Monday, November 9, 2009

Lostathon Notes

(I wanted to have written this a while ago, but I've been, not watching TV!)

Diane Winston teaches a "Religion, Media and Holywood" class in USC which "examines how spiritual and ethical issues are addressed in secular forums for mass audiences" (syllabus). I heard of her since she was invited to discuss her work on Speaking of Faith, and I’m generally a fan and follower of the program. Her basic message was that in recent times, and especially in the "post 9/11 era" in America, some television programs have not only greatly improved in quality and production, but are addressing many more moral and ethical issues than they have in the past. The examples she gave were the programs The Wire, House, Lost and Battlestar Galactica. Whereas shows like the original Star Trek had few moral undertones, shows like "Battlestar" send strong messages about moral conflicts that face contemporary society.

As I've mentioned already, partly through the influence of that program, and partly since I had a previous interest, I decided to watch all the episodes of Lost aired thus far, since Mrs. Winston pointed it out as one of the most thought-provoking of the others mentioned. It took me about three weeks to a month to watch it all. One thing I particularly liked about the show was that (in the first few seasons at least) it dedicated each episode to one character, and showed what their backgrounds, motivations and agendas are. So while each character interacts with the other, no character fully understands the reason the other does things expect themselves...which has always been something that's fascinated me about life; the fact that we're all existing and interacting in the same world, yet what's going on in our minds and what drives each of us can be extremely different from one person to the other.

Another aspect I liked about it was the fact that, while there are "good guys" and "bad guys", the heroes aren't totally heroic and the villains aren't exactly villainous (i.e. the heroes aren't beyond reproach since their self interests play a big role in their decisions, and the villains have their legitimate reasons for doing what seems unjust). All-in-all it's a lot more reminiscent of film than of traditional television.

Yet after completing the fifth season I asked myself, what exactly did I gain from watching this? Unfortunately, I feel that more than make me more thoughtful about life and the world around me, all this show accomplished in creating within me is a curiosity regarding what the nature of the island is, what the smoke monster really is, what the fate of the story's protagonists will be, and why the hell Richard Alpert seems to have been wearing a blue shirt and gray pants since 1954 (which, by the way, is another funny aspect of the show; the fact that many of the characters share names with philosophers and famous thinkers), which, of course, have no bearing on my life.

After watching it for a while I was reminded of the first words of the first song in Jewel's first album, "People living their lives for you on TV, they say they're better than you, and you agree". In other words, watching that sort of thing gives you the impression that your doings are of lesser consequence than theirs, since if they weren't, they would be watching you, not vice-versa. Now, that's true about film and even novels and such, but I would say it's more true about television since the viewer has the time to really get to know the characters, since in most cases he's seeing them every week for years on end.
So, in retrospect, it doesn't seem like this aspect of television has rejected the ideals of sensationalism that were a staple of television production in the past.


frum single female said...

true. i would also like to say that im a big fan of jewel's music as well.

Yossi said...

so you're saying it was a waste of time, or not?

and by the way, you've got an amazingly organized and thorough blogroll. I'm impressed

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Frum Female: Jewel, man. I do like her music, but I must admit she seems to have been confused about what musical direction would be better for her career the past couple of years, there's been a lot of change. Her original stuff was better since it wasn't as concerned with finding favor in the public eye.

By the way, I was just looking my post over, and 'I' would like to say that when I said this: "but I would say it's more true about television since the viewer has the time to really get to know the characters, since in most cases he's seeing them every week for years on end.", I had Michael Dorn in mind ("Warf", from Star Trek). I must have been watching his career on Star Trek for at least 12-13c years. I haven't even known PEOPLE for 13 years!

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Yossi: Ha, thanks man. All of a sudden I'm getting a lot of compliments and/or complaints about that list. Though the truth is it's been getting so long that I'm again a little confused. I was thinking about other classifications to use to revise it, but I haven't thought of any yet (for example splitting Chabad into guys and girls wouldn't be so accurate since their networks are really one. You should know. ...even though you seem not to allow comments on your blog).

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Yossi: Oh, almost forgot; yeah, it was pretty much a waste of time man. I learned precious little from the island escapades of the survivors of Oceanic flight 815. As I've stated before on this blog, I'm down with film and other forms of media that are educational and beneficial to the way one lives their life, if watched in moderation, but this doesn't really teach enough to make it worth peoples while. ...not to suggest I'm not psyched about watching the 6th season! : P

Yossi said...

how many of the blogs on your 'roll are you actually able to keep relatively up with it?

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Well, I have some regulars, and some I rarely check out (only if they have interesting titles!). What's strange though is that these days I find myself reading a lot of the stuff I have in my "Chabad" list, even though I'm kind of an outcast in their midst. I mean, I've seen them all in real life AND they all know EACH OTHER, so it has sort of a communal feel.

Besides that it would be too lengthy to enumerate all the blogs I read, as I'm sure you're not very interested. Suffice it to say most of them have legitimate things to say that are deserving of some attention.

frum single female said...

yes, i like jewel's older music better than her newer music