Monday, September 25, 2006

Losing Libby

I picked up a copy of Lost: Season 2 and the latest Entertainment Weekly recently in order to catch up in time for the season premiere next Wednesday.

(warning, serious season 2 spoilers follow)




In Entertainment Weekly Stephen King wrote that:

If you didn't see Libby's death coming, join the club. Neither did I. Because, I'd argue, neither did the producers
Sadly enough, I think Stevie may be right about the producers not seeing Libby's death coming. I, however saw it the moment she and Hurley started getting close. I just wasn't expecting it so soon - I figured they'd wait until after they explained her stay in the mental ward.

I first saw season 1 of Lost last year right before season 2 began. I really liked it; partly because it was well written and partly because it had interesting, strong, female characters. However, I had a hard time going from watching all the episodes all in a row on dvd to waiting from week to week. Plus it clashed with Veronica Mars. So I hadn't see any but the first few episodes of season 2 until a few weeks ago.

I'm still curious about what is going to happen this season, so I'll likely at least try to follow it, but I must say I was really disapointed with the second season in terms of the writers/producers treatment of female characters.

Yeah, yeah, I should have seen this coming. It's not as if the first season was a fantastic tribute to women and feminism, and this is J. J. Abrams, after all. But still. I guess I just saw the glass as half full - but failed to notice the sinking waterline.

Libby is the very epitome of the WIR phenomenom. Abrams and Linderlof may not have created her just to kill her off, but she was created (or at least given a more prominent spot) with the express purpose of furthuring Hurley's character development. She was never important in her own right, only as a part of Hurley's life. The pairing was also odd from the beginning. Not because she was "hot" and he's fat, but in the fact that the writers made it feel even more forced than it needed to be by making it clear that this was mostly about the "nice guy" getting the "hot girl" instead of choosing to focus on the more likely story of two supposedly dissimilar people bonding in the face of extreme circumstances. It was more important to show Hurley's insecurities than it was to give us any solid reasons for why Libby liked Hurley and the focus was more on his ineptness when it came to romance than it was on their growing relationship. Unlike other pairings/triangles/circles on the show, Libby and Hurley were never equal partners when it came to how the writers treated their role in the relationship.

And so, when Abrams and Linderlof were looking for some way to make the season ending that much more shocking, she was the obvious choice. Not only was she expendable, but she was also an ill-fitting peice of the puzzle and her murder would create more "character development" for Hurley. The fact that the obviousness of the choice was less than obvious to a seasoned writer like King speaks to the blindness of privilege, not the orginality of Abrams and Linderlof.

The fact that we never got the expected confession from Libby made the relationship even more about him and even less about them and makes me angry rather than just annoyed and dissapointed.

The fact that the writers probably completely missed the irony of having an emotional prop character say to Hurley, merely an episode before her death, that it was insulting of him to suggest that everyone else may simply be figments of his imagination created to meet his emotional needs - well, that's just completely maddening.

So, in homage both Libby and the orginal WIR list, here is the Lost Body Count:

Men

Steve (or was it Scott?)*

Leslie the science teacher*

Boone

Christopher

fake Sawyer

Sawyer's Dad

US Marshal*

guy that flies into the engine*

Tom

Kate's "step"dad

Boone and Shannon's Dad

Sayid's friend

Hurley's grandfather

the guy that shot Ana Lucia

Mr. Eko's brother

countless people killed by Mr. Eko

window washing guy

the two Others Mr. Eko killed*

Ethan*

guard at Iraqi prison

drug runner

Pilot*

Goodwin* (how could I not remember Goodwin?)

Women

Joanna*

Sawyer's Mom

Shannon

Libby

Ana Lucia

Diane

countless people killed by Mr. Eko

Susan

Cindy* (or was she simply taken?)



*single episode characters/characters with no real screen time

characters in flashbacks in italics

(feel free to let me know if my count is wrong)



A few things stand out:

1) Definitely more men than women, but the situation reverses if you stick to just multiple season characters that are (er, were) on the island. Which is typical of the WIR phenomenom. It's not so much that more bodies are female (in fact the opposite is true because more characters period are male), but that women are more likely to die than men and they are more likely to exist mainly as emotional props.

2) Two of the dead women that were not main island characters were created so that main characters could attempt to save them. While many of the men who died in flashbacks did so in order to create emotional baggage for main characters, none of them were characters created to be saved. (the guy Jack tried to operate on doesn't count 'cause Jack was saving him for his daughter, not for his sake)

3) A large number of the men killed in flashbacks were fathers. As much as I'd like to make jokes about Daddy Issues, the writers already made it for me when they came up with the title "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues", and besides, it really has more to to with the process of adulthood than personal problems. In the original Little Red Riding Hood, the grandmother stayed dead. In other words, they're fathers because the characters and writers are mostly men, not because dads are bad and moms are good.

4) Several of the men who died in flashbacks were murdered by main characters. They were all bad people (with the exception of Mr. Eko's crimes), but their murders were not justified. Only one woman was murdered (excepting women killed in war), and her murderer committed suicide immediately after. All the men murdered on the island were either bad guys murdered by good guys or good guys murdered by bad guys. All of the women murdered on the island were good characters murdered by good guys. I'm not sure what this means, but there does seem to be a definite gender difference when it comes to being murdered. And murder, not accidental death, is what the original WIR was really about.

One thing J. J. Abrams does do a better job than most of is creating male characters to be used as emotional props; however, he tends to focus on fathers and not mothers (even when the character is female) and still usually falls back on female characters as emotional props even when it's not about parents. The fiance in the bathtub on Alias was a notable exception; but, well, it was a notable exception, not the norm.

I loved the first season of Alias, but it quickly went downhill for me. I had hoped that Lost would turn out better, but now I'm not so sure.

If the buzz I hear is even remotely true, I probably should have just bought Battlestar Galactica instead.

edited because it's Linderlof and Abrams - not Linderhof and Abrahms, to add names to the list, and to include the quote from Libby

2 comments:

Rosa said...

Hello!
I think Ana Lucia is a more likely candidate for WIR than Libby...Libby was attracted to Hurley because they were both in the insane asylum, and she affected Desmond's life directly by giving him the boat plus I think we'll see more of Libby in this season, and she'll turn out to be really important. I bet she'll be a front player in the mythology...but Ana Lucia, who was supposed to be a take charge leader with a dark streak-the anti Jack- was killed to further the whole plot of the show not just an individual character...I'm going to miss Ana, I was one of the few who actually liked Ana Lucia, and I've always been mistrustful of Libby :)

Mike said...

Ana Lucia and Libby were played by women who got into trouble during filming. Michelle Rodriguez, an out lesbian, was on probation after a string of convictions in California (including one for assault on a roommate). She and Cynthia Watros (Libby) were busted in Hawaii for drunk driving (apparently one was following the other). Michelle wound up in jail when she returned to the mainland for parole violations re alcohol. I found the whole episode telling me that the writers are making it up as they go along and can write out actors anytime the producers require. The producers deny this and claim the characters were due to be written out anyway. See Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelle_Rodriguez) or just google.