On Charles Beaumont’s “The Beautiful People”

“Children have become far too intellectual which, as I trust I needn’t remind you,
is a dangerous thing.”

The setting is some point in the future –humans have already landed on Mars, citizens watch tapes rather than read books, and nobody sleeps anymore. Mary Cuberle and her mother Zena pay a visit to a doctor’s office where Mary is scheduled to receive The Transformation, a medical procedure designed to “beautify” teenage girls, such that they may look like all the girls in society men undergo their own separate Transformation). The goal of this future world is homogeneity. However, Mary wants to remain unique. Her father, a rocket man, tragically died in “the Ganymede Incident,” but while still alive he used to tell his daughter Mary that she was beautiful without The Transformation.

In the end, she is taken while sleeping and compelled to undergo the Transformation. She watches all the bland, commonplace people walking around: “All the beautiful people. All the ugly people, staring out from bodies that were not theirs. Walking on legs that had been made for them, laughing with manufactured voices, gesturing with shaped and fashioned arms” (183). As with its counterpart Twilight Zone episode, Charles Beaumont’s “The Beautiful People” uses a clever bit of science fiction to offer a blistering incitement on many present-day social ills –conformity, the beauty industry,     

Beaumont, Charles. Perchance to Dream and other Short Stories. Penguin Classics. New York, NY (2015).  

Note: In the Foreword to this essay collection, Ray Bradbury offers some lovely reflections on the life of Charles “Chuck” Beaumont, from initially meeting a sixteen-year-old Beaumont at a bookstore in Los Angeles (talking about Terry and the Pirates comic collection, Buck RogersTarzan, and Prince Valiant), to helping Beaumont publish his first short story and embark upon a successful literary career –“His life revolved around a special desk which he had designed and had built by one of the finest cabinetmakers in the West. His files were beautifully stashed, labeled, and stuffed with a half-million notions, idle fancies, half-grown or full-grown dreams…” (xiii). His was a life that was cut short too soon –a great tragedy for American science fiction.

Ray Bradbury offers the following reflections on Charles Beaumont’s funeral:

“The friends of Charles Beaumont, at gravesite, felt… above all that a time was over, and things would never be the same. Our old group would meet less often, and then fall away. What was central to it, the binding force, the conversational fire, the great runner, jumper, and yeller, was gone” (xiv).  

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

Click here for my review of “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” Twilight Zone episode    

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