‘Lost’ (S2): Something BIG is brewing at ‘The Lost Experience’
The still red curtains suddenly began to sway, as if roused from sleep by a rude gust of breeze. From behind the crimson couch, a little man packed inside a tight-fitting velvet tux sprung up like a jack-in-a-box clown and landed on the plush pillow of my flabby abs, knocking the wind out of me. As I gasped for breath, the diminutive dude danced a jazzy jig to the lazy wail of a synthesized saxophone, then spun as if chasing his tail and collapsed on my chest like a puppy worn out from play. For a full minute, he did not move. Then, slowly, his head began to inch across my shoulder toward my ear, as if shyly working his way toward an affectionate nuzzle. I was terrified. And then he spoke — a croaky, sputtery whisper:
”Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications,” he said.
”Something’s about to happen. Secrets are about to be revealed. Secrets about Alvar Hanso; about The Dharma Initiative; about what that Dharma acronym means. Could that Department of Heuristics Blah Blah Blah be the answer we’ve been searching for? (Something tells me the answer is yes.) Wake up, Doc Jensen, Wake up…”
And then I woke up.
Namaste, my Lost-ies. Doc Jensen here: back in residence — and WIDE AWAKE.
Don’t ask me where I’ve been. Not AUTHORIZED to tell you.
I know we have outstanding business, and we will get to it in the coming days and weeks. But first, we have URGENT need to start an ongoing dialogue about The Lost Experience, the Internet-based alternate-reality game that’s allegedly chockablock with pertinent, even important back story and forward-spinning info for Lost fans.
See, something’s about to happen. Something important. Something that’s going to put me and you and all the Lost-ies we know back in the theory-spinning business much more quickly than I was expecting. We need to prepare ourselves. We need to be ready. Hence, we need to start the conversation — the TLE ARG — ASAP.
To begin, I want to discuss one of my favorite topics:
THE OFFICE THEORY OF LOST FANDOM
On the day after the season finale of Lost, I had the pleasure of interviewing ABC’s head of marketing, Mike Benson, for an article I was writing about TLE. (You can read it here.) During our conversation, Mr. Benson explained that Lost fans can be divided into three separate categories. To paraphrase, they are:
1. Heavy, super-savvy Internet users. Their fandom is expressed (daily) at places like thefuselage.com. According to Benson, the smallest segment of the Lost audience, albeit the most conspicuous. (Certainly the most interesting, in my book.)
2. Casual to heavy Internet users; tech savvy but maybe not tech intimate. They might visit places like thefuselage.com, but they only lurk. Confession: While I aspire to be like the fans at the tip of this tri-level pyramid, Doc Jensen more often makes his home in this nebulous middle stratum.
3. The largest segment of the audience. The tech aptitude is irrelevant, as their Lost fandom doesn’t extend to the Internet. Presumably, these fans aren’t as interested or invested in what we would call the ”mythology” of the show.
As I have considered Benson’s analysis over the past several weeks, I found myself thinking about NBC’s The Office. See, to my addled mind, the breakdown of Lost fandom can be translated like this:
1. THE DWIGHT TYPE. The loud and proud geek. At the annual office Halloween party, Dwights would probably come dressed as Dr. Marvin Candle. They know every word of the Swan and Pearl orientation films. Some have even made their own orientation films and posted them at youtube.com. If you think you’re a Dwight, but resent being likened to Dwight, think twice before flaming me with complaints: That would totally be a Dwight thing to do.
2. THE MICHAEL TYPE. The fuzzy middle tier of the pyramid. At the annual office Halloween party, Michaels would probably come dressed as Locke: Season One Island Shaman Hero…though they may adhere more often to the Season Two Hatch-Dazzled ”I Was Wrong” Fool. The Michael analogy might be a little harsh, but since I myself am a Michael, I do believe these Losties share one characteristic with the character: they awkwardly straddle two worlds. Their enthusiasms trend nerdy, but are wary of ”looking nerdy.” If you think you’re a Michael, but resent being likened to Michael, think twice about flaming me with complaints — that’s just the kind of nerdy thing Dwight would do.
3. THE JIM/PAM TYPE. The broad base of fandom. At the annual office Halloween party, Jims and Pams come dressed as…Jim or Pam from The Office. Jims and Pams have seen every episode of Lost, but many of them might TiVo it in favor of American Idol during the spring. They are all certainly the type of Lostie who would look at Andrew Smith’s ”Ultimate Lost Theory” and roll their eyes like a non-fan. The worst thing about a Jim or Pam is that they’re probably the type who still believes that Purgatory explains the show, despite the repeated memos from Damon and Carlton. But then, they may have no idea who Damon and Carlton are…
DOC JENSEN’S EXPERIENCE OF THE LOST EXPERIENCE
The Lost Experience launched on May 2 with thehansofoundation.org, a website belonging to the mysterious philanthropic scientific research organization that finances The Dharma Initiative. It was soon followed by several other Hanso-affiliated websites, including the Sprite-sponsored sublymonal.com, the Jeep-linked letyourcompassguideyou.com, the monster.com-associated HansoCareers.com, and Verizon-attached retrieversofthetruth.com. (As one Lost source tells me, you know you’re at an official TLE site if ”you have to dig through a bunch of advertising to get to the good stuff.”)
I don’t begrudge TLE for its corporate sponsorship, in the same way I don’t begrudge the TV show for its commercials; in the end, I understand that creating something as extravagantly interesting as Lost isn’t cheap. (As for the bellyaching about advertising as being antithetical to the Internet ethos, I am unmoved. Get over yourself and your CompuServe bulletin board nostalgia and join us in the land of spiritual compromise, my friend.) (God, that sounded so soul-deadening sad, didn’t it?) Anyway: I’ve learned to roll with it — and click through it.
Which isn’t to say that I ”played” The Lost Experience that much during its first month. I’m just not good at these kind of games. TLE‘s first act required participants to crack various codes to unlock content that was hidden at these Hanso sites by a mysterious character named Persephone, who seems to believe that Hanso is up to no good and is bent on exposing the organization’s corruption and secret agenda, albeit in the most maddeningly cryptic and elliptical fashion possible.
Truth is, Phase One was aimed at the Dwights of the world. And you know what? I think that’s really, really neat. Seriously. But it wasn’t for me. While I do have a Ph.D. in Lost-ology, the emphasis is in content — not UNLOCKING content. In retrospect, the 4-8-15-16-23-42 touchstone click code that was required to get into sublymonal.com in the beginning seems pretty obvious. But I have to admit, I never figured it out on my own — I got the answer from a fansite. TLE‘s tricky barriers of entry — amplified by my personal brand of cluelessness — discouraged me from giving the Experience much of my time during its early stage. When I did investigate, I basically cheated by going to fansites like thelostexperience.com and thelostexperienceclues.com to get codes and passwords. But a lot of times, I was content to make an every-other-day visit to The Lost Experience entry at wikipedia.org for its recap.
But then thehansofoundation.org crashed and Rachel Blake started hunting Alvar Hanso, and slowly, gradually, I got hooked on TLE. ”The Adventures of Rachel Blake” represent the second act of The Lost Experience, and it has been much more accessible than the first act of TLE. Put another way: Act Two is for the Dwights and Michaels in the Lost Fan Nation, although Michaels like me are still relying on Dwights for help in finding Rachel’s riveting video blogs. What I like best about TLE‘s Blake era is that it has introduced something like structure to TLE‘s amoeba of narrative. It centralizes the storyline at a single blog, which then directs you to locate content on other sites — like those aforementioned Hanso sites, or to the home of conspiracy sleuth DJ Dan, whose quick-and-painless podcasts are a little goofy, but important, nonetheless.
If you haven’t yet made the acquaintance of the intrepid Ms. Blake, my suggestion is this: head over to YouTube and check out their collection of her video blogs, then scroll through Blake’s blog for more info. Yes, I’m asking you to take shortcuts into TLE, which may not be the most honorable way to ”play” the Experience. But time is of the essence, as informed sources tell me that Act Two of TLE is about to come to a close, and that Act Three is about to launch. Says my secret Lost source: ”It’s going to be a doozy.”
Which brings me to my dream, which bubbled forth from my Twin Peaks-steeped subconscious the other night, and might have been inspired by something I read at The Dharma Initiative entry over at wikipedia.org. Friends, the tip about the DHARMA acronym — I think it’s true. And I think we’re going to get more info about it very, very soon.
Moreover, my Lost gut tells me that something is going to happen. Something in THE REAL WORLD. My advice: visit ew.com over the next couple weeks, as we are going to be tracking developments as they happen. I think all Lost fans — the Dwights, the Michaels and the Jim/Pams — are going to want to be following this.
There’s a lot we haven’t yet discussed — like whether or not Rachel Blake is really Persephone, whether or not Rachel Blake is still alive, and perhaps most importantly, whether or not Rachel Blake is ACTUALLY WHO SHE CLAIMS TO BE. Of course, I have theories. And I have some COMPLAINTS, too, including quibbles about the illusion of its fiction/reality blur and some further thoughts on the validity of ABC’s breakdown of Lost fans and the Big Truth that they’re missing…
But first, I think we should all get on the same page. Let me know: have you been following The Lost Experience? What do you make of it? What’s been cool about it — and what’s been confusing? And are you a Dwight, a Michael or a Jim/Pam? I want to hear your feedback in the message boards below. Then, in the days to come, I’m going to do my best to offer answers and clarifications. And then, as new developments occur, we’re going to dive into theories.
The meaty snack I’ve been hoping that TLE would be during the Lost hiatus is about to be served. Join me in scarfing it down, won’t you?