The Eye of the Beholder

It was an episode of the black-and-white TV series The Twilight Zone. On November 11, 1960, viewers were presented with a woman lying in a hospital bed, her face covered in bandages. Doctors and nurses came and went, their faces wrapped in shadow, or their bodies turned away from the camera.

“Ever since I was a little girl, people turned away when they looked at me … one little child screaming … I’m used to bandages on my face. I’ve lived my whole life inside a dark cave.”

At the nursing station, the verdict was divided:

“If it were my face, I’d bury myself in a grave someplace.”

“Deeper than that twisted lump of flesh, deeper than that skeletal mask, I’ve seen that woman’s real face, nurse. It’s a good face. It’s a human face.”

On the TV overhead, the nation’s leader is giving a speech:

“Tonight I shall talk to you about glorious conformity … the pleasure of our unified society … We must conform to the norm!”

And now a conversation between doctor and patient:

“We’ll take the bandages off soon, Miss Tyler. You may very well have responded to these last injections … if not, please know that there are many others who share your misfortune … you can’t expect to live any kind of life among normal people … perhaps you’ll move into a special area in which people of your kind have been congregated.”

“You mean segregated!”

Later, the time of reckoning is at hand:

“We’ve done all we could do.”

“If I’m still terribly ugly, could I please be put away?”

“Under certain circumstances, the state provides for the extermination of undesirables.”

The bandages are slowly unwrapped. At the last turn, nurses gasp and cover their eyes. “No change!” Miss Tyler bursts from the room, running down the hall past horrified onlookers.

At the end of it all, Miss Tyler is introduced to Mr. Smith, “a representative of the group you’re going to live with. In a little while, you’ll feel a sense of great belonging.”

***

To help you appreciate this story even more, here are some photos:

The first shows a dedicated doctor and nurse, overwhelmed by the appearance of the patient.

Next is the disfigured Miss Tyler.

Finally, a similar abomination, Mr. Smith, offers Miss Tyler a place amid the untouchables.

Sadness

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