The Eye of the Beholder

One of the fundamental themes in The Eye-Dancers is self-acceptance.  Each of the main characters suffers in one way or another from a low self-esteem, and each struggles with insecurities.  As the story unfolds, the characters must confront these struggles within themselves.  They ultimately find themselves a long way from home.  There are dangers and pitfalls seemingly around every corner.  But amid the turmoil and threat of a strange and alien world, they realize one essential truth–they cannot hope to survive, cannot possibly find a way out of their predicament, unless they learn to come to terms with their own inner demons.

For Mitchell Brant, his insecurities often manifest themselves through lies and tall tales.  Not content with the way things are, he invents stories to make himself seem “more” than he really is.  It takes the gentle guidance of a new friend to help him begin to see that he doesn’t need to pretend.  He doesn’t need to elaborate.  He’s okay the way he is.

It’s a problem all of us have struggled with at one time or another.  Are we “good” enough?  Are we attractive enough?  Smart enough?  And one of the things science fiction can do is challenge our beliefs, take us on a fantastic journey that, ultimately, causes us to look at things more deeply–to examine ourselves, or the larger world around us.

The original Twilight Zone, the black-and-white show from the early 1960s, with Rod Serling as the host, was often able to accomplish this.  There are many memorable episodes, but perhaps none more so than “Eye of the Beholder.”

In the episode, a woman, Janet Tyler, her face heavily bandaged, lies in a hospital bed.  We cannot see what she looks like, but we quickly realize she is terribly disfigured.  This latest attempt was the eleventh surgery to try to make her look “normal.”  She openly calls herself a “freak.”  And the doctors admit she is a “bad and unfortunate” case.

bandage

The first half of the episode deals with Janet’s emotional state, her hopes and dreams that maybe, just maybe, when the bandages are taken off, she will look like everyone else, no longer a freak, a pariah, an outcast.  And then the bandages are removed . . .

The doctors and nurses gasp and pull back.  Before we even see her face, we realize the surgery must have been a failure.  But the true discovery is about to take place.

Throughout the episode, the doctors and nurses have been in the shadows, the lighting eerie, the camera never showing us anyone’s face.  While watching the episode for the first time, you don’t even really consider this.  After all, the scenes are shot through Janet Tyler’s point of view, and since her face is completely concealed beneath her thick bandages, she cannot see the doctors and nurses either.  Besides, we are all focused on her.  What does she look like?  Will she be healed?

Now, the bandages removed, the medical staff gasping in horror at her features, we finally “see” Janet Tyler.  She is young, beautiful, with flawless features.

ddouglas

And now we see, for the first time, the doctors and nurses–they have distorted, misshapen faces.  Grotesque.  And yet they are recoiling from the beautiful woman before them.  And she wishes she looked like them.

grotesque1

grotesque2

It is a memorable story that proves the old cliche.

I will let Rod Serling finish this post for me.  This is his closing narration from the episode . . .

*************

“Now the questions that come to mind. Where is this place and when is it, what kind of world where ugliness is the norm and beauty the deviation from that norm? The answer is, it doesn’t make a difference. Because the old saying is true. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in this year or a hundred years hence, on this planet or wherever there is human life, perhaps out among the stars. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lesson to be learned – in the Twilight Zone.”

*************

If you haven’t ever watched The Twilight Zone, I strongly encourage you to do so.  It’s an old, old show, but it holds up very well, and the themes it explores are universal, timeless, and enduring.

Just ask Mitchell Brant.  I’m sure he’d agree.

Thanks as always for reading!

–Mike

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kelihasablog
    Dec 15, 2012 @ 00:49:22

    LOL….. I remember “The Twilight Zone”…. nice!

    Reply

  2. Fashion Mayann
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 13:15:14

    I saw this episode ages ago, after my brother told me the plot : I was so shocked by its intelligence that I really wanted to see it. Thanks for reminding me how magnificent it was. By the way, congrats for all the awards you got !

    Reply

  3. B
    Jan 06, 2015 @ 23:04:52

    Interesting i”ll search the show

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: