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Rod Serling’s Speculative Anti-racisms

Rod Serling’s Speculative Anti-racisms
A Talk By Melissa Phruksachart

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 6:00 pm
Michelson Theater
NYU Department of Cinema Studies
721 Broadway, 6th Floor

How might The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959-1964) and its creator Rod Serling afford us an opportunity to rethink the operations of mid-twentieth century U.S. racial liberalism? This talk argues that Serling’s infamous use of allegory and the supernatural in his series produced a distinctive and different type of anti-racist work that challenged the realism that marked other forms of advocacy like the television documentary. Focusing on narratives in which bodily invasion becomes racialized through the exchange of white and Asian male bodies, I show that the Cold War racial imaginary of The Twilight Zone is haunted by specters of the past, specifically by Serling’s experiences in the Pacific Theater of World War II. By portraying forms of violent intimacies that, due to network and sponsor censorship, could not be staged between white and black bodies during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the episodes’ coherence around Asian racial formations generates alternate avenues for thinking about race, history, and justice.

Melissa Phruksachart is Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow in the Department of Cinema Studies at NYU, where she teaches television history and minority discourse.

Free and open to the public.