First off let me wish you a Happy New Year. I trust that 2015 will bring you good things. I apologize for this week’s absence as I have been busy finishing up the last week of the mini course I am teaching. Plus I got a new computer game. Blame Napoleon: Total War if you must. It has become a New Year’s Eve/Day tradition for me to watch the Twilight Zone marathon on the ScyFy Channel. And that brings me to the subject of today’s post.
Growing up I enjoyed watching Twilight Zone reruns. Not the stupid 1980s version of the series, but the more popular run from 1959-1964. As a child, I just enjoyed them because they were fun to watch. I didn’t catch any of the deeper meanings or the historical significance of the show. Today, I enjoy them for a different reason. In fact, I show a few episodes in my US History Since 1877 course to illustrate some of the things that I teach about. I am not a film critic, nor do I pretend to be one in bars. Typically when I watch a television show or a movie I do so simply so I can get a good story and maybe an explosion or two. (If there is a redheaded actress in it, then that is even better!) However, with the Twilight Zone I pick up certain themes that I can use as an educational point. The only downside is that with the Twilight Zone being in black and white, I cannot tell if the actresses had red hair or not. Much to my dismay.
Given the fact that the Twilight Zone aired during the height of the Cold War, it is not surprising that many of the shows revolve around Cold War themes. For example, I use The Shelter in class to illustrate the mindset of many people in Cold War America. Also, it gives us a good example of how even friends can turn on one another in times of great distress. Another good example of this one which I also show in class is The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street which involves the same idea. Once the power fails, the neighbors turn on one another. They target the newcomers to the street and eventually chaos reigns. One can also draw a connection between this and McCarthyism. Another thing to keep in mind is this: what would we do if suddenly all of our electronics and gadgets stopped working? We too would be in the Twilight Zone.
Rod Serling, a decorated combat veteran, was not afraid to tackle tough issues from nuclear war to racism. He very wisely did this through a science fiction format to avoid censorship. The man was a true genius and with his death at age 50, the world lost a true pioneer.
So I’ll enjoy my day of Twilight Zone episodes while the rest of the country is watching football. No matter how many times I’ve seen them (and I’ve seen them all), it never gets old.
My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian!