If you asked me to list my favorite TV shows of all time, Lost would hold one of the first two spots. It usually alternates with The West Wing for the top spot depending on my mood. Like everyone else who watched this show, I was truly obsessed. There were many reasons I loved this show. There were a number of compelling characters and relationships. I would argue that Benjamin Linus was one of the most fascinating characters in TV history and I would have been all right with Michael Emerson winning an Emmy every year during his tenure on the show. Sayid will always be my forever favorite and Sun and Jin were by far my favorite couple on the show after the Jack/Kate/Sawyer merry-go-round got old. Not to mention the musical score, which I think does not get enough praise for how it enhanced certain moments in the series.
However, I think in hindsight what I appreciated most about Lost is the way it helped me embrace my inherent nerdiness. Of course, I’ve always been a nerd. I would argue that nerds are born, not made, but like most girls, the running subtext of my life was telling me to downplay my intelligence lest boys become intimidated and no one likes a know-it-all. Then Lost premiered and it was a nerd’s dream come true, not just because it was a sci-fi/fantasy show, but because the writers and show runners pulled from practically everywhere from religion to philosophy to literature to pop culture to add to the mystery of the Island. Names were terribly important to the show. John Locke, Danielle Rousseau, Desmond Hume; the philosophers tied to the character’s names gave some insight into their nature and how they fit into the broader context of their world.
According to Wikipedia, the philosopher John Locke was the first to define the self through a continuity of consciousness. He postulated that the mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa.
The books the characters were reading often tied into the action onscreen or to one of the show’s overarching mysteries. Episode titles like “White Rabbit” and “The 23rd Psalm” invoked literary and religious references. I’m fairly positive Wikipedia experienced a significant uptick in the number of hits after each episode, not only from various entertainment writers and bloggers, but for nerds like me who wondered if the name Jeremy Bentham was somehow tied to a philosopher (it was).
For most people, the intellectual curiosity ended with a reading of an online blog or two and maybe a quick perusal of Wikipedia, but for me and some others, the series offered a buffet of ideas and books to be explored. As the show progressed, I began to let myself become less self-conscious about letting my intellectual side come out a bit more. This manifested itself in a couple of different ways.
You Spent How Much Money at the Bookstore?
I can say with absolute certainty that I have spent more money buying books (or paying late fees at the library) than I have ever spent on fashion. I was the girl who read in the corner at the slumber party. I was practically born with a book in my hand. Unfortunately, even our greatest loves can take a backseat to real life and jobs and errands and the occasional social outing and blessed sleep. I found less time to read. Then I started watching Lost and found a show that dropped clues and Easter eggs in the books the characters were reading or the titles seen in a two second close-up of a bookshelf. One of the first discussions I had with a friend about the show was how the book A Wrinkle in Time that Sawyer was reading in Season 1 might have to do with the true nature of the Island. The online recaps and websites like Lostpedia pointed out even more references and I began reading up on some of the things I hadn’t read or studied in the past. I mostly read online at first, Wikipedia mostly, but I started making more trips to the bookstore and picking up a book referenced in the show because I was curious. I began keeping a couple of books in my purse to read whenever I got a chance. I kept a running book list mostly based on Doc Jensen’s “Totally Lost” recaps at Entertainment Weekly. One time I spotted Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (a book referenced numerous times on the show) in a bookstore and realized I’d never read it, which lead me down the metaphorical rabbit hole toward other books I “needed” and I ended up spending my clothing budget on books that day. Didn’t regret it one bit.
There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the ordinary to hear the Rabbit say to itself ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!’ …but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out its waistcoat pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice startled to her feet.
I think I finally returned to my old ways when I started leaving parties and gatherings early because I’d rather be home reading my book than where I found myself at that moment. Before, I would have forced myself to stay, thinking that it wasn’t socially acceptable to leave parties early to read. Then I realized I didn’t care about that so much anymore and I cared more about what I was learning through those books and what it brought to my dealings with others.
Oh My God, You Watch Lost Too?!
Watching Lost was something of a communal experience. Most weeks you could find me at a friend’s house in room stuffed full of people watching the latest episode. The collective reaction to what was happening onscreen was priceless at times. I’ll never forget watching the Season 3 premiere with twenty other people and the simultaneous freak out we had over the opening scene. What I liked most, however, was after the episode where we would spend at least an hour breaking down the episode and sharing our thoughts. These discussions would continue throughout the week over email and Facebook. I also found that you could connect with almost anyone you both watched the show. There were several times I was stuck in a social situation with someone I had absolutely nothing in common with and was able to sustain a decent conversation when a mutual love for Lost was discovered. It was in these situations where I used my knowledge from what I had been reading to connect with others. Given my personality, I’m naturally reticent in social situations, especially in group discussions. Talking about Lost gave me an avenue to be more present in the conversation. I actually felt I could contribute. Through that, I forgot my insecurity about being a know-it-all and became more myself. It was never a conscious decision. It simply happened.
As time has gone by, I’ve learned to not care if others look down on me for my nerdy ways. Much of that I can contribute to a really fantastic therapist, but I think part of it can also be traced back to a show about a bunch of airplane crash survivors who ended up on a mysterious island. The show was much more than that of course, and I think one of the show’s greatest contributions was how it elevated the conversation above the surface, just a little bit and how it helped me to remember I love books, I appreciate philosophy, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a really trippy book.