As regular BB readers know, Mark and I are both lifelong fans of The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone were a big influence on my own quest for strange stories, real and imagined. Serling was a champion of equal rights and social justice, and those themes frequently informed his plot lines. Mitch Horowitz, author of the excellent book Occult America and the forthcoming One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life, is another BB contributor whose roots lie squarely… in the Twilight Zone. Mitch wrote a new essay for Huffington Post about "Why Rod Serling Still Matters":
…It was Serling's sense of moral outrage -- against conformity, scapegoating, war as a first resort, commercialism above quality -- that brought posterity to his scripts and stories, and that served to marry speculative writing and filmmaking, perhaps permanently, to some kind of ethical position-taking.Why Rod Serling Still Matters (HuffPo)
Serling's role as a supernatural moralist is on brilliant display in a biography recently -- and thankfully -- rescued from near-oblivion in a reissue by Cornell University Press, Serling: The Rise and Twilight of TV's Last Angry Man by Gordon F. Sander. A historical journalist and cultural writer, Sander deftly depicts Serling's struggle to live by a moral code as television drifted away from serious drama and as the artist himself -- who rose quickly to fame as the enigmatic host of The Twilight Zone -- embraced the financial compromise of serving as a pitchman for products from beer to socks to floor wax. There's no particular sin in that, as Sander notes, but Serling's readiness to place his name and image behind consumer products did chaff with his self-chosen role as a gadfly who swatted back at the hand of ad agencies and number crunchers who wanted television programming catered to their needs. "We're developing a new kind of citizenry," Serling said in 1957, "one that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won't be able to think."
"Serling: The Rise and Twilight of TV's Last Angry Man" by Gordon F. Sanders (Amazon)
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.