“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”
Twilight Zone, Season One, March 4, 1960
Several things have made the original Twilight Zone among the most memorable television series ever aired. First, it never failed to entertain. That’s first and foremost, for without this crucial factor present, Rob Serling could not have successfully delivered any message then or now. Second, nearly every episode had something significant to say about the human condition. It’s rare to find such a program, or even such a book, play, or film. And third, the Twilight Zone continues to speak to every generation that watches it. That’s because the anthology series dealt with topics we can’t ever seem to resolve. We live with them from generation to generation.
Case in point: “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” Recall the time. We were in the throes of the Cold War. We feared nuclear conflagration. Anyone who lived during the period, your parents and grandparents, will testify to its palpable nature. Nevil Shute’s bestselling novel On the Beach riveted readers in the late 1950s. Two years after the airing of the “Maple Street” episode Burdick and Wheeler’s Fail-Safe scared the hell out of the nation.
What makes “Maple Street” such a brilliant episode for today, for each and every one of us, is how it speaks directly to our current situation. Like almost nothing else, it perfectly dramatizes our worst fears, our worst instincts, and the very goals of our current enemy, the Islamic State. “Maple Street” is the very definition of terror, of how to turn a nation against itself, how to drive it into giving up everything it holds sacred, the values upon which it was founded. As the alien perpetrators comment at the end, you don’t have to invade a nation to conquer it. You simply instill terror, terror that turns neighbors against neighbors.
And isn’t that exactly what is happening today? We turn on our televisions and hear our political leaders and wanna bes rant, spouting nutty ideas, ideas that will surely bolster people’s worst ideas about us. Reasonableness, thoughtfulness, calm reason, let’s toss these out the window in favor of, as the residents of Maple Street do, running from one house to next in search of the enemy, in unconscious bidding to the enemy.
You can find “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” on DVD collections available from your public library and streaming services. Take a look and think about how it speaks directly to our times.
And then keep this closing voiceover in mind when people are losing their heads around you:
“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices — to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill — and suspicion can destroy — and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own — for the children — and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is — that these things cannot be confined — to the Twilight Zone.” w/c