Angry Young Man

The Voice is unmistakable.

You know the music.

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man.

It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition. And, it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the …

Twilight Zone.

He was an angry young man.  He had a lot to say.

And they wanted to edit it or censor certain things, for they were paying for it.  Don’t say anything that might offend, and lose the audience, for sponsors and advertisers want eyeballs for their brands and products: not thoughtful and controversial explorations of the human mind and condition.  But, he did have a lot to say about that.

You see, Rod Serling, Champion Idealist, was an angry young man.

Rodman Edward “Rod” Serling (December 25, 1924 – June 28, 1975) was an American screenwriter, novelist, television producer, and narrator best known for his live television dramas of the 1950s and his science fiction anthology TV series, The Twilight Zone. Serling was active in politics, both on and off the screen and helped form television industry standards. He was known as the “angry young man” of Hollywood, clashing with television executives and sponsors over a wide range of issues including censorship, racism, and anti-war politics. [Wikipedia]

“I was bitter about everything and at loose ends when I got out of the service. I think I turned to writing to get it off my chest.”  He had seen some of the worst aspects of human behavior, being part of the US Army freeing the Philippines of Japanese in World War II.

Some of the most memorable and classic TV stories were written by Serling:  Requiem for a Heavyweight, Patterns, In the Presence of Mine Enemies, and 92 Twilight Zone Stories.  Twilight Zone episodes have been in TV reruns ever since their debut in 1959-64.  Many generations have the watched and learned about important moral tales from those Twilight Zone episodes, such as, A Nice Place to Visit, The Masks, and The Eye of the Beholder.

“No one could know Serling, or view or read his work, without recognizing his deep affection for humanity … and his determination to enlarge our horizons by giving us a better understanding of ourselves.” – Gene Roddenberry

Tired of seeing his scripts butchered in manners that removed any political statements, ethnic identities, and even the Chrysler Building being removed from a script sponsored by Ford, the frustrated, angered Serling decided that the only way to avoid such artistic interference was to create his own show. In an interview with Mike Wallace, Serling confessed, “I don’t want to fight anymore. I don’t want to have to battle sponsors and agencies. I don’t want to have to push for something that I want and have to settle for second best. I don’t want to have to compromise all the time, which in essence is what a television writer does if he wants to put on controversial themes.” [Wikipedia]

“Every man can and must search for his own dignity.”

Rod had difficulty in the search.  He knew he liked the limelight.  It was seductive to him.  He liked the praise and perks of Hollywood, but he was conflicted and inside divided.

This self-consciousness in the presence of others poses yet another dilemma for the Idealists: needing to be authentic, yet needing to be valued by others, they must walk the razor’s edge. What gives Idealists their sense of identity is to be able to be, with no pretense and no phoniness, who they “really” are.  [Personology, page 140]

He wanted full control on the content that he produced.

He submitted The Time Element to CBS executives, intending it to be a pilot for his new weekly show, The Twilight Zone. Instead, CBS used the science fiction script in the new show produced by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, in 1958. The eerie story concerns a man who has vivid nightmares of Pearl Harbor. The man goes to a psychiatrist and after the session the plot twist, which Serling became known for, is revealed. The patient had died in the Pearl Harbor bombings, and the psychiatrist was the one actually having the vivid dreams. But the Desilu show received so much positive fan mail about the episode that CBS finally agreed to let Serling go ahead with his pilot for his Twilight Zone show. [Wikipedia]

“He carried his Playhouse 90 sensibility with him into Twilight Zone and found stories of social commentary which you could not sell to anybody, under any other circumstances, but if you put it in a fantasy story and you could say all kinds of sorts of things” — Richard Matheson.

Champions often speak (or write) in the hope of revealing some truth about human experience, or of motivating others with their powerful convictions. Their strong drive to speak out on issues and events, along with their boundless enthusiasm and natural talent with language, makes them the most vivacious and inspiring of all the types. [Please Understand Me II]

The Idealists’ interest in the future also has a mystical aspect to it. The Idealists’ fantasies, as well as their favorite stories, are often excursions into the field of oracular powers, prophetic sensibilia, omens, fortune telling, Tarot cards, and the like, all of which help the Idealists to create in their imaginations a magical context, a context of signs and portents, pregnant with possibilities.  Idealists believe that life is rich with potentials waiting to be realized, filled with meanings calling out to be understood. The Idealists are drawn to exploring these potentials and uncovering those meanings, to divining the true nature and significance of things. [Personology page 140]

He had realized that one had to be careful what you wish for.  For he had shown based on his own experience nostalgia isn’t what it is use to be.  But his vision and imagination was vast, and limited in the end, for he was all too human.  Reality was more complicated.  He knew that.   And he helped the world understand by producing his morality tales. He chose to write Wisdom Fiction, until he couldn’t anymore.

On May 3, 1975, Serling, a long-time chain cigarette smoker, suffered a minor heart attack and was hospitalized. He spent two weeks at Tompkins County Community Hospital before being released. A second heart attack two weeks later forced doctors to agree that open-heart surgery, though considered risky at the time, was in order. The 10-hour long procedure was carried out on June 26th, but Serling suffered a heart attack on the operating table and died two days later at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester NY.  [Wikipedia]

He was fifty years old, some would say that was still awful young to die.  But, he wasn’t as angry as before, more just tired and worn out.  But we luckily have his imagination still with us to this day: in form of those brilliant morality tales, in the Twilight Zone.

Quote1.pngImagination… its limits are only those of the mind itself.Quote2.png  — Rod Serling

Quote1.pngAll the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes -all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the earth into a graveyard, into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its rememberance. Then we become the grave diggers.Quote2.png  — Rod Serling

9 thoughts on “Angry Young Man

  1. Marc-Olivier April 21, 2012 / 10:50 pm

    The email is send.

    Thanks

    Like

  2. Brian S. April 22, 2012 / 12:41 pm

    I’m not at all surprised that you call him a Champion. I had typed him the same way.

    Like

  3. Dawne May 15, 2012 / 7:33 pm

    *Excellent* portrait article.

    Like

  4. Warwick May 20, 2012 / 2:10 am

    Now I know why I’ve always loved the Twilight Zone! I have the original 5 seasons on DVD in glorious B&W. Rod Serling is one of me! an Idealsit. My how the meaning of your life falls together like a big jigsaw puzzle as you gorw older.

    Like

  5. Daniel T May 25, 2012 / 6:45 am

    Excellent portrait article!

    Like

  6. b trerice June 27, 2012 / 9:59 am

    Interesting ‘coincidence’..have just received the newsletter with this article today. And with it your apology, “We apologize for the gap in your newsletters”…thank you. The ‘coincidence’ is that while Youtube surfing or Wikipedia surfing a couple of months or so ago, I zero’d in on Mr. Serling and spent much time that evening exploring his thoughts & life similar to the depth in your article.
    On a personal note, I do not need to know why I do or do not do some things sometimes.
    I can imagine that he may have felt alone at times when amongst the general population. Some like to emphasize his smoking as the likely culprit for his generally perceived premature death yet imho, we need to look at his life wholistically. Can you imagine what it is like to be on point/to be a scout out there on his own for such a long time? The many mind skirmishes he had to deal with to bring his ray of enlightenment into the external reality? Raising consciousness is not an easy feat single-handedly yet he was so committed. It comes as no surprise that his heart became fatigued. All in all, I think he made wonderful use of his earth time.
    I was fortunate, in more ways than one, to have watched Twilight Zone when his morality/imaginative series was first aired. Most tv programs today in N.A. come across as mush – superficial stimulation.
    BTW, nicotine is an antidepressant.

    I am an INFJ as of 2005-02; predominant experience of being a female; some Celtic roots in my DNA [cellular memory]; RN yet also have been a lone female truck driver in the ’70’s; & so on.

    Twilight: in a 24 hour period there are 2 such times. Twilight does not need to be perceived as scary. Respect for Nature & all living beings, universal compassion, preserving dignity and maintaining an open mind will strengthen one to continue their personal/individual quest and path.
    Frankly speaking, if we could add Mystery to the Religious/Spirituality category everywhere might be a good idea as the latter 2 do not ‘speak’ to many of our hearts. They have been corrupted through misogyny via imbalanced mythologies, misinterpretation, politicalization, and their by-products – threat systems, programmed ignorance, confusion, polarization, antagonism, and mind/body violence.
    Maxim: When knowledge ends, violence begins.
    ‘Our hearts are our first teacher’, so goes a Cheyenne saying. And travelling with this, I would say that all teachings after this need to be in accord.
    We hear with our mind yet it is our heart that sees.

    Also, I would like to make one last practical suggestion: utilize the international date format: yyyy/mm/dd.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Date_Format

    Thank you for considering my comment; a pleasant day to all~

    Like

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