Ghosts And Credulity

Upon where do I hang my credulity regarding Lost? That is, exactly how much disbelief do I allow myself to suspend before my disbelief is broken? Or, to put it plainly, when it comes to Lost exactly how much do I tolerate before I decide that it's ridiculous?

I can pinpoint the moment doubt and worry crept in. It was the first flashback scene of Miles Straume. You know, the one where he went around to that woman's house, entered her dead son's bedroom and apparently communicated with his ghost before allowing the restless spirit to leave in peace. That was the moment my credulity was stretched taut.

The problem I had is easy to quantify. Ghosts. I didn't like the idea of ghosts existing in Lost. And by ghosts I mean the spirit of a person that is dead returning from, or being prevented from going to, an afterlife of some form. I, as a man of science, fundamentally disagree with this notion. Stanley Kubrick, who resisted embracing ghosts when making The Shining, stated that he found the idea problematic for a horror film since spirits were essentially hopeful things; proof of an afterlife! How can death, and by extension for Kubrick a horror film, be frightening if there's confirmation of a world beyond? Kubrick couldn't reconcile that. Neither can I.

But I digress. The issue here is credulity in Lost, and I still believe that genuine ghosts push the boundaries of what we accept as reasonable in the show (important phrase, hence the italics). When Jack saw his dead father on the Island there's all kinds of reasons to believe he wasn't seeing a genuine ghost. Same goes for Yemi. "You speak to me as if I were your brother," Yemi Manifestation stated, validating anti-ghost sentiments.

Would I be alone in my crushing disappointment if it turned out that Christian and Yemi actually were ghostly apparitions? The spirits of the dead returning to visit the living? I think we anticipate that the apparitions have a more grounded (fantastical, maybe, but reasonable) explanation. Like how we anticipate the Black Smoke, with it's mechanical clicking and photography flashes, will have a reasonably grounded explanation (as opposed to being a Vapour Demon from Hades or some such nonsense).

Dead Charlie appears in Hurley's flashforward during The Beginning Of The End. Even when he states, "I am dead, but I'm also here", we can still imagine, like the Island apparitions, that this is not a genuine spirit of a dead Charlie appearing from the other side to deliver a message. We still imagine, and expect from Lost, a better explanation than that. Same goes for the whispers; they may suggest voices of the deceased but are they actually the voices of once-alive people continuing to vocalise thoughts from mouths they no longer possess? We don't entertain this as plausible, surely!

Or do we? Is this issue of ghostly credulity my own personal problem? When people saw Ben's mother appear in front of Young Ben did they think, It's a ghost!, and blithely accept? Maybe they did. Maybe you do. As you've no doubt surmised, I'm not so easily won over. We educated Lost-theorist pour scorn on the idea of the Island as purgatory - that the Oceanic 815 passengers died during the crash and are living out an afterlife - because it would be dumb. If ghosts turn out to be real in Lost, I think my disappointment will be comparable to how I'd feel if that purgatory thing turned out to be the case after all.

I mean it.

There is hope, however. Going back to that scene with Miles and the exorcism of the dead son. Maybe, just maybe, things were not as they appeared to be. You may know this already, but there's a discrepancy with the picture frames during that whole sequence. To recap: before Miles goes to the son's bedroom we see a picture on the wall, and the frame around the picture is clearly wooden. Afterwards, after the 'exorcism', we are given another direct shot of the picture and this time the frame around the picture is shiny metal. (The change is so acute, and the emphasis on this photo so sharp, it's nigh on impossible to consider this a production error.)

I can't explain this, but it suggests there's more going on than just stupid ghostly activity. A divergent timeline maybe, or a parallel universe, or warped space-time or just something else entirely. Whatever. So long as it's reasonably grounded, I'll be happy. Credulity sustained. Disbelief suspended. Provided it retains what we accept as reasonable in the show then that's fine by me.

Fingers crossed but, you know, I don’t actually believe in superstition either. . .

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