“LOST” RETROSPECT: (1.14) “Special”
Although I do not regard “Special” as one of the series’ best episodes, let alone one of the best about Michael, watching it reminded me of the anger had I felt the show’s fans and their expectations and assumptions about him. One of the criticisms directed at Michael was his inability to be the perfect parent. Some critic actually claimed that Michael did not know how to be a parent. It occurred to me that it was a stupid comment to make. Worse, this comment was indicative of the fans’ unrealistic expectations of Michael’s character.
Of course Michael had no idea on how to be a parent. He was new at it, thanks to his ex-girlfriend, Susan Lloyd. Not only did she break up with Michael following Walt’s birth. She also decided that Michael would not play a role in Walt’s life as his father. Even before her death, she had expected her husband and Walt’s stepfather, Brian Porter, to be the one to raise him. One of the more frustrating aspects of the “LOST” fandom toward Michael is that many had expected him to be this one-dimensional character. He either had to be another castaway, loyal to the series’ leading characters; the perfect parent, despite having very little experience prior to being stranded on the island; or turn to the “Great White Hunter” aka John Locke for lessons on parenthood.
And what the fuck was up with John Locke? Teaching Walt how to use a machete … without Michael’s permission? What the hell was he thinking, allowing a child to handle a dangerous weapon? And then there was that piece of advice he gave Michael – to treat Walt more like an adult than a child. What the fuck? Walt was ten years old, not fucking twenty-four years old. One, parents tend regard their off-springs as children even after they become adults. To a certain extent. And two, Walt was too young and too immature to be treated like an adult at the time.
What I found disturbing about this situation regarding the machete lesson is that when Michael had called Locke out for teaching Walt how to use a machete, the latter turned it on Michael and blamed him for not being the perfect father. This was bullshit. Teaching a ten year-old boy how to handle a machete without the permission of the latter’s father? Treating said ten year-old child like an adult? If Michael was expected to become a better parent because he had followed Locke’s advice, then “Special” gave the wrong kind of lesson in parenthood. And if I must be brutally honest, so did screenwriter David Fury. In the end, Walt’s encounter with a polar bear pretty much justified Locke’s decision to teach him to use a machete. It seemed as if Fury and the series’ show runners – Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof – believed Locke knew more about raising a child than Michael.
John Locke was not Dr. Spock. He was a man who had the wrong idea on what it really took to become a parent, based on his own damaged relationships with his parents. As for Michael, he was never a perfect parent. But he was never terrible. And despite his flaws, a great deal of his actions were dictated by his desire to protect Walt from the island’s dangers. His lack of perfection was not surprising since a “perfect parent” does not exist. Never really existed in the first place.
Human beings are not perfect. If humans are not perfect, why expect someone – whether in real life or in fiction – to be the perfect parent? Or perhaps many “LOST” fans had harbored such high demands from Michael because he was a black man and not the lead of a television show. Perhaps he was not expected to be as ambiguous and complicated as he proved to be.