Fifty Years After the Twilight Zone, Creepiness Abides

Posted on October 4, 2009

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This month, a time of creepy-scary Halloween visions, marks the 50th anniversary of the creepiest, scariest—and most intelligent and entertaining—science fiction series of all time: The Twilight Zone.

From its first broadcast in 1959, each program kept its huge fan base guessing right up to the last twist. When the covered-wagon leader walked over the hill to discover a highway and a diner, when the U.S. astronaut dominating an alien race of Lilliputians was himself squashed by a newly arrived colossus—ohhh, when doctors uncovered the patient’s horribly disfigured bandaged face after a failed operation to reveal a gorgeous woman living in a world of monstrous visages—viewers shivered from coast to coast.

The kinds of surprise twists that an earlier generation enjoyed in the much more down-to-earth short stories of O. Henry were popularized on the tube by Rod Serling’s now-classic series. And while they were literally chilling out in front of The Twilight Zone each week, Americans also were absorbing lessons in tolerance, peace, love and understanding. Long before the Hippies, Rod Serling was sitting in our living rooms with images that placed each of us in front of our own mirrors to reflect on our vanities, biases and baseless fears.

Half a century later, with racial prejudice still bubbling, with increasing polarization between those who would push us left and those who would tug us right, with citizens who see government as a lifesaver and citizens who see it as a life-taker shouting at one another, we could use an update of The Twilight Zone. Without it, however, the job of showing us ourselves falls to perhaps less-acclaimed communicators—news media, bloggers, tweeters, commenters and all of us who take part in the public forum.

Let’s strive to quash the creepy sordidness we’re feeling in our communications with each other these days.

Let’s unwrap the blinders from our eyes and see more of the beauty in each other’s point of view.

Let’s attempt to work our way over the hill and beyond the twilight zone to a brighter, more intelligent and more welcoming way of treating opinions and each other.

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