I just started watching “Lost”, for the first time, pilot, season one, and am spelunking around the web to account for its claim to be the best television series of all time. One New York Times television critic sort of said so, in kind of another context, and his pop-out quote will be attached for eternity to one of television’s most self-referential spectacles. Some suit conceived it, he claimed, listening to Autistico on the beach in Hawaii. Saw it as a mashup of Lord of the Flies, “Survivor”, “Cast Away” and “Gilligan’s Island”. I thought so too, when that idiot Mary Ann chick still had lip gloss six days after the holocaust. Ditto the Sayid/Spock/Abed Nadir/Zabu generic south Asian geek trope.

And, ditto, the Ross and Rachel sexual tension. And, ditto, the enemies in the jungle, the faux-intellectual portents and the sci-fi tropes as lame as Luke Skywalker’s jejune pinball machine intergalactic jet battle. I got nervous when the critter snatched the pilot out of the cock pit and drenched the windshield with blood. That was hott. I got nervous the first two times they showed the plane crash in somebody’s flashback. All those bodies being sucked out the back of the fuselage in mid air! That was hott. Not quite as good as the eye-gouging scene in King Lear, which is the hottest, but I guess prime-time television has its standards. Out, vile jelly! has got to be the best eye-gouging line, if not the best line, of all time. No committee of suits and their script girls will ever top it.

By the second half of ep two of “Lost”, however, I was done with being manipulated by the same lip gloss formula that was old when Spielberg became Spielberg by producing “Jaws” with malfunctioning neoprene shark puppets. Since I joined the International Association of Genocide Scholars in 1994, somebody made me go see “Schindler’s List”. It had a wet t shirt scene in it.

I’m always aware, since Fitzgerald went to Hollywood tanked and let it destroy him, of the Hollywood ethos that writers are basically script girls. The tale of the creation of “Lost” is especially fraught for the script girl. The suit pitched his Flies/Survivor/Gilligan idea to a writer who came up with something they didn’t like. Another writer Big Footed his way into the key, “created by”, Chuck Lorre billionaire role in developing the five-year story line — the “mythology” for five years was developed almost before shooting began, an interesting insight into the meta-narrative process as influenced, perhaps, by Netflix. Then, most annoyingly, actors auditioning for the part of Sawyer were written into the storyline because the suits liked them. They liked the guy who plays Jack and changed it so he survived ep one. They liked the Korean chick who auditioned for Kate and wrote a Korean chick part for her. And so on.

The idea that actors are in charge of scripts has always annoyed me. One of the most epic battles on this front was between Streisand and Redford in “The Way We Were”, according to the best Hollywood/Broadway memoir of all time, Arthur Laurents’. (He wrote the book for “West Side Story”, lived to be 90, and slept with all the men in Hollywood.) It can be summed up in the great line of Klaus Kinski, when a snag in the story line had developed, who asserted that all the scriptural problems could easily be solved with one simple expedient. Keep the camera on me. The process by which Redford relentlessly screwed Streisand out of a role, a character, a plot, Laurents had written that was perfect for her should be required reading for every script girl. Altering my work of art to accommodate Redford’s feral and derriere garde aesthetic — movies (and religions) are about solitary men who are heroes, the idea which was the number one casualty of the concentration camps — strikes me as the epitome of bad taste, and slavery too.

To think a work of art should have its plot and characters tailored to actors’ physical styles annoyed me until I started thinking how many romans a clef there are in literature. And painting wouldn’t exist if Mona Lisa had not. Still I think the fine arts — let me think about how Shakespeare or Dickens universalized the portraits of real people they portrayed — or indeed, the roles Shakespeare wrote, as a working theatrical script girl, explicitly for Richard Burbage — and my knickers begin to untwist.

I suppose it’s worth the money to do Redford-dictated rewrites and watch him intimidate Streisand. If you’re sleeping with all the men in Hollywood. Arthur, Arthur, Arthur. I’m not sure Farley Granger was worth it.

Copyright (c) by Jeannette Smyth, all rights reserved.

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