Monday, April 22, 2019

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 2 Episode 6 (Eye of the Beholder/A Private World Of Darkness)

There are certain situations where spoilers should be withheld.  There are others where spoiler warnings are unnecessary.  This is a case where I don’t feel bad about giving away major details, as most people should be able to see the twist coming.  It’s almost impossible for me to review this episode without at least hinting at it, even if subconsciously.

You see, Janet Tyler is undergoing her eleventh attempt at corrective surgery.  This is her last chance.  If the bandages come off and she’s still abnormal, there are few alternatives left for her.  All of the characters, including the doctors and nurses, spend the beginning of the episode either in the shadows or blocked from the camera’s view so that we can’t see their faces.

When the bandages come off of Janet’s face, we see a beautiful woman.  The norm is a warped, pig-like face that we would consider hideous.  This society, wherever it is, values conformity.  It values standard people with a standard look.  Janet doesn’t fit the bill, so she’s to be sent to live with others of her kind.  The hospital even brings in a man to ease her into the transition.

When I first saw this episode, I took it at face value, if you’ll pardon the pun.  Ours is a species that values attractiveness.  What attractiveness means is subjective, but we can be cruel to those who don’t have it.  Sure, Janet will still be able to live a productive life.  She just won’t be able to do it with normal society.

It wasn’t until I started reading about the episode that I picked up on other details, like the fact that she’s basically being set to a ghetto.  When the episode ran in syndication, it was called The Private World Of Darkness.  (The alternate title plays on not only the lack of light in the beginning of the episode, but on the fact that darker skin tends not to be viewed as desirable.)

There’s a reason that this is one of the most iconic episodes of the series.  There are subtle jabs at segregation and race that would still have meaning today.  Appearance shouldn’t matter, but it does.  It’s as relevant now as it was in 1960, almost 60 years ago.  We don’t even need to know if the characters are human or not.  It doesn’t really matter.

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