Working with a genre I had a lot of experience with (zines!) for this experiment was still surprisingly challenging and fulfilling to do! The research I performed putting together the sketch draft, from watching and writing notes about old “Twilight Zone” episodes to taking the time to really appreciate the careful construction of my mentor pieces, was as fun as it was difficult making decisions about how I should execute the darn thing. In the end, I’m happy with the samples I have and the work I’ve started to do, but it only makes me want to actually complete the project all the stronger. If I had the time (and the will power) to put this project together, I would probably pull in collaborators who would each focus on a different character (I would also try to comb through the Twilight Zone episodes that didn’t make it to Netflix, if I want to make it more thorough) and would ideally have a clean mix of artistic interpretation and critical thoughts about the characters. If I ended up creating a collaborative project like that, I’d certainly have a slew of newer, maybe more boring problems (distribution? Payment? Layout?) but I think I wouldn’t lose steam on the project if I had the same momentum and interest in it that I’ve kept up for the last week.
This experiment is definitely spiritually further and further away from my origin piece (from sex toys to robo-grandmas) but I’d like to think I’m not wandering too far away from the ideas I explored in the first one. The focus with this project definitely wandered back into the realms of women’s roles in society, and how control and objectification seem to define that role. In looking at the ways these female characters, most of whom are quite literally objects (dolls, mannequins, robo-grandmas, and the like), are portrayed in the 60’s, I found some confirmations of the conclusions I reached in my origin piece as well as some surprising subversions. While I was right that many of the characters that were somewhat defined by the people who controlled them (the character of “Grandma” in “I Sing the Body Electric” is made and named by the children she nannies), many of the instances of these “non-living” women in the show lean towards questions of sentience and morality in regards to the thoughts and feelings of these conscious beings a step to the left of humans.
I started thinking about this when I was rewatching the “Living Doll” episode (the one that scarred me for life as a youngin’) looking at Talky Tina’s actions as Rod Sterling described them at the end of the episode: as a “friend, defender, guardian”; when I did that I could see Tina’s murderous impulses as more of a punishment for her owner’s abusive stepfather. Her personality, her world is not based around her ownership, she very clearly thinks for herself and doesn’t feel the need to love and respect Erich just because she is part of the “family”, unlike Grandma from “I Sing the Body Electric” who exudes patience and calm even in the most turbulent emotional circumstances. It got me wondering how strange it was that the non-human characters with the most independence from their owners, from the roles they are supposed to play as inanimate figures, were the ones most considered to be evil.
Working in more visual mediums for this project was really valuable to me! I hope I can find a genre that’s similarly stimulating for the next experiment.