Argument in Television
For this paper you are evaluating one of two Twilight Zone episodes you will be viewing and evaluating the argument the writer (Rod Serling for both) was presenting to the audience. The episodes are the “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” which was originally aired March 4, 1960 and “The Shelter” which was originally aired September 29, 1961. The essay will be different from past essays in that you will be evaluating how the writer makes the argument dramatically, through a story with characters, plot, and dialogue, and how their point is shown as the drama unfolds. You should look at the characters to figure out what groups or types they represent, what social conflicts develop between them and what larger groups in society they are meant to represent. You should try to figure out if any character (or characters) were the voice of the author, voicing his argument and viewpoint in the episode. Is there a voice of reason that seems to put forward the commentary about people or society the author is trying to get across?
There are three other thing to look at.
One is context in that these stories are reflective of the tensions and attitudes of their time period (early 1960s) and you need to show how the episodes comment on that time or specific events in the years before the episode aired. Specific research is needed to understand either episode and the tensions and beliefs of the time period that helps the reader understand the argument in the time it was shown.
Another thing you must evaluate is how visual and musical elements were used to enhance the drama and make the argument more effectively. How did certain shots, close ups, set design elements, choice of actors, costume all help the author communicate their argument? How did the music signal to the viewer how they were supposed to feel or react at different times in the episode?
Finally, there is the question of the messages offered in these episodes are confined to the audience of the 1960s or do they still have relevance to today’s audience. Have any recent events or situations caused reactions like these people have demonstrated? Can you imagine any current events or situations that might cause people to behave in ways like this now? It is important to know if an argument is really only of value to the time it was argued of if it still has something to teach us fifty years later.
Both episode are available online. If you have a Netflix membership or Amazon Prime membership, you can see the episodes for free, or they can be bought for unlimited viewing on Amazon, Vudu or itunes in HD or DVD quality for $1.99 or $2.99. They can also be found on HULU. Online links to episodes are unpredictable and sometimes illegally presented, so while you may be able to view the episodes at online sites like Youtube for free, I will only recommend these legal ways of viewing the episode.
The paper is roughly four pages double-spaced and in MLA format. Since research on the time period is required, a Works Cited page and in-text citations in MLA format will be needed.
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