What various implications does the seemingly simple term ‘hero’ connote? Is the imagery of this term lucid, resembling a portrait of Superman, as others would believe? Or is it your favourite idol, or possibly your own mother? To my essential understanding, any human being is a potential hero. What distinguishes this human as a hero is his/her general personality and deeds; a heroic deed is any deed that entails strong sacrifice, nobility and bravery. It is when you act outside and beyond your normal boundaries that you act in a heroic way.
The television series ‘Lost’ captures the very essence of how an average looking man can successfully transform into a convincing heroic figure. The series was developed by the institution ‘ABC’ (American Broadcasting Company). The story revolves around people with different cultural backgrounds and personalities stranded on an island and struggling to escape as a result of the unfortunate aftermath of a plane crash, hence the program name. Accurately unfolding the genre, I would describe it as “suspense”, placed in a television series for viewers to continuously watch.
The age group this series would appeal to would consist of audience at ages 13-50. In the following essay, I will include extensive use in examination of various media techniques, and I will evaluate aspects of media used including lighting, sound and the mise-en-scene factor. I will also assess the ways in which the camera plays a major role in all scenes. These aspects of media indirectly act influentially towards how the audience understands the characters and how they are portrayed. The opening sequence of ‘Lost’ takes place in what would appear to be the middle of an unknown jungle.
The only character we see is a man in a business suit, lying on the jungle floor. Upon first impressions he seems well dressed, although slightly disheveled as he has sustained minor facial wounds. This suggests he is an everyday ‘normal’ character; a questionable professional, in any field, who has found himself in an anomalous situation, therefore leaving unanswered questions for the audience to pore on. Prior to viewing his full body, a birds-eye-view close-up reveals his pupils beginning to dilate, which is emblematic of fear.
This evokes an air of mystery, and causes the audience to instantaneously shift their full attention towards the protagonist, and attempt to identify with him. Erratically, a mysterious dog emerges from nowhere, and abruptly runs away in fear, perhaps from something dangerous. This is off-setting because golden retrievers are not indigenous to a tropical island. As the protagonist rises to his feet, more techniques are employed to involve the audience and develop his identification. A bottle of vodka emerges from his pocket and the protagonist is now revealed to have been drinking.
However, he previously appeared to be a professional. The alternative interpretations created at this point indicate a bizarre state of the stability of his character, which contributes to the sense of mystery and unknowing of previous events which led to this circumstance. Diagetic sounds, including heavy breathing and groaning, are employed. Non-diagetic elements conduce the sense of mystery and unease. High pitched strings and harrowing piano notes shape the soundtrack, creating an eerie atmosphere as the protagonist contemplates his surroundings.
As he bursts into an intense run, low angle camera shots and low key lighting are maintained, as the camera does a tracking shot to keep up with him. Pending this conjuncture, an unanticipated white shoe on a branch is recognised. This, along with the preceding incidents, builds an aroma of confusion and leads the audience to believe that something is going fatally wrong. The protagonist finally comes to a halt when eccentric new surroundings ensnare the background. The character mysteriously finds himself in a calm, resort-like beach, where tranquility appears to have taken over the environment.
The scene is incredibly isolated and exotic. However, as the protagonist scans the area in an attempt to absorb his new surroundings, the idyllic mood is instantly shattered as we hear a secluded scream. Generic conventions of the opening scene are at a full optimum at this point. The camera pans around once again, this time unveiling a horrific plane crash, creating a complete diversity and juxtaposition in atmosphere and mise-en-scene; high key lighting is employed forthwith, and sudden camera cuts for transition are manipulated in order to reflect on how many people are injured.
Furthermore, non-diagetic sounds discontinue in order to signify the horror of the plane crash, and project the loud sounds coming from the engine. From this, the audience temporarily diverts their focus on the protagonist to the background scene, and may begin to ponder on the possibility that the island is a character, anti-hero and malevolent. At this moment, behaviour of the characters in the background is highly frantic, which conjures a small sense of panic and fanaticism to the audience – A woman is persistently screaming on the beach, a man is searching for his son and another man searching for his daughter.
Initially, the protagonist professedly seems to feel disorientated and perplexed from the situation he has found himself in, but this conjecture immediately alters. Once the new surroundings have finally been established, we see a distinct modification in the behaviour and attitude of the protagonist. Surrounded with madness and mayhem, he immediately sprints towards the disaster, as a tracking camera consistently follows his speedy movements. At first, the audience is unsure of what he is running towards; the tribal drum beats sustaining and enhancing agitation.
However, in springing into immediate action, we soon realise he is springing with purpose and into the heroic mould; as he tends to a victim screaming for help, not only does he assist him, but instructs others to assist him while doing so, therefore assuming an assertive role. Here the image of a sober businessman is shattered as he removes his tie and pulls the man out. A sound scope continues as he pulls the suffering man out. During his assistance, he shows absolutely no consternation to the fact that the man is missing his legs and his lower extremities are very gory while he wraps up the wounds with his own tie.
This forges the impression that our hero could be a trained professional in an area that deals with similar situations, or he is simply brave. Camera cuts and close ups are widely employed in this scene, with occasional ants-eye-views. As our formerly protagonist hero instructs some people to keep away from the engine, he encounters another victim to attend to – a pregnant woman having contractions. As he asks her a few prominent questions, tension is increased as an unfortunate victim gets sucked into the engine, resulting in a massive explosion.
Consistently, our hero displays no signs of distraction or unease from the loud background noises, which gives an impression that he is in a highly focused mood. He fortifies his current role as a hero by telling the pregnant woman she will be okay, and he successfully calms her down. A new background character, Hurley, is now introduced, possibly more proactive than victimised. He is instructed to take care of the pregnant woman while our hero rescues another victim. Hurley’s function operates as a minor comic relief for the audience, perhaps due to his witty hair style.
We now find out our hero’s name – Jack, from Hurley impulsively asking him. As we discover his name, we find out how common names have no influence on heroism.. As Jack is assisting an unconscious victim, he corrects the supposedly qualified lifeguard who is already helping her and gives him a primitive task to do instead, which shows how he is extremely confident in his actions. Subsequently, Jack demonstrates expert knowledge in CPR as he revives the unconscious victim and instructs her to take deep breaths.
This acts as a confirmation to the audience of the previous impression concerning his possible professionalism. To his horror, Jack successively notices that an unstable wing is about to collapse on Hurley and the pregnant woman. It is vital to recognise that this is an influential ingredient of being a hero; Jack’s eyes and ears only notice people who require urgent attention. The camera pans to show him running and shouting for them to escape harms way. They eventually do, and following an explosion, Jack examines their condition and ensures they are fine.
At this point, the engine stops and Jack’s adrenaline rush ceases as the opening credits finally roll. The narrative value of the story so far has been commendable. The vast range of camera shots and sounds in the course of the scene added an immense deal of intensity to the audience and efficiently captured the true horrors of the event, as well as the symbolic connotations of how Jack was a true hero. There are a number of subtle signs given to the audience that implicitly suggest that the main character is a heroic figure, ranging from his appearance, actions, and even his name.
Allusions to other fictional heroes are one means, and we see strong intertextual links with the myth of Superman. Like this ‘hero’, Jack demonstrates superior ability to the people around him, and shows diminutive regard for his own life, and instead exhibits the sole aim of aiding others around him. Many people consider Superman, Batman or other comic book characters to be heroes. However, true heroism lies in remarkable heroic deeds carried out by everyday people. As previously explained, it is when you act outside and beyond your normal boundaries that you act in a heroic way.
It becomes clear from the opening of ‘Lost’ that heroes can be made, if they are placed in a position that demands courage, leadership and bravery. Our hero, Jack, approached and demonstrated several qualities of a hero in ‘Lost’; whilst he was put through traumatic and sequential life-threatening events, he maintained his focus throughout and rightfully earned his title as a hero. These actions are quite believable, and any individual could have done what Jack did, if they had courage and confidence, as people can relate to the fact that he is human, and it encourages them to do better.
Often when people are placed in nervous and desperate situations, they get an adrenaline rush which contributes to the fact that Jack’s actions were very possible. Contrary to the genre of ‘Lost’ being suspense, a comic book edge is developed in the opening due to a few minor factors including the appearance of Hurley. Although ‘Lost’ is generally fictitious, the opening scene successfully makes the programme realistic, by placing an ordinary man in demanding situation, which renovates Jack’s extraordinary actions into something we can aspire to.