Sunday, February 7, 2010

"The Twilight Zone"

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

The Teabagger Convention yesterday and today that was held in Nashville, TN made me think of the old Twilight Zone episode called, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”

The Twilight Zone show was really based on the old morality plays of the Middle Ages. The story line really exposes how easily the people in the community are so easily manipulated and the mass paranoid hysteria being so ramped up to the point that an innocent person was killed in the street as a mistake. This episode was holding up a mirror to the McCarthy era hysteria of a Communist being behind every door or corner. As history repeats itself this is where I see the weak minds of the Teabaggers headed once again.

The episode begins in late summer; Maple Street is full of playing children and adults talking. A shadow passes overhead and a loud roar is heard, accompanied by a flash of light. Later, after it has gone dark, the residents of Maple Street find that their machines no longer work, and there is no power. They gather together in the street to discuss the matter. One of them, Pete Van Horn, volunteers to walk out of the neighborhood to discover the extent of the problem.
Another resident, Steve Brand, wants to go into town but Tommy, a boy from the neighborhood, tells him not to. Tommy had read in his comic/action hero books that an alien invasion is taking place and that Steve will not be allowed to leave. Furthermore - as part of this invasion - the aliens have insidiously placed within the neighborhood a family that appears human. The power outage is meant to isolate and contain the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, another resident, Les Goodman, tries unsuccessfully to start his car. He gets out and begins to walk back towards the other residents when the car starts all by itself. The bizarre behavior of his car makes Les the object of immediate suspicion. One woman begins to discuss his late nights spent standing in the garden looking up at the sky. Les claims to be an insomniac.

Later that night, Steve tries to defuse the situation and prevent it from becoming a witch-hunt. Charlie, one of the loudest and most aggressive residents, pressures Steve about his hobby building a radio that no one has ever seen. Suspicion falls on Steve when he sarcastically remarks that he talks to monsters from outer space on his radio.

The panic builds when a shadowy figure is seen walking towards them. Charlie, caught in the panic, grabs a shotgun and shoots the shadow, thinking it to be the alleged monster. When the crowd reaches the fallen figure, they realize that it is Pete Van Horn returning from his scouting mission.
Suddenly the lights in Charlie's house come on and he panics as the crowd begins accusing him of being both a murderer and the monster responsible for the power being out. He makes a run for his house while the other residents chase after him, throwing stones. Terrified, Charlie attempts to deflect suspicion onto Tommy, the boy who originally brought up the idea of alien infiltration. Lights begin flashing on and off in houses throughout the neighborhood; lawn mowers and cars start up for no apparent reason. The mob becomes hysterical, with terrified residents smashing windows, and taking up weapons, devolving into an all out riot.

The film cuts to a nearby hilltop, where it is revealed that the mysterious "meteor" that had flown overhead is an alien spaceship. Its inhabitants, two alien observers, are watching the riot on Maple Street while using a device to manipulate the neighborhood's power. They comment on how easy it was to create paranoia and panic, concluding that the easiest way to conquer the Earth is to let the people of the Earth destroy themselves, one "Maple Street" at a time.

Closing narration:
The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, and prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and the thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own: for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.


  1. Now that was a great allegory.
    The plot remeined me of a Woody Allen play he wrote in the 60's called Death (A Play).
    There is a maniac killing people and he seems to resemble the person who he kills...
    Mass panic, posses and great punch lines...

    As the play ends and the posse goes off looking for the killer, who has been spotted by the railtoad tracks, his last victim, who says that the liller resembled himself deli vers his last words,"And another thing. If there is a life after deeath and we all end up in the same place-don't call me, I'll call you."

  2. Engineer- I remember this episode VERY WELL! And the epilogue is profound, very profound for these days.

    Before I read your post, I posted something with a similar topic: racial prejudice.

    Your line, The story line really exposes how easily the people in the community are so easily manipulated and the mass paranoid hysteria being so ramped up to the point that an innocent person was killed in the street as a mistake. is key. I fear that 'mass paranoia' and propaganda are well at work here in our American society and the Teabaggers are the canaries in the caves!

    Great post, great story that is, sadly, a perfect metaphor for America in 2010.

  3. of course in the time frame of the twilight zone episode and the allen play, the insspiration was mccarthyism....but that's what we are dealing with today, only a more dumbed down media hyped populaist version.

  4. I enjoyed reading your synopsis because just a couple months ago I watched the entire 1st season, including this one. I like your idea comparing this to the tea baggers.

  5. Eng:

    Right on target with that comparison. Really makes one think. kudos.