Complex TV

p. 250: LOST

Newman and Levine acknowledge that series such as Lost do incorporate “soapy” elements such as these into their storytelling stew, but they argue that these elements are always marginalized and secondary, functioning as an internal “other” to highlight a program’s cultural legitimation in more masculinist terms. But as I argue in chapter 10, Lost frequently foregrounds affective over forensic fandom, and the series concludes by privileging the emotional over the rational, much to the chagrin of many of its more masculinist fans. It is telling that the nearly universal choice among critics and fans for Lost’s best episode is “The Constant,” which balances a science-fiction time-travel tale centered around arcane physics experiments with a sweepingly romantic tale of doomed lovers reuniting across time and space. As critic Ryan McGee writes, “ ‘The Constant’ represents the humanist side of Lost better than any other [episode], using its narrative trickery not to create riddles about smoke monsters and glowing caves, but rather a simple, powerful story about human connection.” The episode’s climactic romantic moment is among the most affecting of many in Lost when the sentimental wells up to produce tears as an emotional payoff to hours of serial engagement, and it belies any claims that such a program’s melodramatic tendencies are an afterthought meant to “legitimize” it in comparison to soap operas. If anything, I would contend that the series is more of an emotionally focused melodrama, in both the adventure and sentimental incarnations of the form, that uses puzzles and science-fiction trappings to draw in masculinist viewers.

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