Jungian Archetypes in The Twilight Zone, "I Am The Night Color me Black

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Jungian Archetypes in The Twilight Zone, "I Am The Night Color me Black

Post  Maxwell Oginz on Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:24 am

Max Oginz

Jungian Visual Medium Analysis

The Twilight Zone episode entitled “I Am the Night, Color me Black” was a controversial narrative when it was released on March 16, 1964. Rod Serling, the creator of the popular TV show (who wrote this episode) was a supporter of the civil rights movement and this narrative was a direct response to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This episode uses Jungian Archetypal imagery to expose a truth about the state of America when the episode was written, and also to make a commentary on human society as a whole. When the episode opens you find out that a small southern U.S. town is shrouded in a permanent nighttime. In short the sun went down and when main character Sheriff Charlie Koch rises later in the morning it is still night time. From the episode’s opening, the story focuses on the execution of a man named Jagger, a Jewish idealist who is unpopular with the townsfolk. Jagger is being executed for the murder of a “cross-burning” racist who was well liked in the white community of the town. Just as Jagger is about to be hanged in front of a heckling crowd, the black minister of the community steps forward and tells the ignorant townspeople why it is so dark. He argues with the fervor of a Martin Luther King-like figure that it is perpetually dark in the town because of the hate that the community inflicts on its members. He maintains that hatred is bleeding from the townspeople in the form of complete darkness. The episode ends with a newscast reporting that all over the world towns, cities, and whole countries are being shrouded in darkness and finally in a short monologue that is characteristic of Serling’s narrative style.
The most striking Archetype used in the episode is the expression of a symbolic battle between good and evil, or love and hate, which manifests itself physically in a battle of light and dark in which darkness has evidently won. This story shows the battle between good and evil as a losing one, one in which evil always wins. It attributes this to the ignorance and hatred inside humankind’s heart. Rod Serling chose to show this lost struggle manifesting itself literally in the form of darkness.
A situational archetype used in this episode is the fall. In this case the fall from a higher to lower state of being is not felt by one specific character; instead it describes the fall of the entire human race. The moral transgression which instigates this fall is the hatred that mankind has and does inflict on itself by acts such as war, genocide, and hate crimes. Therefore the whole human race is punished for this transgression through the sun being blocked out.
The character archetype of the scapegoat is very important in this Twilight Zone episode. When the convicted murderer Jagger is hung for killing a racist bigot in self defense, he is a scapegoat for the hatred of the community. The townspeople blame him for the incident and for others because he is different from them in his ideology. Jagger returns the town’s hatred by refusing to find peace and boasting about killing his oppressor. By making sure Jagger is executed the townspeople only perpetuate the hatred from both parties, which makes even more darkness fall over the town. Therefore the scapegoat’s hatred was made even more powerful after he was destroyed. This archetype’s inclusion in the story instills that when it comes to hatred, “it takes two to tango”.
The Twilight Zone: “I am the Night Color me Black” is the work of perhaps the finest writer ever to work in the field of television. Rod Serling uses Archetypes that we have seen before (like those of Jung) to create lasting, controversial commentaries on culture. This story is typical of his style; its meaning is powerful because of the strong symbolic content and unique narrative style.

Maxwell Oginz

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Reply to Analysis of I Am The Night - Colour Me Black

Post  SarahCrawley on Fri Jan 28, 2011 7:28 pm

In this episode, the use of symbolic archetypes is very strong. It was really interesting to see light vs. dark portrayed in such a unique way. I also had not seen the fall in this episode, but it is definitely there, and it is interesting to see it applied not to one, but to many.
I do not think that there is truly a hero character in this episode, although perhaps Jagger or the priest could be identified as one, but I do think that there is a situational archetype that usually revolves around a hero: the journey. The journey requires the hero to search for some truth that is necessary to restore fertility to the kingdom and results in a discovery of his own faults. In order to find a solution to the persisting darkness and restore fertility and normality in the land, they must seek the cause of it. The local newspaper editor tries to question why Jagger is being hanged, and is the first to correlate the darkness to Jagger’s unjust hanging. The priest also begins to discover the blackest truths; in the end he tells the townspeople that the darkness is because of all of their faults, his included. We also learn at the end that the town has presented a microcosm of society, for many other places in the US reportedly begin to darken as well, revealing the hate to be a dark truth that is widespread. It is through a few key figures, instead of a sole hero, that this journey is made.


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The Mentor Archetype

Post  julienbc on Wed Feb 02, 2011 8:05 pm

Great review Max! This is such a great Twilight Zone episode.
Another archetype that i saw in this episode was that of 'The Mentor'. 'The Mentor' is the character that offers wisdom and truths to the characters of the story in an attempt to guide them. The character is usually older, like a father or mother type, who is also a profound teacher. In this case, i think that the priest acts as the mentor. Although he is not the physical epitome of "wise old man," he does share his wisdom and his will to teach others. Being a priest gives him the same status as a mentor or professor, being the man many turn to for guidance.
The reason i believe he is the mentor is because he is the character who tells the village people the truth about why it is dark. He sheds light on the situation, and although nothing can be done about it, he allows the villagers to understand that this is their doing, and not some external force. From his first scene, he hints towards knowing that this darkness was not something scientific or theological, showing that he may have suspected the cause of the darkness from the beginning. Although he is not your typical wise old man, i think the priest is a clear representation of the mentor.


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Post  Mr. C on Sun Feb 06, 2011 3:51 pm

Max - this is a great analysis of an episode I was an unfamiliar with. I agree that Serling and The Twilight Zone are remarkable. If you have a copy of this episode, I would love to borrow it. It is interesting to consider that people of African descent are associated with the colour black and subsequently darkness, and how people of European descent are associated with the colour white and subsequently light. In Spike Lee's portrayal of Malcolm X, the title character explores the psychology behind this. Do you think Serling was getting us to consider this in his episode?
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