Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Flight MH370, Lost, and Air Raid: Tragedy and Fiction

There's nothing entertaining about Flight MH370 and what may have happened to it.  Indeed, the possibilities are only frightening and harrowing.

But that shouldn't mean that we can't reach out to our popular culture for similar examples, which in the fictional narrative ended up occurring for very different reasons.   The disappearance of Flight 370 has been compared with the starting scenario of Lost, in which a flight went missing somewhere in the Pacific.   There are also similarities to John Varley's 1977 story, "Air Raid" (later expanded into a novel, Millennium, and made into a movie), in which people from the future hijack passenger planes which would have crashed in our time, as a "safe" way of getting people into the future without disrupting our timeline.

I find it interesting and instructive that authors and creators of movies and television shows have grappled with the human dimensions of loss and lack of knowledge that attend any vanishing of an air plane filled with people.  Unfortunately, the mere mention of such examples in popular culture has evoked criticism, to the point that at a Lost cast reunion, the audience was asked not to ask any questions about the real missing airline MH 370 and the eerie similarities between that terrible event and the loss of the fictitious Oceanic Airlines 815 in Lost.

If our society has gotten to the point where comparisons of real life tragedies cannot be made to those that occur in fiction, and questions to a cast of a television series are prohibited lest someone be offended, then that is a sad state indeed.  Since at least time of the ancient Greeks, fiction has always been a way that we can come to some better understanding of the tragedies that befall us.   Let's not let the tragedy of Flight 370 take that away.

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