'Lost', Chuck Klosterman, and why I hate spoilers: Part 1

joshholloway_lost_290.jpgThroughout the course of " Lost" certain books have appeared onscreen that contribute significantly in terms of both giving context to the onscreen action as well as deepening the show's various mysteries. While there isn't usually a direct one-to-one connection between the literature and the action, these tomes are nevertheless put in front of the camera for a reason. These books make the audience think deeper about the show, pushing the already frenzied discussion into new realms.

While having never appeared onscreen itself, I propose we add a new book to any "Lost" fans's Must Read list: Chuck Klosterman's " Eating the Dinosaur." For those that don't know Klosterman's work, he's a journalist specializing in all things pop culture. "Dinosaur" is a collection of essays with topics ranging from the connection between Kurt Cobain and David Koresh, the political underpinnings of pro football, and the reason for the long-standing legacy of ABBA, among other things.

He's clearly a "Lost" fan, as well. In the Cobain/Koresh chapter, he explains exactly why Jack Shephard is listening to Nirvana in "Through the Looking Glass." Another chapter is devoted to time travel, in which he explicitly references the show again. A "Dharma initiative" references appears in yet another chapter. Plus, c'mon: look at his name: Chuck Klosterman. K losterman. A coincidence? I think not! (OK, probably a total and complete coincidence. Sorry. I got excited. It happens.)

But the chapter I want to look at today is called "Through a Glass, Blindly." It mainly deals with Hitchcock, reality television, and voyeurism, but has a ton of applicability to "Lost." Not only is the title a nice way to rewrite the aforementioned 3rd season finale's title, but has one of the most succinct explanations of why I hate spoilers about the show with such passion. In looking at Jimmy Stewart's obsession with Kim Novak's character in "Vertigo," Klosterman writes (emphasis his):

"Some might argue that Novak becomes interesting because the watcher can project whatever he desires onto her form, but that's not really what happens; what happens is that she becomes interesting simply because it's interesting not to know things."
Let's apply this to "Lost." In doing so, we have to look at this from the viewer's perspective gazing at the mysterious object in question. In other words, we're Jimmy Stewart here, and "Lost" is Kim Novak. Popular thought would dictate that what makes "Lost" so successful is that its vagaries allow the individual audience member to project onto the show whatever they want the show to be. If you want the show to be about destiny and fate, it can be that show. If you want the show to be about self-determination, it can be that show as well simultaneously. After all, the show contains characters espousing both sides of that argument with equal aplomb.

But that's not why the show is actually interesting, according to Klosterman. It's not what we can project upon it that makes the show so addictive, it's what we cannot know about it that keeps us talking about it and thinking about it so much. What cannot be filled in, what cannot be known, what cannot be explained: that's what fires us up. As Klosterman writes just a few sentences after the quote above: "Observing someone without context amplifies the experience. The more we know, the less we're able to feel."

To be clear: Klosterman's not advocating an anti-intellectual approach to "Lost" or life here. He's simply delineating the schism between head and heart at the center of the conflicting struggle to somehow know the unknown. "Thinking" and "feeling" are apples and oranges, two circles that rarely intersect if plotted in a Venn diagram. But they do produce different responses, even if we're not always equipped to understand the subtleties between them. Klosterman asserts in this essay that ignorance somehow feels better physically, if not psychologically. It makes us alert. It fires off endorphins. We might be psychologically stressed out, but physiologically we're in peak form.

And for me, that's where the whole spoilers thing comes into play. To me, looking up spoilers is the attempt to make the psyche feel as good as the physical form. We're seeking to correct the inherent imbalance. But balancing the two sides out completely destroys our ability to feel anything more about that which we have just discovered. To wit: let's look at "Through the Looking Glass" again. You could have watched that episode, knowing full well the twist at the end by reading online spoilers, and still appreciate its structure and inherent quality. But in no way could you have gotten the same visceral reaction when Kate pulled up outside LAX in the show's final moments.

It's one thing to, say, go back and rewatch old episodes in order to glean insight based on current knowledge. Lord knows I know all about doing that. But it's another to actively seek out information prior to an episode's initial airdate. To me, that defeats the entire purpose of why I enjoy the show so much: to use Klosterman's words, it makes the show less interesting and makes me feel less about what I'm about to watch. The simple fact that the mystery of "Lost" is still so seemingly impenetrable at this point isn't a bug; it's a feature. At this stage of the game, it's paramount as to why those still watching still watch.

Next time around, I'll look at why this is so paramount, why spoilers are the enemy to this type of enjoyment, and the differentiation between things that are "interesting" versus "satisfactory."

In the meantime, do YOU think it's interesting not to know things about "Lost"? Or is it simply frustrating? Leave your thoughts below!

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