What if Lost time travelled to a feminist future?

While island life on Lost has hardly been a feminist utopia, it has provided fertile ground for an analysis of gender norms and hierarchies. Via traditionally masculine characters such as Jack, Sawyer, and Locke, as well as through the representation of various other ‘non-normative’ masculinities, the show suggests there are many ways to ‘be a man.’ More importantly, it has at times suggested that perhaps being human is more important than being a masculine man or a feminine woman. After all, when you are fighting for your life, ‘doing gender right’ is hardly at the top of you priority list. The show has certainly not been consistent with this motif though, and frequently lapses into tired, sexist love triangles, masculinized aggression fests, and save the poor little lady narratives.

Jack and Sawyer exude macho, hetero-masculinity (and annoyingly try to out-masculine each other in their love triangle with Kate), but their characters have nevertheless challenged the ‘stock male action hero stud’ type at various points throughout the show’s narrative arc. They are more fully fleshed out than many a male character (and no, I am not referring to the ubiquitously de-shirted Sawyer). They are shown to be emotional, complex, vulnerable, nurturing – neither, in short, hold entirely to the Rambo-man-in-jungle motif. In fact, Locke is the more Rambo-like character – a rugged individualist and would be patriarch. Yet, he does take a collective/communal approach to solving problems and does not try to become the alpha male Jack and Sawyer do. He is a strong leader, but not one who lords it over the other characters. He, like Kate, is decisive but not bossy, strong-minded yet not dictatorly.

Jack and Sawyer, on the other hand, fall into the traditional ‘good boy/bad boy’ dyad. One week Jack is the good and Sawyer bad, the next week it flips. Via these characters, we are prompted to consider differing versions of masculinity. Do we like the good boy Jack who rules out of (supposed) benevolence or the bad boy don’t-give-a-damn Sawyer who makes his (supposedly) selfish nature clear?

While the show keeps the gender hierarchy firmly in place form the most part (with masculinity being valued over femininity), it also suggests that this may not be a good thing for (island) society. Jack and Sawyer are shown as too rash and domineering, Ben is a downright creep-fest, and Locke puts himself first far too often. Kate would be a far better leader than any of these patriarchs. Yet, the show maddeningly lets her slip into stale feminine norms too often, which, I suspect, is due to non-feminist writers penning the script…

What are these writers thinking by marooning her OFF the island and putting her into one-dimensional mommy mode? Kate is hardly the type to drop everything in the name of motherhood, let alone your typical stranded and awaiting savior female. And for freak’s sake, could she stop taking so much crap from Jack and Sawyer? Sleep with ’em as often as you like Kate, but keep your head on!

While Kate is back-tracking into the “problem that has no name” this season (re: Betty Friedan), Sun’s presence in season 5 could be hurtling towards a more feminist future. Unmoored from dad and husband, I am looking forward to where this season takes her.

Perhaps this season the show will break with the rather normative way it has presented gender thus far, with females being framed in relation to males and/or to their children (or desire for them). The season opener made this motif particularly clear. All the male characters were actively trying to save the island, save each other, and figure out the mystery while the females were either in save-the-kid mode or sidekick mode (Sun being the only exception).

The second show of the series was not much better. Penny was merely the loving helper to Desmond and Julia continued to play a secondary role in comparison to the ‘island saving’ males. The female sidekick to Faraday (I can’t remember her name, how telling is that???) was mere dressing to the narrative. Plus, she was infuriatingly depicted as going all gaga when Faraday declared his love. Yuck. And, while the ‘army’ was headed by a strong, gun-toting female, the real leader was (once again) male.

Thus far, all the time zones the island has travelled to have been hetero-normative, patriarchal, and cisgended. Maybe as the island is skipping through time, it will land in a feminist time-zone, one in which females and males equally share in the adventure and leadership, in which women too are the saviors, the important scientists, the visionaries. We need more than Kate and Sun and Julia – and more than the vision we are given now of mainly white hetero hyper-masculine males being the most valuable and valued island inhabitants. Perhaps they need to bring in Ilene Chaiken, Diablo Cody, Amy Sherman-Palladino, or Tina Fey to help pen a few episodes… What would Liz Lemon do on the island? How about Bette? What about Max (The L Word) or another non-cisgendered character/story-line?

(As a side note, Sawyer can keep his shirt off for all I care, but please avoid the lame meta-textual references reminding the hetero female audience they are being treated to a skin-show!)


What if TV is worth watching again?

Television was pretty dire up until a few weeks ago. The only shows worth watching before the return of Lost and The L Word were The Office and 30 Rock.

OK, I will admit it, I am also a sucker for Grey’s Anatomy (and I use to be an avid watcher of ER in the Clooney days). Something about soap-opera tinged scalpel drama just appeals to me. Speaking of scalpels, now that I reinstated Showtime so I can watch the final season of The L Word, I am catching up on the new season of Dexter as well. Who would have thought a serial killer drama would be so enjoyable? I find the diversity of the cast impressive – and Deb has such a way with swear words!

I gave up on Desperate Housewives as of this season (see my post here explaining why). I have given up on House too although I used to quite like it. Don’t know if it was the feminist-bashing season opener or if House’s caustic wit and assholery antics have warn thin.

I haven’t ever watched Gossip Girl – can’t face it. The ads alone are more than enough – so many clothes! So many bone-thin bodies!

I have not had time yet to tune back into the new season of Nip/Tuck. I was so turned off by some of last season’s drama that I dread what might happen next. Will Sean be turning to the middle school set? Horrid.

As for new shows, I am loving United States of Tara. Toni Collette’s superb acting, John Corbett’s enviable affability, and Diablo Cody’s wonderful slice-of- life wit make for a great mix.

And, as for shows now deceased, the one I probably miss the most is Six Feet Under.

I also miss all the great telly from when I lived in England – with fewer channels they do a lot more great TV than we manage here stateside. I do occasionally watch BBC America, of course, but it ain’t the same as living across the pond and having ITV, Channel Four, and the Beeb!

As my DVR queue is finally full of some shows worth watching, I will post some questions to ponder of the TV-esque variety to allow myself some telly-time this evening. Some may turn into full posts later, some may not. Suppose it depends on how much TV I am watching and whether or not the shows are worthy of either praise or blame of the professorial what if variety… (And, dear readers, please feel free to post your answers to these questions in the comment thread. Or, if you are feeling writerly, contact me about guest posting. This would then give me more time to watch TV… Ha!)

What if Kate ruled the island? (Lost)

What if the Dunder-Mifflin crew made up Obama’s new white house staff? (The Office)

What if the crew of Gossip Girl were trafficked and became sweatshop laborers in the very factories that make all the duds they now where?

What if once women “speak the vagina monologues” their characters did not mysteriously disappear? (Grey’s Anatomy)

What if Dr. House were a woman? (You know SHE wouldn’t get away with all the crap he pulls!) (House)

What if they switched Wife Swap to Husband Swap?

What if bi-sexual characters were not always of the “crazy and hot” variety? (Grey’s Anatomy. Tila Tequila)

What if disabled characters were regularly featured as characters rather than relegated to the “overcoming obstacles” narratives of reality TV?

What if shows rewarded people for loving their bodies rather than hating them? (Biggest Loser, etc)

What if this were not (painfully!) the last season of the L Word? If the show continued as long as Happy Days, where would Better, Shane, and the crew be in 20 years?

OK people, go enjoy your box now. No, not that box silly — the one in your living room!