Original Air Date: November 11, 1960
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Douglas Heyes
“I just want to be normal! Why can’t I be normal?”
“Eye of the Beholder is an absolute classic in The Twilight Zone series. I believe it was the first Twilight Zone episode to which I was ever exposed. It explores the idea of beauty and conformity in an alternate reality. Once again Writer Rod Serling, Director Douglas Heyes, Cinematographer George T. Clemens, and Make-Up Artist William Tuttle deliver a phenomenal episode with a signature twist ending.
“Suspended in time and space for a moment, your introduction to Miss Janet Tyler, who lives in a very private world of darkness. A universe whose dimensions are the size, thickness, length of the swath of bandages that cover her face. In a moment we will go back into this room, and also in a moment we will look under those bandages. Keeping in mind of course that we are not to be surprised by what we see, because this isn’t just a hospital, and this patient 307 is not just a woman. This happens to be the Twilight Zone, and Miss Janet Tyler, with you, is about to enter it.”
Janet Tyler (played by Maxine Stuart under bandages, but Donna Douglas after being revealed -known for her role in The Beverly Hillbillies) is lying on a hospital bed after a procedure, her head completely wrapped in a bandages. She is patient #307. All her life she has been an outcast because she looks abnormal and her face is ugly. This is her eleventh hospital visit, the maximum allowed by the state.
We never see their faces, but her doctors and nurses come and go. On the hospital television the Leader of the State echoes visions of “glorious conformity.” When it is finally time to remove her bandages the doctors are aghast -she is hideous! The procedure has been a failure because she is still ugly and abnormal. However, as the camera pans around the room we discover that the doctors and nurses all appear like ugly pigs, with hideous misshapen faces, and by the viewer’s standard Miss Tyler is incredibly beautiful. She is delivered into the hands of another “freak” named Walter Smith (played by Edson Stroll). He is set to take Miss Tyler to a northern village filled with other outcasts where she will not be judged. He reminds her that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
“Now the questions that come to mind: “Where is this place and when is it?” “What kind of world where ugliness is the norm and beauty the deviation from that norm?” You want an answer? The answer is it doesn’t make any difference, because the old saying happens to be true. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in this year or a hundred years hence. On this planet or wherever there is human life – perhaps out amongst the stars – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lesson to be learned in the Twilight Zone.”
The atmosphere of this whole episode is dark and shadowy as we do not see any of the doctors or nurses faces until the end, however one of the more memorable shots occurs when the bandages are being removed and we (the viewer) experiences it through the eyes of Janet Tyler. This notion of sight and judging people based on how they look is at once a commentary on the subject-object divide, but also as in “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” we see the troubling nature of crowds as people desire to appear “normal” among their peers.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- Due to last minute finagling behind the scenes, the episode’s title was originally “The Private World of Darkness.”
- Because of the complex makeups and camera angles, this was one of the most difficult episodes of The Twilight Zone to film.
- When Buck Houghton first received this script he was reportedly terrified at trying to pull off a twenty-four minute episode where the audience does not get to see any of the character’s faces until the very end.
- Douglas Heyes knew that the actors’ voices would be most important so when it came time for auditioning he told Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, he heard auditions with his back to the actors.