What if this season men-of-color get to rule the island? (Hypermasculinity and its ‘Others’ on Lost)

Lost provides particularly fertile ground for an analysis of desirable masculinity through both its ‘hypermasculine’ traditionally attractive male characters  (Jack and Sawyer) and the many ‘others’ that the show, via various means, codifies as ‘hot.’

Sawyer is often cited as the “guy we’d like to be stuck on a deserted island with,” (as here), but other males get there share of love too, as with Feministe’s fondness for Sayid.

While Jack and Sawyer, the two traditional male hotties of the show, represent white, macho, hetero-masculinity, the show offers us a number of other ‘male beauties’ notable for their diverse skin color, body size, age, race, ethnicity, etc.

Moreover, by ‘de-masculinizing’ many characters and showing them as vulnerable, emotional, dependent, etc, the show also subverts normative gender expectations.

By often placing beauties ‘others’ at the center of viewer identification and aesthetic fondness, the show in effect allows viewers a ‘post-colonial’ gaze that promotes appreciation and identification with those historically designated as Other (through characters such as Jin, Sayid, Miles, Michael, Walt). As the show relies on the ‘stranded island motif’ utilized by Defoe and others, post-colonialism readings seem particularly apt.  While it initially seemed as if the ‘white male studs’ would rule the island and be the ‘heroes,’ Lost undercuts this tradition sometimes and, if the two-hour premiere was any indication, this just may be the season where men-of-color drive the narrative .

By expanding desirable masculinity beyond the Jack and Sawyer types to include Locke, Hurley, Jin, Sayid, etc. the show (partially) breaks with a long tradition of elevating the white man to a god, and demeaning all others to villains or servants.  Alas, as the premiere revealed, it seems the white man is both god (blonde haired-blue eyed Jacob) and devil (the ‘new’ Locke). But, might Sayid be the ultimate island hero? Or is he, as hour three suggested, “infected”?

Especially via characters like Kate and Juliet, the show also includes power/leadership/deity status in female form. However, I doubt island power will be revealed as matriarchal in this final season.

Lost may(partially) capture a cultural call for a diversifying of beauty, gender, sexuality, and power, but it is hardly the new feminist frontier. But, hey, we did get to see Sawyer crying this week.


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