The series finale of “Lost” will air on Sunday night, and Christianity Today has an interview about it with Jeff Jensen, uber-fan and writer for Entertainment Weekly. The discussion focuses on the meaning of the “Lost” series, and I was especially intrigued by this exchange:
CT: If we get to the end of the show and we don’t know exactly who is good, who is evil, won’t that be disappointing?
Jeff Jensen: Lost begins that conversation by saying, “Who gets to decide who is good and evil?” Here on earth, who gets to decide who is right and who is wrong? What Lost wants to say is, We’re not going to decide that. What we’re going to say is that you decide that for yourself. This is the ultimate expression of free will. All these being equal, pursue a life of self-awareness so that you know yourself well; then, you decide moment to moment whether you are good or evil and then be that, hopefully choose the good.
Jensen is savvy to Lost’s theological and philosophical themes and is supposed to be an expert on Lost-mythology, but I think he’s really missed it here. Jensen suggests that the world of Lost makes no absolute judgment about good and evil, and that it is ultimately up to the viewer to sort out that question. I disagree. This series is not your run-of-the-mill postmodern critique of metanarratives. Good and evil are in a pitched battle, and I have a hunch the good will win in the endâ€”though I suspect someone important will have to die before it’s all said and done.
The interviewer is clearly right about one thing. Fans will be disappointed if good and evil aren’t clearly sorted out at the end. Viewers see in this story what they already perceive to be true about their own story. The world that they live in is broken, something has gone wrong, there is evil afoot, and something needs to be done about it. The postmodern spirit of the age doesn’t like to admit such yearnings, but they mark the human condition nonetheless. You don’t have to be a Christian to have this sense. You feel it whether you want to or not, and it’s why viewers crave resolution even in watching a television show. They are projecting what they already feel to be the case in their real lives. God has set eternity in their hearts, and they know at some level that there’s more to it than what they see (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
As to the ultimate meaning of “Lost,” I’m not sure that it will ever be clear (even after tomorrow). As to other, the answers aren’t as far away as some would suggest. They are rather close indeed (Revelation 21:5-7).
FYI: The interviewer for CT is Sarah Pulliam Bailey, and she wrote an article about “Lost” for the Wall Street Journal on Friday. Read it here.
I’ve seen every episode.
I predict that there will be two fundamental messages at the end of tomorrow’s show:
1) There are no ultimate answers or ultimate Truth
2) There are many â€œtruthsâ€ to be celebrated and embraced
The composite picture of all of these narratives will be a mosaic of “truths” that donâ€™t have to necessarily point to some elusive, overarching Truth. The love story between Jin and Sun, the persistence of hard-luck losers like Locke and the redemption of villains like Ben Linus and Sawyer, etc, will bring tears to our eyes and we will celebrate the “courage and triumph of the human spirit”.
Keep in mind that all compelling alternatives to the Gospel contain elements of truth. Postmoderns love to collect these small “t” truths from all over the place- including from TV shows and movies. They affirm the truths that are most convenient or compelling and discard the rest.
My point here is that most viewers won’t feel disappointed that there isn’t big “t” truth, because our culture has embraced – even celebrated – the “fact” that we don’t need one. What is most important is for each of us to discover our own truth. At the end of the day, I think that is what will be affirmed.
I don’t think we can say that Lost leaves it up to the viewer to sort out the good and evil. I think rather Lost is intentionally operating under the categories of good and evil, and portraying its characters as both. Each character has made choices, one way or the other, at different times during the narrative. Of course, the epic fail here is the presumption that people are moral free agents.