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The Twilight Zone

Through A Scanner Strangely: Mind-Bending Shows

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What drives human curiosity is that we do not know everything. Some concepts are totally beyond our scope of comprehension, and that’s what makes life interesting. Humans have questioned their personal experiences or perceptions since the dawn of time. That is likely why we have countless stories of morals, beliefs, and life-altering experiences. Many of these mind-bending stories have been incorporated into shows and movies. Allow me to get into some examples of my favorite mind-benders and make some comparisons.

Mind-bending shows have become the norm on all streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu. Black Mirror on Netflix can easily be compared to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. Both shows have episodes that do not connect to one another but often have themes or universal messages. Some of these messages may be related to human morality or how technology can ruin a society.

An example of this would be the “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” episode of The Twilight Zone, which involves an American neighborhood that suddenly loses electricity.  Unbeknownst to the Maple Street community, two space invaders are the reason for the power loss. The electricity suddenly turns on in certain houses, and suspicion runs among the neighbors. Longtime friends and neighbors blame each other, which then leads to mass murder. The space invaders are not revealed until the very end of the episode, and their mission is to manipulate technology as an experiment for eliminating the human race. It turns out that the monsters are the same people that have prejudices against each other and are quick to kill.

The “White Bear” episode in Black Mirror plays on a similar theme regarding morality and technology. An unnamed woman wakes up with no recollection of her life and finds a picture of a young girl she does not recognize. She is being followed by people who are recording her on their phones and also by the gunmen that are trying to hunt her down. Once she is caught, she is humiliated in front of a live audience, who have watched everything in a Truman Show sort of fashion. The mind-bending part is that she killed the young girl but had no mental recollection, since her memory was deleted on a daily basis, and she was thus forced to relive the humiliation.

In real life, people often record incidents on their phones instead of helping those who are in need. Or they are too concerned about their devices to care about anyone but themselves. These two episodes remind me of the bystander affect, which is a social psychological theory where people are less likely to provide assistance to a victim in presence of others. Bystanders often think, ”Oh well, it is none of my business, and someone else will assist them.”

I also want to touch briefly on one more program. A couple months ago I finished watching the mystery-science fiction show, 1899, on Netflix. Sadly, this show will not be continuing with a second season. I find this very disappointing, as I was very engrossed as I watched season one.

If you have not watched 1899, I will do my best to not spoil it. What I will say is that the show delves into themes such as consciousness and memory manipulation. A group of European emigrants boards the steamship named Kerberos, and nothing is what it seems on the ship. Maura Franklin, who is an English neurologist, is having memory lapses and often finds herself questioning her own consciousness.

Lastly, mind-benders are so fascinating to me because they have me questioning the human psyche. I really appreciate this genre for both film and television alike because they make one think deeply. They can even teach us lessons and make us reevaluate certain flaws in our everyday lives. I also enjoy seeing the creativity that goes into the slow-burning suspense or potential cliffhangers that there may be. The best part of the mind-bending genre is that there are so many twists and turns that we do not expect.


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