Monday, April 05, 2010

I Am Woman; Hear Me Roar

Exactly when did Darlton become misogynists?

I just finished listening to my two favorite Ryan's (Mo and McGee) do their weekly Lost podcast, and I was worried that Mo Ryan was going to throw a brick through her Hulu.  Somehow, because Sun ran into a tree in the last episode (and lost her English as a result), Mo interpreted that as being sexist---which fit right into how sexist she has felt the show has been all this season.  And while I can certainly understand being wary of the way the female characters have receded into the background (to an extent) this year, I could not help but feel Mo was knee-jerking her way into letting anything that happened to any female character become representative of rampant misogyny that I just don't see as being there.

Because I am here to tell you, boy and girls, that Sun Kwon losing her English was far from dis-empowering.  After two years out of the forefront (and mostly reduced to tag along status), getting bopped on the head and suffering an aphasia that stripped away her second language was the most empowering thing that has happened to Sun since she gathered the courage to strip down to a bikini and give Jin that "suck it" look back during Season One.

And let us not forget that those same misogynists, Lindelof and Cuse, who caused that tree to jump out and bite Sun last week are the same guys who made the wife, not the husband, the adulterer in their story, and then made us actually blame the husband for that fact (and rightly so).  The narrative has been in Sun's corner every step of the way throughout their story, so I would hope we could all stop for a minute before we start accusing the show of being sexist because a terrified woman ran into a tree.

Sometimes a tree is just a tree--- no matter how it ends up smacking someone in the face.

But let's break it down, as the primary complaints seemed to be that Sun could no longer communicate, and that she then became dis-empowered as a result.  So, let's take a closer look at those two misunderstandings: (right after the jump . . . )

1. Sun lost her ability to communicate.

Given that Lost has always been nothing if not great at using irony, it is downright shocking to me that more people are not seeing that losing English actually made it easier for Sun to communicate---because, despite her flawless English, Sun had previously spent all of this season as the most sidelined regular on the show.  Relegated to tag-along status in her group (I think purposely, but more on that in another post), Sun Kwon has spent all her time since returning to the Island following others, never being consulted, and asking anyone she met if they had seen Jin.  The only one of the Oceanic Six not to end up back in the 1970's, Sun hasn't just been a fifth wheel since they landed back on Craphole Island; she's been a fifty-fifth wheel.

Until she lost her English.

Unable to use the words she needed to get across her dissatisfaction with her group's abrupt decision (following Richard's return) to blow up the plane that is seemingly their only way off the Island, Sun let loose with a torrent of Korean and emotion in order to get her point across.  And get her point across she most assuredly did.  Even without picking up all the subtitles the first time around, I knew what the hell she was saying ("F-you, Richard; F-your plan; and F-the horse you both rode in on").

And so did everyone at the table, as Hurley so aptly made clear when he said, "Uhh---I don't think she wants to go."

For the first time all season, Sun let everyone around her know exactly what she was thinking, and she did so not in spite of her lack of English, but rather because of it.  Unable to use words that anyone would understand, Sun was freed to let her freak fly.  Sure, she was likely frustrated, but she was far from hysterical.  She was simply pissed; and she wanted to make certain that even people unfamiliar with Asian languages would be able to get that.

And based on Hurley's statement and the look on Richard's face, it sure appeared to me like she was able to communicate just fine. 

2.  Sun was dis-empowered by her lack of English.

Not much to say here other than---I didn't notice anyone going anywhere once Sun made up her mind to stay.  Like Rosa Parks before her, Sun wasn't moving.  And without her---neither was anyone else. Unable to simply order or harass her into doing it, the group had to actually convince her it was the best move. Eventually, Jack had to pull up a grain of sand next to her and try to get her assent.  So, by the end of the episode, Sun, relegated to the background all season long and now stripped of English, had nothing to lose and the upper hand on all.  They needed her more than she needed them, and she knew it.  

Now, eventually Sun agreed to Jack's request to head to Hydra Island, but it was certainly not because she relented and accepted the position she had earlier rejected.  No, she did it because Jack relented.  Jack promised her that he would not blow up the plane, as Richard wanted, but that he would instead do everything in his power to help her accomplish her mission, which was to find Jin and get on that plane and back to their daughter.

I may be wrong about a lot of things when it comes to Lost, but I am not wrong about this.  I may not have any true idea where the overall mystery is heading, but I can absolutely tell you that the subtext of Sun's journey over the course the show's last hour was exactly the opposite of how it struck the two Ryan's.  It was very much a journey of empowerment.  That she had to run into a tree and lose her English in order for it to happen may not have been your cup of tea, but that don't mean it ain't so.

But you have to look past the wrapping sometimes on Lost, and maybe even thoughtful critics paid to do so are just no longer able to look at this show objectively any longer (at least from time to time, or from episode to episode).  Mo Ryan saw a woman losing something (her ability to speak a language), and so that was all she could see.  Darlton took something away from Sun, so therefore they must be dis-empowering her.

Truth is, I felt the same way during Ab Aetrerno, which I thought was a total waste of an hour.  I didn't like it, so it took me a long time to see anything of worth in it.  I had my own ideas about what I wanted out of Richard's back story, and I got petulant when I didn't get it.  Eventually, I got past that and saw many things of  value, and I suspect eventually the two Ryan's will do the same with The Package.

But you never know.   Hence this post---because I thought Sun and Jin's story was a great one, and I hated to see it ripped a new one over what I perceived to be a colossal misunderstanding.

I thought Sun's regrowth back into the dynamic and powerful woman she had become following the crash of 815, which took place practically within her old garden and without her new language, was as beautiful, poetic, and ultimately moving as anything Lost has ever done.

I just couldn't let it (or her) get trashed without comment.


  1. I'm missing the female characters, too, but I sure did not think Sun lost power with her English, either. Seemed to me that once Sun made up her mind to make up her mind, no one could do anything without her. She is a candidate, after all, and so it's all for one and one for all. Without her, I don't think Richard thinks they can fight Flocke.

    People really think that was sexist?

  2. She was able to WRITE in English and nobody mentions that!

  3. Aphasia is a catch-all term to cover the multitude of sometimes unexplainable things our brain is capable of taking away from us, Anon.

    It wasn't that Sun couldn't recognize English; it was that she could not speak it. She could understand it, and she could write it, but both of those abilities are contained within a very different part of the brain from the speech center. Speech is very particular thing when it comes to the brain. So losing a speaking ability and not a comprehension ability isn't that crazy.

    Google Oliver Sacks for examples, Anon. People goof on others for citing Dr. Sacks, but his work is easy to understand. I studied him in a class for only one semester, and I found the things I learned to be amazing.