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Lost: The Strong, Complex Women of The Island

Juliet's face as she tried to blow up the bomb

Lost was a groundbreaking show for many reasons, but one that is often overlooked is the depth and diversity of the women on the show. While I have been critical of Kate, for being a badly written and infuriating character, that does not mean that I have no love for the women of Lost. Every female character, other than the dreaded Kate, is complex, beautifully written and compelling as all hell.


Let’s start with the most underappreciated character on the show, female or male: Ana Lucia played by the wonderful, strong and genuinely beautiful Michelle Rodriguez. Almost as beautiful in fact as Matthew Fox, whom she strikes up a proto-romance with in an airport bar. Ana Lucia is everything that Kate was supposed to be: an individual wrestling with their past, a strong powerful woman and someone who beguiles with her beauty. Unlike Kate, Ana Lucia can back it up. Her backstory is terribly sad, and her actions are consistent with the hell she went through, Kate, however, is petulant rather than tough, a victimizer rather than a victim, selfish rather than one to rely upon in a pinch.

Ana Lucia is someone whom I could watch forever, such is her charisma and power on the screen. I would have loved for her to be cast in the central female role, but an irritating and short sighted aggression towards her character, along with an unfortunate drink driving snafu doomed her character before her potential was realized. This is a great shame, as she was set to become one of the best characters in Lost. I would have loved to have seen her come to terms with her past and to move on with the rest of the souls at the end of the show. Ana Lucia is so compelling because she is not a bullshitter. When her unborn child was killed by an assassin’s bullet, she took it upon herself to seek justice outside of the confines of the law. The scene where she confronts her attacker and puts him down is one of the most powerful in the run of the show.

ana lucia
Ana Lucia

Let us not be too down though about Ana Lucia as there is a ridiculous wealth of riches in the diverse cast of women of Lost. One of the most polarizing women was undoubtedly Juliet, who irked some in a similar way that Kate irritates me immensely. When her backstory was revealed however, I felt all of these small irritations to be just that: insignificant. Her status as an Other made for some truly spellbinding television, and her early scenes with Jack in Season 3 are some of my all time favourites. My mother Mary had some issues with Juliet, namely that she takes a married man as her own partner. I feel though that this was just a part of the struggle to become a better human being and her love for Sawyer made for some of the most romantic and heart breaking stories of the show. She grew, unlike Kate, and found her peace with the world.

Then you have Danielle Rousseau, who is one of the earliest characters who starts to unravel the dense mystery of Lost. I loved Rousseau, played by Mira Furlan, for the devastating sadness of her story, but mostly for how the mythology of the show runs through her veins. She is the first one to dub the Black Smoke a security system, and I remember when we watched the first season all of those years ago, spending hours theorizing on what repercussions that held for our characters. I was a little bit disappointed that we never got a Rousseau episode, apart from the flashback to her team’s landing on The Island, where she was unfortunately not played by Furlan but a younger actress, Melissa Farman. This was a missed opportunity, but I did like to see her story explored in more depth. A great episode, just a shame that Furlan wasn’t in the driving seat.

Claire is one of my favourite characters on Lost, and for good reason. Her connection to Jack is one of the most surprising and beautiful things on the show. She is sweet, funny and her descent into madness late in the game was upsetting but compelling. I loved that she found her peace and those scenes where she re-discovers Charlie in the next world is maybe my favourite part of the final season apart from Christian’s helping Jack through his transition. The chemistry between Emilie de Raven and Dominic Monaghan is at the top of the scale, and it was, along with Sawyer and Juliet and Sun and Jin, the most romantic thing on the show, so often confused with the idea that anybody really cared about whom Kate would end up with. Love triangles of that sort can get to walking already! Claire is also integral to how we learn about The Black Smoke, and the sickness that was spoken of early and followed up slowly as the show navigated its way to its spellbinding conclusion.

Sun and Jin! Sun’s gradual, growing contempt for her husband, and their eventual reconciliation and finding their love again is staggering in how it pushes the emotion buttons. Their death was one of the hardest thing to come to terms with, so hard did it hit. The scene at the end of …In Translation where she throws away her fear and embraces her newly found freedom will go down as one of the great moments in the show. The song that plays here, Delicate by Damien Rice, makes it all the more powerful. It is a mistake to assume that all Lost has to offer in its women is the rough and tough sort who can be just as aggressive as the men. With Sun, Damon Lindelof, JJ Abrams and Carlton Cuse and the team of excellent writers, prove that Lost has more subtlety and complexity to its female characters. Strength comes in different forms than physicality. Sun has an inner strength that may be the greatest of any character on the show.

Rose, and her faith in being re-united with her husband Bernard, is a beautiful aspect to Lost. She is certainly a side character, but one who is written and executed brilliantly. Her belief in The Island rivals John Locke, and her and Bernard’s acceptance that The Island is the best place to be brings about some great scenes, namely when The Black Smoke threatens to kill both Rose and Bernard unless Desmond agrees to go with him. I would watch a whole series of Rose and Bernard’s adventures on The Island, along with that big old doggo softie Vincent!

Shannon’s romance with Sayid is another lovely thing. As I have previously written about Sayid, it is incredible that in 2004/2005, at the height of Muslim Panic, we get a show that not only makes you care and relate to an Iraqi man, Ex-Republican Guard, but makes you root for he and Shannon to get together. An All American Girl with an Iraqi Muslim? That is some groundbreaking and wonderfully subversive storytelling. Her death at the hands of Ana Lucia, ties together two of the best women in the show and in wrestling parlance, gets Ana Lucia over by selling the death of Shannon as a BIG DEAL.

Let me close by expressing why these women mean so much to me, especially Ana Lucia. I grew up in a society where it was considered to be unmanly to care too much about how women are represented. Today, I am happy to say that things have changed, and it is no longer considered some kind of admission of homosexuality that you want to see strong, complex women in art. Strong meaning well written and acted, not simply a measure of physical strength. As Dustin Hoffman says in Tootsie: “Oh I know what y’all really want is some gross, caricature of a woman to prove some idiotic point that power makes a woman masculine, or masculine women are ugly. Well shame on you for letting a man do that, or any man that does that. That means you, dear. Miss Marshall. Shame on you, you macho shit head.” Lost has no caricatures of this kind. Women can be powerful, while still being complex emotionally and be beautiful while being independent and having more to offer than their looks. Let’s hear some of your favourite women of Lost below!

Written by Paul Casey

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  1. With respect to Kate, I couldn’t disagree with you more. I don’t understand the whole premise that Kate has to be degraded in order to prop up the rest of the female characters – if anything, I feel you undermine the entire point of this article. You do nothing to further your cause by maligning Kate throughout. What I love about the women in LOST is that so many of them represent different facets of the feminine. LOST forward-looking in that it included a wide range of women of different ages, backgrounds, temperaments, etc. From what I can tell, the problems you have with Kate seem to be your own personal issues and projections. Personally, I don’t understand how you can write an article about LOST’s strong and complex women without acknowledging Kate’s strengths and positive characteristics. When Kate was a child and later into her young adulthood, she witnessed her mother repeatedly abused by her stepfather (who turned out to be her biological father), there is even implication that Kate may have been sexually abused by Wayne – how is that backstory not terribly sad? Kate is very complex because she is not fully a victim nor is she a full “victimizer” either. Kate grew immensely throughout the show and her determination to reunite Claire with Aaron is a testament to that. In addition, Kate was the one to back up Jack and be the person he could most to trust and rely on. Anyway, if it wasn’t for the petty digs at Kate this may have been a better read. Personally, you just sound bitter that your favorite character (Ana Lucia) was written off. FWIW, she wasn’t even written off because of the DWI, but her lack of connection with the audience didn’t help her either – she was contracted for one season. Anyway, I am one of the few people who actually like Ana Lucia and never understood the vitriol against her- perhaps that is why I find your vitriol towards Kate quite ironic. Attacking and belittling one strong female character in order to make an argument for the other is disappointing.

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