The Eye of the Beholder  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"Eye of the Beholder"[1] (also titled "The Private World Of Darkness" when initially rebroadcast in the summer of 1962) is episode 42 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on November 11, 1960 on CBS. Its theme is aesthetic relativism.


Plot summary

Janet Tyler has undergone her eleventh treatment (the maximum number legally allowed) in an attempt to look like everybody else. The details of the treatment, other than that they are a series of injections, are not given, but Tyler is first shown with her head completely bandaged so that her face cannot be seen. She is described as being "not normal" and her face a "pitiful twisted lump of flesh" by the nurses and doctor, whose own faces are always in shadows or off-camera.

The outcome of the procedure cannot be known until the bandages are removed. Tyler pleads with the doctor and eventually convinces him to remove the bandages early. After a climactic build-up, the bandages are removed. The reaction of the doctor and nurses is horror and disappointment. The procedure has failed, and her face has undergone "no change—no change at all!" The camera pulls back to reveal that she is actually beautiful.

At this point, the doctor, nurses and other people in the hospital are revealed to be horribly deformed from our perspective, with large, thick brows, sunken eyes, swollen and twisted lips, and wrinkled, pig-like snouts. Distraught by the failure of the procedure, Tyler runs through the hospital as the faces of everyone she runs into, the norm in this society, are revealed. Flat-screen television screens throughout the hospital project an image of the State's despotic leader giving a speech calling for greater conformity.

Eventually, a handsome man (by our standards) afflicted with the same "condition" arrives to take the crying, despondent Tyler into exile to a village of her "own kind", where her "ugliness" will not trouble the State. Before the two leave, the man comforts Tyler, saying that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".


Opening narration

"Suspended in time and space for a moment, your introduction to Miss Janet Tyler, who lives in a very private world of darkness. A universe whose dimensions are the size, thickness, length of the swath of bandages that cover her face. In a moment we will go back into this room, and also in a moment we will look under those bandages. Keeping in mind of course that we are not to be surprised by what we see, for this isn't just a hospital, and this patient 307 is not just a woman. This happens to be the Twilight Zone, and Miss Janet Tyler, with you, is about to enter it."


The episode was written by Rod Serling, who recycled the theme for a later teleplay "The Different Ones" for his later series Night Gallery. This one takes place in a futuristic world where a disfigured hermit teenage boy is sent on a NASA rocket to a planet where the inhabitants look like him.

It was directed by Douglas Heyes. His primary concern, when he was casting the show, was to pick actors with sympathetic voices: to achieve this he cast the episode with his back to the performers.

Heyes had planned to have Maxine Stuart, who spoke all of the lines of the main character Janet Tyler when her head is entirely covered by bandages, dub the single line spoken by Tyler when she is revealed, portrayed by the actress Donna Douglas. However, Douglas had been listening to Stuart's voice as she recorded her part, and was able to imitate her so successfully that she was allowed to speak the line on camera herself.

The original title for this episode was "Eye of the Beholder." Stuart Reynolds, a television producer, threatened to sue Serling for the use of the name because at the time he was selling an educational film of the same name to public schools. Reruns following the initial broadcast featured the title screen "The Private World of Darkness." Because CBS consulted different prints over the years for syndication packages, the closing credits for this episode vary from one title to the other depending on which television station is using which package. In The Twilight Zone 's original DVD release the syndicated version was marketed as an "alternate version". Other than the appearance of the title itself in the closing credits, however, there are no differences between the two "versions".

According to The Twilight Zone Companion this was one of the hardest episodes technically to put on film.


This episode was re-made for the 2002–03 revival of the series using Serling's original script (but discarding Bernard Herrmann's original score), with Molly Sims cast as Janet and Reggie Hayes as the doctor. The make-up was changed to make the faces look more melted, ghoulish and decayed with deep ridges. The re-make follows the original script more faithfully. The projection screens were changed to plasma screens and more of the dialogue from the Leader's monologue was used.

This episode, much like other Twilight Zone episodes such as "Time Enough at Last" and "It's a Good Life", has been referenced and parodied on other television shows. A Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Pamela Anderson (credited as "Pamela Lee") features Anderson as the patient, though in a comic twist she and all the male doctors conclude that she is now "hot". The suspenseful bandage removal sequence has been parodied on three Fox TV animated sitcoms: The Simpsons ("Pygmoelian" and "Gone Maggie Gone"), Family Guy ("He's Too Sexy for His Fat", "Meet the Quagmires"), and Futurama ("The Cyber House Rules"). It was also used in the TV sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun.

The opening of the program was sampled and used in Dillinja's 1998 track "Hard Noise".

An episode of Dexter's Laboratory called "Sore Eyes" (2003), written by Bill Wray, is loosely based upon this episode.

An episode of SpongeBob SquarePants called "The Two Faces of Squidward" (2007) is based upon this episode.

This episode is also sampled in the 2010 song "Southern Comfort" by Envy on the Coast.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Eye of the Beholder" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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