Historic TV series Lost which aired on ABC Network from 2004 to 2010 had always been primarily a story of science vs religion, good vs evil, light vs dark, and obedience vs rebellion. This was best articulated in the show’s sixth season episode 15 “Across The Island” which revealed the origin story of Jacob and the Man in Black (MiB) / the smoke monster. The story completely turned the good vs. evil dichotomy on its head and left us wondering who really is the evil? Whom are we supposed to root for in the final battle? It explains how religion is the greatest evil of all. How religious people cause violence, how fascist populist leaders cause genocides, and so on.
A shipwrecked heavily pregnant woman delivers a twin and gets killed by a sad, lonely, castaway psychopath woman who lives in the cave by herself. She helps deliver the babies and then kills the mother in the most violent way. Nothing can explain this violence except that she’s a psycho killer. The babies as taken as captives and raised by the psychopath woman as her own. They are raised in isolation, their natural sense of childlike wonder, curiosity and adventure are culled by xenophobic fear mongering, conspiracy theories and hate mongering about “others” living on the island, they are told they cannot, and should not ever leave the island because apparently, they have to protect all of humanity’s light. What’s the light? A glowing light emanates from the ground which the psycho captor thinks is the heart of the island. She thinks she must protect that light and if it is snuffed out, all of humanity’s light would snuff out too. From previous seasons we know there is a perfectly rational scientific explanation to the light. It is a strong electromagnetic field. But just because the ignorant woman doesn’t understand what it is she cooks up irrational theories, manipulates the children, keep them tied to the island away from their path to self-discovery, because she’s afraid to be lonely.
Out of the two kids MiB is intelligent, curious, rebellious, adventurous – truly special in every sense of the way. He questions the knowledge the mother/captor passes down (about staying in the island forever to protect the light), he cannot fit in and wants to leave and find out what’s across the Island. Without doing any harm to anybody, with patience and hard work he quietly finds a scientific way of leaving the island. He asks his brother to come along too. But the mother/captor won’t let him leave. She smashes his head on the stone (same way she killed their mother), destroys his scientific progress, and carries out a genocide killing everyone in the village of the “others” where he had been living and working. Everyone including women and children. A genocide in the name of protecting a piece of land, that’s every Hitler ever.
Now that the rebel child is out of control the mediocre child is propped up, gaslighted, told he is “special”. The mediocre one has for the first time got mother’s attention. He knows it’s not their mother, rather the one who killed the real mother but is too weak to stand up against an overbearing controlling person whose approval and affection he sought all these years and felt jealous that she loved his brother more. He’d obey the mother/captor blindly because he’s too weak to follow the path of self-discovery, too cowardly to seek truth. He does not flinch at the violence the mother/captor caused, does not ask one question about the genocide, killing is so easy to these so called good people who are only trying to protect. The Man in Black kills the mother/captor in rage as she destroyed his happiness, and Jacob takes revenge by killing MIB who turned into a smoke monster on dying.
So who is evil? There was no evil or darkness in Man in Black from birth. Both the children were born equal from same mother. He didn’t start the killing spree, the mother/captor did, followed by Jacob. What was his great fault really? All he wanted to do was leave the island, see the world, he had dreams of his own, he wanted more from life than living on the island and protect some false or unverified notions of protecting humanity’s light, he refused to blindly obey these received knowledge and wanted to find out himself what was across the sea, he was change, he was progress, he was the man of science. His dreams were violently repressed in name of love and protection. “Why don’t you let me leave mother?” Asks MiB after stabbing her, “Because I love you. Thank you,” the long suffering woman says before dying because she knows she’s finally free of the self-deception (she’s protecting the island) and elaborate lies (there’s nothing outside the island) she’s been telling two children whose mother she had killed.
Amidst all this, the Island never actually says it needs protection, how can it, for it is a non-living thing. Nobody knows what would have happened if both Jacob and MiB left the island. Nothing, for all we know. It is most likely a natural phenomenon which would carry on without any trouble irrespective what these humans do. Science says, find out what happens, explore, experiment, but men of faith will rather kill men of science before they could do the experiment or seek the truth. That’s every war ever fought over imagined nations, a piece of land, an identity, a faith. That’s every woman of science labelled a witch and burnt at the stake, every man beheaded for blasphemy.
The mother/captor here represents the religious orders. Jacob is the blind worshiper and Man in Black is the atheist rebel. They all can be equally violent and murderous. But who started this violence? The mother/captor.
The mother/captor represents every fascist leader who does horrible things in name of protecting its people, Jacob represents every follower of a right-wing fascist leader who fills masses heads with false pride, lost glory, xenophobia, and other means of mind control, MiB represents the left-liberal / revolution.
The mother/captor represents every South Asian family where parents would kill their daughter in name of honour if they chose their own partner for marriage/romance. Where parents expect children to blindly obey family patriarch, carry on their trade and business and never have dreams of their own, never chose own path.
Who wins in this civilizational war of between authority (parents, religion, government) and rebels who question authority? Mostly the authority. The cycle of control continues. The mother/captor is replaced by Jacob who is bringing innocent people to the island only to prove some point to MiB. While MiB just wants to leave the island without hurting anyone Jacob is playing games with human lives. He is carrying out creepy surveillance. Manipulating space and time to bring people to the island put them in harm’s way, and they all end up dead because they can’t make the right choice and Jacob won’t step in to help. “Why should I step in,” tells Jacob to Ricardo. “Because if you won’t, he (Mib) will.” Jacob learnt a lesson from Ricardo and offered him a job. Clearly, Ricardo was a smarter man but he, Locke, Ben, are all blind followers of this fascist leader following his dictates without questions only because they’re lonely, insecure, unloved children with daddy issues, grown up men with no sense of purpose or meaning in their lives, and receive political favours (eternal youth, special audience) from the leader.
Jack is the man of science. Sawyer is the existential man. Sayid is the brute force, the military every leader needs to carry out his agenda stay in power. Kate is the rebel woman who doesn’t follow gender stereotypes, Claire is the mother-daughter-sister-object of gaze for men, Juliet is the mother nature.
I am on the side of MiB. I couldn’t accept Locke’s actions through season 1 to 4, but now that Jack turned into man of faith, I am with MiB/Locke. Sawyer, the existential man is no longer in the battle, because existentialism doesn’t believes in identity based civilizational battle, it only asks, why are we here, why are we living? Sayid the army has fallen.