The Problem with “Happily Ever After”

Every good story begins with a problem. A plane crashes on a desert island, leaving its occupants stranded. Two lovers are separated by their families’ hostile feud. A girl falls down a rabbit hole and loses her way in a nonsensical land. By the end of the story, the characters have either surmounted impossible odds to achieve their goal, or succumbed to the impossible odds in a blaze of failing glory. We typically refer to the first kind of story as a comedy, and the second as a tragedy.

Walt Disney’s classic princess films are all comedies. Once the hero and heroine overcome all pending disasters, they are free to meet their perfectly comedic ending and live happily ever after. It is with this idea of a perfect ending that I have trouble.

While some of the princesses encounter truly frightening problems—being chased by a murderous queen or being locked in a castle with a giant monster—for the most part, the only problem the princesses encounter regarding their significant other is an inability to reach them. Each film ends at a moment of bliss: love conquers all, and the prince and princess can finally be together without restraint. Yet this is the catch: the problems they’ve overcome have been outside hindrances to their union. They have not had the time to test their love—or more accurately, their infatuation—with real living. Here are some examples:

Snow White. The heroine is frightened when a strange man trespasses into the palace, sneaks up on her, and listens to her sing. He coaxes her out onto her balcony with a song of his own, and then leaves with a dashing smile. Even though the two did not speak to each other, Snow White spends the rest of the film pining away for her prince and hoping that “someday my prince will come.” When he shows up to waken her from a sleeping death, they ride off into the sunset on the prince’s horse.

Sleeping Beauty. Aurora also meets her prince while singing in the forest, and he enchants her in the span of one dreamy afternoon. When Aurora returns home and discovers that she is neither an orphan nor a common village girl, but the princess and heiress of the realm with two loving parents waiting for her return, she does not rejoice. Instead, she abandons her birthday party to cry in her room, despairing of never seeing the fascinating stranger again. Like Snow White’s prince, Phillip too, awakens his princess from sleep, and the two dance among the flashing lights of Aurora’s color-changing dress.

The Little Mermaid. Ariel sees her prince from afar and does not even interact with him before she is willing to risk losing her soul to be a “part of his world.” Even though she knows nothing about him and he is of a different species, Ariel becomes desperately infatuated and follows him at all costs. After attempting to win his love with no voice and fighting a giant squid, she and Eric get married and sail off into the distance, their ship framed under a rainbow.

These “happily ever afters,” while idyllic, are superficial and incomplete, because the relationships between the hero and heroine are not deep or well-cultivated. Instead, they are shallow and based on physical (and vocal) attractiveness instead of a long-term knowledge of each other’s personality and character. The man is gallant, strong and honorable; the woman is frail, virtuous and naive. Even in Tangled and Aladdin, in which the heroes are deceptive thieves, by the end their innate goodness becomes obvious to everyone around them.

The danger of such fantasies—whether applied to Disney princesses or couples of other romantic films—is that they portray relationships as requiring no work at all: no self-sacrifice, no mistakes, no differing opinions or frustrating compromises. The characters don’t have to deal with their beloved’s flaws. The unrealistic and ideal image of love that young (and old) girls cling to makes them disappointed if their reality doesn’t match up with the enchanting fantasy of Disney magic. Instead of making sacrifices, working hard, and choosing to love, they walk away. Today’s discouraging relationship statistics are a reflection of disappointed Disney princess ideals.

There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle’s story is a bit better—she doesn’t know the Beast is a hot prince, and must learn to get along with and love him before the two can live happily ever after. (Of course, Belle also stands as Exhibit A for Stockholm syndrome, so she’s still not the ideal role model for romance.) DreamWork’s Shrek franchise also makes the hero and heroine live out their “happy ending” with marital and parenting problems. And there are other Disney princess films that give a more moderate view on relationships—Mulan and Shan Yu leave the film as friendly crushes, and Pocahontas parts with her love but remains with him in spirit.

Don’t get me wrong—I love happy endings. And as Christians, we know that our own ending will be the happiest of all: we will live for eternity worshiping our Maker in His presence and enjoying the fruits of His love, which is the very fulfillment of our existence. No better ending exists in any story. However, we should be wary of stories that lure us with the siren call of a counterfeit Prince Charming, and instead look to better examples for healthy relationships, such as Christ’s self-sacrifice and patience in the face of sin and failure.

History Channel Brings The Bible To Life. Well, Sort Of.

Recently I wrote about Hollywood’s revived infatuation with the Bible.  Last Sunday evening, The History Channel joined the trend with the first installment of its 10-hour series, simply titled The Bible.

From a ratings standpoint, the show was a huge success.  Approximately 13 million people tuned in (14 million if you count the replay), making it the highest rated cable program so far this year.  Most network shows (CBS, ABC, etc) don’t boast anything close to that.

It’s easy to explain the popularity.  As The Passion taught everyone, Christians will support, in big numbers, any on-screen endeavor that remains faithful to its biblical source material and doesn’t attempt to insult or critique its inevitably religious audience (as opposed to the alternative).  Almost as important, in our special effects saturated era, are the production values.  And this is certainly an area where The Bible shines.  The visuals on display in the first two hours included Noah’s flood, the destruction of Sodom, and the parting of the Red Sea.  Each of these could stand alone in films of their own, and yet the team behind The Bible managed pretty solid renderings of all three, for one television episode.  That’s quite a feat.  It was certainly nothing to compare to spectacle-ridden blockbusters like Transformers or The Avengers, but considering the expectations that follow the description “A TV movie about the Bible”, it’s safe to say that those expectations were exceeded.

Beyond the production values, the series falters in some important ways.  The obvious and unavoidable problem of turning the entire Bible into a movie is that the Bible is far too long.  Naturally, the show’s writers had to skip.  A lot.  This first episode actually begins with the flood, where Noah briefly retells the stories of creation and Adam and Eve.  From Noah the story jumps to Abraham and remains there for the remainder of the first hour.  The next jump is straight to Moses, skipping completely over Jacob and Joseph.

Of course the gaps can be forgiven.  We all understand the constraints of time.  A bigger problem, to my mind, is the addition of extra-biblical and wholly unnecessary material.  Actress Roma Downey, one of the show’s producers, said in an interview on The O’Reilly Factor that they wanted to make the Bible “cool” and interesting, especially for teenagers with short attention spans who rarely read.  This attitude is on full display, the most egregious example being the two angels who go to Sodom to rescue Lot’s family.  After emerging from Lot’s house in full armor and blinding the crowd, they whip out swords and proceed to slaughter half of Sodom on their path to escape.  One of the angels happens to be of Asian decent and wields two swords at the same time, officially bringing the “Ninja Angel” into the mainstream.

It also seems that the temptation to depict Moses as thoroughly Egyptian, only discovering his true heritage by accident (which then leads to an existential crisis) is too strong for screenwriters to resist.  And apparently the bitter personal rivalry between Moses and Pharaoh needed some extra intensity.  When we first meet Moses he is engaged in a kind of fencing duel with his “brother” wherein he leaves a large gash on the soon-to-be Pharaoh’s face.  When the two meet again years later, the cut has become a scar.  Admittedly it’s not a bad image, though entirely overdone.

In the end, then, History’s The Bible is pretty good entertainment.  I have my doubts about the pretty white boy playing Jesus (who looks like he just stepped off the set of One Tree Hill and put on a wig), but so far my reaction is generally positive.  I would not, however, use this series as any kind of serious teaching tool, either at home or in churches.  In my opinion, it doesn’t even work as a way of introducing non-Christians to the Bible, since they aren’t likely to enjoy the transition from action-packed television to the much slower and longer book.  Still, while it is sub-par as education, it at least has the distinct virtue of not being heretical.  For an American Cable TV drama, that’s something.

Part two of The Bible airs this Sunday, March 10, at 8:00pm.

Girls Just Wanna Have…?

Note from the Editor: The views expressed are solely that of the author. This is not an endorsement of the television show Girls.

Lena Dunham is an evil genius.

I’ve watched her Girls series with a car-crash fascination, respecting her honesty and wit while hoping her characters might get to have a positive, more Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood-type day at some point.

The lines in the Season Two trailer play like a string of cry-for-attention Facebook statuses.

“I’m an individual. And I feel how I feel when I feel it. And right now, it’s a Wednesday night, baby, and I’m alive.” -Hannah

“I don’t even know what I want. Sometimes I just wish that someone would, like, tell me ‘this is how the rest of your life should look.’” -Marnie

“You should look around yourself right now…life is never going to get any better than this for you.” – Jess

Right now, these are the made-up voices of my generation. At least, of the girls.

Why do boys watch the show? For the nudity? Maybe. For the Bridesmaids-like ‘nothing is sacred’ humor? Possibly.

Part of me thinks that guys appreciate seeing that girls, the ones who have been trying to show them up since they were kids, the ones who are now statistically getting more college degrees than they are, still remain (as the show tagline reads) “almost getting it kind of together.”

Because isn’t that why girls watch it too? To know we’re not alone?

I was out with some girlfriends at the mall last month, and we started talking TV. Girls came up, and there were immediate cries of “So good!” and “No spoilers!”

Like Sex and the City groupies of years past, we began discussing our personality traits and how they compared to the girls on the show.

One friend insisted to me, “You’re totally Hannah! Like all the way! It’s perfect!”

I disagreed. I saw myself split between Hannah and the token Asperger’s-symptom goody-two-shoes character, Shoshanna. At least in the scenes when she isn’t wearing a pink tracksuit.

And so I broke it down.

Why Hannah?

Because I’m sarcastic, and good at writing, and I weigh more than most of my girlfriends (though yes, I’m also tall, thanks for asking). And, of course, there’s the name.

Why Shoshanna?

Because I’m a twenty-something virgin, and make obscure references sometimes, and can’t subliminally tell a guy I’m interested in him to save my life.

But later I realized why, even still, the combination of the two does not equal me.

Because you know what? I’m working on it.

I’m working on being kinder, and more in shape, and less of a spaz around the dudes. And I owe any progress I’ve made to the girls who are in my life.

My generation refuses to sugar-coat anything. We’ve dealt with parents putting up a “united front” so they could wait to divorce until we went to college. We’ve been hurt by friends who didn’t show up to our 14th birthday parties (yes, still a sore spot), and friends who stole our crushes, and friends who were never really friends.

We know we’re not Carrie Bradshaw. We can’t afford to drop $40,000 on shoes, and we’re tired of pretending that we can. We aren’t taking New York by storm. We’ve barely branched out to those ritzy gluten-free microwave dinners.

Everyone, we say. Everyone is frustrated with their relationships. Everyone is spending more on eating out than they can afford. Everyone has credit card debt. Everyone hooks up and then feels weird about it later.

Knowing this, we rise up together as a generation and proclaim,

“I am young, independent, and too smart to give in to my parents’ outdated expectations. I will now get wasted and text you a picture of my boobs.”

Great.

In life, some things are forced on us. Some are genetic. Some just suck. But that doesn’t mean that we, the flat-broke millennial generation, are fresh out of choices.

We’re still responsible. Responsible beyond just making rent. Responsible to become people of character. Responsible to get ourselves out of an adolescent slump before we’re old enough to have a midlife crisis.

And if you think I’m writing this from a cute little ivory tower, you should know a little context.

Just over a year ago, I spent the last three dollars to my name on two Taco Bell burritos and some boxed spaghetti. I had no job, no car, and was racking my brain for any alternative to moving back in with my parents in Florida.

But I kept trying, and my friends helped, and things got better.

And that’s what Girls glosses over—or honestly, stomps on. The idea that the problems and challenges that you have when you’re 25 will eventually work out, and often make you a better human being if you let them.

Yes, my dad was once an aimless food-moocher with a wolf-man beard whose own grandmother didn’t recognize him. But he didn’t stay that way forever. And he probably could have, if he didn’t have good people around influencing the change.

Because alone, we don’t like change. Change means sweat and tears and accountability. So instead we mistranslate “The truth will set you free to “Transparency will let you off the hook.”

Yes, I’ve wasted lots of time and done lots of dumb things. Yes, I still do dumb things. But the beauty of finding ourselves all in the same spot is that we can tag-team getting out of our individual ruts, without getting caught up playing the judgment game. We’re already being honest about our faults, so the next step is, “Hey, remember that really idiotic thing I do in this situation? What if you encourage me not to do it, and if necessary get in my face about it?”

And while that by itself won’t make us model human beings, it will make a difference. And for the rest we can turn to the One whose grace is sufficient for those almost getting it kind of together.

Maybe then we’ll go from Girls to Women.

Grace in Television

Why is it that there are certain television shows that, despite sharing common themes, could hardly be more different:? How I Met Your Mother and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, for example, initially struck me as being, on the surface, quite similar. A group of friends in the big city, focusing on their entanglements, romantic and otherwise, with a heavy emphasis on bar life… At first glance, they’re practically the same show! And yet my wife Anna and I just finished watching HIMYM’s entire run for the second time, whereas I’ve only ever watched 5 episodes of Philadelphia, and each one left me feeling kinda sad.

Dr. Who and Torchwood is another, even more striking example. Torchwood is actually a spin-off of Dr. Who, and the content and setting is, in many cases, very similar. But Dr. Who takes place in a universe full of wonder, where the utter impossibility of a happy ending only makes that inevitable happy ending more marvelous… whereas Torchwood, despite taking place in the same universe, ended its run by taking an unwilling child from the arms of his screaming mother and literally torturing him to death in order to save the planet from aliens.

Finally, the story of the recent film adaptation of Les Miserables has a great deal in common with the 1967 classic Cool Hand Luke. A man is put in prison for a frivolous crime, punished far beyond reason, under the control of a cruel taskmaster, trying again and again to escape but each escape only makes things worse and worse, until finally the main character dies with a smile on his face. Despite these similarities of plot, the tone and atmosphere of the films could hardly be more different. Luke declares the doctrine of a pointless, cruel world, the best response to which is unflagging coolness; the world will kill you eventually, but best to mock it till the very end. Les Miserables, however, despite death and hopelessness on a scale far exceeding the plights of a single man, reminds us again and again that suffering is not meaningless, that our actions can shape the world, and that death is not the end.

But what is the cause of such division? Why does Ted’s (seemingly endless) adventure of meeting his wife enthrall me and Anna, whereas we can hardly make it through an episode of Philadelphia? Why is the Doctor so very happy, and Jack so very sad? Why is Luke left with only a legacy of mocking coolness, and why does Jean Valjean sing triumphantly of the light awaiting the wretched of the earth?

The answer, I think, is a sense of hope. Philadelphia recognizes the essential sadness of existence; Torchwood, the horror and cruelty; and Luke, the essential unfairness and futility. But the others dare to go further. There is deep sadness in HIMYM, but the very title and premise of the show promises that at the end, all of this sadness is redeemed. There is horror and cruelty in Dr. Who, but it is always overcome. And life is unfair to the wretched and downtrodden of France… but to call their struggle futile is to entirely miss the point.

This is, of course, why some prefer shows like Philadelphia. A show about broken, tired people, doing the best they can in their broken, tired lives; sometimes it’s enough, often it’s not. There is no hope for happiness: Not real happiness, anyway, nothing beyond the momentary pleasure that sex and alcohol can provide. And to those who feel that this hopelessness, this futility, accurately reflects reality, then Philadelphia is doubtless to be preferred to naive, childish shows like HIMYM.

They have a point: this is, indeed, how life used to be. The bar life of Philadelphia is eerily reminiscent of another, much older account of the hopelessness and futility of life.

But no more, as of 2,000-odd years ago. Because that’s when Love Himself came into the world to give us hope again, to heal our wounds and redeem our souls. We now live in a world that, though broken, will be fixed; though sorrow is real, it will be wiped away; though pain is all around us, it will be ended. That is the world that HIMYM, Dr. Who, and Les Miserables portray, and for that, I love them.

They recognize hope. A hope of redemption, of an undeserved and unexpected happiness waiting for those who only need to reach out their hand and accept it. A hope, at bottom, of a grace that goes beyond the cold, hard, “facts” of existence, that defies the “realism” and cynicism that so attracts our culture today. These shows remind me that Christ came that we might have life, have it to the full, and that we might celebrate in living. And God bless us, he even brought the drinks.

The Newsroom

I am currently addicted to The Newsroom. As with anything created by Aaron Sorkin, the show is smart, funny, and pulls at the heartstrings. So far as I know, it is also the only HBO series that does not contain ridiculous amounts of nudity and violence (even the profanity is light). Newsroom is both engaging and entertaining. Seriously, it’s a really, really excellent show.

Now for the “but”… Continue reading The Newsroom

In Praise of “Yes Minister”

I have been putting up a lot of serious posts, so I wanted to do something a little lighter: a TV show recommendation. In this case it’s a British political sitcom from the 1980s. (The minister in question is a government minister, not a pastor.) It’s Yes Minister, written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, and it even had a sequel show Yes, Prime Minister when the title minister takes a role in government that I am presently forgetting. In any case, it is intelligent TV and you will laugh your way to a better understanding of the ins and outs of government. Continue reading In Praise of “Yes Minister”

Your Christmas Viewing Guide

Wondering how best to wile away those hours of vacation time this Christmas? Hoping for some good family activities to help you all slow down and enjoy one another’s company? Look no further. The Examined Life’s Lindsay Marshall has some holiday movie tips, complete with suggested questions for group discussion:

I guess I have to call myself a true Californian if my Christmas doesn’t feel complete without a trip to Disneyland to see the fireworks.  When I was at Biola, my two best friends were my roommate Becca and my boyfriend (now my husband) Nate, and our favorite tradition was our first trip to see the Christmas fireworks on Main Street.  They used instrumental versions of hymns, the show was spectacular, and we just couldn’t help loving the “snow” that fell on Main Street to the strains of a soulful White Christmas.  Unfortunately, the whole thing was bookended by some pop star wailing an original song called “Remember the Magic.”  We used to laugh at the song’s vapidity, but there was always something sad about the empty sentimentality of what Disney clearly thought (and many people standing around us confirmed) could be a meaningful experience.

Upon further reflection, this empty sentiment is, in a small way, encouraging.  In a country that has taken the commercialization of Christmas to a level that would make even poor Linus despair, there’s still something about the holiday that affects people.  Beneath the toys, food, lights, and family gatherings, there’s something real about that day that we can’t drown out with shallow celebration.  Disney calls it magic, and that’s not too far off the mark.  C.S. Lewis called it Deep Magic in his Narnia chronicles, and there’s something mystical about the power of the hope the Incarnation can have, even on those who deny its existence.  In that sense, it was wrong of the three of us to laugh at Disney’s inadequate expression of that hope.  It’s easy to write it off as mere emotional manipulation, but there’s something of the groaning of Creation for her Savior in those hollow lyrics.  Our response should be to encourage a deeper pursuit of the Mystery, not to mock it.

To atone for years of failing to do that, Nate and I have compiled a list of classic and not-so-classic Christmas films for your viewing pleasure this season.  We hope that they lead you to a deeper contemplation of the Incarnation and its power to reach all those beings created in the Image of God.

Read the rest here, and let us know which movies you’d like to see added to this list.

(Image is from Flickr)

An Affair to Remember in Words Soon Forgotten

An entire year of planning goes into the brief, televised announcement. A network of hundreds of experts vet every point. Presentation is everything.  The words, carefully chosen, have the power to define the successes of the last year and set expectations for the next. But after countless hours of wrangling decisions, the audience gathered, the cameras turned on, and the show began. At 5:30am Pacific time, Mo’Nique and Tom Sherak announced the nominees for the 83rd annual Academy Awards.

Oh, and another big event happened Tuesday, too: President Obama’s State of the Union Address. At first, I thought Tuesday was merely a serendipitous convergence of the outlying regions of my geekdom. A film snob policy wonk who dreams of running away to the White House anytime she watches the West Wing can’t ask for a better news day. But more than just the sheer fun of it, Tuesday taught me something about the two events. They are more similar than you’d think.

Both events began as relatively small affairs. Article II Section 3 of the Constitution mandates that the president

shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

George Washington delivered the first on January 8, 1790, though then it was called the President’s Annual Message to Congress. It was 1, 089 words long, delivered to 81 members of Congress in New York City. It probably took seven to ten minutes for him to read it. Until 1923 when Calvin Coolidge’s became the first address broadcast over the radio, the address was a low-key speech between the president and Congress that laid out the president’s legislative agenda for the coming year. As in so many things, the advent of telecommunications changed its nature entirely.

Likewise, the Oscars began as a modest brunch in the ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood in 1929. Douglas Fairbanks and William C. deMille hosted the event. It was a private affair (tickets were $5 per person), and fifteen people were honored for their work from 1927 – 1928. Everyone knew who’d won because the winners had been announced three months earlier. For the next few years they withheld the names until the late edition newspaper the night before, and in 1941 they introduced the sealed envelope to increase suspense (and attendance).

Both events scarcely resemble their modest origins. I had the chance to attend the Oscars last year, and it’s a machine worthy of the most robust entertainment industry in the world. An Oscar nomination means millions in DVD sales, an Oscar win even more. The entire gathering is a showcase for studios, a runway for designers, fodder for the gossip mills, and the best networking opportunity of the year for filmmakers. Try as other awards might, they don’t compare to Hollywood’s big night.

Not that the Oscars mean much when it comes to the quality of the winning films. Though there’s plenty of pomp and circumstance about the value of the craft and prestige of the selection process, any organization that would nominate James Cameron’s Avatar for Best Picture has left artistry and cinematic excellence off its priority list. They may be bigger than ever, but the Oscars are just advertising with a black tie dress code.

The same could be said of the State of the Union Address. Every year since Woodrow Wilson set the precedent of delivering the address in person, presidents have had the annual chance to lend their voices and charisma to their legislative agenda, and for most of the 20th century it has been more for the benefit of the national audience than Congress. The event has become a campaign stop in our bloated campaign seasons that force politicians to start running for reelection before they’ve had a chance to move in to their offices. As such, it’s nearly impossible for the State of the Union to transcend mere branding of the party in power.

President Obama’s State of the Union was more of the same. I seriously considered running my review from last year’s address because so much of the speech was, point for point, repetition. That’s hardly the president’s fault: at best, a great State of the Union Address is a laundry list of policy achievements and goals sprinkled with sparkling rhetoric. It’s a pep rally for the presidency, and like the Oscars, has lost most of its true significance over the years. For the next few news cycles, pundits and politicians on the right will try to follow Representative Ryan’s example and paint the president as a leftist radical bent on the financial ruin of America, while in reality this speech was even more fiscally conservative than last year’s address (which didn’t seem possible). Left-leaning commentators will tout the bold proposals of a successful president and try to remind voters of Representative Bachmann’s nonsensical, bizarre response to downplay Ryan’s points. And so it goes.

But like the Oscars, the real story is much quieter. This was a good year for President Obama. He’s accomplished an extraordinary amount of items on his agenda, the Recovery Act and Affordable Care Act both seem to be helping Americans while both are still in need of some tweaking to increase their effectiveness. Despite some fairly paranoid focus on competing with China, the speech reminded its audience that America remains strong and is likely to continue to be despite doomsayers on both sides. But the best moment of the speech is from its beginning.

What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.

If we can manage that in the midst of vigorous debate, we’ll be fine.

Well, that and if True Grit wins Best Picture.

Farewell to LOST

Epic.

That was the first thought that came to my mind after the finale of LOST. There was a lot of emotion, triumph, a few more questions answered, and ultimately, closure. Yes, I even had tears in my eyes during the last 10 minutes or so of the finale. While I can’t throw myself into the ultra-fan “Lostie” category, I did spend an entire evening attempting to crack the code on the Dharma Initiative website that went up during season two. So I might be close. There are lots of posts out there doing deep analysis on the finale. For those unfamiliar with LOST (yes there are those out there) you may wonder if it is worth putting the entire series in your Neflix/Hulu queue. I say “YES!” and here’s why.

All in all, LOST was excellent because:

1. The storyline was gripping through the entire series. I often spent the days after an episode trying to piece things together. The show was bold enough to include time travel and “alternate realities.” In most series, time travel indicates a poor taste in writing, or an attempt to reset a bad season by wiping it away. With an already complex storyline, LOST managed to pull off time travel in a very convincing manner.

2. The story focuses on the characters: past, present, and “sideways.” No matter how linear a plot or story can be, a person is far more enriching.  All of the characters, no matter how pleasant or otherwise on the island, had a back story that showed the influences or struggles of the character while on the island. All of the characters had a chance to better themselves, and I was always watching to see why, when, and how they came to this realization.

3. This was clearly a “thinking-man’s” show.  It raised questions of theology, philosophy, destiny vs. free will, religion vs. science, and more. I didn’t realize how much was packed in until I started reading the episode summaries by Jeff “Doc” Jensen at EW.com. Even if only half of the references found in these summaries are valid, it shows the creators and writers were intent on creating a complex and serious story. (Hint: Take a peek at the book “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” that Desmond is reading on the plane at the start of Season 6 and see what similarities you can find.)

4. There are still questions.  At first this aggravated me. I was appreciative of the long developing story and the continued twists, but I wanted more. I wanted an ultimate solution / mechanic / algorithm that explained all the minutiae of everything. Even as you stared into the “heart of the island” during the finale you still were presented with just an object. No sage or matrix architect to explain things to you. As the final season continued, you could see this kind of angst in the characters as well. Ultimately, it became apparent that you can’t know everything, in this life or the next.

Plenty of TV shows will allow you to see the last few episodes, or maybe the last season, and provide you with a minimally enriching experience. LOST is a show that needs to be seen and pondered in its entirety. Not all of the answers to life come quickly, and sometimes we must go through trials in order to find the proper answers.  LOST is a show that illustrates this profoundly well. I’m happy to discuss details of the series in the comment section, but LOST needs to be appreciated for its ability to tell a story that combines both science and myth into a well defined package.

Note: Spoilers may be discussed in the comment section.