Sunday, August 12, 2007

In which everything turns to a mush in my head, or what Jack should learn from Buffy

This isn't about any book specifically, it's just random rambling on my part. Spoilers for all Harry Potter and Buffy (and Star Wars, but that seems ridiculous). So as I've been totally reabsorbed by Harry Potter, Emilia and I have been working out way through Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it got me thinking about the importance and awesomeness of "the trio". Which got me wondering about whether other trios can give us any hints about how things might work out for Lost's main triangle. So let's take a moment to ignore all the other characters and focus on Jack, Kate and Sawyer. Just pretend it's the start of Season 3. Jump with me, won't you?

Seems to me there are two basic structures, with Harry Potter and Buffy in one camp and Lost and Star Wars in the other. Harry, Ron, and Hermione square up eerily well with Buffy, Xander, and Willow, as the brave, whiny, and burdened by destiny hero, the loyal, earnest dork, and the clever, insecure and socially awkward brain. Lost's big three of Jack, Kate, and Sawyer line up with Luke, Leia, and Han Solo as the earnest, whiny, daddy-issues hero, the tough, ballsy heroine, and the scoundrel with a heart of gold.

Now I do have a couple of actual points here, besides that archetypes are fun. First and most personal, why is it that the hero always seems to have issues with being a little whiney-pants? Dear to my heart as all these stories are, there are moments in all of them when I find myself yelling at the screen (or book) for the hero to shut up already. I guess it’s sort of the problem with being the hero: it really is all about you, and at some points that's a real burden. There are times when you just gotta deal with that by yelling at your friends for no reason (Harry), running away and being a waitress (Buffy), straight up ignoring Yoda (Luke) or some good ol' crying in the jungle (Jack). The good news is, by the end of the three finished stories, Harry, Buffy, and Luke have all pulled it together to the point where they are (usually) able to focus calmly on the mission, drawing on the strength of their friends and family, and act as brave and selfless leaders. Jack has a ways to go on every front.

Ok, the next, sort of counter-intuitive thing I notice is that the hero hardly ever gets the girl (or guy). It seems that in all four examples, romance within the trio is between the two seconds, not the hero and a second. All of them have false starts, misleads or confusion in the other direction. Xander likes Buffy, Luke is entranced by Leia, Jack loves Kate, and Harry and Hermione….well I don't see it, but there are enough mixed signals to start a huge shipping war lots of 13-year-old girls still have internet scars from. But none of those couples get farther then a kiss- the real chemistry and balance was in a hero-less pairing.

Of course, if you watch Buffy you know that Willow and Xander didn't work out either, but they had a real, if screwed-up, romance (you have to give Buffy some leeway. Unlike the other three stories I'm talking about, Buffy was never planned out farther than a season or two ahead, and the constant need for drama frequently eats through long-term story satisfaction. We are talking, after all, about a show that suddenly decided in season four that Willow was a lesbian). And I'm sure that our Lost triangle is (groan) far from resolved. But if Ron/Hermione and Han/Leia are any clue, bet on the couple that bickers.

Something else I notice about the three finished stories is that by the end, the hero has to face death in a very clear, conclusive way. Harry, Buffy, and Luke step willingly, defenses down, into the arms of certain death. In DH, Harry accepts that he will have to sacrifice himself, faces Voldemort wandless, and dies. Buffy has the distinction of dying twice, first in season one when she faces her prophesied doom at the hands of the Master, and more certainly at the end of season five when she dives into a dimensional portal to save her little sister (and the world). At the end of Jedi, Luke presents himself to Vader, and goes willingly into the Death Star (I love George Lucas, but subtle he's not), fully expecting to die.

I'm not saying Jack will die- all the characters I just named are smiling contentedly as the credits roll on their stories. I'm also not sure that I'm right about the way the triangle will play out. I'm just guessing about the way this will work, but it seems clear to me that the three finished stories point in particular direction, especially for Jack.

If Jack is going to step up and be the hero of the story, he's gonna need to get in line with the hero path. First, he should stop pushing people away and bogging down in his own shit. Less Order of the Phoenix all-caps Harry, season two sad Buffy, whinny can't lift the X-wing Luke. Be the leader and the hero, stop letting your problems push you away from the people you need. Second, he's gonna need to step fully out of the way of Kate and Sawyer. However that plays out, it's not about him, and him staying in the picture is dragging everyone down. Finally, there is going to come a time when Jack's going to need to step between his people and death, and he'd better be ready for it. And I'm not talking "I'll get off the island and come back for you guys" sacrifice. If the other stories are any guide, our Doc's gonna have to accept death with open arms. I really hope he's up for that.

Ok, coming up next, a Jurassic Park post. Also, someday we'll blog about old BBC show The Prisoner, which based on the pilot is basically Lost, but with funny jackets and an evil balloon. Don't laugh, it's totally terrifying.

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