: Jack gets a tattoo in Thailand from Bai Ling. Nikki and Paulo… well, actually I’m ashamed to admit I actually liked that episode… it had Lando!

For each viewer the ratio of good/bad/ugly was probably different (just as it is in the church). For me, the good outweighs the bad.

1. Subjective experience vs. The Truth

After the finale, myriad arguments ensued about the merits of the show. Amazing masterpiece? Horrible mockery of actual story telling? One of the best shows ever? Another J.J. Abrams “start with a bang and end with a whimper”? I think the debate about whether or not the show is objectively good TV (essentially, “truth claims”) is not very useful. How do you measure and compare subjective experience? Maybe it comes down to the percentages of importance one places on subjective experience and the Truth. For me it’s about 70-30. I care a little less about objectivity than utility. Consider me a post-positivist Lost fan (and church member!). The Truth Is Out There, but it is experienced by individuals. I am more interested in the community, the characters, and the big themes of love and redemption, than finding out all the answers, having everything neat and tidy, and whether or not the show is “objectively” good. Debates over “fact” or “truth” or “reason” have, for the most part, led me nowhere in terms of improving life. To be sure, every once in a while I am encountered with a new view on something that modifies my views or is useful in some way, but I don’t think the “Truth” can really be found this way. Certainly not utility. If people enjoy Twilight or the Twilight Zone, Miley Cyrus or Bob Dylan, Lost or Lost in Space, I refer them to The Duke: “If it sounds good, it IS good.” Follow your own heart and mind, not what some TBM/Atheist/Middle-way/DAMU says.

Honorable Mentions:

Sharing the good news: I often tried to convert my friends and family to the show, with moderate success. However, many fall away after some activity with the first few seasons… I’m now at peace with the fact that many people are just not going to watch it, and many aren’t going to like it.

We don’t have all the answers: We weren’t given the answers to many of the questions. Some questions took years to answer. Tolerance of ambiguity reigns supreme. Research suggests that we remember things better when they are left incomplete, so perhaps not having all the answers is not all bad.

For Lost TBS and DAMUS (and middle-way Losties!) out there, what did you think of the show? Did you find any of the show’s themes relatable in your own life or belief system? As this post is not meant to debate the merits of any “content” or specific truth claims of the church or the show, please stick to the “process” themes in your comments!

Comments 12

  1. When it comes to LOST, I’m all in! The ending was very universalist (if also borderline schmaltzy). The empty coffin room with all the different religious symbols was a parallel to the fact that every single “major plan” or “theory” that the show’s characters had (MIB, Mother, Jack, Desmond, Jacob, Dogen, Ben, Ellie and Daniel Faraday, Charles Widmore, Dharma, etc) were all essentially proven to be partly right and partly wrong. And in the end, the show wasn’t about understanding the mystery or having an accurate view of the island, but about helping others (the reign of Hurley) and doing your best with the life you have.

    Great post!

  2. I don’t have a problem with all of that, but if we are going to consider the parallels of mystery, vs community, and overlooked consideration from this post, was the show’s production. LOST was started with little more than a theme that the writers did a masterful job of constructing. The mystery was what initially attracted me and my wife (former die hard LOST fans), as from the first episode nothing was as it seemed, the characters or the island. The show also followed a strong linear progression (at least at first) where each episode directly followed from the previous, implying/promising a grander direction that what was ultimately realized. Each mystery was presented in such a way (numbers, four-toed statue, Dharma Initiative, fertility, Walt/Aaron, etc) that we expected answers, and more importantly that the writers had a clear goal in mind. Instead it turns out, they were really good at creating mystery, setting the stage, and ultimately making promises, but up to season 3 – they had no clue where the story was going. They had created pieces to a puzzle, with no “true” view in mind. It was at the fourth season (or third rather where the decision was made based on waning ratings) where the writers developed the remainder of the story. They attempted to take all of what they had contrived, and bring it to a meaningful resolve, which ultimately felt contrived. Big promises, big ideas, but ultimately the “truth” as we would call it, did not exist until the fourth season. I believe this is where LOST, lost it for me – and interestingly, so does the Church.

  3. Intering correlation. For me i got truly ‘lost after the second season. I don’t mind being kept guessing. I like doing the hard work to follow a complex whole even with sometimes tenuous connections. But when it get to the ‘but wait, its totally not what you were led to believe’ I’m done. A bit like the church I guess.

    But for me, following the gospel is a bit more like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lots of value in fighting the good fight. A lot of hard work, often pain and sometimes we lose people along the way. But there is joy and a connection that is beyond valuable. And the reward so worth it in the end. (And by the way, Buffy was WAY better than Lost! Probably because the writer had an idea of where it was all going….)

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    Hawk – “partly right and partly wrong” – I had not thought of that, but it jives with my religious (and scientific) views. I think we’re all partly right, with plenty of error or just plain confusion, and we should focus most on loving and serving others, whether that is in the church or not.

    Cowboy – Perfect! My theory is working out! Lol. I think your take on the “show’s production” fits well into my category of “subjective experience.” I agree with you they were largely making it up as they went along in the beginning (I recall an interview 4-5 years ago where they said during season one when they started, all they knew was they were going to have a plane crash on the island, and they would find a hatch). My experience has been somewhat different, however, in that I also thought they didn’t know where they were going in seasons 2 and 3, but at the end of season 3 I distinctly remember thinking “I can’t wait to see what they decide to do with this.” I suppose as a diehard X-Files fan, I am biased though. If you watch the X-Files for resolution of mysteries, you’d be out of luck! 😉

    dmac – You (and Cowboy) should check out my post on “what Stage of Lost fan are you?” You’re definitely a Stage 2! 🙂 Interesting how so many felt led to believe things were a certain way and then were disappointed when they don’t meet expectations… that seems to be the risk of having any mysteries at all (e.g. the Temple – some people are bound to be disappointed or feel uncomfortable). FWIW, I have the Buffy DVDs at home – I’m in season 2, although TV watching takes a while during grad school! I should also add that the writers for FlashForward had it all planned out for 5 years, and it was canceled. So it goes.

  5. “I suppose as a diehard X-Files fan, I am biased though. If you watch the X-Files for resolution of mysteries, you’d be out of luck!”


    Apparently I’m in good company, as I was/(sort of still) a big X-Files fan. Another good show, with a traggic ending. X-files however did solve the expected mystery. Yep, there was a human and alien conspiracy to take over the world, where government elites where buying time by sacrificing loved ones to create human/alien hybrids. The show just didn’t know where to go from there, so it just ended with the typical court case that was actually designed so that the show could pay tribute to itself. Another let down.

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    I think I felt a little let down by the X-Files early on, when I realized how much more I liked the “one-off” episodes rather than those related to the mythology. I think that’s why I actually liked the latest movie a lot more than some did. Yeah, it would be nice to have one more movie focused on the mythology of the show, but I realized by season 4 or 5 that I was really watching it for Mulder & Scully. So X-Files was probably about 80-20 in terms of importance of characters vs. mysteries, whereas Lost is probably about 70-30, or maybe 60-40, just because there were so many many characters that you don’t get as attached to them like Mulder 🙂

  7. Just checked out the link to your post. Yeah, probably stage 2! FWIW, I also loved Firefly and was miffed that they cancelled after the first season when Joss Whedon had it planned out for at least 4.

    However, I love mysteries and I’m happy to follow along. I get annoyed when a plot meanders with no real purpose but to fill space. (ok, so that covers most shows!) And I hate feeling like the creators have no real destination in mind. I have every belief that our Creator has a clear destination in mind. Unlike the LOST creators. 🙂

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    Lol, are you insinuating that Darlton are not equal with God? 😀

    I’m not a Firefly fanatic, but I did enjoy it. Too bad it wasn’t on the CW or something – it would have had 10 seasons like Smallville, which has been on for WAY too long.

  9. Cowboy:

    The X-files conspiracy did not end. That’s just what the government elites wanted us to think. 😀


    You can’t stop the signal! At least we got Serenity, and when you buy the Firefly DVD and watch it in the actual order of episodes in which they were intended, it is much more touching in terms of character development.

  10. I was an enthusiastic convert in Season 1, but went inactive in the first couple of shows in Season 2 when I could detect that us watchers were being manipulated somewhat. I tried to reactivate during a later season, but I didn’t know the new characters and didn’t understand the significance of the underground set with the wierdness of the old-style computer, and I didn’t make it all the way through a single meeting, er, episode.
    Today I am happily a Lost agnostic. But y’all enjoy your fun.

  11. I watched all 6 seasons of LOST in the last 6 months or so. Maybe because it wasn’t dragged on for me & I got so much of the dose in one figurative shot that I stayed enthralled by the whole story. I think cburch can be that way. If you immerse yourself fully and frequently you have little room for feelings of “boredom” (or the like), but if you only get a weekly dose (full of commercials) it’s easier to be distracted and therefore feel some disillusion with the whole picture.

  12. Firetag:

    “At least we got Serenity, and when you buy the Firefly DVD and watch it in the actual order of episodes in which they were intended, it is much more touching in terms of character development.”

    True. I bought the DVD’s for that reason. Over here in Oz they schedule TV shows any which way they want and often stop mid way through and restart a couple months later. Annoying. So I like to watch my fav’s in a mega dose and get the full feel of it. (Don’t think I’ll be doing that with Lost tho.) And thank goodness for Serenity. Otherwise I’d still be wondering about River!


    “Too bad it wasn’t on the CW or something – it would have had 10 seasons like Smallville, which has been on for WAY too long.”

    2 seasons of Smalville was WAY to long as far as I’m concerned! 🙂

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