TV show Lost analysis on how it engaged its audience

For my analysis I am going to look at ABC’s show Lost and attempt to pull it apart and look into the deeper meanings and audience reactions to the show. To help me with this I may use parts of Gillian Rose’s methodological model but change things so I can understand itI would like to focus mainly on the Image or object it’s self. I may also look at the Mese en scene to try and do  some formal analysis on the peace and I would like to focus on intertextual references within the piece.

Lost is a TV show directed by JJ Abrahams which has had 5 seasons so far and a 6th coming. At first the show started of as a classic stranded island drama where a plane had crashed on a remote island and a few people had survived.  The story followed a pattern of people hoping to get rescued soon; however there was always a feel to the show that made it seem different to something like the movie cast away. I think this as Cast away follows a standard liner native which consists of a start middle and end. Lost seems to have a start middle and end but has aspects to it which make it more Non liner. For example the uses of flashbacks are used to create a back story for each character. Plus some flashbacks have links to other peoples flash backs. This then creates a sub story within Lost which the audience can follow as well as the main story. On they say that;

“In the flashbacks of Lost, we see that many individuals had violent or intense backgrounds that they were bringing to the ordeal. The sum total of their negative energies of the recent past — which were very considerable — contributed directly to the crash of the plane.” (2009)

This brought a question of was it destiny for them to be on the island. Were those people somehow chosen and if so is this why these people survived the crash.

Lost has always seemed to have bizarre things going on which has kept the audience watching the show just to find out what is going on. There have been many strange situations within Lost which had lead to conspiracies about the show Ivan D. Askwith notes that;

“Within the first six episodes, over a dozen significant narrative mysteries are introduced, ranging from an unseen monster that appears to be stalking the island to theCostofliving.jpg discovery of a radio transmission that has been sending an uninterrupted distress signal from the island for sixteen years” (Askwith, 2007, p. 117)

These things then sparked the audience into making website forums where they could post there ideas and conspiracies with others and then discuss what they think is going on in the show.  This can be seen on such websites as as some has made an article where they are just talking about conspiracies such as

“Oceanic flight 815 crashed. Everyone died. Some went to heaven, others to hell. The rest wound up in a dangerous purgatory, where they must work toward paradise — or risk tumbling into the inferno.” (2009)


“Reality on the island isn’t exactly ”real.” To boot: All characters are aspects of one person (usually attributed to Jack or potentially supernatural characters like Hurley and Walt); or everyone is still on the plane trying to survive massive turbulence by escaping into a mass delusion.”

For some conspiracies some people have gone to the extent of making videos on Youtube. This is a video where made to try and prove that “John Locke” a character from lost was the mystical “Jacob”


locheThe picture on the left shows Jacob and the on the right has been edited so that the hair has been removed and light added and it looks like Locke.

Ivan D. Askwith points out that;

“While most television programs allow different opportunities for viewer mastery, complex ‘puzzle’ narratives such as Lost and Twin Peaks all but demand them, challenging viewers to engage in an active process of deciphering clues, ignoring red herrings, and putting together events in order to “solve” the show. In such cases, mastery becomes a conscious pleasure” (Askwith, 2007, p. 105)

I can vogue for this as I myself have made videos and trying to put things together and when you get stuff write it feels like you are one step ahead of the show. However once one thing has been solved the makers of Lost always adds 3 to 5 more situations which make you want to solve them as well.  Askwith also says that

“Lost functions on several possible levels at once: viewers can opt for a more traditional role, which allows them to “sit back and enjoy the story,” or a more active and engaged role, treating the program “as if it were an adventure-puzzle game like Dungeons & Dragons or Myst.” (Askwith, 2007, p.121)

The only downside to having such a complex narrative is if you miss an episode you may miss something vital to the whole series. This is why a few people stopped watching as they started getting confused. Askwith point out that

“Its successful because it is dense enough to ensure not only viewers tune in for the following episode, but take it upon themselves to seek out and watch the previous episodes. In fact, in the series’ later episodes, it is often literally impossible to understand the narrative action without first viewing (or reviewing) several earlier episodes” (Askwith, 2007, p.118)

However now that the show has been put on DVD viewers can go back and watch missed episodes or new audiences can watch it from the start in there own time. He also says that

“The show is layered with so many references, clues, and inside nods that it seems to be daring neophytes to buy the DVDs.” He as also noticed that because the show is accessible on DVD  its” enabling new viewers to catch up with the show’s narrative before the next season premiere, and enabling the show’s most dedicated viewers to review and scrutinize the previous season for clues and insights” (Askwith, 2007, p.124)

Not only has the show engaged its audience by making the audience conspire and unravel the show but it has also drawn in an audience that liked spot intertextual references within a show and Lost certainly has many of these. One of the most obvious of references is to the movie “The Wizard of Oz” in Lost there is a character called Henry Gale which in later series is found to be Ben Linus the leader of the others. A few websites have been made discussing these references but the best one is They say that

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the wizard ended up in Oz when his hot air balloon drifted and he became lost. When he landed in Oz he assumed the role of ruler” (2009)

which is interesting as  Ben was the leader of the others  in lost however he claimed to be a man called Henry Gale that crashed on the island in a balloon as seen bellow here;

balloonIt’s as if the Director is subggesting that this is the balloon that left Oz. Others compare Oz to the island saying

“Like the castaways on Lost, Dorothy is on a quest to find her way home again. Along the way she must travel through the magical Land of Oz. The castaways must also take their own, seemingly magical, journeys on the island before they can go home.” ( 2009)

Another point to make would be that the entire series is like a dream or alter reality which is exactly what the Oz was.

One episode I believe to have the Most references is called “The Man behind the Certain” not only is the name of the show a references to The Wizard but there are other references such as later in the series Young Ben sees His dead mother in the woods as seen here:

The makers of Lost have made her look similar to Dorothy as she is wearing a blue dress.  This may just be a coincidence but the fact that its making me think about it dorothylady in bluemeans it will have the same effect to many other people who watch Lost. Some people may have different options to certain things which again leads to forums being made and more people becoming engaged.

To conclude I would like to say why I think the show has become so unique and managed to engage so many people. Besides the fact that they have included such an in depth storyline with loads of twists and turns they have also now stepped out of the show and into the real world. Askwith makes a point that says;

“Lost is also intended to operate on multiple levels, allowing for different types of audience engagement with the show’s narrative” (Askwith, 2007, p.119)

The way I think they have achieved this most is by literarily interacting with the audience. At first they started off my making a sight called the Lost experience which allowed viewers to get more involved with the show in solving puzzles or information to uncover certain things within the show. Now to be fair other shows have had similar things but what Lost did next took things to a whole different plain. They decided to break the rules of film by bringing the show into the real world. They started this at an event called Comic con in America where they had cast from the show playing as the characters and videos showing trying to get the audience to join the Dharma initiative a fictional company from lost. This then created a sate of surrealism and some people got so engaged they thought it was real. Loads of people started joining a website called “” which allowed them to apply to be in the Dharma. This was the biggest thing that lead to making lost one of the most engaging shows ever made.

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