“A Street in Dallas”: JFK and the Twilight Zone
November 22,1963 was just an ordinary Friday. For a while, anyway.
The Twilight Zone aired on Fridays during four of its five seasons. And on November 22, 1963, Richard Matheson’s “Night Call” was set to air. But when an assassin’s bullet cut down President John F. Kennedy earlier that day, every network immediately shifted to continuous coverage of the tragic news.
Every American alive then can tell you where he or she was when that news first hit. They wept. They prayed. And in the case of Rod Serling, they wrote.
Out of that day was born one of the most powerful episodes of the entire series, “I Am The Night — Color Me Black.” No, the story had nothing to do directly with the details of the assassination. A searing meditation on hate and revenge — and their poisonous effects on everybody — it concerns a man about to be hanged in a small-town for murder. His victim: a local bigot.
But this is The Twilight Zone, so don’t expect the ordinary. The condemned man is no saint. Indeed, he’s as consumed with hatred as everyone else in the town … which is covered in darkness. Even though it’s 9:00 a.m.
And that’s Serling’s point. Not to point a finger at one side or the other, but to point it at all of us. It’s the climate of hatred that’s creating this blackness surrounding us. And as the reverend tells the crowd, “it’s coming up all around us and choking us.”
That’s Serling’s point: Stop, people. Just STOP. Before your hatred consumes YOU.
As the episode ends, the darkness becomes blacker still. A radio announcer notes that similar instances of seemingly inexplicable blackness are being reported worldwide, and adds: “At 2:00 this afternoon a dark cloud appeared over a street in Dallas, Texas.”
Not just any street. Elm Street. Right in front of the Texas School Book Depository.
Will our world get darker or lighter? As Serling so powerfully reminds us in this episode, it’s up to us.
Photos courtesy of Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. WordPress followers, just hit “follow” at the top of the page.
Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!
Posted on 11/22/2013, in Rod Serling, Twilight Zone and tagged 1963, I Am The Night -- Color Me Black, Kennedy, Kennedy assassination, November 22, Rod Serling, Twilight Zone. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.