I’m not kidding! One of the first things I heard on the radio this morning was that it’s Twilight Zone Day, and I can’t help but think of a Twilight Zone episode often used in Facing History classrooms:
The Eye of the Beholder
What about you? Is there a Twilight Zone episode – old or new – which you love for its message, the question(s) it raises, or the way you can use it in the classroom? Share your comments below.
In a Facing History classroom, we link this with critical questions:
- How do we divide ourselves into a sense of “we” and “they”?
- What happens when we divide into “we” and “they”?
- Who defines “normal” or “beauty”? With what effect?
These questions are also great for parents and children, for teenagers thinking about issues of body image, even for adults may find themselves still being judged by appearance as they try to “fit in” to a new environment.
In the classroom – or with a young person in your life:
Before showing the video, draw a picture of a “beautiful person,” real or imagined. Discuss what characteristics were included to exemplify or show their beauty. How do we know what is beautiful?
While watching the video, list the words and phrases you find significant, include who says those words. Stop the video before the bandages come off. (We sometimes cut out some of the doctor’s monologue while smoking.) What do we expect is under all of those bandages?
After watching the video is when there can be some really great conversation:
- Who in Janet Tyler's society determines what is "normal"? Who is "beautiful"? What is "rational"? What is the source of that power? Why is "ugliness" a crime?
- What words stood out to you? What do those words suggest about the way difference is understood in this society?
- Who sets OUR standards of "beauty"? Where do we get our ideas about beauty? How do we learn what is "normal"?
- What role does the media play in defining "beauty"? To what extent do media images reflect the views of society as a whole?
- What role do family or peers play?
- What happens if someone doesn't fit "the norm"?
- What can that person do to try to fit in? (Include men as well as women in discussion)
Extend beyond the video by exploring current magazines, television, or billboards on your way home—don't look for the exceptions, look for what is common.
And, if you can extend even further, consider reading together the book or excerpts from the book Wonder, which explores a fictional narrative of one boy entering school for the first time in middle school, who does not look “normal.”