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Not as metaphysical as the title sounds. I’ve been watching (on and off today) the Twilight Zone marathon on the SciFi Channel. (And can anyone tell me why they changed it to the SyFy Channel?) I remember almost all of these episodes from when I was little. While the show only ran from 1959-1964, and I know we didn’t get a TV until around 1967, they must have been big in reruns on one of the three channels our TV got, back when I was very small.
How do I know this? Because many of my childhood fears were stimulated by the scenarios in the Twilight Zone. I didn’t realize this until today, and it’s been an interesting trip down Repressed Memory Lane.
The one Kelsea and I just watched was “The After Hours” about a department store mannequin who becomes human for a month and then has to return to mannequin status. Those of you in my age group may recall that store mannequins back then were made to look human. So different from what we see today, where mannequins are abstract, headless, wire, almost anything BUT human. I personally believe retailers instituted this change because it was less expensive to manufacture generic mannequins, and because the humanity of the mannequin distracted shoppers from envisioning the clothing modelled by the mannequin on themselves.
But this TZ episode caused me to have a weird relationship with mannequins as a child. I felt very sorry for the mannequin-turned-human-turned-back-to-mannequin on the show, empathetic child that I was, and it made me feel very compassionate towards mannequins in the department store. To the extent that I used to like to put my trusting little hand in each mannequin’s, just to ensure that each knew that there was someone who cared – and who perhaps guessed at their secret humanity.
I was broken of this affectionate gesture when I mistook a live woman who, for whatever reason, was standing very still, for a mannequin. I slipped my hand in hers, and she turned to look down at me, and you can imagine the results. I was shocked, surprised, terrified and embarrassed. She was very nice about it, but my poor Mother had to deal with me burying my face in her skirts for the rest of the abbreviated shopping trip. Between that episode and my pathological fear of the cage elevator in said department store, she had enough of our outing.
There are other episodes that burn dimly in my brain like a flickering light in the darkness that shines on something you don’t want to look at too closely. It was a show that played on people’s psychology better than almost any other I’ve ever seen even to this day, and it was unafraid to have political overtones, which I now appreciate. I think as a child, I learned a lot from The TZ – it made me ask questions.
But it left me with some pretty strange answers.