Book Review: The Myth of Lost: Solving the Mysteries and Understanding the Wisdom, Marc Oromaner (2008)

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Fun theory – but could we lose the sexism, please?

four out of five stars

Spoiler alert: This review contains spoilers for LOST through Season 5, as well as a brief description of the theory set forward by Marc Oromaner in THE MYTH OF LOST.

Like many diehard LOST fans, Marc Oromaner is convinced that he’s found the answer to LOST’s mysteries. In THE MYTH OF LOST, Oromaner shares his theory about the island and its supernatural properties. He also explains how and why the Losties, the Others and the DHARMA Initiative found their way to such a strange world.

The crux of Oromaner’s theory is that the island isn’t a “real” place at all. Rather, it’s virtual world, and most of what the audience sees on LOST is actually a computer simulation. The Losties, the Others and the DHARMA Initiative are actual people in the “real” world, who have entered the computer simulation for various reasons. Some are psychologists, scientists and computer programmers (the Others, the DHARMA Initiative), who “live” on the island in order to ensure that the program runs as intended and/or perform research. Meanwhile, other individuals (the Losties and the Tailies) have either been committed to the program, for example, to serve a prison sentence (Sawyer, Kate) or have voluntarily entered the simulation in order to work out their “issues” (Jack, Sun, Jin, Claire, Rose, Bernard) – for a hefty fee, of course. Still others have been thrown into the program against their will; Desmond, for instance, might have been placed on the island by Mr. Widmore in order to keep him away from Penny. Once the castaways’ issues have been solved, they’re “killed off” by the program, after which they reawaken in the “real” world.

Naturally, the scientists and researchers realize that they’re part of a simulation, whereas the castaways truly believe that they’ve landed on a mysterious island. To this end, their memories of the crash are false, programmed into their minds by the makers of the simulation. Many of the castaways’ “flashbacks” may be similarly implanted.

Oromaner incorporates many of the larger pieces of LOST’s puzzle into his computer simulation theory, including the numbers, the Black Rock, the four-toed statue, the whispers, Walt’s seeming astral projection, the smoke monster/security system, time travel, the Adam and Eve skeletons found in the cave, the island’s fertility/pregnancy issues, etc.

Oromaner wrote THE MYTH OF LOST during Season 3, and published it in September ’08. As such, his theory only covers LOST through Season 3 – and he does a pretty good job of incorporating and explaining the various aspects of the show up to this point. However, throughout Seasons 4 and 5, you can see his theory unravel, particularly vis-à-vis the flashforwards in Season 4, and the real-time action in Season 5. Even so, THE MYTH OF LOST is a fun exercise, if you can take the book for what it is – namely, a slightly out-of-date book on LOST. (Which is a BIG IF, considering some of the other reviews posted on Amazon.)

Oromaner’s theory itself deserve five stars, however, he loses major points for engaging in casual sexism. For example, he constantly refers to the women actors’ bodies in juvenile, beer commercial-esque terms. Sure, this might not *seem* like a big deal, but as a woman, I encounter this type of objectification everywhere: in television shows, tv commercials, ad campaigns, at the movies, in the grocery store, at work, online – everywhere. One of the many reasons why I love LOST is because Abrams & Co. treat the women just like the men – namely, like human beings. As a woman and a LOST fan, listening to some fanboy drool over Kate, Claire and Juliet is the last thing I want to do when reading a book about LOST theory.

Secondly, Oromaner offers his opinions on what “issues” the castaways might be “working out” in the computer simulation. In Kate’s case, he surmises that she needs to “embrace her femininity” and stop trying to act like “one of the guys.” The best way for her to do this, Oromaner says, is to have a baby and submit to authority. Um, ‘scuse me!? Does Oromaner actually mean to suggest that women who aren’t sufficiently “feminine” – i.e., donning frilly dresses and makeup, mothering children, obeying male authority, etc. – are somehow defective and in need of treatment? Seriously!? What is this, 1945?

Finally, and most insultingly, Oromaner discusses mythological archetypes and categorizes each of the characters accordingly. His breakdown includes Heroes (Jack, Locke, Sayid, Desmond and…Boone!?); Damsels in Distress (Kate, Claire, Sun, Penelope, and possibly Rousseau); Wizards (Boone and Eko in their spirit forms; Walt’s doppelganger); Tricksters (Hurley, Charlie and Walt); and Mavericks (Sawyer, Jin, Michael, Shannon and Juliet).

That’s right: Oromaner defines useless idiot Boone as a Hero, while kick-ass Kate, Sun, Penelope and Rousseau are all silly lil’ damsels in distress. Remember, Oromaner’s analysis includes events through Season 3 of the show. At this point, Jack had been forced to rescue Boone from drowning in the ocean, thus resulting in another castaway’s death – even though Boone is supposedly a lifeguard. Boone also proved useless in retrieving his sisters’ asthma medication, whereas Kate was at least able to eke out the truth from Sawyer. The same sister who, in the “real world,” conned Boone repeatedly. Ultimately, Boone died of stupidity, blindly following Locke’s instructions to climb into a plane dangling, headfirst and by vines, 25 feet off the ground.

Meanwhile, Damsel Sun accompanied Heroes Jin and Sayid to the Others’ camp by sailboat, in order to save Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Hurley – and shoots and kills Other Colleen in the process. We also learn through flashbacks that Sun isn’t the diminutive little wallflower that she appears to be; in fact, she’s somewhat conniving and manipulative, and had a hand in her husband’s corruption. Penelope, another so-called Damsel, spent years tracking down her lost love Desmond, defying her father’s wishes. (Ultimately, Penelope rescues Desmond and the other survivors, though this doesn’t happen until after Oromaner penned THE MYTH OF LOST.) Rousseau has done a mighty fine job of protecting herself over the past 16 years, evidenced by the fact that she’s the sole survivor of her research group (the rest of which were men).

And then there was Kate. Even though Kate’s gotten herself into more than a few pickles, oftentimes this is due in part to Jack’s stubbornness and (sometimes misguided) attempts to protect her. Kate is athletic, tough, smart, cunning, strong-willed; she doesn’t need a man to look out for her. Kate’s “issue” isn’t that she bucks authority, rather, it’s that men keep trying to impose their will on her. On more than one occasion, Jack commanded Kate to stay put, even though she could have been of great use on the mission at hand. Placing the blame squarely on Kate for tagging along against Jack’s orders misses the point – namely, that he wouldn’t give such orders to Kate if her name was Kevin.

Either way, in what world/computer simulation does Oromaner justify classifying BOONE as a HERO and KATE (et al) as a DAMSEL!? Does not compute – unless you add a healthy dose of misogyny to the equation.

There’s also the little problem of gender distribution – no men are classified as Damsels, even though a few are in need of rescue at various times (Boone, Charlie, Walt, Desmond; of these, Charlie and Desmond are rescued by women, so-called Damsels!). Of the seven women mentioned, five are categorized as Damsels. Men are somewhat equally distributed among all of the archetypes, save for Damsel, while women only fit into two of the categories.

Taken together, these three issues are quite offensive to this female LOST fan. As an atheist, I also found Oromaner’s New Age God-talk eye-rollingly and mind-numbingly silly and boring, but most of this is confined to the first and last 10-15 pages, and thus is fairly easy to avoid. Oromaner’s arrogance is another drawback; he continually asserts that this is how the show “should be” or “must play out” in order to “stay true” to mythology. Sorry, but I’ve loved the show thus far, and will trust LOST’s writers and producers – the same writers and producers who have created a mystery so stunning that it’s inspired so much fan speculation, ahem – to dream up a satisfying ending.

These complaints aside, I quite enjoyed Oromaner’s theory, even though it’s been discredited by the subsequent two seasons. In fact, I think it speaks to the theory that I only knocked off one star for some extremely unfortunate and off-putting issues evident in THE MYTH OF LOST.

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

Violence, compassion and vegetarianism on Lost.

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

null

Proceed with caution: Moderate spoilers ahead. Specifically, I’ll be discussing Sayid’s flashbacks in the Season 3 episode “Enter 77” (3×11). There may also be a few small spoilers through Season 4, but none for Season 5 – promise! (Although the external links may lead to more current spoilers.)

The husband and I became Losties rather late in the game. We picked up Season 1 on DVD on a whim during the writer’s strike last winter; within the first five minutes of the pilot episode, we were hooked.

Lately, I’ve taken to consuming pop culture with a more critical eye. I’ve always been somewhat sensitive to how women are portrayed in the media; increasingly, I’ve consciously tried to expand my “circle of compassion” vis-à-vis pop culture to other marginalized groups, including non-human animals. While animal welfare issues rarely surface on Lost, one episode in particular has stuck with me – “Enter 77” (3×11), a Sayid-centric episode.

(More below the fold…)