The Case for Conformity

Most people can decide for themselves whether or not to watch an address by the head of their country. The unfortunate residents of The Twilight Zone‘s “Eye of the Beholder” aren’t so lucky.

Screen and Girl

I’ve described in a previous post why I consider this Rod Serling’s finest work. But on this 54th anniversary of the episode’s first airing, I wanted to highlight the full address given by “Leader” in the climatic scene.

We hear some of it as poor Janet Tyler is trying to run away. But we miss most of it, and believe me, it’s worth quoting in full:

I say to you now that there is no such thing as a permissive society, because such a society cannot exist! They will scream at you and rant and rave and conjure up some dead and decadent picture of an ancient time when they said that all men are created equal! But to them equality was an equality of opportunity, an equality of status, an equality of aspiration!

And then, in what must surely be the pinnacle of insanity, the absolute in inconsistency, they would have had us believe that this equality did not apply to form, to creed. They permitted a polyglot, accident-bred, mongrel-like mass of diversification to blanket the earth, to infiltrate and weaken!Eye of the Beholder (1)

Well, we know now that there must be a single purpose! A single norm! A single approach! A single entity of peoples! A single virtue! A single morality! A single frame of reference! A single philosophy of government! We cannot permit… we must not permit the encroaching sentimentality of a past age to weaken our resolve. We must cut out all that is different like a cancerous growth!

It is essential in this society that we not only have a norm, but that we conform to that norm. Differences weaken us. Variations destroy us. An incredible permissiveness to deviation from this norm is what has ended nations and brought them to their knees. Conformity we must worship and hold sacred. Conformity is the key to survival.

You could fill a book with a detailed rebuttal to these chilling words. For now, though, I’ll simply quote what I said in my original post:

Survival? Perhaps. But to what purpose? To live a life in which you are merely an interchangeable cog in a vast wheel that allegedly represents progress? Removing Bandages5To be nothing more than an unhappy piece of someone else’s puzzle? To sacrifice everything that makes you different in order to please a society that views you as nothing but a faceless building block — one that will think nothing of discarding you if you stand out? That will change you, shun you or murder you for the unspeakable crime of being different?

Serling was warning us in his own inimitable way. I pray that it’s one we’ll always heed.

***

Photos courtesy of Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or Pinterest

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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

 

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About Paul

Fanning about the work of Rod Serling all over social media. If you enjoy pics, quotes, facts and blog posts about The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Serling's other projects, you've come to the right place.

Posted on 11/11/2014, in Twilight Zone and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. This is fantastic, Boss. I know you’ve been wanting to highlight the Leader’s speech in its own post pretty much since you finished “Conformity’s Critical Eye”! And I’m so glad you finally did. This speech is such a showcase of Serling’s writing talent. Obviously the things said here are terribly wrong, but what a spectacular job Serling did of writing them.

    And how appropriate that “Eye of the Beholder” aired on Armistice Day? This speech perfectly illustrates the very ideology that our brave countrymen risked their lives to defeat. God bless those brave men and women, and God bless Rod Serling for showing us that it’s worth fighting for what is right.

    • You’re not kidding, GF! The speech (minus the material by me, which I just wrote today) was in my drafts folder … and it was last touched on Nov. 11, 2012. O_o

      But the idea of doing something to highlight the speech (which you always encouraged) never left my mind — and the anniversary seemed the perfect time to finally do it. So here it is, and I’m glad to see it finally come out!

      And what a nice thought about the episode’s airdate coinciding with Armistice/Veterans’ Day. I don’t know that it was planned that way, but it could have been. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit, knowing Serling.

      And if it wasn’t? Well, maybe it was “meant to be”. After all, this IS the fifth dimension …

  2. I’m glad you printed that speech, Paul. I love this episode! The way it was shot, the twist, the obvious Serling message are among the things that make Twilight Zone timeless. I’ve watched this episode with my daughter, and nothing is lost from when I first saw it in the ’60s. Our differences make us stronger. Yet there are still people who don’t believe this.

    • Thanks, Dan. You’re so right about the show being timeless. Here we are, 54 years later, and feeling just as touched by the episode as anyone who watched it over half a century ago. THAT’S good writing, acting and directing. And thank God, because it’s a message that our world needs desperately.

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