Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder


Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't seen the episode, Twilight Zone: Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

When the holidays roll around, I love baking (ok, I love the idea of baking, but I never seem to get around to it). But, I did do a Google Image search for Christmas Treats. It made me wonder, does Google define what a Christmas treat should be? Do you notice the results only returned were American snacks? So I put on a VPN and was not surprised it returned UK Christmas snacks. So, Google is telling me what Christmas Treats is based on region and culture.

This reminds of the Twilight Zone episode, Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder (TZB). The episode discusses 'who defines the standards by which we call something beautiful.' So, I did a Google Image search for 'beauty' and 'ugly.' If Google defines Christmas, I assume it tries to explain Beauty. I was not shocked to see young faces covered in makeup with perfectly looking hair. But is that Beauty? So, I looked up Ugly and met with distorted toothless faces with uneven skin tone.

Twilight Zone episode, Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder.

In TZB, the story opens with a young lady covered in bandages awaiting the result of her 11th facial injection to cure her ugliness. As much as the episode tries to shock you with the reveal, we all know this is the Twilight Zone, and underneath the bandages will be our version of Beauty - which it was. I would love to see her actually as a distorted toothless face with an uneven skin tone. Philosophers have debated for centuries who holds the definition of Beauty. Plato believed it was the ideal State, Neitzche thought it was the frenzy of the soul, while Hegel argued it was the self-knowing perfect spirit. The episode projects that Beauty is uniformity, and those who fail to project this Beauty will be expelled from society. But, is the State wrong? Is Beauty subjective?

In the episode, there was a short line early in the episode. Patient 307 said she remembers being ugly since the first time a baby cried and screamed upon looking at her. We get the impression that knowing Beauty is innate, or else, why would babies be frightened? Does that mean Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder but innately within us all? Here is a video of babies freaking out over masks. Babies cry when they are scared but have you ever wondered what scares them? They see a familiar face in their mother and calmness in their familiar voice. Say the mom tosses on a Freddy mask, and the kid freaks out. Is the baby rejecting something innate or something unfamiliar?

Fascism Designed by You

What if the mom wore a Freddy mask from the first moment the baby opened its eyes? That suggests Beauty is what we recognize. When the individual reacts to what they recognize as Beauty and ugliness, they are developing the State. In the Twilight Zone, the State didn't start as Fascist. It becomes Fascist set by the majority in favor of what they recognize as Beauty. To be like everyone else calms the people, so the episode claims. Isn't that the appeal of democracy? Your voice counts towards a majority ideal from a candidate that conforms to 'your' standards. Ask anyone why they voted. They usually say, "I was worried about this, so I picked a candidate with my interests in mind', in effect expelling the one different from them. When like minds from a majority based on free democracy, standards are set by the democratic practice you allow, because if you didn't, it would not be a democracy. Hence, Beauty is conformity set by the standards of the united majority.

Dark Spaces are Beautiful

The episode all but preaches uniformity is beautiful when they lovingly send Patient 307 to a community with the same ugliness as her. In the commune, they are identical, and nobody is unique. Still, above all, in this 'new' conformity, this 'new' normal, they are happy. In truth, the episode closes by saying the motto of their town is "beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. They repeatedly say every day like a chant, in uniformity, in unison, as one majority united. But, there is no diversity, not unique species; everyone in this village is identical. The episode alludes to finding your own people early on in the episode when she says her bandages force her to create a world in her mind. In this world, she can hide amongst people just like her. Nobody is scared of her, and nobody judges her. This sounds like social media's ability to segregated the masses into like groups. Do you love sarcasm with a sprinkle of bitterness? Twitter is your home! Do you like taking pictures of yourself with the perfect mask to hide your ugliness? Instagram and Snapchat have your back. Do you like photos of your cats and memories from three ago? Hop on Facebook. Oh wait, are you feeling oppressed and censored, better hop over to Parlor! Social media lets you find your conformity. It lets you subscribe to terms and conditions that make you feel happy, beautiful, and unique. But, in reality, you are just like everyone else on the platform, i.e., State. Therefore, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder when you see your ideals reflected at you. Twilight Zone was not pointing their finger at Fascist State but you, the beholder of Beauty. The delicate twisted endangered self ... the beholder of Beauty. 

Kelly Perez, Adjunct Professor