Monday, April 27, 2009

The Midside: S5E13 Some Like It Hoth

When they throw these one week breaks at us in the middle of the season, it feels like we’re far removed form LOST. Part of the reason I feel that way is my propensity for slackery, where I’ve pushed writing this column until over a week after the episode aired. The other part is that we’re all like addicts, and every week feeds our addictions. When we get an extra week off, we go through a bit of withdrawal, but then start to get over it. The situation is kind of like really liking someone and seeing them every once and awhile. The time apart makes the feelings less real and addictive. Then you watch an episode of LOST again and wonder why you ever strayed.

Over this short break though, I’ve started watching the series all over again. Yes, I am that crazy. No, it’s not simply for my own benefit. My friend wanted to watch the show from the beginning, so we are. That choice is actually rather appropriate, as this week’s episode (or last week’s or whatever) was very much like a Season One episode, although there are admittedly some major differences.

The story featured the old fashioned one flashback about one character where he and we learn a lesson. It was a bit slower and didn’t seem to reveal much about the mysteries of the island. In honor of these similarities, I will be using my old column format from before Through The Looking Glass. Reminiscing can be pleasant. However, I would be stupid to not mention the differences. The pacing of the episodes in Season One seems to be a lot slower. The stories feel tighter (literally physically) as they focus on extremely personal situations for the characters. The episodes were also much more ensemble based. Each character had to hit a certain point in each episode in order for the overall plot to progress. This week’s episode certainly featured different degrees of these elements (this show is still LOST after all), but it wasn’t to the same extreme. Does that difference mean the earlier or later seasons are better? I don’t know. I report. You decide.

And since this episode is more like a Season One episode, we have to ask a question, which will lead us to another extremely important question. What does Miles represent philosophically? Every character in Season One represented a philosophical mindset (be it concrete like John Locke and John Locke or abstract like Boone and a generation of American youth who throw money at problems). Their episodes were a certain type (Jin Sun and foreign romance, Sayid and war drama). We must consider what Miles is intended to represent/discuss, and if he isn’t intended to represent/discuss anything we must ask if the newer characters in the series are as important as the original characters. If a story doesn’t have philosophical weight to it, it becomes Heroes. If the newer characters are just added as plot points, then they pale in important to the original characters.


Miles represent the hypothetical situation we all daydream about that is uniquely presented to him in actuality in the show due to time travel: going back to the moments that scarred us with the knowledge we have now to better understand what happened. While outside the beginnings of The Orchid, he tells Hurley, “That douche is my Dad.” That line is important to understanding the observation I am making. Yes, due to time travel, the other characters have been able to go back and deal with events within the show that made them who they are (most notably Ben and his evilness), but none of them have been able to go back to their flashbacks the way Miles did in this episode. In fact, for the first time, a flashback was literally a flashforward. Thank about it. The flashback was backwards in Miles personal timeline, but in the overall timeline the events of the flashback took place after the events of 1977. Yes, it blows my mind too. Who wants to re-cut LOST so that all the scenes are in order of time? Do you think it would make less or more sense?

The first notable thing we learned about Miles in this episode is that he does indeed have a power. We could make an intelligent guess before that he did, but the opening to this episode confirmed it. And, by the way, has anyone else picked up on how much the writers have started to rely on the character as a child flashback? The first time they used it was in episode five of the series White Rabbit when Jack refused to stay on the ground while Marc was getting his ass kicked and they’ve used it ever since, more frequently in the later seasons. Anyway, young Miles finds a dead body and immediately listens to it. He knows things no one should know, so we know that he has a power. Instantly we start to wonder where the powers came from.

The most logical explanation seems to be that his powers come from being born on the island. If that thought is true, we then have to wonder if Aaron has some sort of power. However, we don’t know if Miles was born on the island. He may have been born off of the island and then brought back in with his mother on the submarine. Also, clearly people born off of the island have powers. The most notable example is Walt. (Interestingly, since a bunch of them have traveled back in time, they can now all talk to dead people. I know, I know, that statement is a bit of a play on time travel.)

The more interesting question regarding Miles’ power coincides with his relationship with his father. For seasons, I’ve been against the whole idea that the amount of characters with father issues is important. It’s just good storytelling to have broken characters, I said. Everyone has father issues (you, me, the Pope), I said. There’s an episode titled All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues, I said. And all those statements are true. They make sense. However, they don’t address the spectrum of LOST characters with father issues, the way in which they deal with those issues, and Miles’ place in that spectrum.

Miles represents a new way of dealing with missing father problems in the LOSTverse. Kate runs from her father issues by running from every guy ever. Sawyer internalized his problems and (eventually) came out the other end stronger by finding his worth within himself. Ben, Locke, and Jack hated their fathers and then adopted a new father figure (the island). For much of the episode, Miles seems to take the Ben/Locke/Jack route, hating his father and becoming an angry metal rocker with a poorly glued on chin piercing. However, his returning of the money to Mr. Gray signified an interesting character transition.

By telling Mr. Gray that if he wanted his son to know he loved him, he should have told him when he was alive, Miles was standing up for himself and demonstrating self respect. He explained that by continuing the lie he wasn’t being fair to the son for the above reason. In the same sense, by lying to himself about what his father intentions were by making him and his mother leave the island, he was being disrespectful to himself. If his mother or father wanted him to know, they should have told him. Instead, he was left with a quest that brought him back to the same island his father made him leave. Interestingly, this notion of Miles showing more self respect when dealing with his father issues can be tied to his love for money. He uses his talents to make as much money as possible. From a Randian perspective, he is acting as extremely moral. (We also now know the significance of the $3.2 million he asked Ben for last season.)

As previously mentioned, what also puts Miles in a unique position regarding his father issues is the time travel quandary he has been presented with. I even am willing to bet this storyline with PF Chang will have an interesting conclusion. As Hurley so eloquently pointed out through his Star Wars metaphor, “Instead of putting his light saber away and talking about it, he over reacted and got his hand cut off. I mean, they worked it out eventually, but at what cost? Another Death Star was destroyed, Boba Fett got eaten by the Sarlacc, and we got the Ewoks. It all could've been avoided if they just, you know, communicated. And let's face it, Ewoks suck, dude.” You better believe the writers don’t want their epic to have Ewoks, so Miles will be speaking to his father. And by doing so he’ll probably learn some interesting things like why his mother got cancer, the nature of the Incident, and why PF Chang was forced to banish his son and mother. I might even be willing to assert that Miles convinces his father to send young him and his Mother away from the island. Heck, when he finds out that The Orchid is for time travel, he might even reveal that he is PF Chang’s son, which will help the other characters support their story.

This whole mess is making too much damn sense. I can’t wait for the inevitable Faraday episode. Hopefully it’ll be next week. And hopefully we’ll get a Frank episode soon. It’s too bad Charlotte was such a useless character. She’s like the Libby of the Freighter Folk.


The other character development in this episode mainly focused on the square (or on the quadrangle as they’re apparently referring to as on because it would seem the writers don’t think anyone cares about anything else as they’ve intertwined the plot of the show with those four. And each of them was pretty much playing their role to the hilt, well, their new roles anyway.

We’ll start with Sawyer because we always start with him in The Midside. He was in control and going after what he wanted. He couldn’t help but brag to Kate that he was the head of Dharma security. When Phil came to him about his having stole Harry Potter, he knocked him out without any apprehension. Finally, when Jack said that Kate’s heart was in the right place, Sawyer asked where her head was. He’s becoming an Objectivist before our eyes, and it brings a tear to mine. Are the writers supporting Objectivism or attacking it through his portrayal? It’s tough to say. Everything falling apart seems to be everyone fault, most notably…

Kate has finally decided to get in touch with her emotions rather than run (perhaps because she can’t run because she’s stuck in 1977) and is completely out of control because of it. The only reason she felt the need to talk to Uncle Rico about Harry Potter being missing is because she identified with his pain and wished someone had alleviated hers. From a Randian perspective, perhaps you could argue she was looking out for herself because she was trying to create a world she wanted to live in, but I would argue that she isn’t taking all the factors into consideration, as she is ignoring his alcoholism and stupidity and their need to keep their cover. Is Kate showing character growth? Actually, yes, but I’m not sure it’s in the right direction.

Likewise, Jack finally seems calm, cool, and collected. He came to Sawyer, gave him some information, and peaced out. He talked to Uncle Rico, even talked him down, and did so rationally and with self control. He seems to enjoy being a cog in the system rather than running the system. And you know what the truth is? Before you can run the system, you first need to be a cog in it. You have to understand how it works before you pick it apart and run it. Why do you think you have to be at least 35 and have lived in the country for 35 years to be President of the United States of America? The only problem is that he may be straying in the direction of Locke and Ben, exalting the island, but we’ve been over that point before.

Juliet, unlike the other three characters, doesn’t seem to be showing any growth at all. When Roger is upset, all she does is try to calm him down, because calm is good. (Although, her need to calm people down proves she works well with Sawyer. She can calm them down. He can talk to them.) Likewise, when something goes wrong, she gives us her vintage response, “Well, here we go.” Yes, Juliet, don’t come up with a plan or anything, just see what happens.

And I’m not even going to address Hurley re-writing The Empire Strikes Back. I hate Star Wars. There, I said it, and it’s finally in writing. George Lucas rant aside, Hurley’s relationship with Miles is similar to his relationship with Sawyer. He’s just so good natured he can get along with anyone. Also, if you didn’t understand why he likes being a cook, it’s because he’s fat. I just thought I’d clear that mystery up for you. I know it’s a relief because there’s so many to keep track of.


There are two main things to talk about this week: two Dharma stations and the van incident. We’ll start with the Dharma stations, as they were in the episode more. We learned two very important facts about The Orchid and The Swan. First, they were built after Dharma arrives on the island. That information means that if the Swan was indeed retrofitted, it was after the Incident. Second, the two stations were built at the same time. That information creates the perception that they work together. Consider the following:

We know that The Orchid is for time travel. We know that The Swan contained electromagnetic energy and released it (after the incident). We also know that the flashforwards and time travel didn’t start until after The Swan was destroyed. Did The Swan and The Orchid originally work together to harness the time travel of the island? Then, there was an incident and The Swan was used to stop the time travel of the island rather than control it. That way, people could come and go from the island whenever they wanted, as it stayed in a static place. Notice how the sub only returns to the island every so often in 1977. The island is only in 1977 every so often. Likewise, this idea explains why Ben wasn’t upset when the sky flashed purple. The island was being freed from its constraints. Finally, this idea explains why Radzinsky told Kelvin pushing the button was saving the world. If the island was traveling through time, it would give people the ability to mess with the time line. I don’t think my explanation is the final answer, Regis, but it’s close.

On the other note, Miles was pulled into a van by Hoodie Ninjas where he was confronted by Bram, Illana’s associate on the island. He asked Miles the same question that he and Illana asked Frank on the island, “Do you know what lies in the shadow of the statue?” This event seems to confirm that the duo isn’t sick on the island. Also, the entire scene seems to raise the idea that there is another person “playing” against Widmore. This idea would make sense, as Ben’s edge has kind of disappeared as of late. Who could this other person be? What if it’s Richard Alpert? He leaves the island a lot. He could be amassing an army while off of it. Who else would know what lies in the shadow of the statue? If anyone has more knowledge about the island than Widmore or Ben, it’s Alpert. Finally, it’s interesting that Bram used the words “team” and “win.” This language harkens back to Locke’s “two players, one light, one dark” from Season One.


To close, I quote Hurley from this episode: “Why don't we carpool? It'll help with global warming, which hasn't happened yet, so maybe we can prevent it.”

…and in one simple line, the writers of LOST completely owned global warming.

Oh, and if you’re feeling Emo, go to Ann Arbor and visit the University of Michigan. They have the cure there. And if you disagree with that, well then:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

(PS: The cure for Emo is Tom Brady.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Midside: S5E12 Dead is Dead

Here we go again. Another week, another episode of LOST, another edition of the Midside. Are you sick of it yet? I hope not, because if you are, I’m writing for an audience of one, and my thoughts are sufficient to satisfy me. You have no idea how many I have and how fast they go. If I were to twitter, it’d be out of control. You’d be getting updates every five seconds because of some great revelation I just had. And I’m not even joking. I’m mocking, but I’m not joking.

However, it’s all irrelevant. This column isn’t about me. It’s about the dichotomous television program we’ve come to call LOST. Why would I describe it as dichotomous? There is essentially two different stories being told: The Triforce of LOSTdom (Locke/Ben/Widmore) and The Survivors and Friends. Obviously, there must necessarily be some crossover between the two tales, as they are both smaller segments of a much greater narrative, but pretty generally the characters stay to their separate corners. Well, they do except for one notable exception: Richard Alpert. His importance is apparent again.

The Triforce of LOSTdom plot has subtly been in the show since S1, yes, through Locke, but most notably through Ethan. At that point in the show, Locke was still part of The Survivors, and thus his story was still a guy trying to survive on a mystical island. Since then, the Triforce plot became more and more important until it finally took center stage during the mini-arc over the first part of S3. Since then, it has directly interacted with certain characters, most recently Sun.

True, it also interacted with Frank, but we saw what happened to him. He reached his breaking point and might end up dead because of it. So, next time you try to come at LOST rationally remember Frank. Now we’re ready to take another journey into the Midside, one that will surely be muddled as we only have one section to cover three characters.


We’ve finally reached the shift in the Ben-Locke dynamic that has been teased since, arguably, S2. Ben was acting like Locke, and Locke was acting like Ben. The most important character to look at this episode is, of course, Ben, as the story was all his. However, before we delve into all that crap, it’s also important to note the heavy inclusion of Charles Widmore in this episode. He was perhaps in it more than Locke. His presence, and the portrayal of his time as leader of the island, means we now know about three separate island eras: Widmore, Linus, Locke. Each are marked by separate philosophical trends which I’ll delve into in a minute (and yes, Widmore is still a good guy).

Here we finally saw Ben for what he is: weak, sniveling, manipulative, and unknowing. OK, so we knew about manipulative and I’ve always supposed the rest, but it as all still in the example. The first view we got of him was his manipulative side, and it was a perfect example of how he works. When talking with Caesar, he convinced him Locke was never on the plane and that he (Ben) was the good guy. He achieved this lie by playing on Caesar’s lack of information and paranoia. Ben had a little bit more information than Caesar (ok, so maybe a lot more) and used it to eventually shoot him. I’m not exactly sure what the point of getting Caesar on his side was besides maybe having an ace in the hole in the long run. Of course, isn’t that how Ben works? Always have a contingency plan.

And that’s an easy trick to manipulation: find the people who know the least and exploit them. It’s especially easy to pull one over on them if they don’t have an established opinion of you. Caesar had no idea who Ben was, so Ben could play innocent. Although, I have to wonder if Caesar was sick, as it appears Ilana and company maybe. Of course, they didn’t exactly seem trusting of Ben, so if Caesar were sick, he probably wouldn’t have trusted Ben either. Regardless, hopefully he’s not dead, as he would feel like a waste of a character. If he is, I guess that would make him the S5 Arzt. You’d think I’d start expecting these random minor characters to die. The second I start to though, they’ll all live.

Next, we saw him as weak, sniveling, and unknowing through his interactions with Locke and the Monster, which they don’t have a name for (really, they don’t have a name for the monster? Come on now!). Now that Jacob (or the island or whoever) has picked Locke as the new “leader,” Ben has no idea how to deal with him. We can see this confusion in two key quotes from his conversation with Sun.

First, he said: “Dead is dead. You don't get to come back from that, not even here, so the fact that John Locke is walking around this island scares the living hell out of me.” Except, Dead obviously isn’t dead on the island. Christian is alive and walking around (or is he?). Locke is alive and walking around (or is he?). Clearly, there are things going on Ben isn’t aware of, and it scares the crap out of him. However, Christian and Locke could both just be apparitions of the Monster (which could just be Jacob/the island). Consider how the Monster has taken many forms throughout the series, most notably Yemi and Alex. It’s not that far fetched to think it took Christian and Locke’s forms, except that neither of their bodies are in their respective coffins. Dead isn’t dead for my money. Ben doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Second, he said, in a clever bit of writing because he was actually anticipating the Monster: “Because what's about to come out of that jungle is something I can't control.” Locke then immediately walked out of the jungle, and we realized that since Ben met Locke he has been unable to control him. Locke has always been kind of a wild card, especially ever since he became the “leader.”

Even more notable is how confident and Ben-like Locke was acting in this episode. He always had something rude or condescending to say to Ben. He always acted like he knew exactly what was going on, even if he didn’t. When Ben tells him he doesn’t know the first thing about what the island would want, he asks Ben if he’s sure. When Sun wants to find Jin, he says he has a plan. How exactly does he know how to travel to the past to get Jin? Is his plan to go back to the Orchid? It can’t be, as that would kick him off the island again. Later, when Ben asks him how he knows where he’s going he says he just does. If it hadn’t been Locke speaking that line, I would have thought Sarnoff and Vaughn wrote that dialogue for Ben. Finally, Locke was the one leading Ben to be judged.

Ben’s judgment was little more than a more concrete/explicit version of what we saw with Eko. I don’t understand why people are freaking out over the scene/episode and telling me it was huge. The Monster surrounded Ben and showed him flashbacks? Yeah, after Eko was killed because of the flashes in the Monster then I supposed that all the show’s flashbacks come from the Monster and they are all always being judged. The Monster took the form of Alex and communicated with Ben, demanding something of him? Yeah, remember when it took the form of Yemi and tried to make Eko apologize for his sins? I do. Maybe my problem is I just remember too much about LOST.

What’s most important is that Alex demanded power be transferred to Locke, and Ben agreed not to kill him, as he was supposedly plotting. The Ben era is finally over and its finality has some interesting implications regarding Alpert and Widmore. In regards to Alpert, Richard seemed to have picked Locke as the leader back in S3 when he sent him after Sawyer to have his father killed and acted as if he were the leader ever since. This seemingly the same goal as the Monster makes me wonder if there is some relationship between Alpert and the Monster. There has to be other ways to summon it besides an old school drain inside of a secret room inside of a secret room. Besides, it already seems like the Monster is connected to Jacob and Alpert is connected to Jacob, they all have to be connected, right?

The end of the Ben era makes me also consider the end of the Widmore era. Interestingly, the only time we ever really saw Widmore in control is when he talked to Harry Potter, after that scene it was always Ben undermining his leadership, as Locke undermined Ben’s leadership from the latter half of S3 on. The first thing I want to discuss is Widmore’s banishment. Supposedly, he was banished for continually leaving the island or, essentially, acting of his own free will and not doing what the island wants. Near the end of S4 and this season, Ben has tried to act like leaving the island is wrong. However, we have seen several characters off the island throughout the series that we know were on it before and after the scene: Ben, Locke, Alpert, and Ethan. Oh yeah, and the Oceanic Six (minus Aaron). I don’t think leaving the island was a problem for the island.

I think it was an excuse Ben used to get Widmore kicked off the island. What’s interesting is their exchange regarding this “offense:”

Widmore: "And what makes you think you deserve to take what's mine?"
Ben: "Because I won't be selfish. Because I'll sacrifice anything to protect this island."

Ben is essentially a thief who stole Widmore’s position as leader of the island. This exchange of power is especially interesting to consider when we realize Locke didn’t steal Ben’s power, it was given to him. Regardless, we see two important contrasting philosophical ideas here: selfishness vs. altruism. This dichotomy is especially important to consider with Sawyer’s apparent rise to power with a Randian perspective from The Fountainhead. Rand is all about being selfish (not self centered, there’s a difference) and despises the ethic of altruism in our culture. Likewise, Sawyer has always been “every man for himself.” In contrast, Jack, who allied with Ben early in this season, has always been the altruist “live together, die alone.” As I’ve said repeatedly throughout the series, Ben and Jack have done the most wrong, whereas Widmore and Sawyer have done the most good. Are we actually entering the final arc or will there be a double twist and Ben and Jack will see their rise to power again? I hope the former is true and not the latter.

But wait a minute, Jay, isn’t Widmore bad because he wanted to kill Alex as a baby? Even Ben realizes, apparently, that children are sacred. It’s an interesting turn of events that even Ben protects children on this show. They seem to be the one sacred cow. However, people like Ben with childlike mentalities often identify with children the most and thus want to protect them. Go read “Catcher in the Rye” if you don’t want to believe me (or want to torture yourself. I hate that book). I don’t believe Widmore is at fault for the Alex situation for two reasons. The first can be revealed through the second half of his conversation with Ben on the dock:

Widmore: "And what makes you think you deserve to take what's mine?"
Ben: "Because I won't be selfish. Because I'll sacrifice anything to protect this island."
Widmore: "You wouldn't sacrifice Alex."
Ben: "You're the one who wanted her dead, Charles. Not the island."
Widmore: "I hope you're right, Benjamin. Because if you aren't, and it is the island that wants her dead, she'll be dead. And one day, you'll be standing where I'm standing now. You'll be the one being banished. And then you'll finally realize that you cannot fight the inevitable. I'll be seeing you, boy."

Alex did die eventually, proving Widmore was right. In fact, you could even argue that the island (or Jacob or what/who/whenever) needed Widmore to try to force Ben to kill Alex so Ben would protect her so fervently and then she would be killed by Keamy ever. Remember, it could all be part of a course correction in time. Interestingly, Ben was never banished however. This inconsistency in Widmore’s statement can be possibly rectified for two reasons. On one hand, Ben was the one banishing Widmore, not the island, but that all could have been part of the island’s plan as it does use people to do its bidding. On the other hand, Widmore seemingly stopped looking up to the island like a father figure as he made decisions on his own. Maybe he was banished for his lack of faith and no other reason. What’s interesting is he said he was never able to get back. (And, by the way, I still think he could have founded Dharma during his times off the island and that’s how he got rich). Besides, there’s another reason the Alex situation doesn’t make Widmore evil.

Widmore wouldn’t kill Alex. Ben tried to turn it around on him by telling him to kill the baby. Widmore just walked away. Once again, when given the choice to do something bad, we see Widmore not do it. In fact, the only seemingly “bad” things we’ve seen Widmore done throughout this show are own a company, be mean to Desmond, and act in his self interest. Meanwhile, Ben continues to shoot and manipulate people.

While we haven’t seen much of Widmore’s time as leader, it would seem each of the three eras of the Triforce of LOSTdom had/have a distinct flavor to them. Widmore’s seemed like it was always at odds with some opposing force (the American military, Dharma). Ben’s seemed more peaceful, but only after genocide and through continued “the ends justify the means” ideology. Locke’s would seem to be a return to the state of nature, as his namesake would suggest. The interesting thought is that perhaps the island picks leaders based on what is occurring on the island. It’s hard to know why it picked Widmore without learning more about his past (can we get a Widmore flashback please?), but it seemed to pick Ben because it needed a sociopath to eliminate the Dharma people (who probably came from Widmore) and it seemed to pick Locke to move away from the violent turmoil of Ben’s leadership. Is a new leader constantly being picked because of the shortcomings of the old one? If so, why is Locke so important? Why is his story the one being told? We started with him coming to the island and not Widmore or Ben.

These are all things to think about as we forge ahead into the rest of the season.


What lies in the shadow of the statue? Isn’t it the temple? Or is it the Orchid? Is that question some kind of password or do Ilana and company legitimately want to know? Are they sick of did someone, such as Widmore, send them? Their twist in the storyline is incredibly intriguing to me, especially considering Ilana brought Sayid back to the island (after refusing to change flights) and we can pretty safely say Ben didn’t break Hurley out of jail. I’ll be interested to see Hurley’s episode (which is probably next considering the next episode is called “Some Like It Hoth) and how these characters play into it all.

And I don’t proofread this week out of laziness, so if you’re mad at me about that, well then:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dr. Horrible Act One Review: A Real Audible Connection

The first third of this super-villain origin story works to establish the three most important elements of the entire tale:

-The relationship between “Billy” and “Dr. Horrible”
-The motivations that come from the former to create the latter
-Who Captain Hammer is and why he kinda sucks (but is kinda awesome too)

The show opens with Dr. Horrible recording his video blog. Considering his name is also in the title (and not Billy’s) we need to remember that this narrative is about him and not his (not so) “secret identity.” Although, one of the key points we’ll pick up on early on is that there probably is no difference between the two of them besides self conception.

Dr. Horrible does what any good video blogger does and immediately suffers from the Bill O’Reilly syndrome. In other words, he is more concerned with promoting himself than saying anything relevant. He immediately is distracted by a discussion of the importance of having “standards” regarding “the laugh” when being evil. No, his first thought isn’t what it means to be evil; it’s what it sounds like to be evil. He’s even working with a vocal coach on it. Of course, that doesn’t stop him from applying to the Evil League of Evil. Is it any wonder he hasn’t received a response from them yet? He has no content, literally quantified in only having a letter of condemnation from the Deputy Mayor.

Still, Horrible pushes on, reading emails from his adoring fans, and we see just how inept he is at this whole evil thing. Those bars of gold he stole from the bank? They’re nothing more than liquid that smells like human. He receives an email from “Johnny Snow” who claims to be his nemesis and replies, “Look, I'm just trying to change the world, ok? I don't have time for a grudge match with every poser in a parka.” The thing is that he himself is nothing more than a “poser in a parka.” He’s sitting in his basement talking to a computer pretending to be evil when he can’t even rob a bank properly, let alone get into the ELE. Here’s where one of the most subtle themes of the story come into play.

As we’ll see most strongly in the last act, the Whedons take media and media technology to task in this short, connecting it with image that lacks any substance. And their critique is right on the mark. Consider Horrible and Billy in Act One. He is seen making a video blog, responding to emails, and messing around on his iPhone. All of these actions prevent him from actualizing himself (by actualizing his desires). Instead, he focuses on the image they necessarily need to operate. Think of any YouTube blogger you’ve seen. Think of any Facebook (or MySpace) profile you’ve read. If you really know the people behind these e-creations (instead of recreations, get it), you know they’re almost nothing like them in reality. The internet and its related communication devices are a burgeoning technology that has become focused on image and not content, which is exactly what made the release of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” so revolutionary. The Whedons used the internet and its devices to release one of the best stories in recent years, due to its depth and quality, during a time when no one else was releasing anything.

Of course, the allure of image and not content attracts people exactly like the main character of this tale, Billy, especially many teenagers and young adults. Billy is certainly meant to represent this demographic, especially a certain male archetype. Why is this age group attracted to image over content? Because not only does the internet and its devices empower those voices that have previously had no outlet (alerting us to the already existing demographic of people who believe they have no image), but it empowers the current youth who have been told their whole life that they aren’t good enough and identity is a lie (because identity is based on self, and there is no self only the collective). Teen and young adult years are already spent struggling to understand the world, adding the stress of a liberal social agenda (as we’ll see Dr. Horrible adopt in a moment) only creates Emo.

Through Dr. Horrible’s responses to his “fan” emails, we begin to see the true ideology behind his quest to become evil (but not his motivations). Though he says he wants to rule the world, he makes much more important philosophical claims.

First he states that what he’s doing isn’t “…about making money. It's about taking money, destroying the status quo because the status is not quo. The world is a mess and I just need to rule it.” Here might be a good place for you to read Francisco D’Anconia’s money speech from “Atlas Shrugged.” Dr. Horrible doesn’t want to make money, put his own work and values into it, he wants to take it, and steal someone else’s work and values. Why? Because those who make money aren’t good people. Their “status” is not “quo.” Why aren’t they good people? We’ll get to that reason in a second. Beforehand, we need to turn to his next claim, his identification of his nemesis, “Ok, dude, you're not my nemesis. My nemesis is Captain Hammer, Captain Hammer Corporate Tool.” It should come as no surprise to us that someone who wants to take money rather than make money vilifies the people who make money, the corporations. It’s why he thinks the world is a mess, he needs to rule it, and wants to change it. He doesn’t like what it takes to make money, and there’s one simple reason for that distaste in his mouth.

Billy believes he is inadequate. No, not Dr. Horrible, he is the image created by Billy through the use of the internet and its devices in response to the corrupt world that he sees (because his inadequacy is everyone else’s fault for having the “wrong” standards, not his for lacking content). Just as the current youth turns to the internet to have an image (because they don’t understand that image is a result of values, not vice versa), so does Billy, and his believed inadequacy is what’s driving this whole evil thing. We’ve laughed at him over the first 3 and half minutes, but as the first song starts we finally understand the profound sadness behind Billy that has lead to the creation of Dr. Horrible (because his believed inadequacy is his value that led to his image of evil).

“My Freeze Ray” isn’t a tune about a super-villain praising his newest demonic device; it’s a song about an insecure guy bemoaning his inability to speak to his crush, which he believes he can fix by creating the Freeze Ray. He wants to tell her that he loves her hair, but only ends up mumbling (and saying he loves “the air” at the end of the song). He really likes her and thinks he’s the guy “to make it real/the feelings you don’t dare to feel,” but she makes him feel “like a fool/kinda sick/special needs.” This description of his feelings once again demonstrates his insecurities. We all feel vulnerable when we like someone. That feeling doesn’t make you stupid or sick, but he believes he doesn’t deserve to feel it, so he thinks it does. Thus, his supposed good feelings cause him pain. And in the most important line of the song he says, “With my Freeze Ray I will stop the pain.” He doesn’t want to be evil to actually change the world or rule it. He wants to be evil to stop his own pain. What he fails to realize is that to stop his own pain all he has to do is believe in himself. It’s extremely important to note that during the entire song the video constantly cuts between Billy yearning after Penny weakly in the Laundromat and Dr. Horrible singing to his webcam powerfully.

The webcam is turned off, and we get an inside look at Dr. Horrible’s life. He lives with his soon-to-be henchman Moist, a soft spoken guy who is literally so nervous that his super-power is that he sweats a ridiculous amount. It becomes clear that these guys are friends because they lack the same thing: self confidence and self assuredness. Moist, in a cleverly written gag, went on a date with Bait and Switch, and ended up with Switch even though he kinda thought he was supposed to end up with Bait. The Doc then shares his girl story, saying he saw Penny today, and that he is “just a few weeks away from a real audible connection.”

For two guys who are supposed to be so concerned with being evil, they’re both sure to bring up the girls in their lives first, even though Horrible is holding a stack of mail which we soon learn contains a letter from Bad Horse. If getting into the ELE was so important, you’d think Horrible would rip through the mail and his buddy Moist would encourage him. These guys aren’t evil. They’re the typical guys who have fallen into a friendship because they’ve bonded over their inability to connect with the opposite sex. They’re kind of like the comic book version of Seth and Evan from Superbad.

Eventually, Dr. Horrible finds the letter (while thumbing through the mail while mumbling something about Penny) and opens it. The Bad Horse Chorus tells him to commit some kind of caper. Moist is less enthusiastic, pointing out it’s only “not a no,” while the Doc thinks it’s great because he was going to steal Wonderflonium for his Freeze Ray today anyway. We realize something more apparently now. Horrible is looking for worth from outside sources rather than himself. A simple “not no” from Bad Horse sends him into a frenzied excitement because “the league is watching.”

This need for outside approval returns to the image vs. content theme. Image necessarily comes from other people. It’s how they see us. It’s impossible for another person to be inside your head, no matter how well they know you. You are the only person who can truly know your content. That fact is why people who seek outside means of esteem are obsessed with image. It doesn’t matter what their content is (their self esteem), it matters what their image is (how other people see them). At this point we can understand how the two sides of the main character in this narrative represent image (Dr. Horrible) and content (Billy). Billy creates Dr. Horrible because he dislikes himself so much he can’t even create a “real audible connection” with Penny.

The song ends, and we get our first (well, second) glimpse of the hero (hero, not protagonist) of this e-novella, Penny. Dressed very respectably, she is attempting to get signatures to open a new Caring Hands Homeless Shelter in a building the city is going to demolish. She’s happy, energetic, and enthusiastic. In fact, throughout all three acts, she is this way (except, understandably, near the end of the third). Consider how we first met her in “My Freeze Ray.” Even when Billy ridiculously proclaims that he loves the air, she smiles sweetly. She’s always enjoying herself and volunteering to help the homeless. I don’t agree with the altruism is good ethic, but this piece of fiction seems to adopt it (as we’ll see in Act Three with Captain Hammer’s big moment).

After singing, Penny approaches Billy while he fiddles on his iPhone and monitors the van he is trying to hijack, and he finally gets that “real audible connection. Truthfully, the connection is more than audible. He bumbles through the conversation, blinking constantly and saying awkward things. He even scoffs at her attempts at help the homeless ranting that “…they're a symptom. You're treating a symptom, and the disease rages on, consumes the human race. The fish rots from the head as they say. So my thinking is why not cut off the head?” She’s taken aback and questions, “Of the human race?” He retorts quickly, “It's not a perfect metaphor, but I'm talking about an overhaul of the system, putting the power in different hands.” Here is the kicker. She replies sweetly, “I'm all for that” showing enthusiastic interest in what he said, even though she was put off by it and a bit confused (as it was a muddled metaphor). In other words, she is looking for some sort of connection with Billy. Why? Because she is attracted to him. We all play this sort of game, searching for some common bond with someone we’d like to have one with. After he awkwardly says something about not turning his back on a “fellow laundry person,” she says in a very flirty manner, “Well, if we can’t stick together.” The only problem is Billy doesn’t realize what’s going on.

As the van peels away he ignores her and she peels away from the conversation disappointed. Billy walks away bemoaning, “She talked to me. Why did she talk to me now? Maybe I should...” We’re not exactly sure what the second half the sentence is, but as he launches into the first line of the last song of the act, we get the impression that he is considering going back after her. He sings, “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” a platitude that often means going against your own desires to fulfill an obligation or responsibility. The irony here is that Billy’s obligation is to being evil and the whole reason he wants to be evil is to prove himself to Penny, which he has already started to do without the evil and is now preventing himself from doing because of the evil.

Billy changes into his Dr. Horrible garb as he belts out the first verse of “A Man’s Gotta Do.” The key lines seem to be “don’t plan the plan if you can’t follow through” and “all that matters: taking matters into your own hands.” Both demonstrate the irony of Dr. Horrible, he’s making a plan and taking things into his own hands, but it’s the wrong plan, and the former line seems to signal that on some level Billy is aware of his mistake. You usually say such a thing only when you are convincing yourself to go through with something. The former line also contrasts Dr. Horrible in an important way from the other man in Penny’s life, Captain Hammer, who we are about to meet. Dr. Horrible is thoughtful and calculated. Hammer is not.

The second verse starts, and Captain Hammers flies onto screen. He sings, “nothing here to see/just imminent danger, in the middle of it, me” and “the day needs my saving expertise.” He is full of the confidence Billy is lacking. He punctuates the first verse by punching the remote control device, sending the van careening out of control. He then sings the second verse with the same bravado, punctuating this one by pushing Penny into the garbage to save her from the oncoming van (which is stopped by Dr. Horrible anyway). Hammer is clearly impulsive and focused on action. Everything he does is immediate and bold. Horrible is not.

It’s no surprise Billy would create an opposite image to counteract Hammer, he is a powerful image and in many ways the exact opposite of Billy. Dr. Horrible even confronts Hammers, exclaiming that he almost killed Penny (which is true, he is the one who sent the van out of control), but only gets a hand to the throat. Hammer, in his limited and self centered perspective, states that, “He remembers it differently.” He is the hero after all. It’s also no surprise that Penny is immediately grateful to Hammer. She was about to die and he (apparently) saved her live. She stands up from the garbage and, in shock as the liner notes tell us, thanks Hammer for saving her. The act is at its very end and the theme of the overarching narrative is apparent.

Dr. Horrible represents “the nice guy,” Captain Hammer represents “the asshole,” and Penny is the girl who is caught in between the two. The third verse is shared by all three characters as they delivering overlapping lyrics that demonstrate their place in the dynamic and it effect on each of them. Hammer is predictably braggadocious, “When you’re the best, you can’t rest, what’s the use/There’s ass needs kicking, some ticking bomb to defuse/The only doom that’s looming is you loving me to death.” Penny is understandably confused (she was almost hit by a van and then pushed in the garbage) and falls back on her positive outlook on life, “You came from above/I wonder what you’re the Captain of/My heart is beating like a drum/Must be shock/Assuming I’m not loving you to death.” Horrible is embittered and angry, “Stop looking at her like that/Did you notice that he threw you in the garbage?/I stopped the van, the remote control was in my hand.” As Hammer and Penny stare into each other eyes, the act is punctuated with Horrible slinking/sulking away from the van while proclaiming “Balls.”

The way we leave each of these characters is important, as it leads us into Act Two. We’ve just met Hammer and only know of his ego and bravado. Penny is understandably confused and smitten. Hammer does have all the makings of a hero after all, but there is her laundry buddy. Horrible has begun a downward arc. Notably, he is focused on Hammer and comparing himself to the hero. He wants the credit for what Hammer is taking credit. He commands Hammer to stop looking at Penny “like that.” Why is he concerned with what the guy is doing? Shouldn’t he be concerned with what’s going on with Penny? She nearly died and is obviously confused. Why doesn’t Billy try to console her? Because he’s Dr. Horrible, and Dr. Horrible is Billy focusing on pain. In his mind, that pain comes from what he’s not, and what he’s not is what Hammer is. It’s not about Billy and Penny anymore (it’s about Horrible and Hammer), so much for their real audible connection.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dr. Horrible Review: A Penny saved...

As most people know, during the writer's strike of 2008 Joss Whedon and family wrote a 42 minute short (is that an oxymoron?) and produced it all on their own (isn't that special?). "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" stars Neil Patrick, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day. I've really enjoyed it from the first time I saw, but never really been able to figure out what it was about...until now. If you haven't seen it yet, go to Hulu and watch it before reading the rest of this post.

On it's face, "Dr. Horrible" is about the inversion of hero and villian as the protagonist and antagonist. Dr. Horrible/Billy, the villian, is the protagonist. Captain Hammer, the hero, is the antagonist. However, I don't believe this immediate interpretation is correct. In my estimation, neither Horrible or Hammer (two Hs, coincidence?) are the Hero (one H, coincidence?) of this web show.

The true hero is Felicia Day as Penny in an understated and apparently backgrounded (intentionally) performance. Her death is what makes the story a tragedy (Hey, I told you to watch it before you read on.). Over the next week I will be posting an analysis of each act that proves this assertion and reveals the important commentary the Whedons are making on male archetypes, especially that of Dr. Horrible/Billy.

Join me next time for my analysis of Act One: "A Real Audible Connection."

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Midside: S5E11 Whatever Happened, Happened

Ladies and Gentleman, we are back in action. No, I don’t mean me personally. I mean all of us in the IL, Institute of LOSTology. We have things to talk about again. There’s character development. There’s philosophical quandaries that are actually difficult to decipher. There’s throw away lines that aren’t actually throw away lines. You see, this last episode may not have seemed that important to you, sort of like filler between the last big episode and the next big episode, but it was. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse wrote it. How could it not be important? The reason it didn’t appear as so is because what made LOST good in the beginning has returned to it: its subtlety.

This episode can be understood and discussed through the development of three of the most important characters on the show: Kate (of course, it was her episode), Jack, and Ben. Yes, Ben was only in this episode as a child. Yes, Jack only had a few scenes in this episode. This apparent lack of importance is exactly where the subtlety of the writing comes into play. Sometimes, it’s the smallest events that have the biggest effect on us. You also might be asking why I didn’t include Sawyer on this list of characters. He did some interesting things in this episode, and this is The Midside after all, right. Yeah, well, Juliet did some interesting things too (and so did Cassidy), but the discussion of those choices can easily be addressed within our considerations of the other characters.

Finally, in the closing section, I’ll address an idea a passerby on the street put forward as I was writing this column. Ok, she wasn’t a random passerby. A couple of my friends were walking by and she was with them. Regardless, she seems to think the determinism inherent in a time travel story devalues the storytelling. She may have a point, but she also might not. Stayed tuned in to see which is correct.


Here’s my problem with Kate. The more she does, the less I like her. In the early seasons, there were grumblings from some members of the fan base about how pathetic of a character Kate was. Some of my friends explicated her weaknesses as well. Hell, it got to the point that even I was recognizing the mistakes she made. Every time Jack told her to stay behind, she would run ahead and make some mistake that got everyone else in trouble. I even made a short horror-comedy called “End It Like Beckham” that spoofed that attribute by “Kate” be the one who accidentally let the killer into the apartment. (Yes, that was a cheap plug for my movie. You can find it on YouTube.) However, I always managed to pawn those mistakes off on Jack. He, after all, was the one who insulted her personhood by telling her that she didn’t come. Hey, Jack sucks, we can blame him for everything and anything, right?

No, he can’t (as we learned elsewhere in the episode, or did we?). Kate’s shortcomings were all over this episode, and it mainly comes down to this: she has no sense of self worth anymore. In a way, the constructions of our perceptions of her character are very similar to John Locke. During the first season, she seemed cool and confident, able to kick ass and take names all because she believed she could. She stood toe to toe with Sawyer and didn’t give much of thought to Jack. If you remember, in Season One, Locke also seemed badass, like the wise old dude who had never been given a chance. In Season Two, he seemed weaker, owned by his con man of a father and subsequently putting way-too-much faith in the island.

In Season Two, Kate’s character began to unravel as well, although at a much slower rate than Locke’s. In “What Kate Did” we learned about her real father and the issues she had with seeing him in Sawyer. The only problem is that we didn’t fully realize how deep those daddy issues went until this episode. Looking back over the previous material, we can now see how her lack of self worth through out. In Season Three, she left Nathan Fillion at the alter (really, what woman would do that?) and desperately seeks approval from her mother. In Season Four, she continually returned to a debilitating relationship with Jack. The beginning of this season featured much of the same, as she ended up crying in Jack’s bed. In this episode we found out why.

To put it bluntly (why would we waste our time doing it any other way?), Kate used Aaron to give herself self worth. On one level, anyone who uses external sources to find self worth will not ever find that self worth. On a deeper level, she used a child as a tool for her own means. While it is true that she took care of him and gave him a good life, she denied his personhood and took advantage of his innocence when she essentially kidnapped him.

This betrayal of innocence is especially ironic considering the argument she, Sawyer, and Juliet used to save Harry Potter, the “He’s Just a Kid” argument. However, considering why Kate used Aaron, we have to ask ourselves if she was saving Harry Potter for the same reason. Was she still living out her motherhood fantasy or was she actually doing it to save an innocent? Of course, that same question could be asked about her relationship with Aaron. Maybe she was just trying to protect any innocent.

Kate wasn’t lying when she said that Claire disappeared. Leaving him on the island didn’t seem the best choice for him. Sure, she could have decided to give her to Claire’s mother right when they got back, but at that point The Lie and their lives weren’t unraveling, so there was no need. Plus, none of this speculation explains why she gave Aaron to Claire’s mother when she did. She didn’t have to go back to the island. She could have stayed and raised Aaron for as long as she wanted. So why did she decide to go back?

The answer to this question is buried in her conversations with Cassidy, who is the woman Kate fears she is going to become with Sawyer. The mother of Sawyer’s daughter is still bitter about what happened between her and him. Look, I’m not defending Sawyer for what happened back then. He clearly conned women by giving them only half of a relationship, the physical half. Still, that wrong he did to Cassidy does not excuse her for holding onto it for so long and demonizing him for jumping out of the helicopter. Did he jump out of the helicopter for selfish reasons? Of course he did. He lives for himself. (Which, by the way, I’m glad the writers clarified that he didn’t jump out simply to help others with complete disregard to himself.) If he didn’t jump, who would? And, like he said in this episode, he wouldn’t have been a good boyfriend or father back then. His jumping let them leave the island, but, more importantly, let him stay on the island. What’s disturbing is how angry Cassidy was about his choice. She wanted him to live his life for her and was using Clementine was a tool for that end. In “Every Man For Himself” Sawyer set up a bank account for his daughter. In this episode we saw Kate go see his daughter for him, as he requested. He wasn’t disregarding her. He was trying to take care of her. His issues just made him maintain an emotional distance, and those issues aren’t a good reason for Cassidy not to get over her issues.

Even worse, Cassidy applied her issues to Kate, telling Kate that they both used the kids in the same way. Was Cassidy a reliable narrator? Did Kate use Aaron to get over Sawyer? No, I don’t think Kate was “getting over” Sawyer. She never sought the commitment or close personal connection that “getting over” requires and leaving the island was the perfect opportunity to run as she always does. However, I do think she was using Aaron like many women with low self worth do: as a source of the unconditional love they believe the world owes them. What she soon realized was, be it correctly or incorrectly, that she couldn’t raise Aaron.

In the end, I think she was right. I don’t think she is incapable of raising Aaron, but the whole island thing and her unresolved issues put her in a place, quite literally now, that she couldn’t. Claire even told her not to bring Aaron back to the island. And Kate’s valuing of children and ability to protect them was clearly evident by her bringing Harry Potter to the Hostiles. And since Sawyer came along we see they have that in common (although we already knew why and how Sawyer valued children).


Point to the sky and say thanks because Jack may have finally reached a turning point. While my opinion of Kate plummeted to an all time low (no, not the band), my opinion of Jack sky rocketed to an all time high. Things are topsy-turvy in the LOSTiverse, and I left this episode with a general feeling of confusion for because of it. Jack did something I liked and agreed with. (Yes, hell just froze over, pigs flew, and the American public saw Barack Obama for the fraud he is.)

No, I’m not referring to his decision not to help Harry Potter. I understand his reasoning. However, as someone pointed out to me, this decision was still a screw up. If he had saved Harry Potter, he wouldn’t have been brought to the Hostiles, and his innocence never would have been, well, lost. Yes, the decision blew up in his face again. Even more to the point, he could have ripped out Harry Potter’s heart, killing him once and for all. (We’ll get into more of the details of this moral decision in the next section). The smart response to this point though is that “whatever happened, happened,” if Jack tried to save Harry Potter he would have failed, and the kid would have been brought to the Hostiles anyway as time “course corrects.” (Or, if you don’t agree with compatibalism, he was always going to make the choice not to save him.)

What I am referring to is his decision to stand up for himself. When Sawyer asked him to come and fix Harry Potter he stopped for a second, thought, and said no. Then, in that moment, he faced the fears he had been dodging his whole life: the immediate negative reactions people give you when you don’t do what they want. These responses were, of course, stronger in this instance because Jack has always tried to fix things, so his behavior was outside the norm. Still, he dealt with it admirably (even if I don’t necessarily agree with his decision) and stood by his choice. He then had to face the next step in the process: the scrutiny of those closest to you.

Kate attacked Jack for his decision, and he explicated his error in reasoning when cutting the tumor out of Ben’s back, “I did it for you, Kate.” Later in the conversation, she complained that she didn’t like the new him, to which he replied that she didn’t like the old him either. I’m glad he finally stood up for himself and called Kate on her use of him. I’m glad he finally questioned the premise that he had to fix everything. The problem is that, while he is trying to think for himself, he is making the same error in judgment that Locke is by exalting the island as his missing father figure. How crazy do you think it’s going to be when he meets Christian again? He’ll have to face his issues one more time.

The next person to attack Jack was his other woman, the other woman, Juliet. We had the reverse of the Jack and Kate shower scene from the Hatch, where this time Jack is the one being gawked at and yearned for by a crazy (although, did anyone else notice that he barely dried off before putting his shirt on?). Juliet claimed, “I needed you” as if her need put some sort of moral responsibility on Jack. He thankfully ignored it and stated his reasoning. She then went into attack mode, demonstrating why she sucks, stating that Kate and Sawyer were off somewhere together. He tried to play the old altruistic Jack, but she quickly denied it, making him admit he did it for himself, and crying in the process. It’s incredibly messed up that she is mad at Jack for doing what he wants. Clearly the problem isn’t Jack, but that she still has feelings for him. Of course, Jack once again stated, “I came back because I was supposed to” perhaps finally completing his transition to a Man of Faith. (Meanwhile, Juliet stormed out of the room indignant, not realizing the irony that the man she is with makes decisions for himself more than Jack does.)


Though Harry Potter was little more than a prop in this episode, literally (both the word “little” and the word “prop”) he had a huge affect on the philosophical undertones of the episode, the philosophical undertones that returned LOST to its former, um, form. Remember when the situations the characters were in and the choices they made were applicable to important thoughts? Yeah, they’re back, and it’s all thanks to Sayid believing he’s a killer (or does he?). This episode focused on what we could call the “Hitler Dilemma.” If you could kill Hitler as a child would you?

The two main points of view in this episode were expressed by, not surprisingly, Jack and Sawyer. Jack, as we already stated, refused to help, arguing that it’s fine to let Harry Potter die because of who he would become. Sawyer said they were obligated to help because he was a child, advocating the position that children are always sacred. Kate, in a throwback to her first episode “Tabula Rasa” was once again caught in the middle. And once again she chose Sawyer’s side, just as she did when she gave him the gun to kill the Marshall. Let’s pick apart these two sides some more.

The “children are innocent” side holds a lot of intuitive weight. We have to consider the idea of tabula rasa that was first introduced early in the series (as noted above). We are all born innocent, a blank slate. (No, I won’t go into a discussion of original sin here.) How can a child be held responsible for acts he hasn’t committed yet? Is the future person even really him? How can we know? As Hurley and Miles discussed, even if determinism is true, can we know it’s true? This idea is a strong compatibilist argument. They say that even if determinism is true, we can’t know it is true, so we must still consider morality as important. Thus, saving Harry Potter would be the right call.

The other argument for saving the child is based on the butterfly effect. Even if we let him die, how do we know a worse evil won’t arise? We can’t guarantee that the choice of death will create a better outcome than the world already, so why make the choice at all? This argument falls apart when you consider that we can’t guarantee any choice we make will improve our lives. If not knowing that our lives will be improved by a choice is a reason to not make it, then we wouldn’t make any choices at all.

The “let him die” side, however, also carries a lot of intuitive weight. This kid will turn into evil. How can his death not be a good thing? Sure, we don’t know what will happen if he dies, but we never know what’s going to happen with any choice. Let him die. All we can make are the choices that face today. We can sort out the rest in the future.

The important thing to note about this discussion is that whichever side you pick instantly changes your perception of Sayid. If you agree with the “children are innocent” side, then you think he is immoral for shooting Harry Potter. If you agree with the “let him die” side, then you probably think Sayid did a good thing. Although, I want to unpack Sayid’s intentions a bit. We’ve seen him kill numerous people in the past. When he did, he shot them multiple times and made sure they were dead. This time he fired one shot and ran away quickly. I think the shot more represented his inner struggle than an intention to actually kill Harry Potter. If he wanted the kid dead, he’d be dead.

Which do I agree with? I say save the kid because I refuse to believe determinism is true because if it’s true in the past, it’s true in the future, because all labels of time periods are relative to the time traveler.


If you nerdgasmed over Miles and Hurley’s discussion of time travel theory, then you’re going to enjoy the next few paragraphs. We have to ask ourselves the question: does determinism devalue a story when the characters travel to the past?

One side says yes. Their actions can have no affect on the world. We already know what’s going to happen. Everything is just a waste of time.

The other side says no. The characters will still develop and change, and we will witness that change. Besides, we already know the end of the story, but we don’t know the middle. Why should we privilege the end over the middle?

The reason we’re facing this problem in LOST is that it seems the show will end in the past. If it ends in the future, there will be no issue, as we won’t know the outcome to their actions, so we can believe they have an effect on it even if determinism is true.

And if you disagree with that, well then:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I'm better than Nathan Fillion at something.

In "Commentary! The Musical," a special musical commentary for "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jed Whedon sing a song about a game they played on set called Ninja Rope. One of the verses is as follows:

Careful as you hurtle from one circle to the next.
Sometimes double back to dodge the gravity vortex.
Two ropes is the key to keep from wheeling way too far.
Nathan holds the record.

119.7 Yards
Therefore, in this blog entry, with the picture at the top of it as proof, I would like to announce that I am officially better than Nathan Fillion at something. Take that you talented, funny, good looking, successful actor who has been in two of my favorite shows. I know you won't be able to sleep at night now (when this news inevitable reaches you. And it will. Oh believe me, it will.)

Why I don't love "I Love You, Man"

Recently, I've been surprised by the positive reception the movie "I Love You, Man" has received, more so by the public than by critics. I can understand why movie reviewers and the left wing Hollywood culture would embrace a movie that undermined masculinity by having every character appear gay (except, intentionally in misguided social commentary, the gay brother played by Andy Samberg). The following review by Kyle Smith of the New York Post captures my feelings perfectly. In fact, I may have written it without realizing:

Dead 'Man' Mocking

If you want an honest discussion of the concept of "bromance," watch "Superbad," a movie about high school best friends, the time when these issues should be put to rest, and their attempts to pursue girls.