Rod Serling, the last Liberal of America
and the only one worth emulating in 2022
When thinking of the credentials that make up a liberal by today’s standard, Rod Serling epitomizes time travel, a theme frequently visited on his groundbreaking 1950’s sci-fi TV show, The Twilight Zone. Famed for his spooky demeanor on set, the progressive of his era was abnormally humble, outspoken against corporate power, and staunchly opposed to censorship…
Not least of all, the man was also antiwar, a human rights activist, master of manners, wordsmith, and prophetic in his take on cultural issues on the horizon. These are only a few attributes that he demonstrated par excellence, none of which remain as the flagship concerns for the Democratic party. It’s clear from their demise that they special in nothing but looking down on others, a trait so foreign to some of those who used to be the party’s biggest advocates. Here’s how turning back the clock and becoming a brand of working-class civility renews that. And we’ll look no further than this most enigmatic and great American writer.
It’s difficult to get a true feel of Serling behind the cigarette smoke and low lighting of his paranormal black-and-white set. His mysterious on-screen persona left audiences chilled during The Twilight Zone’s run, not having much access to what the baritone-voiced show MC was really like outside of character. He no doubt captivated audiences, but rarely made appearances separate from his creative work. Fortunately, though they are few, interviews and speeches of his survive on YouTube for all of us to take note. You’ll find no famed liberal in America today like him. His brilliant artistry aside, watching Rod Serling in conversation with others gives us a taste of something that our (particularly left-wing) culture is so starved of now. Modesty.
Decency doesn’t point fingers. It’s an attribute that refuses victimhood because of its surroundings, no matter the degree of reality making it possible. It’s weak to say that such composure simply means turning the other cheek. A worse definition yet would be saying that the quality is little more than being a YES-MAN kind of guy. Something else is entirely at play. In short, the presence of such a characteristic expresses a willingness to communicate. And that willingness, as studied from watching Serling engage with others, has nothing to do with “tolerating” them. This man gave people a chance.
Figuratively speaking, so rare is it that an accomplished figure like Serling can go unseen, both then and now. Individuals and artists like him who achieve a certain amount of fame often present themselves outwardly. Their benefits from attaining artistic success in the public is not only the compensation, but also the notoriety the artist receives as a result. No hint of that lived in Rod. He embodied freakish modesty. Is it unimaginable to think of why that might be?
It’s not that Serling hid from the public. He just understood in the best way possible that always striving for better had nothing to do with the obvious we expect today–advertising on your phone to everyone of your efforts. Serling didn’t care who knew. His career was about taking chances, risking everything, all while never seeking out condolences from the public in return. His focus was on what he created from the inside; the opposite of what you see from today’s celebrities–notably, the cheapness of silly behavior. No, Serling’s conduct was not the kind you’ll see from the mindless output of children celebrities like Jimmy Fallon. Serling’s idea of striving for the best meant doing the work, not everyone liking him.
Nowhere is this best conveyed than in his efforts on The Twilight Zone. Though the show wasn’t always great, it always had a message to give. The significance wasn’t that its audience understood the ideas like they would if reading an instruction manual. Rather, The Twilight Zone was a moment for the audience to shut up and experience originality. How often do any of us get to witness that?
He was a man of true candor. A gentleman in every sense of the word. The problem with America today is that we regulate all men of Serling’s era to a kind of retro dinosaur, one automatically and unfairly riddled with sexism, racism, homophobia, and misogyny. And surprisingly, Serling’s former party has capitalized. They have the convenience of running on these ideas simply because they have nothing else to give. Such a platform is ultimately a lack of accountability. One couldn’t imagine Rod Serling ever deflecting from his shortcomings like they do. The lack of people like him within the Democratic party today makes clear as to seeing why their colossal decay is rather obvious. A note for liberals if they want to win? Be like Rod.