Alexander E. Hooke, a professor of Philosophy at Stevenson University, discussed his recently released book, The Twilight Zone and Philosophy, at Barnes & Noble on Saturday.
Concentrating on the classic series, The Twilight Zone, which aired from 1959 to 1964, this book is a new addition to the Popular Culture and Philosophy series by Open Court Publishing. The series includes best sellers like Seinfeld and Philosophy and The Simpsons and Philosophy.
The Twilight Zone and Philosophy explores Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone through a series of essays by eminent contemporary philosophers. These essays include discussions of the overarching themes of the TV series, as well as analyses of particular episodes.
Hooke, a co-editor for the book, first came up with the idea while watching reruns of the The Twilight Zone.
“When you start watching something after 30 to 40 years, you see it completely differently,” Hooke said.
He first pitched the book to Open Court Publishing in April 2017, when it was first rejected for being “too dated.” After Jordan Peele decided to make a Netflix series reboot of The Twilight Zone, Open Court Publishing contacted Hooke again about his idea. They posted a call for papers about the topic in Oct. 2017.
“You have to make it accessible writing to a general humanities audience. To write for a general audience is not easy,” Hooke said.
Hooke expressed that philosophy is a way of thinking about your own life and that series like Pop Culture and Philosophy serve to make philosophy more accessible than current academic philosophy papers.
“If you want to talk about different schools of philosophy, present it like something worth reading,” Hooke said.
The Twilight Zone was developed during a time when television was just beginning to become popular. Many other popular writers at the time wanted to translate their stories to the small screen instead of waiting to see them published in a magazine.
Rod Sterling, the narrator and a major contributor to the show, wrote half the episodes for the first season. Hooke explained that Sterling introduced the trademark absurdity and wit that the show would later be known for.
Hooke discussed how episodes like “The Obsolete Man” and “To Serve Man” handled morbid topics like death and paranoia with a recurring sense of dark humor. He added that the essays in The Twilight Zone and Philosophy dissect the philosophy behind some of these episodes.
“[Sterling] was very good at using technology and science to highlight human absurdity,” Hooke said. “The Twilight Zone is about holding a mirror up to show who we are, and right now, it doesn’t look so good.”
Baltimore resident Selena Baker attended the talk. She explained that she was interested because she grew up watching The Twilight Zone and that she was impressed by how the show adeptly dealt with themes that were ahead of its time.
“It was really interesting how the show handled complex ideas like artificial intelligence and emotion, even back then,” Baker said. “A philosophical perspective on the show makes sense.”
Caroline Helm, a Baltimore resident who studied some philosophy in college, was interested in the intersection of philosophy and pop culture in the show. She also claimed tying influential TV shows like The Twilight Zone to philosophical ideas would give complex ideas a broader audience.
“By reading the The Twilight Zone and Philosophy, we’ll be able to better understand how pop culture plays into the study of philosophy,” Helm said.