sci-fi or reality tv?


 Rod Serling – working at home in Connecticut, 1956

anti-war and social justice activist, tv-writer, producer, narrator

and one of my idols. 

*In 1955, the miscarriage of justice in the Emmett Till case proved a galvanizing point in the Civil Rights Movement. Rod Serling, a 30-year-old rising star in a golden age of dramatic television, watched the events play out in the news. He believed firmly in the burgeoning medium’s power for social justice. “The writer’s role is to be a menacer of the public’s conscience,” Serling later said. “He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism and he must focus the issues of his time.”

Soon after the trial concluded, Serling, riding off the success of his most well-received teleplay to date, felt compelled write a teleplay around the racism that led to Till’s murder. But the censorship that followed by advertisers and networks, fearful of blowback from white, Southern audiences, forced Serling to rethink his approach. His response, ultimately, was “The Twilight Zone,” the iconic sci-fi anthology series that spoke truth to the era’s social ills and tackled themes of prejudice, bigotry, nuclear fears, war, among so many others. At this point in history, the censors didn’t know what to make of this genre and he was free to deliver his message in a new way.

in honor of Rod Serling on national science fiction day,

who understood the power of the arts

as a way to communicate important messages. 

“there are weapons that are simply thoughts.

for the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy.”

-rod serling


credits: Getty Images, *Smithsonian Magazine

54 responses »

  1. Beautifully said Beth… I’m a believer in the power of the arts, and in the expansion of imagination… and I’m a life long fan of the wondrous British TV series, show “Doctor Who” xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the best TV shows ever. My husband and I re-watched most of it on Netflix a few years ago. We noticed that a lot of the sets got re-used :)–but it doesn’t detract from the stories. There were so many excellent, thoughtful ones that did tackle social justice issues, as well as some just for fun. It’s also fun to spot the actors like young Robert Redford and William Shatner.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t remember the Twilight Zone very well, science fiction never really interested me. Of course I’ve seen it. And I always liked R. Sterling, and I think I’ll read more about him after your post. I came across Emmett Till’s life many years ago. I read as much about him as I could. That young boy’s face lives in my thoughts. Thank you for explaining the TZ to me a little bit better, maybe I can look at it with a different understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: sci-fi or reality tv? — I didn’t have my glasses on…. | Rethinking Life

  5. This was most interesting. I watched Rod Serling’s shows and loved them. I think I liked the twist of his mind. There has been social injustice since the beginning of time and I don’t expect it will ever go away. It changes from one group to the next. People are a little nuts. Or a lot. I learned a little here today so thank you. I thought you were going to ask which we preferred, sci-fi or reality TV? I don’t understand reality TV so I’ll take Sci-fi and day. It makes sense. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: sci-fi or reality tv? — I didn’t have my glasses on…. – TV Screenplay Festival. Submit Today.

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