Tuesday, May 08, 2007

the theory

SPOILER ALERT: This entire post is about ABC's "Lost." If you aren't up to date on it, you probably don't want to read this. Actually, if you don't watch the show you probably don't care anyway.

A quick bit of background before I get into the meat of things here. I didn't watch Lost until this season. After hearing the general public and many, many friends rave about it, Amanda and I were invited to a friend's "Lost: Season 3 premier party" with one stipulation: we had to get caught up before we were allowed to join them. So, for two weekends in a row, Manda and I sat down and obsessively watched all of Lost. We loved it.

Now, when I told people that I had started to watch the show, the first question from them invariably was always "So? What's your theory?" As in "what's your theory on where they are/who they are/what the island is/etc.?" Theories abound on the web about the characters all being dead, the characters all being linked to the events of the show "Heroes," etc. There were a bunch of dumb theories that people told me about when I first got into these conversations, all of which I've since forgotten because of a better theory - our own.

I have to admit: I don't think I would have gone into the show thinking "What's the big secret theory behind all of this?" if people hadn't prompted that from me in the first place. Even now, a big part of me feels like maybe the viewing public should just take the storyline at its face value. Maybe there isn't a big metaphor. Maybe it's just a piece of fiction about a group of people who survive a plane crash and land on a creepy island full of science experiments. It's entirely possible that we want there to be more mystery than there actually is.

Anyway, that said, Manda and I do have a theory. When we told people about our theory, they repeatedly kept telling us to "write it up. You guys might be right. That's a great theory." So, with my first point in mind, while I'm not going to lay out our theory for what I think all of the characters/locations/events actually are and actually represent, we think it's entirely possible that we might know the basis for most of the characters, a way to explain some of their activities, some of their past, and predict some of their futures.

In a nutshell, it all comes down to Greek Mythology. A vast number of the characters, events, and locations all have direct and very accurate mirrors in Greek (and Roman) mythology. Let's look at a couple of the main characters first:

1. Jack - Jack is the Greek god Apollo. Jack is the neurosurgeon who graciously accepted the mantle of leadership on the island and spearheaded an initiative to find sustainable food, water, and shelter. Apollo is the Greek god of medicine, colonization, and the "carer of herds and flocks" (to quote Pantheon.org).

2. Kate - Kate is the Greek god Artemis. Kate is the fugitive with exceptional wilderness hunting and tracking skills and a loner with an almost skittish sense of individualism. Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and of the wilderness, frequently pursued by men but never caught. Artemis is also the sister of Apollo (perhaps why a romance never evolved between Kate and Jack).

3. Sawyer - Sawyer is the Greek god Ares. Sawyer is the scrupulous criminal without respect for anyone, anything, or any rules. He is violent, he's a killer, and his only weakness seems to be Kate. Ares is the Greek god of war. Pantheon.org describes him as "the instigator of violence ... [who] could be bloody, merciless, fearful and cowardly and possessed no moral attributes." Ares only weakness was the beauty of the goddess Aphrodite.

So, that's just a quick look at three of the characters. But it goes on much further from there:

- Sayid is Hephaestus, the inventor for the gods.
- Hurley is Dionysus, the god of feasts and excess.
- Shannon is Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and the wife of Hephaestus (before she died, Shannon was romantically involved with Sayid).
- Rousseau is Demeter, the mother who went insane after her daughter was kidnapped by Hades.
- Alex is Persephone, the kidnapped daughter who must spend her days at the side of Hades.
- Ben is Hades, lord of the Underworld and the kidnapper of Persephone.
- Juliette is Cerberus, the three-faced guardian of Hades. (Juliette has three "faces": her role among The Others, her two-faced role with Jack and the survivors, and her naive, third self that she displays in flash backs to her time before the island.)
- Roy is Charon, the ferryman of Hades.
- Desmond is Hermes, the fleet-footed messenger of the gods who is always running.

Some of the smaller storylines of the show follow specific Greek myths. Most notably, the story of Michael and Walt almost perfectly mirrors the story of Daedalus and Icarus, the father and son who were imprisoned, built their own means of escape, and on the maiden voyage the son was lost. John Locke's obsession with the hatch is a clear reference to the myth of Pandora's Box.

With so many characters lining up so incredibly closely to the old myths, it's hard for Amanda and I to think that we're too far off here. That said, there are some big holes in our theory. There are some major characters that we aren't positive about who they might be such as Boone (who might be Adonis), Charlie (who might be Orpheus), and Claire (who might subsequently be Eurydice). There are, unfortunately, also a number of characters that we just have no idea about such as Jin, Sun, Ana-Lucia Cortez, and Mr. Echo.

A recent new edition to the theory is the potential that John Locke actually represents Homer's character of Odysseus. I'm convinced that if you look at the story of Lost, John Locke is the main character. He has been specifically involved in every single major event that has taken place on the island. If it's an event that changed the course of the island's events, John Locke was involved.

So, anyway, that's the theory as it stands right now. I know this is insanely long, but I wanted to finally get it all down. Feel free to pick it apart, contribute, tell me I'm full of shit, pat us on the back, etc.


EmoRiot said...

Jack and Claire are brother/sister, though. Wouldn't that make Claire Artemis?

Bug said...

Well ... here's another thing I didn't put. We have a couple of options for who we think is Zeus. Zeus fathered gobs of gods. One of the potential candidates for Zeus right now is Jack's dad.

I wouldn't be surprised if we find out that Jack's dad is Kate's biological dad - since we know that Kate killed her step dad but never met her real dad.

Amanda said...

Also, Jack's last name is Shepherd, which adds to the Apollo theory.

I think we're fairly certain that Charlie is Orpheus, god of music. It was his line in the 1st season, where he said, "I'm a rock God," that made me think of mythology as a theory in the first place.

I also think we're certain that John Locke is Odysseus. Here are a couple pieces of evidence:

(a) Odysseus was in love with Helen of Troy (John Locke is in love with a character named "Helen" in Lost).
(b) John Locke says in season 3, "I'm just an ordinary man." (Odysseus is not a god, unlike many of the other characters you brought up), and he said very recently, "I'm on my own journey now," which is a reference to the Odyssey.

Seth said...

Let's see. I agree with those who say there is an ovarching theory (or at least, the show has really made it clear that there's supposed to be - whether the writers live up to that promise is another matter entirely - see, e.g., Alias). But I don't agree that the theory therefore must be some some "big metaphor" as you say. Instead, the hope is that there is something tying together the various elements of the show's mythology that have been propped up.

I'll preface this by saying that I don't have some grand theory of my own. However, I'm not buying the Greek mythology theory. For one thing, the Greek/Roman gods are fairly general archetypes, and you could take a lot of stories/shows, and pigeon hole the characters into a Greek/Roman metaphor, so I'm not that impressed with "so many characters lining up so increadibly close." Second, there are some problems with some of your character matchups. You say Juliette's "third face" is her flash back character. By that definition, many of the characters are two-faced. Shannon was different on the island than before, Locke is quite different now than before, Eko, Charlie, etc. As for Alex being Persephone with Ben being Hades - but don't forget, Alex is Ben's daughter, not his lover/queen.

Then there's Jack's dad maybe being Zeus and Jack being Apollo. Nice theory, but remember (or if you don't know this, let me tell you) - up until they cast Party of Five in the role of Jack, the character of Jack wasn't even supposed to survive the first episode. Which would've made Jack's dad a rather smaller part, if consequential at all. Under your theory, that's way too an important piece to have only come into play because they liked the actor - if this was what they were doing, they surely would've had the plan from the get go.

Sayid being Hephaestus doesn't account for his larger role on the island, which isn't really the inventor, but as an alternate leader and inquisitor (nor does it account for his pre-island violent history). And another thing on Ben being Hades - remember that Ben may not be the Big Bad Guy, as there's the mentioned-but-not-yet-seen guy (I forget his damn name at the moment - something with a J, I think). And along with the other characters who don't fit into your theory, what about the not-seen-this-season-for-no-good-reason Bernand and Rose. And how do you fit in the "Adam and Eve" skeletons found in the cave back in Season 1?

I do agree that, to the extent the show has a central character, it's Locke. So the Odysseus theory is a little more interesting but I suspect that wouldn't hold up either (and I'm way too rusty on that particular story to remember the specifics).

Now to the extent there is something "bigger" to the whole show, I think the general picture is clear. It has a lot to do with philosophy (look at how many philospher's names are integrated into the show), particularly the notion of destiny versus free will and action versus inaction. It also ties into something to do with fathers, with almost every character having some serious daddy issues. And the show's title has much more to do with the individual characters' personal growth, than their placement on the island - each character is rather lost in their own path and, in fact, characters seem to leave the island once things are patched up, like Shannon (dies after getting beyond her shallow former self and realizing she can do stuff), Michael (leaves the island after finally having a strong relationship with his son), Boone (dies after finally getting over the love for Shannon that was holding him back). Though I'm not sure that holds up for characters like Eko or taily blonde chick (another name I forget). The big test on that point will be if Sawyer, now that he's resolved his big personal issue (and really, he's not "Sawyer" anymore, but James Ford) dies or leaves or some such (though with three years left, I can't imagine they'd kill him off just yet, especially after pissing off way too many folks, myself included, when they whacked Eko).

Anyway, those are my ramblings.

At the end of the day, I just hope there's some payoff that's good and makes sense. The frustration with this show has been growing. I hope that with a firm ending date now in place, they get this sucker going somewhere.

Amanda said...

Ack, there should be a spoiler-like warning for statements like this:

"...up until they cast Party of Five in the role of Jack, the character of Jack wasn't even supposed to survive the first episode. Which would've made Jack's dad a rather smaller part, if consequential at all."

I hate all those podcasts and interviews with the producers, where they "leak" information about casting and set and storylines.. gah! Just let me enjoy the show.

non-show spoiler:

I'm still upset about reading somewhere that the actor who plays Ben wasn't supposed to be the leader for the Others. They just liked him and decided to make him into the main man over there. That irks me. =(