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Affective Networks Media Page 2

Page history last edited by Alston 8 years, 5 months ago

When I first took up this notion of  affective mapping, I was vaguely interested in the romantic pairing of characters. While watching the television show in the mid-2000s, I noticed a curious dissonance  with the claims of increased queer representation in television shows and the noticeable absence of such representation on shows such as Lost  or Battlestar Gallactica--shows with a sizable multi-ethnic cast that draws heavily on the sexual, affective or familial tension of its characters for dramatic effect. My first affective mapping intended to make legible this observation and examine the resultant visualization for more insight. I made two general choices: my nodes were relatively rich, my edges were relatively poor. I intended to make evident the predominance of heterosexual pairings and the relative diminutive importance of characters that exhibited attraction to other characters of the same gender. Drawing on IMDb, I first limited my data set to characters that were crediting in appearing at a minimun of ten episodes, but I consequently expanded that set to selectively include characters that may have been romantically related to more frequently appearing characters.

In all of the visualizations that follow:

  • green indicate male characters, while purple indicates female characters (other colors indicates non-human characters)
  • size indicates relative frequency of appearances, where larger node indicate more frequently appearing characters.

Drawing on the fan wiki Lostpedia and Wikipedia, I charted edges that indicate any romantic or sexual relationship that were noted in the page. Consequently, unrequited flirtation are visually equal to a partnership where two characters parent a child. The resulting visualization was arrayed to maximize legibility.


Affective Relationships in Lost:


My choice to render every edge "flat"--that is to say carrying no granular distinction of meaning--does the interesting work of making all relationships however tentative or potential commensurable. As long as it met the community standard of the fan canon, that is. Tom Friendly, the somewhat menacing "Other," the moniker the survivors give to the previous inhabitant of the island, who was Lost's only significant gay character is consequently marked as having a relationship with Jack Shepherd because of a stray and unrequited flirtation. We might tentatively suggest that more frequently appearing characters are likelier to be entangled in romantic relations with members of the opposite gender. Characters that appear medium frequency, generally less central character, but who survive multiple seasons, are generally paired in tight binaries. More important characters who partner with characters with less important characters are likely characters who survive the death of their partners and will tend to remain unattached. For instance, following the demise of Libby Smith in the second season of lost, Hurley has no romantic interest for the duration for the show. Similarly, Sayyid, while initially floating as a possible interest to Kate finally woos Shannon Rutherford who also dies in the second season and he too remains unattached in the principal timeline of the show (not shown on the above chart in error). 


While marginally interesting, these are somewhat weak associations that only confirm our suppositions that we bring to the investigation. In the next graph, I reorganize to the nodes so that most frequently appearing characters gravitate towards the center of the field, and the less frequently appearing character radiate outwards.


Affective Relationship reorganized spatially according to recurrence of character:

In my mind this organization strengthens the claims of the character's attractiveness relative to their importance. Characters who have multiple lines of relationship tend to cluster in the center of the graph, the portion of the graph where most frequently appearing characters are placed. Less frequently appearing characters are not only less "central," they are likelier to be unattached or less "attractive." But the graph does the interesting thing of making legible the outliers, exceptions and outsiders that demand explanation. In my final graph, I tally and group these elements thematically below.  


Affective Relations accounting for outliers:

In this new cluster of elements, new insights emerge. I identify a certain trope in the paternal figure and their antagonism or association with other characters. Three of these characters are parents to other characters, while John Locke takes on a paternal role to Boone and Mr. Eko posing as a priest. The other interesting weak cluster are unattached female characters that I identify as mercenaries. Curiously, Illana in fact identifies another unattached character, Jacob, as the closest-thing-I-ever-had-to-a-father. (Jacob is actually quite a central character to Lost. Since I relied on IMDb, Jacob did not make my initial list as he is credited as appearing in 6 episodes. However fan wikis list his appearance in 11 episodes.) Paternity and sexuality in this graph are positioned as having a charge in suspension. This is borne out in the conclusion of the final season. In the "flash-sideways," the storyline in a parellel timeline where Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 never crashes, characters recall their lives on the island when they make contact with their principal love interest, forcing a heteronormative pairing as an organizing force (and possibly queering John Locke and Ben Linus by default who do recall their past lives but without the benefit of a significant other). Yet Jack Shepherd, rehearsing a theme early in the show of the tension between belief and skepticism, is resistant to the recollection brought upon by his contact with Kate Austen. Whereas other characters memories flood back in mutual embrace, curiously Jack only relents to the pressure of his other life when he strokes the coffin of his father, thereby completing a circuit that this progression of visualization graph. 


Along the lines of paternity as a special category and the general heteronormative drift of the show, one might also consider the separateness of maternity as category with a unique valence. Apart from the running theme of pregnancy dramatized by repeated attempts to capture or rescue the visibly pregnant character, maternity we uncover is organizing type distinct from paternity. Kate's candidacy as the new protector of the island, the purported reason for the crash that brought them there, is symbolically revoked due to her motherhood, even though she parents the child with Jack who remains a viable option.


The graph suggests this supposed inability for powerful women characters to form and maintain romantic relationship corresponds with this gendered ordering. And this insight leads to our other investigation: relationships of violence, specifically murder.

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