The meaning of LOST -

The meaning of LOST

Instead of rolling footage of the crashed plane, ABC probably should have just showed the credits


I find this pretty funny: the networks’ habit of finding other images to show during the credits — instead of just showing the credits — has caught up with them. During the final credits of Lost, ABC didn’t want to show promos for other shows (and there were no upcoming episodes of Lost to plug), but they continued to put the credits in a rectangle at the bottom of the screen, and picked something to put at the top of the screen. What they chose was the footage of the destroyed plane that started it all. Except that, by showing this image, they were unwittingly making it part of the show, like those tags sitcoms sometimes have over the closing credits. Which means that many viewers decided that the footage meant something, argued over what it meant, and finally forced ABC to issue a denial that all the characters died in the plane crash.

ABC’s denial actually doesn’t mean a whole lot at this point; whether they wanted it to or not, let alone whether the creators wanted it (they didn’t), they made that footage part of the episode, and people who watched it are perfectly free to incorporate it into their viewing experience and their reading of the show. (What the creators intended is never as relevant as what was actually up there on the screen.) So while there’s an argument that the final footage doesn’t, in fact, mean that the characters were all dead all along, it’s hard to argue that it means nothing: it’s there, so it means something to us. People watching the show in other formats — for example, the DVD will just have the white credits on a black background — will not have that as part of their experience, so this is a case where watching a show “live” on the network can literally be a different experience than watching it anywhere else.

None of this would have happened if the network had just shown the credits as produced, but networks have always been leery of just showing the credits at the end of the night; the thinking is that the audience needs some sort of extra content to keep them at the television set until the news comes on. This used to be done in the form of voice-overs, which at least didn’t attempt to add new visual content to what we’d just seen. Maybe they should have taken a page from Jay Leno and had Jimmy Kimmel do a voice-over announcement over the original credits.

Filed under:

The meaning of LOST

  1. I still don't understand how people can think that the last episode means that the people on the Oceanic 815 died and that the whole show was a dream.
    It was very clear that all that happened on the island was real and that the sideways world was some after-life where "time doesn't matter". If people actually listened to what the characters said rather than looking for confirmation of what they think is happening people wouldn't be railing on what was a surprisingly well thought out show.

    • "What the creators intended is never as relevant as what was actually up there on the screen"
      I strongly disagree with that statement: how can the creator not be the most relevant? They're the ones who made it and if people interpret their work in ways that weren't supposed to be, those people are wrong and that's the end of that.

      • But what if the creators' intentions aren't borne out by what happens on screen? That sometimes happens, and it frequently happens that works contain potential meanings/interpretations that the creators didn't really think about in the process of creation. The only thing we, as the audience, can go on is what is there. As long as we have onscreen evidence to back up an interpretation, it's hard to say an interpretation is wrong — and certainly, between what's on the screen and what the creators say they intended, the onscreen evidence is more important.

        • Except that, what's on screen jibes with what the creators say they intended. An ending in which everyone died in the original plane crash doesn't. Although I don't blame so many for getting confused, since I'm obviously of the belief that the plot was confusing, and that getting it right does require its share of thought processes.

          • Except that, what's on screen jibes with what the creators say they intended. An ending in which everyone died in the original plane crash doesn't.

            I agree with that; I was talking more in general about creators' intent (i.e. that it doesn't matter a whole lot). In this case, as you say, the creators' intent is borne out by the episode. But…

            …the crash footage sort of made it possible for people to read it that way until they thought it through more — it's true that there's evidence to disprove the idea that everybody was dead all along, but ABC accidentally created a situation where people had to look back and find that evidence, whereas if they'd just aired the original credits, the "they all died" explanation wouldn't have been popular enough to need debunking.

      • Unless you have an email from the creators saying "hey audience, here's what we intended" then it's irrelevent, because it's unknown. Welcome to post-structuralist content analysis: all that matters to your analysis is what you experience or perceive from the content. And your interpretation will always be as valid as anyone else's, including the creators.

        • Artistic relativism? I have to disagree. It's like saying that Sonny is still alive after the Godfather is as legitimate an interpretation of the movie as believing that he's dead. That's obviously not the case.

          If you follow the events of the LOST finale logically, you will eventually have to realize that they all didn't die, and that the scene with the credits simply added to any potential confusion.

    • You really think the show was well thought out? In fact, I'll argue the opposite, in part because of factors you're alluding to. People were confused precisely because the plot was so vague and full of huge gaps.

      For example, why were Sawyer and Elizabeth involved in that side-universe process of rediscovering their existence on the island? Sawyer would not have forgotten because he escaped on the plane at the end, and Elizabeth certainly wouldn't have forgotten, since she died in love with Sawyer.

      Just one of many questions that arise as a result of patchwork writing, if you ask me.

      • At the very end Christian tells Jack that the "purgatory" they are in is "timeless" and that everyone there had died: so everyone in the sideways world is already dead, and Christian tells Jack that some of them died before him (Charlie and Sayid) while most of them died much later (Kate and Sawyer). This is also why Hugo and Ben congratulate each other on a job well done while protecting the Island (Hugo tells Ben he was a great number 2 and vice versa): we don't know how much longer they lived but it indicates that they went on living after Jack had died.

        • I know all that, but I guess I'm trying to come to terms with the meaning of the side-universe, especially the process of "rediscovering" their lives on the island. It just seems gimmicky to me. Near the start of the series, they want back in time. Then they went forward in time, which raises the question of whether or not those events actually happened. Then, when they ran out of these gimmicks, they decided to go sideways, the reason for which is, again, very unclear.

          But I suppose that I should accompany my thoughts on the finale with a disclaimer. I only started following the series within the last year, which included watching reruns from past seasons. I also watched on and off before this year, but not with any kind of consistency. So I suppose that my critiques come from someone who, although a fan of good TV, is not a natural fan of LOST. I'm more someone who was always intrigued, got a bit hooked, then very disappointed in the end.

          • Don't think of the whole time travel in forwards and backwards, it's more linear than that.
            Remember Daniel? The annoying scientist with the really low voice? Remember how he gets shot by his Mother back in the past? Well a bit later in that season we find out that she knew it had happened before we saw it happen on TV meaning that what happened in the past had ALREADY happened. Daniel did get shot in the past but was alive in the future because he hadn't gone to the past YET.
            It's hard to explain over a message board but try to think of it in a linear fashion, not like back to the future. Like they say in the show: what happened, happened.

          • LOST has always been a challenging show to watch (and I mean it as a compliment) and it is not the type of show where you can start watching mid-series and expect to understand everything. Perhaps, Dennis_F is you choose to watch ALL of the season you may have a better understanding how the series creators incorporated the concept of time in the show. Trust me, if you haven't at least watch Season 3, you will definitely be lost on LOST.

          • I'm sorry, but I think some of you are trying too hard to make a square peg fit into a round circle.

            For example, what in the world was that black smoke thing? Why did the man in the black turn into it? For that matter, what in the world was the light underneath the island that Jacob was to protect?

            It's all patchwork and convenient story telling that doesn't have to make sense, it just has to excite some people.

            Let me give you an example of a show that I really liked, in part because it had complex storytelling that kept fitting together – sometimes amazingly so. And that's The Shield. It was exciting, often riveting. You had to following the plot line, but it was always done in explicable and intelligent ways. I just don't think that the same was done with LOST.

            As some have alluded to on here, the show's intent appears to have been to evoke a more emotional response in viewers than a logical one. And if that process involves some mass confusion, then so be it, at least from the perspective of the show's creators, apparently.

          • The black smoke is an evil being and we are lead to believe, although it's never 100% explained, that the man in black turned into it because of the way Jacob felt when he threw him into the light: he was furious and the light reflected that anger by turning the man in black into the black smoke.
            The light isn't explained: any explanation of it would have been lacking or cheesy. It's the source of all the crazy things that happen on the island and that's all we need to know.

        • Now the whole thing about remembering their past lives:
          When Whidmore puts Desmond into the EMP machine (I think that's when it happens) he starts travelling sideways: the Desmond from the Island goes into this sideways world, the purgatory, and he starts to remember his life on the Island: this whole awakening episode is prompted by Charlie driving Desmond's car into the bay (Charlie talks to him about falling and love and all sorts of cheesy stuff).

          Now this was not "supposed" to happen since in this world the Island was submerged and the plane landed in LAX with no hitch. Now you have to remember that this sideways world isn't simply a parallel universe, it's an after life so now dead Desmond remembers that he his dead and what happened in his life. He then goes on to try and awaken all the other people (hitting Locke with his car, making sure Kate assists Claire in giving birth to Aaron and so on).

          And so at the very end when Jack realizes that he's actually dead all of the main characters that have died and now remember can now "move on" into the next life or whatever you want to call it.

        • Basically when the characters die (regardless of where, when and how) they are brought into the sideways world where never went to the Island and Desmond allows them to recover the memories of their lives.
          This reinforces the statement by the writers that the show was about the characters and not the story that unfolds on the Island: in the end the climax of the show is that all the characters have evolved and by remembering their lives we see how the characters have changed and become better people.
          I'm definitely an emotional kind of guy but I felt that the scenes when the characters remembered their lives where pretty phenomenal: very powerful stuff for a simple TV show.
          It took me a while to fully comprehend the finale but overall I thought it was very well done and concluded the stories of the main cast while leaving some questions about the mysticism in the plot (Jacob and the Man in Black) open to interpretation. After all they were secondary and the answers don't really matter.

          • You've offered some very good explanations, but that's part of my point. Too many explanations are needed. Not enough are provided in the writing itself. I'm not saying that viewers have to be baby-fed. On the contrary, they need raw materials with which to deconstruct events critically, and I don't think that enough was provided.

            Even though I do this often, I walked away from the ending saying, "this is it?"

            And remember, the show decided to delve into history and mythology. It tried to explain things. But if you don't do enough of it, it just raises even more questions.

          • I'll admit I had to mull over it for an entire evening and had to watch the finale twice to come to the conclusions I've explained. All I've written about this are my own conclusions based on what was said in the episode however, I didn't need to read up on it and that's why, after thinking about it, I felt it was really well done.
            The answers were not simply spoon fed to the viewers and thus thinking about it was a "rewarding" experience (as far as TV can be rewarding) and that some things were left unexplained was also a nice touch: leave something to the imagination and besides, those unexplained events weren't central to the plot anyway.

            Definitely felt more like a good book rather than simply a TV show.

          • "Too many explanations are needed. Not enough are provided in the writing itself."

            That's one reasons the series is called Lost. Viewers are 'lost', just as the characters are.

  2. To understand purgatory, watch the movie Purgatory. Although it be a western it shows it well. Until you r good you do not move on for example, Michel he killed in purgatory so he will remain or go the other way. In purgatory you have to good for so long before moving into the light.

  3. LOST lost its way a couple of seasons ago and became just plain silly. For me, the only way the writers could have brought all the rambling, overly convoluted plot and still make their previously anounced end date for the series was to make the last 6 seasons a delusional dream of a dying man.

    For those of you who prefer to call the show's ambiguity as well-written and sophisticated, then what was the meaning of a running shoe hanging on a bamboo tree as Jack was stumbling towards the beach? If it was 3 years after the original crash then I would think that any shoe would have blown off the tree during a storm. Besides, bamboo grows pretty fast.

    As for the final footage, nothing the producers showed us over the years was by accident. Do you really think the final footage of the wreck was a mistake by the network?

  4. I found the last showing of Lost a waiste of 2½ hours. Fortunately I read a book during the commercials. I think the "creators" or "producers" just made fun of the audience with this last episode. There was certainly no explanation of anything in it. For example, did the plane actually crash at the beginning or did it come to its destination? Did Jack have a son or not? etc, etc..