Friday, March 1, 2013
The Twilight Zone, Pamela Anderson, and Objective Beauty
For my money the Twilight Zone is the best show ever to appear on television. Even fifty years after the series concluded the Twilight Zone is still relevant enough to be parodied by Saturday Night Live. This is quite an accomplishment, especially considering just how quickly TV shows pass in and out of our collective consciousness. To my knowledge SNL has done at least two parodies based on Twilight Zone episodes; one involving William Shatner's harrowing flight at "20,000 feet", and another involving a woman who apparently endured repeated attempts by doctors to fix her "hideously disfigured face".
Called "Eye of the Beholder", the ultimate message of this particular vignette is that, as the title implies, beauty is determined by the ones who set the standard. Thus, what is ugly to one may be beautiful to another, and vice versa. The implication is that there is nothing that is objectively beautiful. Beauty consists essentially in a set of arbitrary standards dictated by a society which is obsessed with conformity and uniformity.
Visually this episode is stunning, and while there is much positive to say about its overall message, I have to quibble a little bit (as much as it pains me) with its general implication. Though it is true that there are different kinds of beauty, it nevertheless does not follow that physical beauty is purely a figment of our imagination. Ironically, it is SNL in the following video which rather eloquently points this out. No doubt there are dictatorships out there which do/have compelled people to embrace what would otherwise strike them as vile. However, none of this disproves the existence of objective beauty. The dictator has not changed what is beautiful, rather he has compelled his people to call something beautiful which they otherwise would not. Why does he do this? Because if he cannot convince them to believe that black is white, up is down, and ugly is beautiful, then how else will he convince them that his brutal behavior is commendable. If you have never seen the episode, I highly recommend that you watch it first. But even if you have never seen it, the sketch is still pretty amusing anyway. Enjoy.