Monday, October 17, 2011

Twilight Zone Morality Tales

Hannah and I watched an episode of The Twilight Zone yesterday on Amazon. It comes free with Amazon Prime membership, so we thought we’d try to enjoy some of the free instant videos. I picked the episode “Living Doll” because I’ve heard my sister quote a line from it for the last few years or so and I hadn’t seen it.

The story revolves around a man, played by Telly Savalas, who recently became stepfather to a charming little girl. She even calls him “Daddy.” He hasn’t come around to enjoying his role as father and doesn’t like children in general. When mother brings home a new doll for the child to play with, he gets upset at spending such a large amount of money on the little girl.

The doll isn’t particularly interesting. She has a wind up key, which when turned makes the doll’s arms move up and down and she repeats the phrase, “I’m Talky Tina, and I love you very much!” But when the stepfather is alone with the doll, she says something different: “I’m Talky Tina, and you’d better be nice to me.”

As the stepfather gets angrier, thinking that his wife is playing a joke on him, he begins to take it out on the doll. He throws it against the wall, threatens it with fire, but her statements only get darker:
“I’m Talky Tina, and I don’t like you.”
“I’m Talky Tina, and I’m beginning to hate you.”
“I’m Talky Tina, and you’ll be sorry.”
Finally, he takes the doll and puts in the trash can, thinking he’s rid of her, but when the little girl can’t find it, he reluctantly goes back to get the doll, but she’s gone.

At this point the telephone rings and he answers. It’s the doll’s voice and she then says the line that my sister has quoted for a few years:
“I’m Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you.”
I used to watch The Twilight Zone marathon over Christmas break, so I’ve seen quite a few episodes. This one, for one reason or another, has always escaped me until now. What I love about the show is that its stories almost always have a moral at the end. Writing like that is no longer in fashion, and I believe it’s because that kind of writing is hard to do.

In this case, the doll becomes a physical manifestation of a child’s inner reality. Her doll becomes a protector from her cold and unloving stepfather. Children in abusive homes or situations where they have little security or love will often find a stuffed animal, toy, or blanket that they hold onto for security, that invisible friend who loves them and provides them with an identity and a purpose.

As parents, it is our job to provide that identity, purpose, and security to our children. We are to love them. The man in this story discovered that the doll, representing the child’s psyche, didn’t forget or forgive after he did the right thing in returning the toy to the little girl. Likewise, one good deed can’t undo all of the damage we’ve caused when it has been consistently applied to someone as fragile as a child.

This episode of The Twilight Zone serves as a warning and a reminder to parents to love our children. If we are reconciled to God, are reading our Bibles, and praying daily, chances are we won’t need such a chilling and blunt warning from a television show. And we won’t have nightmares over it either.

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