Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stepping into the Twilight Zone

So I've been re-watching The Twilight Zone on Netflix. I loved that show when I was a teenager. It was on Channel 11 from New York (11N on my cable system at the time) right after Star Trek. So I watched it a lot, because, insomnia. Anyway, I've only watched up to episode 4 of Season 2, but I've had some interesting observations.

It's so strange how the world changes. S1 Ep7 is called "Lonely." It's about a prisoner sent into solitary on some asteroid (in the 1950s, all asteroids are exactly like earth). He's so lonely that one supply guy smuggles him in a girl-bot. Girl-bot, who is called Alicia, is supposedly identical to a human woman. Which, well, they pretty much treat women like girl-bots on the show, so I guess maybe she is. But then Supply Guy comes back years later, to tell Prisoner Guy that solitary on asteroids has been outlawed as cruel and unusual. They're taking him back to Earth. But oops. Supply guy forgot about Alicia. They can't fit that much extra weight on the rocket ship home! Prisoner Guy gets mad. Alicia cries. Supply guy also gets mad, and shoots Alicia. Problem solved. Um, what?? Prisoner Guy is upset, but he just sort of shrugs it off and goes home. WTF is the "moral" of this story??

The next episode (S1 Ep8), "Time Enough at Last," is one I really liked when I first saw it. You know, the one where Burgess Meredith is reading in a bank vault when "the bombs" go off. He's the last guy on Earth, and he's finally going to have a chance to get some reading done, but he breaks his glasses. First off, his wife is some kind of Sadist. They don't bother to make her seem a person with human motivations. She just wants to go over and play cards with the neighbors, so she viciously, gleefully scribbles out the text in his book with a fat black marker. The hell? She couldn't just throw it away. Oh, no. She even put it back in his hiding place under the chair cushion so she could see the horror on his face when he found it defaced. Because that's how a person would act, right? My biggest question with this episode, though, was might there not be a drug store or optician somewhere that has an undamaged pair of glasses he could use? Or a magnifying glass. That would have been an "oh hell, that figures" moment for me, rather than "this is even worse than the end of civilization!"

Re-watching S1 Ep15, "I Shot an Arrow into the Air," was so much different than watching it for the first time. As a kid, I just took it on face value and nodded. But now, it has me going WTF? So 8 guys take off in a rocket (they're always rockets in the 1950s), and they have a malfunction. They crash land somewhere, and half of them are dead. A fifth guy is dying. One of the other three guys gets mad when the Captain keeps giving Dying Guy water. They've landed in a desert, and the non-dying people are going to need the water, Mad Guy insists. Dying Guy dies while they're arguing about it. So now the three still alive are looking around, assessing their situation. They have no idea where they are. All they can see is rocky-hill type desert in every direction. One of them helpfully suggests that the sun is the same size as it is on Earth, and the Captain says that oh, that must mean we're on an asteroid in the same orbit as Earth. Seriously?? The same orbit? With the same atmosphere and gravity? And you come up with asteroid?  Oh yeah. All asteroids are exactly like earth. I forgot. Anyway, the Captain sends out Third Guy and Mad Guy to look for anything that isn't rocky desert. Mad Guy comes back alone with Third Guy's water. Captain wrings it out of Mad Guy that Third Guy died "while they were separated." Captain doesn't believe him, and insists on seeing Third Guy's body. So they trek over to where it was, but Third Guy is gone. They find him a little way up a nearby slope. Third Guy is dying, but points uphill and draws ╪ in the dust before he dies. Captain starts walking up the hill, and Mad Guy kills him. Mad Guy climbs up the hill and see a road with telephone poles. Because oh, wait, asteroids are NOT just like earth. You're on Earth you stupid assholes! WTF are these people even doing in space?

This show is bizarre to me in a way it was not meant to be. I still like it, but damn. Women are evil shrews like Burgess Meredith's wife, plastic airheads who needed to be patted on the back, and generally non-persons. And people most definitely do not think they are living in The Good Old Days, much as the Religious Reich would like us to believe they were. The Old Days are so un-good, that people in the Twilight Zone are desperate to escape them. These people think their lives are over complicated, and too "modern" with too much technology. They live in fear of another war. They long to escape modern life for "The Good Old Days," which to them was back in the 18-somethings when every boy was Huck Finn. (See S1 Ep.30 "A Stop at Willoughby.) Technology is out to get them (See S1 Ep.17, "The Fever" where a man falls victim to a possessed slot machine, and S2 Ep. 4 "The Thing About Machines" where every piece of tech in a guy's house is trying to kill him and/or drive him insane.)

Women as non-persons is best demonstrated by S1 Ep. 36, "World of His Own." Playwright Guy is snuggling in his writing room with a woman who calls him "Master" (no, really), and seems to exist to serve him drinks and cuddles. His wife comes home early and sees them through the front window. When she comes in to confront them, Playwright Guy is alone. They argue, and eventually he tells her that Cuddle Woman (Mary) is not real. He wrote her into existence by dictating into his tape machine thing. Wife (Victoria) tries to leave, so he dictates an angry elephant in the front hall, trapping her there. Finally he badgers Victoria into staying so she can meet Mary. Mary gushes, sniffles, and asks him not to bring her back again if they can't be together. He sends Mary away, because Victoria is his wife, after all. He explains to Victoria that she was just too perfect, and made him feel inadequate. So he created Mary, who didn't. (Apparently Victoria reminded him too much of a human being.) Victoria is still mad (shock!), so Playwright Guy waggles an admonishing finger and goes to the safe. He shows Victoria an envelope with her name on it and says that he invented her, too. Vic doesn't believe him, and throws her envelope into the fireplace. And then disappears. So he starts to write her back, and then decides, oh wait, never mind. And writes in Mary as his new wife. WTF?! And no one is going to notice that suddenly he has a fawning blonde wife called Mary, or wonder where dark-haired Victoria went? Apparently not. Women are perfectly interchangeable, after all. It's not like they're people. That whole episode was just sickening. But it has great reviews on IMDb, so I guess someone likes the idea of writing away your horrible selfish wife and writing in a worshipful airhead who calls you Master.

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