A Lost Essay: Creatures of the Island and the Fear they RepresentPosted: July 23, 2007
Creatures of the Island and the Fear they Represent
So then, today, Lost fans, I would like to throw some blind insights out at you and see which if any stick to your wall. Today’s topic; the creatures of the island, the ones that were its inhabitants before our beloved Losties made it their temporary home. To me, there is a ‘big five’ and it is my belief that these five creatures can be linked to something crucial in an analytical sense, and that is the five visions of fear that each represents.
Let me explain.
First, let’s lay out the big five, then we’ll delve into their symbolic prowess.
- polar bears
- the Dharma shark
- the smoke monster (aka Smokie)
Good start? Good. Let’s roll. [editor: Warning, Lost spoilers below the cut]
Our first creature comes in the form of a furry, white, ferocious behemoth of a mammal that seems to be geographically disabled, the infamous polar bear. Now we know, from the cages and Other’s talk during season three episodes that there are in fact more than one (or there were at one time), but for our purposes lets just stick to the one from season one’s ‘Pilot part 1’, who met his untimely end at the hand of our gruff antihero, the then mullet-headed Sawyer.
This lil’ guy’s history is still mostly murky, but we do know that he was part of the Dharma initiative, in the zoological aspect of the project, and was at one point freed and left to roam about the island fending for himself (and probably roasting in the tropical heat no less). We also know he’s maybe connected to Walt for some reason, the pint sized sometimes-cute-sometimes-bratty kid with some form of The Shining, who was reading about polar bears in Hurley’s Spanish comic book in season one.
So what, bears are scary, we get it Taffy, where does this whole fear analogy come in?? Relax, relax, I’m getting there. But first, let me set you up: Ok, what can we say about bears? Their huge, ruthless, captivating, they round out the annoying zoo sing-song joke that ends in oh, my!, all of these things work. But what is it about bears that we find so captivating? You probably know, but I’ll tell you anyway; we love bears. We can’t help it? Why? Because they are the only creature on this earth to be simultaneously a killing machine and absolutely adorable. So adorable in fact, that they are the staple of just about every childhood. Teddy bears anyone?
So what does this mean for the Losties? Well, the bear itself is something to be feared, that’s undeniable, but what does it represent? It represents the fear of what’s comfortable. Of things that we think we are secure in, the places that we think are safe, but for whatever reason now doubt. Take Kate for instance, by the end of season three we can see pretty clearly she wants to get home (or should I say gets home?), but why this is we have no idea just yet. I mean after all, she is a fugitive wanted for murder. Twice. So can Kate go home? Can Kate find happiness in what is familiar to her, that is life back in the States? How about Michael, he’s going home supposedly, to what is familiar, but he’s going home a murder, how will he be able to live with that the rest of his life? Sayid? Going home without the woman he fell in love with. And so on. We having fun yet? Good, let’s move on to our next creature.
Next up, boars.
Boars are running pretty rampant on the island in the beginning of season one, but we haven’t seen much of them since then. They terrorized Sawyer psychologically, scared the Fusies through mistaken identity, and provided the beach with wondrous protein and taste via Col. Locke’s incomparable hunting skills. So where does the fear come in here? This is an oddball one, but bear with me; fear of success. That’s right, I said it, fear of success, the thing that ruins college students’ academic life, scared teenagers from getting their driver’s license, and a host of other important life milestones for millions of us every day. Where does the success angle come in do you ask? Simple. John Locke. Our resident badass with emotional issues saw an opportunity to get out there into the forest and solve some fucking problems while the others were picking berries and feeling sorry for themselves. Most of the beach (not you Shannon) was doing their part to try and get themselves off the island and survive along the way, but maybe it’s just as safe to say that just about the whole lot of ‘em were scared shitless to dive headlong into that dark scary jungle and forge a real life for themselves, with possibilities, options, and progress, and most of all, success.
Next on our list, the Dharma Shark.
Going back to our first creature, this one is just the opposite. This stealthy bad boy represents the unfamiliar. Think about it, is there anything on planet earth more frightening than a man eating shark? If you think there is let me put it to you this way, when you are running from a bear, or a tiger, or hell even a swarm of killer bees, you are running away on dirt, on earth, breathing oxygen in the air, existing in your territory. When you’re up against a shark, you’re in their kitchen, motherfucker. Underwater. Where it’s dark, murky, sound is muffled, you can’t breath without an external apparatus, and if you get turned around you won’t know up from down. We don’t live underwater, sharks do, and that’s what makes them terrifying. Not their fuckin razor sharp teeth, we got plenty of those up here on dry land.
And what else do the Losties have to fear but the unknown and the unfamiliar? They have crash landed on an uncharted island, thousands of miles off of their plane’s plotted course, void of civilization or communication with the outside world. It’s unexplored (as far as they know initially), and holds the high potential to be extremely perilous. And what better way to represent that than a crap-in-your-pants quick shot of a shark’s underside gliding across our screen?
We’re more than halfway there, kids, what’s up next?
Ah, yes, the very first creature we encountered on Lost. Not in person, mind you, more in the form of a lot of a lot of tree swaying and scary rumbling/growling. Who are we talking about here? Of course, I speak of the notorious, mystery-shrouded smoke monster, also known affectionately on the message boards as Smokey.
Nanobots? DNA/mechanized fluid android? Dharma weaponized experiment gone awry? At this point, we don’t know, but you can probably guess what fear this guy represents. That’s right, say it with me cynics, technology.
Whether it’s something Dharma made or something they tried to harness, we’re pretty sure by this point that it didn’t hatch out of an egg. Unless that egg was rendered and cultivated in a laboratory. And no matter what it is, we can be sure that it’s out there on its own cognizance, on its own cruel mission in which shape shifting into the forms of people and things from our Losties’ pasts, putting them through tests, forcing them to make moral/ethical decisions, and possibly resorting to murder when it doesn’t hear its desired answer (a la my number one mourned Lostie, Mr. Ekko).
In a world of exploding information access, creepy government Big Brother tendencies, ever expanding robotic and more importantly artificial intelligence, and not to mention fringe-but-not-too-far-off advances in areas of once strictly sci-fi technology such as invisibility and x-ray vision, it isn’t too difficult for us to sit back for a moment and take a look at the big picture, and get a little queasy in the process. That is, when we aren’t wrapped up in the perfect storm proportion upsurge of technology. We all know damn well that if we don’t keep up, we’ll be left in the dust, damned to perish. But we also all know that something about the whole prospect of our not-too-distant-future world could potentially be a very scary place if things aren’t handled with their due respect (nuclear weapons anyone)?
Oh, and let’s face it, if it is something created by Dharma that at some point broke free from its bio-chemical tethers and emerged as a rampaging, Frankenstein-monster liberated being, it would justify our fear of technology connection per-fect-ly. I don’t know if Michael Crichton was so much thinking fear of technology as he was thinking man shouldn’t be given the opportunity to control nature, but with or without a Dennis Nedry character (is that where you’re going with this one, Damon and Carlton?), remember those images of dinosaur hands harmlessly caressing an electric fence, the same electric fence that when we knew it was definitely operational was the only thing standing between defenseless human beings and merciless (don’t forget nearly unstoppable) predators? Chilling. Or maybe you remember the bedlam that ensued. (not so subtle, but effective.) either way, Dr. Alan Grant and the rest of the Isla Nublar gang had nothing to thank for it but technology. And as for Smokey…?
Theeeeere, now you get the picture.
Okie dokie, here we go, you ready for it? Cop out? No way. No brainer? Maybe. What’s last up on our list? Of course, it’s Man.
Manipulative. Treacherous. Conniving. Thieving. Murderous. Oh, and don’t forget unethically experimental. These are the things that (as far as we know) best describe the group of individuals (Man) who inhabited the island before our Losties first arrived there eighty some days ago. We know them as the Others. They know themselves as the ‘good guys.’ Only time will tell, and it will likely take another season if not all remaining three to determine whether or not Benjamin Linus (aka Henry Gale, aka Benry Gale, aka Bug Eyed Lost Baddie) and his rag tag band of surgeons, fertility doctors, faux sheriffs, mercenaries, and the rest hold intentions that are pure, and intended to benefit mankind as they so purport, or whether our suspicions and ire for them are well placed and they turn out to be nothing more than a band of evil, power driven villains. If the latter comes into fruition though, let’s be honest with each other here, it’s pretty much a guarantee that they won’t be just pure evil, uncomplicated bad guys. Knowing Lost and the depth in which we are given an exploration of its characters, it is more than a lock that we will be seeing flashbacks and given oral explanations that will put the majority of them in a sympathetic light. Mind you, in my personal opinion, I do believe that Ben is a Hitler figure whose charisma and skills of manipulation have allowed him to rope in a population of folks who were good at heart or in the beginning (with the exception of some of the more ruthless of the bunch, i.e. Tom and his second fiddle during the preggers stealing attempt in the season three finale), and turned them into a mass of more or less brainwashed, scared, and confused peoples willing to inflict harm upon their fellow man (i.e. Losties) in order to please Ben (but ultimately Jacob) and bring to completion the greater good of their cause.
So what fear does Man represent in our Lost universe? Again, simple. Man.
Dig this, what the Other’s represent is a plethora of fears that our fellow man inspires in us, all of which are things that the Losties have to be concerned with. Our fellow man’s ability to treat us with equality? With benevolence? Fear of authority? Fear of mob mentality? Fear of the nefarious things inspired by power, greed, control? How about trust issues? Let’s take someone who isn’t even an Other, Rousseau.
Who knows about her, really? Can the Losties trust her? She had a baby with Ben, was she once an Other? Part of Ben’s eradication of the Dharma members? And let’s not forget about that whole kidnapping Claire’s baby in season one, shall we?
Am I making my case here? Am I floundering? If it’s the latter lie, this is my first post, I’m still working the bugs out. I’ve got a groove to get into, after all.
But for now that’s what I got, hope you enjoyed, hope you’ve got some angles of your own.
For now, I’ve got some nerdy Lost pod casts to listen to and some equally geeky Lost articles to read.
Coming up on the next episode, my definitive recap of season three, my apology for it to all those who have lost faith, and my apologies to Damon and Carlton for losing mine after those first six episodes (now that we have the whole picture, I see it now, and I’ll never doubt you again).
Ok, that’s it, until next time, Namaste, and good night.