Science fiction can be a terrifying place, and no part of it more so than Lost. That show's so scary, the fear leaks into people's everyday lives!
I got a dose of it just this past week, standing in my boss's office. "Hey," I said to her. "You watch Lost, right?"
Her head snapped up, and she went pale. "Don't," she whispered. "Don't talk to me about it. Please-we haven't started season four yet. We watch it on DVD." It sounded like an apology. "Please. Please." I could see tears pooling in her eyes, so at that point, I nodded and backed slowly out the door and went back to work.
It happened again, the next evening, when I was out for beers with my friend Jon. I've known Jon for more than a decade; we've lived together in at least three places, and I've watched him get his glasses knocked off his face by a coked-up stripper's breasts, and he once made out with my girlfriend in college. Actually, now that I think about it, he did that twice. Anyway, we've been through a lot!
So when I finished a long sip of my Guinness and said to him, "So...Lost can get pretty crazy, huh?"-well, I most definitely did not expect him to choke abruptly on his own beer and then spit it all over the table, eyes wide with terror. He shrieked, hurled his half-full glass at my face, almost fell off his stool, and ran for the exit. When he got outside, he set himself on fire for good measure, before screaming down Amsterdam Avenue in the direction of his apartment. I sent him a text, but he never responded.
Conversations with total strangers yielded more or less the same thing. A big, tough dude I mentioned the show to on the subway stuffed his own tie into his mouth until he swallowed it and started choking. A new mother in the park offered me her baby if I would just stop talking and leave her alone. (Related note: Anybody need a baby?) And in the encounter I feel most guilty about, two teenage boys paid full price for tickets to The Spirit just to escape. (Tyler, Jeremy, if you're out there-I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry.)
Yes, Lost is like a strange, second-wave J-horror film come to life, where watching the show won't hurt you, but talking to anyone else about it will. Or at least, talking about it is a process so fraught with peril that it's almost not worth it. You must approach potential conversation partners with trepidation, carefully, like John Locke stalking a wild boar or Sawyer considering having a feeling. Which makes it an interesting development in United States culture: I mean, even if we've traded touch football for Madden, even if we've given up Boy Scouts for Planet Earth, even if we've let all the real horses die because horses are more fun on the Wii, even if our legs have turned to jelly-like pseudopods and the pseudopods have merged with our couches and we have not gone outside in two years but only watched television programs about being outside-well, even if these things haven't exactly encouraged social interaction, they haven't quite precluded it.
With Lost, though...well, obviously you can watch and enjoy it with other people, and in some ways, it even reinforces preexisting bonds-at least, if I sat down to see a single new episode without my wife, and got ahead of her on our viewing schedule, she would destroy me. Obviously, yes, you can find other people with whom to discuss it, and that you are reading this column is a testament to that. But you can't discuss it with just anybody, the way you could discuss the vast majority of ultrapopular mainstream American shows-including similarly weird ones like Twin Peaks-up to this point. No, there's a relatively small, select group of people-people you know who are at the same point in the show as you (because so many folks I know aren't watching new episodes as they air)-to talk about it to.
Really, it's like-sit down because I am about to BLOW YOUR MIND-it's like you're on an island with those people and you can't communicate with the outside world.
Now, once you've wrapped your head around that, what I'm thinking we need is some kind of simple system by which we can identify other Lost fans to whom we can speak, so as to avoid spoilers on either side. Something like a number code-for example, if you were 15 minutes and 16 seconds in to the eighth episode of the fourth season, you'd say, "4-8-15-16." This is just an idea, but it might allow for greater discourse on the subject, which would mean we could talk about what's really scary about the show, namely:
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I'm not even through the first fucking season yet, and even after I've watched 71 more episodes, the fucking Smoke Monster is still going to be a mystery??!!? I haven't even SEEN the Smoke Monster yet. AAAAAGGGGGHHHHH.
Whatever. Anyway, don't spoil it for me.
Commenter Moff's real name is Josh Wimmer, and he can usually be found at scribblescribblescribble.com/blog.