Fun With Pop Culture

An Open Letter to Harold Perrineau (June 6)

(Note: If you are reading this and you are not Harold Perrineau, it may help to read his recent TV Guide interview.

Dear Harold,

This is very hard to say. Big fan. I mean, you’ve played key roles in two of my favorite shows of all time, Oz and Lost. You know, not only did you get to be a big part of two fantastic shows, but you got great death scenes in both of them. “I can feel my legs” in Oz brings tears to my eyes every time. And then Michael got to redeem himself in Lost, dying a hero’s death. As an actor, you should be very proud of Augustus Hill and Michael Dawson. But then you trashed it all with this whiny-ass interview.

OK, I understand that you and your wife just had a baby. Congratulations, by the way. I just hope you didn’t give the poor girl a stupid showbiz name…. Oh. Wynter Aria? Well then, what was I saying? Anyway, I know there’s probably a lot of sleepless nights in your schedule right now, so just maybe you’re not at your best. Still, this interview is not cool.

I’m sure it sucks to have a cool gig like that and then lose it, but that’s how acting works. Just give William Mapother or John Terry a call – they’ll explain that dying on Lost does not actually prevent you from appearing on further episodes. Or check with any of your former castmates who died off in previous seasons. This show’s got a pretty huge body count, and I don’t remember any of the other Lostaways pissing and moaning about the producers or the fans. You’re entitled to your opinions and your self-pity (You do realize it was your character who died, right? You didn’t actually get blown up in real life.), but you had some pretty ignorant and damaging things to say, and somebody’s got to call you out on it.

“I honestly feel like Michael’s death served a really weird bloodlust for the fans.”

Huh. As a fan, I’m tempted to just tell you where to stick it. It’s not as if I was watching the episode while holding up a Homer Simpson-style pennant reading “Murder”. Seriously, “weird bloodlust”? Way to paint all the people who’ve been watching your show as a bunch of armchair psychopaths. And need I remind you, Michael killed two innocent people? Well, one innocent person and Ana Lucia. Point is, it’s not like fans picked Michael at random as a focus for their hatred.

Yes, a lot of fans didn’t like Michael. That’s because he made bad and hurtful choices. He let The Others manipulate him, and he murdered two people. In fiction, when somebody pays for their transgressions, it’s called storytelling. Especially in a moral universe like the one Lost presents – people are eventually punished for their sins, whether by their conscience, Island-dwelling fanatics, or a sentient column of black smoke. I trust you’ve seen the show, right? Michael was not an innocent here. He did, however, redeem himself in death. For all his flaws, he died nobly, saving the lives of at least three people and a fetus. Not everybody gets that redemption on Lost.

Bottom line, I resent the implication that I just want to see people die.

“…there are all these questions about how they respond to black people on the show.”

Really? Are there? I follow this show pretty closely, and I am not really aware of these questions. Do you really want to go there, playing the race card like that? That’s a big card, and you don’t want to pull it out of your sleeve unless you’re really sure. When was Michael’s race an issue? Michael’s fate didn’t have anything to do with the color of his skin. That’s just a crappy move there, not only alleging that your character died because of racism, but also indicating that this racism has been an ongoing thing. On the show that features network TV’s only prominent Asian characters? On the series that features an Iraqi hero? Not cool.

Oh, by the way? You know what writers and producers love? Being accused of racism. That’s going to get you a lot of work in the near future. Everybody wants to work with somebody who might just accuse them of hating black people every time their scenes get cut for time. That’s a cheap shot, and I wish you could say you’re only hurting yourself. Unfortunately, it kind of sucks for the people who you’re slandering, too.

“Sayid gets to meet Nadia again, and Desmond and Penny hook up again, but a little black boy and his father hooking up again, that wasn’t interesting?”

OK, comparing Michael and Walt to those two couples, you know to the lovers, is really freaking creepy. Especially when you use the phrase “hooking up”. Seriously. Ick.

Again I have to ask if you’ve ever watched the show. Do you just watch your scenes over and over? We already know that Nadia has less than a year before she gets killed, and we’ve seen Benry vow to kill Penny in retaliation for his daughter. Don’t even pretend that they’re getting happy endings. They’re getting happy middles at best, and Michael got one of those when he reunited with Walt at the end of Season Two.

And actually, the “hooking up” (shudder) really wouldn’t be that interesting. Michael and Walt did not have a relationship before the Island. Walt was raised by another man – he didn’t even know Michael until he showed up to take him back. In show time, the two spent 40 days together on the Island, and then, after Walt was missing for another month or so, they spent a couple of weeks on a boat. And during that time, Michael managed to burden a nine-year-old with the knowledge that his father had killed two innocent people (fine, one innocent person and Ana Lucia) for him. How could those two ever have a relationship without some serious cheating by the writers? There’s a huge difference between reuniting lost lovers and forcing a kind of crappy dad on a kid who’s more than a little scared of him.

“Instead, Walt just winds up being another fatherless child. It plays into a really big, weird stereotype, and, being a black person myself, that wasn’t so interesting.”

What in the name of Jacob are you talking about? OK, I’m going to ask one last time, slowly. Have. You. Ever. Seen. The. Show? Fatherless children are a dominant theme on Lost. Let’s see, we’ve got Jack, Kate, Locke, Benry, Sawyer, Claire, Shannon, and Aaron. And those are just the ones for whom being fatherless is either a key plot point or important to their character arc. And since you’ve clearly never seen the show, you have no way of knowing, but none of those characters are black. Having a character who happens to be black lose his father is not a stereotype about black people when the loss of a father is a key theme of the series. If anything, it plays into a stereotype about Lostaways!

It is, however, helpful for you to explain that not only is your character black, but you are as well. I was confused about how that works.

Come on, man. Sure, it’s probably way more fun to be on Lost than it is to not be on Lost. And yeah, maybe you got spoiled when you still got to appear on Oz right up to the last scene, even though your character was dead. But now you’re coming off as a mean-spirited little whiner, and that makes me believe that just maybe Michael’s gradual slide into unlikeability had more than a little to do with how you actually are.

I hope I’m wrong. Maybe you’re really a cool guy and they caught you on a bad day. I’d like to think you are. I don’t want you to be like Isaiah Washington and take a dump all over your career. (Although he’s still got you beat because he managed to accuse a black person of hating black people.) You got to be a part of something big and cool that a lot of people really care about. Don’t spoil that.

That’s all I’ve got to say. You can go now, Harold.

Ever yours,


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