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The Conundrum of Character

by Ethan Tussey

Lost is a conundrum. Its phenomenal success positions it squarely within mainstream television while its enigmatic and seemingly supernatural narrative, inviting fan speculation and interpretation, marks it as a cult series. While ‘cult’ is often defined as standing in opposition to the mainstream, Lost straddles the barrier between the two types of programme and audience. Creators Lindelof and Cuse attribute this dynamic to the show’s two main appeals: its character-driven plot and the broader series mythology about the mysteries of the island. But is the character-driven plot the sole purview of the mainstream audience and is the show’s deferred mystery and game playing the main attraction for the cult fan? The clip ‘Never Again’ is a fan video, in which footage from the show is re-edited together as a means for the fan to express their reading of the series. This is one of many character-driven videos that focus on the love triangle between Jack, Kate and Sawyer in which fans declare an allegiance for a particular pairing (Jack/Kate, Kate/Sawyer, Jack/Sawyer). While the re-imagining of these relationships in this video, with Sawyer presented as an abusive partner from whom Kate must be rescued by Jack, can be seen as a form of ‘textual poaching’, it is also responding directly to the show’s overt focus upon this love triangle as a form of narrative hook around sex and romance. All audiences, mainstream and cult, are invited to declare their preferences for who Kate will choose. These videos, rather than reading against the grain, are often drawing upon existing characterisations within the series while also fuelling the show’s romantic narrative drive. Lost’s focus upon the character-driven plot, therefore, raises questions about accepted distinctions between mainstream and cult texts and audiences.

The Conundrum of Character

FLV

from video (2009)
Creator: Abbott
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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