Feb 28, 2013

Lost: Charlie's Three Boyfriends

When ABC’s Lost premiered on September 22, 2004, I calculated that of the 48 survivors of an airplane crash facing paranormal peril on a desert island, five must be gay. During an early episode, the main characters were strategizing about something or other when a pair of hunky extras, obviously lovers, ran joyfully with fishing poles toward the beach.  “We will see their home life soon,” I thought. But they never appeared again.

Early on, fans speculated that young surgeon Jack (Matthew Fox), the unofficial leader of the castaways, would be gay, but I knew that leaders on tv are never gay.  To be gay is to be an eternal sidekick.

I was rooting for Charlie (Dominic Monaghan of The Lord of the Rings), a has-been rock star and recovering heroin addict.  During flashbacks to their lives before the plane crash, each of the fourteen main characters revealed a heterosexual romance, with a single exception: Charlie’s flashbacks were always about his brother.

Nor did Charlie exhibit the slightest romantic interest in the female castaways – he bonded with the pregnant Claire (Emilie de Ravin), but they never kissed or cuddled.  Instead, he seemed thoroughly smitten with Locke (Terry O’Quinn), a bald, wiry wilderness expert who would not look out of place in a leather bar on Folsom Street.

I waited patiently for someone to mention Charlie’s gayness through all of the twenty-two episodes of the first season.  Nothing.

Early in the second season, executive producer Carlton Cuse responded to an inquiry on the internet fansite, The Fuselage: “When will a gay character appear?”  He answered: “To spill about whether a character currently on the island is gay would be at cross-purposes to our mission of keeping the characters' back stories shrouded in mystery.”   I thought he was merely expressing the myth that gay people must always live in shadows.  Instead, he was preparing for a monumental “correction.”

In November 2005, a newly introduced castaway, haunted cop Anna Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez), asks amiable con artist Sawyer (Josh Holloway) the standard heterosexual ice-breaker, “Are you married?”  He is not.  She then asks, “Are you gay?”  He responds, “Very funny!”

 It struck me as a legitimate question, to be answered “Yes” or “No.”  Why, I wondered, did Sawyer think she was joking?  Why did he find it ridiculous?  Because in the world of Lost, gay people are mythical creatures, denizens of fairy tales.  Sawyer, gay? Anna Lucia might as well have asked, “Are you a hobbit?”

Still hoping that Charlie would redeem Lost, I kept watching.  Another new castaway arrived, Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje of Oz), a reformed drug runner with a bodybuilder’s physique.  His flashback was also about his brother rather than a heterosexual romance.  What could be a more perfect pair, I thought, than a reformed drug runner and a recovering drug addict?

And sure enough, Charlie instantly dumped Locke to chase Eko around the island.  The two were even shown sharing the same sleeping-mat.  One often sees same-sex desire or romance on television, but same-sex practices, never!  Charlie and Eko were living together, sleeping together, probably having sex – what more evidence was necessary?  It wasn’t even a subtext – they were a gay couple.

Then came the season finale, on May 24, 2006.  Eko abandons Charlie to pursue an odd spirit-quest on the other side of the island.  After whining “You’re breaking up with me?” and being despondent for awhile, Charlie returns to buddy Claire  – except now they share a brief, chaste kiss.

I could hear Carlton Cuse chuckling, “Fooled you!  Charlie is straight after all!  Gay people and hobbits do not exist!”

I tuned in occasionally during the later seasons.  Charlie finds a new boyfriend, muscular Aussie Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick), and finally sacrifices his life for him, an ultimate romantic gesture; but afterwards everyone consoles platonic pal Claire on “her” loss and ignores Desmond, believing same-sex bonds to be meaningless.

Eventually one of the hundred or so named characters on the island is“outed”: Tom Friendly (M. C. Gainey).  But, like Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books, there are layers of erasure:

Tom is one of the evil Others
He's outed long after his death, and without Saying the Word.

Lost tells us that the real people, the people we deal with in everyday life, are always straight or pretending to be.

See also: Twin Peaks

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