If you need to know one thing about me, let it be known that I am obsessed with The Twilight Zone. It’s also been a passion of mine to learn more about the show and spill analytical knowledge about it to the world. As I got older, I discovered there was more to The Twilight Zone than meets the eye. I learned to dissect deeper meanings and lessons from each episode. For “5th Dimension Lessons,” I’m here to deep dive into the Twilight Zone and see the meaning behind the classic episodes. Welcome to my level of crazy.
For this week, we’re going to be diving and learning from the episode titled Eye of the Beholder (S2E6). Warning: There will be spoilers.
There’s something special about an episode that shows you little, but tells you a lot about the human condition and how we treat the concept of beauty. Beauty has always been something humans crave whether we know it or not. We see so many different things as beautiful. There are still particular types of beauty that we tend to strive for within our likes and dislikes. Some crave the beauty that comes with just being “normal,” but in a society where it changes every so often, we can’t keep up. Enter Twilight Zone’s Eye of the Beholder, one of the few episodes that put you face-first with the obsession with beauty and the need for conformity in its own upside perspective.
Eye of the Beholder tells the story of Janet Tyler, a woman who has had up to 10 surgeries on her face to make it better. Janet is covered in bandages, lying in a hospital bed and pleading — almost starving — for any interaction beyond the darkness she’s forced to see. She’s currently on her 11th surgery. After this, there are no more options for her. The only thing to do is for her to go to a place where her “kind” is joined together to keep out of the way. With these surgeries, she strives to be a “normal” that everyone else is and that the state requires her to be. We don’t see Janet’s face until the final moments of the episode when we see what is normal and abnormal in this world.
Let’s talk about some things first within the episode first. One incredible achievement throughout this episode is how much we are told just through dialogue. Mainly through Janet’s monologues, tantrums, and pleading with the doctors and nurses. As I’ve said before, most of the episode is Janet’s face completely unseen. We hear her through the bandages and don’t know her facial expressions. We’re so used to looking at people when they’re speaking. We search faces to analyze what they say and dissect expressions, but we don’t get that here. In fact, Janet’s face isn’t the only face we don’t see. In very clever camera movements and lighting brilliance, we don’t see anyone’s faces either. This includes the doctors and nurses until the last few minutes, and it’s such a payoff.
Once we get to the shock of it all, we see the real face of what’s normal and what’s not. The nurses unwrap the bandages from her face for the first time. Slowly, but surely, Janet’s vision comes into focus. We follow her as the bandages unwrap around her. We are introduced to the light too. As the audience, we hope for triumph, but the doctors and nurses jump back in horror. The surgery didn’t work, and this is when we see Janet’s face for the first time. She’s … beautiful. She’s blonde. She looks like if Janet Leigh and Marilyn Monroe had a baby.
The doctor and nurse pin her down, and this is when we see the difference. While Janet’s face is beautiful (by our standards), the doctor and nurse are … different. They have duck-like lips, shallow eyes, and look like they came straight out of a toxic Whoville. They’re the normality in this world. Janet is the ugly one.
This episode follows in line with that old classic saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” By saying this, it means that beauty exists in the eye of the person who is observing. It is created by the observer who decides what is beautiful to them. Take that in the context of this episode where beautiful is turned entirely on its head. The ugliness that we would think isn’t beautiful is the most beautiful of all. The beautiful that we associate with are shunned and hauled off to live separate from that society.
What’s cool and a bit sad about Eye of the Beholder is that it can be in any lifetime. Janet went through 11 facial surgeries for her to look like everyone else, to conform and to be beauty in the eyes of the state and everyone around her. She went through all of this to not be shunned by anyone and to be desired. In this lifetime, we see beauty in many different ways. We all have our different perspectives of what we find beautiful, whether it be looks, personality, etc. There’s always going to be something different we see to what others see. Sometimes, we also only see one type of thing as being beautiful and shun anyone else who doesn’t live up to our/anyone’s standard of beauty.
Another lesson this episode tackles with the idea of beauty is the idea of conformity. The idea that you have to be like everyone else to live your best life and succeed in a life where everyone is the same. If you can live up to this idea of conformity, in The Twilight Zone, you’re golden. If you can’t conform to the ideas that people have set for you or people want for you, get out now. The conflict that Janet and everyone like Janet had to go through is absolutely heartbreaking. It shows you that you don’t have to change to be loved, accepted, and found beautiful. In the end, she found a community where her “ugliness” was considered beautiful, and that’s the biggest lesson of all.