Lost premiered almost ten years ago exactly, and to celebrate the show’s anniversary, I started a rewatch. Lost was a notable show for me because it was one of only two shows I watched from day one (Freaks and Geeks being the other) rather than catching up after strong word-of-mouth, and I watched it religiously.
The mystery and scope of Lost appealed to me, but the characters appealed to me more. Charlie was my first favorite character by default, since the whole reason I watched the show was the presence of Dominic Monaghan (aka one of the hobbits from Lord of the Rings). Over time, I grew to become invested in Jack, Sayid, Sun and Jin, Juliet, Locke, Miles, and most of all, Hugo Reyes (aka Hurley).
But there was another character I loved, one who was not a fan favorite, and was, in fact, one of the most reviled characters on the show: Ana-Lucia Cortez, played by Michelle Rodriguez.
Viewers didn’t like Ana-Lucia for a multitude of reasons. The Sayid/Shannon fans didn’t like her because she accidentally killed Shannon and then tied Sayid to a tree. They didn’t like her because she was rude to Sawyer, everyone’s favorite woobie. Mostly, viewers didn’t like her because she was unpleasant.
Yet it struck me upon rewatching season 2 that, if Ana-Lucia had been a white man, she not only would have been a fan favorite, but possibly the protagonist of the whole show.
Let’s pretend for a moment that Ana-Lucia Cortez was a white guy named Andrew Collins and look at the character backstory from that point of view.
Andrew Collins was a police officer working in the LAPD. His captain and commanding officer was also his parent of the same sex. While investigating a shooting, he came across a college student who was a suspect in the crime. He allowed the college student to reach for his ID. Instead, the student reached for a gun, and shot Andrew several times.
After making a physical recovery and undergoing therapy, Andrew returned to the force, but was clearly suffering from PTSD. His captain and father tried to relegate him to desk duty, but Andrew needed to be on patrol. When the college student who shot him was brought in for questioning, Andrew claimed not to know him. Later, he followed his assailant and shot him several times, killing him.
When the plane crashed on Craphole Island, Andrew woke up underwater and managed to swim to safety. He helped save a few lives, including the one of a little girl after performing CPR on her. He took on a leadership role, trying his best to keep everyone calm and safe, and tended to listen when other survivors offered alternate plans and ideas.
This attitude changed after time. Andrew became less trusting, more bullheaded, and stubborn, after other survivors of the plane crash (including the children) were kidnapped by hostile natives on the island. His stubbornness and paranoia increased significantly when the person he had trusted the most turned out to be one of the hostile natives. In a scuffle, he killed the hostile. He could then only be open and vulnerable to one other person in the group of survivors, and finally broke down crying after forty days of trauma.
An ultimately decent person with a sometimes unpleasant personality. A brash, insensitive, but ultimately caring police officer, who had a soft spot for children. A person who put on a tough front but could show vulnerability in front of one other person.
Andrew Collins would have been fan catnip. But Ana-Lucia Cortez was hated. Even though she should’ve had bonus sympathy points, since she was pregnant at the time she was shot and lost her unborn child.
Not every character is going to click with every viewer, and I understand why some viewers didn’t like Ana-Lucia. The widespread hate, on the other hand, I feel has roots in subconscious sexism, and perhaps subconscious racism as well. A white male character can be bullying and obnoxious (look at the widespread popularity of Sawyer on the same show), but not a Latina woman. Not even one who lost her baby while on the line of duty.