No Winners When Audiences Change the Rules

Nearly 10 years ago, before a show like “Breaking Bad” was even a glint in AMC’s eye, a drama debuted called “LOST.” It was mysterious, puzzling, confusing, but most of all, entertaining.

I was along for the ride every step of the way for six wonderful seasons. I talked about it at length with my fellow fans. Read every piece of online content I could find. It was an awesome time to be a fan of a show so layered, so complex, and so very doomed as it turned out.

At various points throughout “LOST,” there was often talk about “rules.” Rules about the island, time travel, and about what could be done and by whom. But the rule that stood out the most came courtesy of Ben Linus. Shortly after his daughter had been killed, Ben proclaimed that his nemesis, Charles Widmore, had “changed the rules.”

Maybe that was just an innocent line, but alas, it had some truth to it as well, because somewhere along the way since then, the viewing audience changed the rules, too.

There used to be a time when TV and movies were taken with a grain of salt. When it was acknowledged that not everything you see is supposed to be real. Not every question will be answered, nor will every plot point be 100% plausible. There was a mutual understanding of sorts. Hollywood would provide the entertainment, and the audience would allow itself to be entertained.

In the words of George Costanza, “We had a deal!!”

I’m not quite sure what caused such a drastic turn of events, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was the Internet. Comments sections, message boards, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, and whatever the hell else people use to bitch are all more present than ever. The Internet may be great for a lot of things, but when it comes to entertainment, it’s downright toxic.

Perhaps no one knows that better than “LOST” showrunners, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. In the ensuing years since “LOST” came to an end, I’ve read countless interviews with the duo, heard them on podcasts, followed them on Twitter, and that has only enhanced my appreciation for the show.

Evidently, that’s not the case for most people, though. In fact, many have enjoyed using the Internet to wage war on all involved with “LOST.” “How dare they not answer my questions?!” “What about the numbers?!” “Since when do islands move?!” “I can’t believe they were dead the whole time!”

Don’t even get me started on that last one. If you really still think none of the show ever really happened, take two minutes out of your day to watch the clip below. It could not be clearer that “being dead the whole time” was most certainly NOT the case for the beloved characters.

I’ve had a post like this in my head for quite some time, but it wasn’t until I read Lindelof’s (hopefully not) final commentary regarding “LOST” that it finally felt like the right time to speak up.

It’s absolutely ridiculous that people used the “Breaking Bad” finale to bash “LOST.” It’s even worse that they took advantage of direct pipelines to Lindelof and Co. to do it. I hope it’s not the last time we hear from him regarding the show. Why should the arrogant, entitled people of the Internet possess so much power? The rules may have changed a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean we all have to play along.

I sincerely hope that writers, directors, showrunners, and whoever else continue to tell the stories they want to tell, free of any catering to an audience that thinks a story is only worthwhile if every question is answered and every plot point plucked from reality.

If “Field of Dreams” came out today, I wonder what kind of a shelf life it would have. Would people reject it because it’s never revealed what exactly happens when the players enter the cornfield? Or what about “Back to the Future?” Would it be ignored because time travel isn’t really possible and even if it was, why would it take 88 miles per hour and a flux capacitor to accomplish it?

The final eight episodes of “Breaking Bad” produced a sense of unity I’d never really seen on the Internet. It was actually difficult to find people unhappy with the show. That was not the case during the final season of “LOST.” And yet, both featured similar elements of implausibility, plot holes, filler episodes, and the like. But because “Breaking Bad” seemingly tied up every last loose end it was deemed a success, while “LOST,” with a few inconsequential lingering questions, must be labeled a failure?

Why were the two shows even compared to begin with? Because of Twitter? Because the rules changed? Because an opinion isn’t real unless you put it online? It’s probably all of the above, so here’s to hoping that one day a new set of rules is established. I’ll even get it started. No. 1: “Thou Shalt Not Get Mad That a TV Show or Movie is Fiction.”

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