Friday, May 30, 2008

Lost: Men of Science, Men of Faith, and the Utter Pointlessness of Hating Jack Shephard

I would like to ask a question that’s been bothering me for a few weeks, but that’s making me crazy this morning: how can anyone hate Jack and still love Lost?

To me, Jack is Lost. Lost is Jack. The two are inextricably connected and have been since the VERY first shot of the Pilot. My feelings about other characters are tempered by Jack’s relationship to them. Locke? Unbelievably frustrating and kind of a scary freak. Kate? Awesome, hot, soul mate. Sawyer? Piece of shit.

So for me, seeing Lost from a very Jack-ian perspective, I can’t imagine disliking such an integral character and still having the interest in or the stomach for continuing to watch. Hell, I dislike Sawyer so much that, had last night’s episode ended differently, I was prepared to “jump helicopter” myself. And while Jack appeared in four flash-forward episodes, Sawyer didn’t even get a centric episode this season!

It’s like loving Sex and the City while hating Carrie Bradshaw. I mean, yeah, her clothes are sometimes outlandishly ugly and she has a tendency to get annoying with her voice-over articles, but I still want her to live happily ever after with Big and Manolo. It’s like loving Grey’s Anatomy while hating Meredith Grey. Meredith is a self-admitted lame-ass loser, but she’s also the protagonist.

Disliking the protagonist just seems counter-intuitive, because even when you’re watching Lost, you have to know that the hero’s ultimately going to prevail. (He’s also going to get the girl, but that’s a story for another blog.)

Sometimes we talk about the difference between shippers and non-shippers. We know that there are people out there who are watching Lost for the mytharc and are decidedly not interested in the love triangle. That’s totally great; in fact, most of the time, we wish we were those people. So all I can fathom is that if you’re really interested in the mythology stuff—the island, the DHARMA Initiative, Hanso, Charles Widmore, etc.—then you are on Team Locke, so to speak. The “getting off the island” story is second-fiddle to you and is frankly just getting in the way of the bigger stories that happen on the island. You roll your eyes at character-driven episodes like “Something Nice Back Home,” favoring hours that focus not on the emotional journeys that happen post-island, but on the past, present, and future of the island. Am I right?

Up until now, if you’ve been one of these mytharc people, Jack may have seemed kind of irrelevant. He gets in Locke’s way all the time, with his “let’s not go down the hatch” or “I’m not staying on the island with you” or that time he tried to shoot Locke in the face. And while characters like Locke and Ben have some kind of intense pull to the island—as well as the ability to commune with Jacob—Jack is an unwilling resident. He doesn’t believe in your mythology—whether that’s the right choice or not—and therefore he has not taken on a role in that part of the story.

Until now. There have been hints of Jack’s connection to the island this season, but most of that has been dealt with through Claire and Christian—not directly. After seeing the finale, though, I think it’s clear that Jack is about to become incredibly critical to the mythology. He’s encroaching in on that big story, thanks to a visit from Locke and a chat with Ben. I think he’s poised now to begin his redemption and, ultimately, regain the leadership skills he had during the first and second seasons. (As long as he and Ben’s idea about getting the Oceanic Six back to the island doesn’t involve tying up Kate against her will.)

In this fight between Jack and Locke that’s been going on since season one, I tend to take Jack’s side. (Obviously.) I watched a little season two with a friend the other night, and I asked her about her feelings for Locke, to which she replied, “I mean, sometimes he’s awesome and is, like, going to save everyone. And other times, he’s just f—king insane.” Pretty much my thoughts exactly. The thing is, I’m all for staying on the island if you want to. If I was Locke (or Rose, for that matter), there’d be no reason for me to go back to civilization-slash-wheelchair-slash-cancer. But in the beginning of the show, Locke was just kind of, like, this cool dude who could hunt boar and help find Charlie’s guitar and maybe be a little mysterious about it in a fun sort of way. But when he started doing crazy crap like put hallucinogenic toothpaste on Boone’s forehead, feel no remorse for Boone’s death, and destroy the hatch computer, I fell out of touch with Locke. Like I said, I’m all for staying on the island if you want to, but don’t screw up other people’s chance to get off. Jack, as an empiricist, would never have trusted Locke’s suggestion that life off-island would suck. (Neither would I.) Maybe Locke did end up being right, but (A) what’s to say that life on the island is necessarily better, and (B) Jack needed to figure that out for himself.

And which one's still alive, folks?

Also, I am a firm believer in live together, die alone. This theory is what brought the camp together and created the group collective. The two characters I’ve come to dislike the most—Sawyer and Locke—have difficulties fully accepting this theory. Locke has the following interests in mind: his own, the island’s, and Jacob’s. I think he thinks that by doing what the island tells him to do, he’ll ultimately save everyone else on it, but as evidenced by Boone’s death, his murdering of Naomi, and the fact that all the redshirts in Team Locke got killed, Locke doesn’t really care what happens to the individuals on the island. While I appreciate how Locke’s trust in the island mystery has served to drive the mythology story for four years now, I myself would never put myself or my co-castaways in some of the situations that Locke has created. And neither would Jack.

So, then, let’s talk about some things Jack’s done that piss you off and that I kind of can understand.

Well, for starters, in “Something Nice Back Home,” Drunk!Jack gets angry at Kate. His argument is ultimately that, “I’m the one who saved you.” She gives him a look that we’ve been trying to interpret since then. Did he mean generally, like in the 100 island days? Because that’s kind of true, considering the events of episodes like “The Hunting Party,” “Live Together, Die Alone,” and “I Do.” But we thought maybe there was some big Jack-Saves-Kate moment in the finale. Obviously, with the way Part 1 ended for Kate, we thought maybe Jack was going to have to deal with the Others on her behalf. He didn’t. The helicopter crashed into the water. I thought maybe he’d have to rescue her there. But it was Desmond who needed mouth-to-mouth. The most heroic thing Jack did in last night’s finale was to grab her wrist and demand she not go back for Jin. As much as we Jaters loved his “I’m not leaving without you,” it wasn’t an epic rescue by any means. (That said, neither was Sawyer jumping out of the helicopter, so zip it.)

There are two conflicting ways to look at the rescue. One is as the result of four seasons of hard work by Jack and the A-Team to get off the island. In this category, you could include events like Jack liaising with the Others, the building of the raft, Jack making the trip to the radio tower to make the phone call to the freighter, Charlie sacrificing himself, Desmond calling Penny, your basic live together, die alone mentality. Or you could see it as the result of a series of happenstance events, mostly occurring in season four, that had absolutely nothing to do with Jack. Naomi parachuting, freighter arriving, several well-timed helicopter events, Michael delaying the bomb for just long enough, Penny arriving, and, well, you know, Sawyer jumping off the helicopter.

Both are valid. The second is probably more relevant to the discussion of this episode, and in the context of this argument, it’s way easier to roll your eyes at Jack in “Something Nice Back Home,” which you may have been wanting to do anyway.

I think it’s important to realize that Jack, at the pinnacle of his current flashforward story, is not the guy that Jaters and Jack fans have fallen in love with. He’s not the man that Kate fell in love with, either; the thesis of her screeching-brakes argument last night was “I love you, but…” He has failed in some respects, and Locke was right about some things. But I think it will be fascinating to see what these “horrible things” happening on the island are. Are they in any way Locke’s fault? Or can they really be blamed on Jack taking the Oceanic Six on the island?

(Also, it’s not really fair to blame Jack for leaving and taking the O6 with him if you’re also ascribing to the theory that Jack is a lameass-loser who played no real role in the rescue.)

We’ve been asking the question all season, as we’ve seen these flashforwards, of are the Oceanic Six really better off in the real world than on the island? I’m hopeful that next season is going to ask are the left-behinders really better off on the island?

Jack’s ultimate failure so far lies in the fact that he only got six people rescued. Six out of seventy-one crash survivors, including Aaron. Six. For as many times as we’ve heard Jack go on about “I’m gonna get everyone off this island,” he kind of failed miserably. What happened to live together, die alone, Dr. Shephard? I think this is definitely part of what’s “eating him alive.”

What I’m trying to say is that I understand why people are frustrated with Jack. He’s made some mistakes, he’s not a great listener, and he has a tendency to be a cocky douchebag, particularly when “stoned on his pills.” (Thanks, Kate, for recognizing that. We’ll sober him up for you and return him to the Lie!Fam ASAP.)

I think those of you who dislike Jack should prepare yourselves, though. Because I think season five is going to ultimately introduce us to a renaissance Jack—off pills and back to being Aaron’s dad—who’s got an uphill battle to win and a hell of a drive. Although I love him pretty much unconditionally, I do hope he becomes more traditionally likable. I’m ready to see him accept his fate and carry on. Grow a pair and get back to the island.

15 Responses to “Lost: Men of Science, Men of Faith, and the Utter Pointlessness of Hating Jack Shephard”

Lili said...

It’s funny, because I feel like you answered your own question. You hate Sawyer. Why? He has lots of faults, of course, but so does Jack, as you’ve explained very eloquently! Yet, you forgive Jack for his flaws, and not Sawyer. I don’t have any problem with that, but you’ve got to realize that people’s opinions on characters don’t come from careful, rational analysis of their behavior, or a thorough weighing of their strengths and weaknesses. You hate Sawyer because that’s what your gut tells you, because something about the way he talks and walks and behaves just rubs you the wrong way. I could go through and defend him like you did with Jack in this blog, but I won’t bother, at least, not right now! Because even if I justify every single one of his mistakes, and prove that he’s a good guy deep down, you’ll still dislike him. That’s how some of us feel about Jack. Personally, I agree with mostly everything you said. But I still don’t like him. I don’t find him interesting. I wouldn’t want to marry him or even date him. I don’t think I would like him as a friend. He’s not charming, clever, funny, witty, or even interesting. He’s smart, which I value highly, and he’s made some great decisions as a leader of the losties, and I respect him for that – but he’ll never, ever be one of my favorite characters. I certainly don’t hate him. I’m just kind of disinterested in him.

And for the record, the hero, or protagonist, doesn’t always get the girl. Star Wars and Harry Potter come to mind.

Caroline Carter said...

Point taken. However, I wanted to make this post primarily non-ship-related. I wanted to talk mostly about the difference between Jack and Locke, not Jack and Sawyer. Frankly, I think I'd be entertained just fine by Sawyer if he wasn't standing in the way of my OTP. (WOOO Sawyer/Juliet in '09!!) My aversion to Locke, I think, is much more concrete than my aversion to Sawyer.

I'm definitely emotionally involved in liking and disliking ALL of the Lost characters--there's no way to be completely rational about stuff like this, at least for me. But your point is well-taken.

I still don't understand how a person could be dreadfully averse to Jack (I'm not talking about you in particular, just anti-Jack fandom generally) and still find enjoyment in the show.

Lili said...

Okay, no, I didn't mean to bring up ships really -- I just jumped on the fact that you mentioned your hatred of Sawyer several times, as a way to draw a parallel.

As for how someone who really dislikes Jack could like the show, well, that's a legit question. Though I have to say I kind of hate Meredith Grey. It's complicated, but she drives me absolutely crazy, and I can't stand watching her. But Grey's is an ensemble show, and I love enough of the other characters and relationships and plot lines to make the show worth watching. So ... yea. I don't know, but something to think about.

Seriously though, this is one thing we actually agree on -- I'm just playing devil's advocate because it's fun and you guys are awesome conversationalists. Jack is a great leader and I can't wait to see how he rallies the 06 together next season for their trek back to the island.

Kelli said...

First off... LOVE your blog! I generally post a link to it in the Jateship on the ABC Lost MB when you've uploaded a new one. It's like you are in my head at times!!
I couldn't agree more with regarding Jate hate being really strange. I can't stand Sawyer either. (I think it was him crushing Hurley's tree frog that had me going "OK yeah, he's a total Asshole!) As much as I don't like Sawyer though I don't ever start posts about how much I dislike him or even really think about him that much. Yet that's just what so many do with Jack on the message boards. There are always threads regarding how much they hate Jack or what a cock he is...ummm, why give someone you dislike so much attention?? I think it is just the internet Losties that jump on the hating Jack bandwagon. You are so right though it makes zero sense. Everything he has done has been to help the other survivors even if he made the wrong choices at times it was always for the reasons. I would not be watching Lost if not for Jack/Foxy and I can't wait to what he's like next season. I've stopped trying to figure out why people online love the Jack-hating so much! It's senseless. Most real people I know are Jack and Jate fans...I've never met a Skater IRL!

Kelli said...

Oops... I said Jatehate and meant Jackhate above. Sorry!!!

Caroline Carter said...

Oof, the tree frog! What a defining moment. Thanks for your nice words--always glad to have allies. Will you link me to the forum you frequent? Again, always looking for allies. :)

Thanks!

-Caroline.

"Kate? Awesome, hot, soul mate. Sawyer? Piece of shit."


You see, this is where we differ. I would label Kate as a piece of shit. Not Sawyer. As for Jack . . . the reason I like him so much is because he's flawed and he's portrayed by a first-class actor. The character of Kate is not so lucky.

Mae Vaughan said...

I suppose we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one, Juanita, because I - unlike my beloved Caroline - have absolutely no deep-seeded hatred for Sawyer, but I would never call Kate the "piece of shit" in the triangle, either. Your reasoning behind loving Jack is the same as mine for loving Kate, and I can't help but get just a little defensive over the implication that Evangeline is a horrible actress. I'd say that for someone who's still in the middle of her first-ever speaking/starring role, she's doing more than a first rate job and has done so since day one.

I'm not trying to pick a fight, but you may have noticed that we like to debate around here. Anyway, just as you may claim that it's not fair to label Sawyer as the "piece of shit," I reserve the right to point out that hating Kate simply because you think Evie is a bad actress doesn't make much sense, either.

Caroline Carter said...

Hey, Mae, calling Sawyer a "piece of shit" doesn't necessarily mean that I have an unabiding hatred for the guy. Frankly, as I told you earlier, I'm pretty ambivalent toward the guy. I only pay close attention to him when he's ruining my ship. But Jack, for the most part, does think Sawyer's a piece of shit, and I'm going to go with him on that.

And I don't think anyone in the cast really sucks that hard at their job. Unless you count Kristin Veitch as part of the cast, which no one does except for Kristin Veitch probably.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to say this is one of the most clueless posts I've read about the finale. But then I find most of the adoring Jack fans to be an odd sort.

I know tons of Lost fans and I don't know a single one who doesn't think Jack is the most despicable piece of shit lead character they've ever seen. Maybe it's coming online, but I also find the attitudes of his fans a huge turn off. Their insistence that "hero" get girl (think Han Solo - Sawyer's character - to see how wrong you are) is cloying. Their happiness that Jack's addiction will be glossed over shows how little they hold the show to account. And the idea that Jack could or should ever be Aaron's "dad" is ... like, sick. He wouldn't spit on the kid for three years, got junked while baby sitting him and ... He's a junky! Don't you get this? Jack sucks. As a person. He's nasty, self absorbed, self pitying, domineering, whiney. The guy has hardly any mitigating attributes.

Anyway, you are a typical Jack fan in that you really don't appreciate the variety and power of this story, wanting it to be all about the rich white American male. You think in stereotypes. If Lost ever turns out to be as stereotypical and unimaginative as Jack fans want it to be, it will go down as one of the greatest disappointments in TV.

Anonymous said...

You seriously need to check out this place:

http://fishbiscuitlandblog.blogspot.com/

They've got you nailed to a T. Great episode recaps as well, that show EXACTLY how you can love Lost (and understand it a lot better than you do) while hating Jack. The review is featured weekly during the season on front page of Dark UFO, incidentally, and it's brilliant.

Caroline Carter said...

I think it's interesting that you, Anonymous, lament stereotyping on Lost and then jump right into stereotyping me.

I appreciate your opinion and thank you for the link--I do like to do research outside of my own ship--but I still don't understand why you're using precious time and energy hating on Jack (and, well, me).

If you really "don't know a single one who doesn't think Jack is the most despicable piece of shit lead character they've ever seen," then you should branch out a bit, because we are out there. I acknowledge the existence of people who disagree with me, and I accept the challenge of defending Jack, which I do in almost every Lost blog I write.

You say, "Their happiness that Jack's addiction will be glossed over shows how little they hold the show to account." First of all, you seem to be consigned to the fact that Jack's addiction will be glossed over; my blog colleagues and I aren't. I think he's going to suffer an incredibly difficult and angsty season next year trying to redeem himself, and I ultimately believe he'll be better for it.

I will gladly read the blog you linked me to, as I'm still looking for answers as to why you're spending so much precious time and energy despising Jack.

Thanks!

-Caroline.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that "hero gets the whole show AND the girl" mindset is so atrocious, for a show with such a vibrant ensemble. And the way you keep talking of Jack as Aaron's "dad" and of Jack & Kate as being "engaged"...it's creepy. Jack has no interest in that poor kid and Jack and Kate went down in ugly, abusive flames. You seem to have missed the whole point of the whole thing.

I honestly don't know one person (out of about 20) who can stand the sight of Jack, though I'm sure there are some, like your grandparents. I can't understand why people are rooting for a self absorbed junky who abandoned Aaron (for his whole life except for his week of sex with Kate) and dishonored Sawyer's lifesaving sacrifice and treated Kate like an object of self-validation. But there is no way you have to like Jack to love Lost. The reason? Lost isn't about Jack. It's about huge themes, in which Jack is only one pathetic player.

I think a lot of the online Jack hate stems from this arrogance in his fans, which so resembles the ugly arrogance of the character. People just don't like people like Jack in real life, it seems, except maybe for people who are LIKE Jack. Is that a working theory maybe?

Mae Vaughan said...

Well, Anonymous, I must say that your arguments lack any stability and that I actually find myself laughing as I read it because here you are stereotyping Caroline (and by association, me & our other bloggers) but doing so in such a way to stereotypes YOU, as far as I'm concerned. Based on all of the statements you've made, I'd go ahead and assume any of the following three things about you:

(1) You're a Sawyer fangirl/fanboy
(2) You're a Skater.
(3) You're a mythology hunter.

I'm partial to #3 because your argument sounds a lot like others from mytho-hunters I know, and mytho-hunters are nothing if not haters of 'shipping and all things pertaining to it on the show. I'm not phased by anything you have to say because, frankly, I've been in the business of TV 'shipping/blogging/reviewing/predicting for over 10 years of my life -- I know my track record, and Caroline's, and I'm confident that it will be you who's shocked and completely made to eat crow when the series finale ends and you realize that - actually, yes, Lost is about Jack.

What's more, if you can't see the sheer beauty of his journey (the rise and fall of a tragic hero, meant solely to rise again yet wiser and stronger) and are also unable to peel the onion layers of Jack's history... which is BEYOND important with regard to why he makes these wretched decisions... well, then, I'd say it's you who lacks any intelligence toward the art of understanding plot and characterization. Not us.

And thanks for the link to the FBL blog, but there's a good reason I never read it - The Fish is a Sawyer fangirl/Skater biased and unnecessarily rude reviewer with regard to anything Jack/Jate related. My reasoning for not reading that blog is right on par with why you probably shouldn't read ours.

It's not like we don't put out a blatantly obvious Jater-bias warning around here every chance we get. But sure, thanks for your input. Come see us again when you remember your own name.

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