From the outset, Rod Serling’s vision for The Twilight Zone was a particularly political one. Understanding that the tropes of the science fiction genre made it the perfect automobile to slip pointed social critique past television’s censoring bodies, Serling was lengthy interested in utilizing the series to push earlier versus social norms. With a body of work-related trying out guys escaping to civilizations of their production as a response to emasculation, Richard Matheson was the perfect writer to assist execute Serling’s vision.
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<1> Of the 16 episodes Mathechild composed for the series, “A World of His Own” (broadcast in the initially seakid on July 1, 1960) is the one whose framework is the majority of readily reflected in modern-day dystopian narratives such as AMC’s Humans and also Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. As a reactivity to the era’s shifting cultural power dynamics in between males and womales, this episode establishes a design template for male domination over the female body, both psychologically and physically, that is still apparent in satire this day.
On its face, “A World of His Own” is the story of a writer, Gregory (Keenan Wynn), who discovers he deserve to carry his personalities to life by describing them by means of dictation. Tired of dealing with his domineering wife, Victoria (Phyllis Kirk), he creates Mary (Mary LaRoche), an idealized and also subservient counter to his spouse. The resulting chaos hinges upon audience identification via Gregory and moving post-WWII perceptions of masculinity. In creating the even more agreeable Mary, Gregory echoes the biblical story of Lilith, Adam’s initially wife, that is cast out from Eden and also reput by Eve once she proves also unaccommodating to Adam’s wishes. In Victoria, Gregory finds an in a similar way challenging partner, and also it is this casting of female power and firm as a risk to masculinity that is the crux of the story. As June M. Pullguy and Anthony J. Fonesca note in Richard Matheson’s Monsters, Victoria’s growing power over and also freedom of Gregory is demonstrated by her capability to trick Gregory right into admitting Mary’s existence.<2> She has end up being self-reliant, and also the risk she thus poses to Gregory’s masculinity is sufficient to elicit panic in both Gregory and also the audience.
Check out this clip from “A World of His Own” in which Gregory “creates” his perfect wife — and in which he speaks straight to Rod Serling; this is the only minute in the initially seaboy of The Twilight Zone in which Serling shows up within the episode itself and also interacts through a character.
The “perfect” woman
It is no surprise that narratives of guys developing the “perfect” female aclimb throughout durations as soon as the cultural conversation is leaning in on issues of gender etop quality. At the moment of this episode’s airing, womales were proactively organizing against societal limitations, consisting of boosting access to birth control and demanding access to career opportunities outside the house. Public debate over what made up a “good” wife and also mommy was at a fevered pitch, and also it is the question that increates a lot of the action in “A World of His Own.” Gregory’s casting as a henpecked husband also to the independent Victoria is supposed to garner audience sympathy and also position dialogue wherein Mary refers to Gregory as “Master” as humorous. But the ending revelation that Victoria is a character produced by Gregory implies that neither womale has any type of autonomous firm. Their survival is wholly dependent upon pleasing Gregory. As such, this narrative reflects a particularly conservative check out that would certainly appeal to an audience threatened by any kind of disruption to typical gender functions within the home.
Victoria is traumatized by Gregory via the disclose that she is entirely at his mercy.
This notion of the replacecapacity of womales anticipates the better recognized The Stepford Wives (1975). Like “A World of His Own,” Bryan Forbes’ adaptation of Ira Levin’s 1972 novel centers on men creating even more compliant versions of the wives they cannot regulate. Released at the elevation of the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment, The Stepford Wives is additionally intended to be a satirical look at the inehigh quality inherent in the cult of domesticity. But as film movie critic Tim Brayton notes, “also the most outspoken feminists in the film don’t actually go so far regarding think that women should be employed exterior the home; the story’s battlegrounds are collection entirely approximately what they do with the moment that they spend not having actually paying tasks.”<3> This faitempt to accurately depict the stakes of the society war being spoofed is problematic because, prefer its television predecessor, the movie says you don’t necessarily need to be a poor guy to desire an accommodating wife.
One of the gambles of blending satire through horror is that satire presupposes audience agreement that the organizations and also practices being mocked are on some level ridiculous. But when you have actually a culture divided over sex duties, as was the instance in both 1960 and also 1975, reaction runs the danger of being split in between those that view the female robotic replacements as ridiculous and those who see the principle as somepoint worth considering. Horror, as a particularly subversive genre, compounds this potential audience divide bereason the majority of horror narratives are designed to run on 2 levels: that which is obvious and also shows agreement over what is normal (generally the grounding sequences that shows the normalcy of the world) and that which exists as an answer or disruption to the general boundaries of that normality (mainly represented by the monster). For narratives choose “A World of His Own” and The Stepford Wives, the audience isn’t only being asked to see constructions of femaleness from the perspective of those marginalized, yet to likewise agree that the leading check out is imbued through a high level of ridiculousness. When that agreement doesn’t align, the social commentary can shift from advocating for the marginalized culture to the leading culture.
Transgressive woguys gain punished.
The reverberations of this template is not something consigned to the previous. In recent years, dystopian narratives focused on the limited agency of woguys have stayed part of public discourse. In The Handmaid’s Tale (2017), Matheson’s design template gets a makeover of sorts by making the principle of the perfect woguy also even more restrictive. With societal roles predicated upon fertility, women exist just in relation to guys. A woman’s duty is reflected in how she is allowed to dress, and also independent believed is minimal through a ban on writing and also reading. It’s hard to fathom how a human being such as this might not be universally viewed as problematic and yet, in 2021, tright here are still men’s groups advocating for the embrace of this right.
For a show as transgressive as The Twilight Zone, “A World of His Own” is a curious outlier. Serling referred to the episode as a “romantic story” expected to be comedic, yet that rationale drops level. Comedy that punches down seldom stands the test of time, and such is the case right here where every one of the humor is obtained from Victoria demanding some level of autonomy within her marriage. Her best sin in the episode is a desire to put her very own needs over that of her husband also and also for that, she invites the ridicule of the audience. It’s a human being where the social default is to feel pity for a husband with an independent reasoning wife rather of feeling outrage at the social disposability of woguys. And it begs the question of whether much has adjusted in well-known social narratives in the 40 years considering that this Twilight Zone episode first aired.
The Twilight Zone is streaming on Netflix.
<1> See Matheson’s I Am Legend, in which protagonist Robert Neville is tormented the majority of notably by womales vampires.
<2> June M. Pullguy and Anthony J. Fonesca, Ricdifficult Matheson’s Monsters: Gender in the Stories, Scripts, Novels, and Twilight Zone Episodes. Rowmale & Littlefield, 2016, p. 98.
<3> Tim Brayton, “The Stepford Wives (1975).” Alternate Ending, 12 Sept. 2004, https://www.alternatefinishing.com/2014/09/hollywood-century-1975-in-which-the-quickly-changing-world-is-subjected-to-enthusiastic-if-wildly-clumsy-satire.html. Accessed 8 February 2021.
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A World of His OwnArchiveFeaturesgenderKeenan WynnMary LaRochePhyllis KirkRichard MathesonRod SerlingThe Twilight Zone