Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Kimmel

How ‘Lost’ Teaches Us to Grieve It

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The spectacle is the ruling order’s nonstop discourse about itself, its never-ending monologue of self-praise, its self-portrait at the stage of totalitarian domination of all aspects of life.
—Guy Debord

I caught a bit of a break in assigning Guy Debord in my “Watching Television” class the day after the Lost finale extravaganza, which I’d asked my students to watch “for as long as they could stand.” (Many of them made it all the way from Lost: The Final Journey through the episode itself before petering out sometime during Jimmy Kimmel. That’s over six hours. I count myself among them.)

Debord’s well-known argument in The Society of the Spectacle is that our inner lives are increasingly structured and monetized by corporate interests; “the society of the spectacle” pushes out real life, as it was once authentically lived, in favor of imagistic simulacra fed to us by mass media. The result is deep alienation not only from each other but from our ourselves, from our own wants and desires. As Debord puts it:

The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender “lonely crowds.” With ever-increasing concreteness the spectacle recreates its own presuppositions….

In the spectacle, a part of the world presents itself to the world and is superior to it. The spectacle is simply the common language of this separation. Spectators are linked solely by their one-way relationship to the very center that keeps them isolated from each other. The spectacle thus reunites the separated, but it reunites them only in their separateness.

I knew when I originally constructed the syllabus that Lost: The Final Journey would be a nearly perfect example of spectacle’s “never-ending monologue of self-praise,” and in this respect it certainly didn’t disappoint; think only of the frequent ad bumpers that showed viewers’ love letters to Lost being read by characters on the show:

The language here is intense emotional commitment; in both cases the rhetoric of romance is used, and it’s clear that for at least a certain segment of the audience the relationship with Lost surpasses any one might have with other people. (You may not have friends or real human relationships, but you have do TV.) More precisely, this is how ABC wants us to think about viewership; this is the model of fandom-as-devotion it presents to us to follow. (Who knows, after all, if Marcia S. or Chelz W. are even real people.)

Where Lost brings people together, we are shown, it is only to share in the transcendent experience of watching the show; we see this at the start of the Jimmy Kimmel special after the show, in which we see Kimmel’s audience’s tears as they finish their shared “journey” at their own Lost “viewing party”:

This was the level of self-praise I anticipated when I saw there’d be a special, which is why I assigned the Debord. Where I caught my break was in the strange self-reflexive turn the narrative content of the show took in its final hours, which now turn out to have been an extended celebration of Lost itself all along. In the trope of the flashes-sideways, we find our heroes (living lives where they never visited the Island) experiencing climactic epiphanies in which they suddenly remember key moments from the series:

Hurley and Libby, Sayid and Shannon, Sawyer and Juliet, Kate and Aaron, Charlie and Claire, and on and on—this precise epiphanic sequence, down to the quick cuts, overwrought music, serene gaze, and gasping tears, is repeated over and over, at least once for every major character on the series. Surpassing the self-indulgent self-reference of even the Seinfeld finale, but without the irony, the plot of the final season has been a literal recapitulation of the viewers’ own vicarious participation in the series all along, with the major characters’ entire narrative arcs transformed into tiny testaments to the greatness of the series itself. In this way the division between the audience and its protagonists is made to erode: these characters are on a quest to remember their adventures as we, their audience, have been watching them all along—and in the happy moments when their quest for revelation is achieved we get to glimpse again the show’s iconic sequences, naturally seeing them not from the characters’ visual perspective but from our own. The series reproduces itself in tribute to itself.

And in case we missed how we were supposed to feel about all this, Christian Shepherd makes the point as explicit as he can in the series’s final monologue, a moment that is visually framed as a religious funeral, with contextually appropriate dialogue about “remembering” and “letting go.” Consider what he says at approximately 3:10 in the linked clip:

Ostensibly speaking to Jack, but really speaking to us, just a few degrees away from looking directly at the camera, Christian sagely, hypnotically intones: “The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people.”

Who could ever doubt it?

Ouch

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Hate to see someone lose control of an interview like this.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 15, 2010 at 10:42 pm