Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone (1959-1964) emerged during a period of American history which has since become something of myth, legend, and lore. Popularly portrayed as a kind of golden age when middle class aspirations were within reach, suburban housing affordable, and the nuclear family perfectly contented, postwar America was more accurately characterized by profound cognitive dissonances. At a time when the Cold War was understood to be first and foremost a battle of ideas, psychological marketing promoted many different facets of the American Dream. While market researchers plumbed the depths of American minds and explored their subconscious desires and insecurities to better promote goods, homes, and jobs, American consumers were generally not as well-acquainted with understanding how psychological manipulations were impacting their rapidly changing world. Consequently, a fast-growing knowledge gap began to emerge between marketers and politicians on the one hand, and the consuming public on the other. The Twilight Zone, by focusing on the “dimension of mind,” worked to raise viewers’ awareness of how their minds represented fiercely contested ground for marketers and postwar policymakers alike. Knowing that explicitly depicting socially marginalized minorities was sure to alert increasingly paranoid sponsors and networks, Serling instead focused his creative energies on white American society and its collective preservation of bigotry, prejudice, and white supremacy. By turning a critical eye toward issues permeating suburbia, space exploration, white collar work, consumerism, war, and technology, Serling’s Twilight Zone appraised the priorities of white mainstream society - priorities which frequently necessitated greed, corruption, indifference, and violence. In this way, he followed the dominant television trend in making the aspirational, and seemingly wholesome, American Dream the centerpiece of his new series with one major qualification – the American Dream would be contained within a nightmare. By placing the American Dream inside a nightmare, Serling attempted to raise critical thought as it related to manufactured desires, public policies, advertised products, and white utopian visions that incessantly predominated postwar life in the United States.
Document Availability at the Time of Submission
Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.
Brokaw, David, "Televising the American Nightmare: The Twilight Zone and Postwar Social Criticism" (2017). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 4225.