I've recently been watching Lost with some friends.

During certain scenes I began to get the impression that the show's composition had been intentionally crafted to appeal to male/female components of the audience, and that this was a core reason for Lost's huge popularity at the time it aired. There was a clear pattern of mystery/action sections for men interleaved with romance/drama plots for women, as if to keep each group satisfied while they watched through the parts that were not intended for them.

In particular, the show features several pregnancies that are given undue focus and multiple childbirth scenes. There were a number of moments where a female character would mention that she was pregnant or a mother to bolster her argument. I found these at times almost unwatchable, but it must have been appealing to someone, and maybe a woman would find the action segments as tedious. I also started noticing the presence of pregnancies in the (few) other TV shows I've watched, surely these were only for the sake of female viewers.

Creating relatable characters and then placing them into fantasy scenarios seems foundational to almost all media, and is not necessarily a bad thing, but I would still consider it pandering. At worst it gives someone an undue confidence in their everyday life, and I can entertain that this may be damaging on a large scale. It's also deceptive, because I don't think the average viewer has much of an understanding of just how comprehensively they are being pandered to.

However, In the case of Lost, I noticed that this pandering took a step further and reinforced immoral behavior in a subtle way that was never acknowledged as morally meaningful by the show, but no doubt gratified viewers. Romantic drama subplots portrayed female infidelity sympathetically (while scolding absent fathers). Female characters would throw a fit over an unambiguous misunderstanding where they were in the wrong, and never apologize or receive any reprisal when the misunderstanding was clarified. Almost all the female characters in Lost are obnoxious, unlikable whores, and I can only conclude that this is because the writers knew that women like being shown that their negative personality traits are normal and good.

When pandering is taken to its endpoint, it seems logical that it will exhaust all methods of positively affirming a person's positive traits and instead turn to affirm traits that are less morally acceptable. We must have strayed well into that territory when a widely popular show from almost two decades ago can be used as a solid example. The leftism in Lost feels fairly unobtrusive (most of the main cast is White) in comparison to most modern TV shows, which is probably why the parts that annoyed me most were identifiable as direct pandering. And aren't political design choices just another form of pandering?

Action scenes pander to masculine urges by unduly romanticizing violence and death, though this may counter-intuitively be less harmful because the difference between fantasy and reality is much more obvious. Most men who view violent scenes do not actually kill people, but many women who view romantic dramas do cheat on their partners. Media exists to appeal to outcasts too, Joker being an obvious example.

There's a tension involved because the audience doesn't want it to be made too glaringly obvious that they are being pandered to. Elaborate plots and genres evolve to impede viewers from noticing common tropes, allowing them to maintain the illusion that they aren't getting their ego stroked by lies and loving every second.

This raises the question of whether it would be possible to enjoy any media at all if it was not crafted to positively reinforce our self-image. I'm unsure if I will enjoy anything as I once did, after reaching this conclusion. If I watch a Sion Sono film where they're actually allowed to hit women and find it refreshing, is it any less delusional than someone delighting in watching some woman with a non-existent personality type boss around all the male characters, or from more obvious shonen power fantasies?

Individually deluding yourself does not seem as much an issue as letting yourself be deluded by a writer (who is likely to belong to a category of people who bitterly hate you), often without realizing it, and then proceeding to applaud the writer if you find their attempt to flatter you was particularly effective.

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