Posted Monday, May 24, 2010, at 10:58 AM
Of the many bad decisions on display in last night's Lost finale- that weird Sixth Sense ending, the lack of resolution for the show's mysteries, Dominic Monaghan wandering around in skin-tight vinyl-perhaps the most telling was its opening: Five straight minutes of melancholy white people. We start with Jack, a white man; we pass it off to Ben, a white man; from Ben we go to Locke, a white man who is also occasionally a smoke monster; we visit Sawyer, a white man, before going to Kate, a white woman-hey, a woman!-sitting in a car, shortly to be joined by Desmond. For those who haven't seen Lost, a spoiler: Desmond is a white man.
Lost didn't always look like this. When it first aired, in 2004-trigger your inner airplane noise, we're going on a flashback-it seemed like one of the more progressive shows on TV. Its core cast was composed of 14 people; only eight were white. It asked us to maintain interest through hours of subtitled Korean dialogue. One of the main characters, Sayid, was an Iraqi soldier. An Iraqi soldier! Eighteen months after we declared war on Iraq! And he was awesome! In the beginning, Lost seemed downright subversive.
"Seemed" being, of course, the operative word. Lost had a reputation for being clever that it never quite backed up; its diversity, in particular, began to seem like a gimmick that the writers didn't know how to handle. So they got rid of it; by the final episode, Lost had narrowed its focus down to a handful of white dudes. Everyone else was a sidekick. Or worse. The American Prospect 's Michelle Dean also took note of the show's shift away from women and minorities: "While Lost occasionally focused on those who were not white males in flashbacks," Dean writes, "it became clearer and clearer that when the series' final climax came to a head, they would be dispensable."
Consider: All but two of the show's core female characters were shot, blown up, drowned, or driven mad; while they lived, their plot lines were all about giving birth, raising babies, and finding men. Spunky, disobedient Kate was passed between Jack and Sawyer like a football before motherhood gave her life true purpose. Rose, the only remaining black character, disappeared into the jungle and resurfaced only to give wise lectures to white folks. As for the other folks of color, well: Sun and Jin ditched the subtitles and gasped their final "I love you" in English, and Sayid was killed, resurrected, and then forced to re-kill himself with a bomb. A "suicide bomb," you might say. Yeah.
Sure, all of the characters were dead by the final scene, but at least Jack got to stand around and process his feelings about it. Ben-a mass-murdering dictator-was given co-rulership of the Island and invited into Heaven. Ana-Lucia didn't even show up.
Photograph of Lost cast by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.