Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A LOST Hero: Jack Shephard

This week’s heroic trait is leadership. There is something very powerful about a take-charge man, someone who has the ability to step up and direct people, especially in a stressful situation.

There are people who strive to be leaders, and they do well running businesses and, taken to an extreme, lording their superiority over the world. But those kind are not always the right kind of leader in a crisis.

Jack Shephard from LOST is the epitome of the reluctant leader. The guy people naturally look to, who sees solutions where there are problems, but who fears the responsibility for potential failure. It’s no surprise this trauma surgeon (spinal surgeon, but often called upon in trauma) starts yelling for what to do when people are injured in the immediate aftermath of the plane crash. He knows how to triage, and has more experience in the basics of medicine than the others (the other survivors, not The Others). He’s had a cool head in intense situations before, so he doesn’t freeze when panic hits.

Every man for himself is not gonna work. It's time to start organizing. We need to figure out how we're gonna *survive* here. Now I found water... fresh water up in the valley. I'll take a group in at first light. If you don't wanna come, then find another way to contribute! Last week most of us were strangers. But we're all here now, and God knows how long we're gonna be here. But if we can't live together... we're gonna die alone.

It makes sense, then, that people would look to him for leadership. He doesn’t want it. He’s failed before, and he doesn’t want to let people down now. But the survivors push him into that role, and once he accepts it—however temporarily, however reluctantly—it ignites another trait: Jack is a fixer. His past failures have driven him to save everyone he can, and when he can’t, it kills him.

I told her... I made her a promise I couldn't keep... I told her I'd fix her and I couldn't. I failed.

For many of us, the combination is irresistible. A fixer needs a fixer. Someone who can soothe his torment, assure him he did the best he could. Who can support him in action as well as when he’s trying to convince people that his way is the best way.

Kate is drawn to Jack because of that core of goodness, the desire to help people and to choose what’s best. She obviously can’t. Most of the choices she makes are selfish and end in disaster. She wants Jack because if he can want her back, maybe she isn’t as bad as she knows she is.

On the other side is Juliet, a fellow doctor and quieter, but also natural leader. She’s capable of being an equal partner with Jack, using logic and planning to get them out of whatever they’re in. She’s also a calming force, a balm to Jack’s agitated worry.

A character like Jack can become tiresome after six seasons, but he was incredibly appealing as a leader at various points during the show’s run.

Agree? Disagree? What other reluctant leaders float your boat? Commenters anywhere this full post appears have a chance to win this week's prize, $25 in Omni Bucks from All Romance eBooks/OmniLit!
I have a guest blogger tomorrow! Keri Ford will be here to talk about writing series. Stop by!

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Ava Quinn said...

I enjoyed the character of Jack, though I only watched the first season and half of the next. (I know, Natalie, I hang my head in shame. But it wasn't entirely my fault. The digital transition happened and I couldn't get that channel any more!)

I could see how he could become tiresome after a long while. Though the outer packaging definitely would make up for a lot!

No need to enter me in the drawing. :)

Toni Anderson said...

Oh, god, JACK :)
Loved him throughout. And Sawyer. I mean seriously? The people casting that show should have got major awards.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

He was best in the first season I think, Ava, though awesome at intermittent moments. My perspective is colored by a friend's frustration. LOL

Toni, I thought the very best thing about LOST was the creation of characters, and the organic casting. They didn't have a single miss, IMO!

Jen B. said...

Now, I can't think of any reluctant leaders other than Jack. I loved the character and how he slowed grew and became so much more. As a born fixer, I really felt his pain.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

He's pretty much the poster boy, isn't he, Jen? LOL "Resistance of the call to action" is a standard element of the hero's journey, but it doesn't necessarily connect to leadership. It can be a solo journey, or a group journey. Hm, let me think of who else is reluctant... Frodo?

Abigail Sharpe said...

can you believe I haven't seen LOST yet? I wanted to. But it just never happened. Thank goodness for Netflix. It will be in my queue once I'm done catching up on Castle.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I think Lost is better watching on DVD, Abigail. You'll get a better sense of the mythology without all the reruns and hiatus interruptions.

Castle is awesome, too!

kaybee said...

Lost is definitely better when watching the series on DVD. My sister and I had a marathon watch not too long ago since she'd never seen it and I love rewatching it.
But, oh Jack. I really did love him as a character, even if he did annoy me at times. I was one of the few, I guess, who loved Season 6 and the finale and it was so great to see Jack, for the first time since Season 1 really, to step up as the leader again and know what his job was.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Hi, kaybee! Thanks for coming over to comment!

I was one of the few, too. :) Watching season 6 wasn't the same experience as watching season 1, but it would be foolish to expect it to be. I was very satisfied to see Jack at peace, finally. :)

kaybee said...

Season 1 was definitely an unique television experience. I remember being really into it in Seasons 1 and 2. Season 3 was where it kinda "lost" me but the finale that season with the flash forward sucked me right back in lol.
I was just really glad Jack was the main focus in the finale and I felt his journey was really complete. All the awakenings or remembering scenes made me cry so much too.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Oh, yeah, the awakenings were my favorite part!

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