In the episode, The Monsters are due on Maple Street, Rob Sterling highlights some of the pertinent issues in the United States during the 1960s. In the film, the Maple Street is engulfed in darkness following the falling of a meteor.
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In the ensuing confusion, individuals turn on each other with accusations of all sorts. Les Goodman is incriminated of being an alien as the residents of the Maple Street try to establish what has exactly happened. Steve, the only rational person in the melee, becomes a victim of the growing witch hand. This paper addresses the message of the narrative by exploring the social problems of the 1960s coupled with addressing such problems in the contemporary times.
Message of the narrative
The narrative’s message is clear that people are their worst enemies. Rob Sterling summarizes his message in few words by saying
The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs, explosions, and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, and prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record: prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own — for the children and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the twilight zone (The Monsters are Due on Maple Street).
The narrative highlights how people can destroy themselves based on prejudices, suspicion, fear, and thoughtlessness. For instance, Les Goodman is being accused because his car has somehow self-ignited and even though he does not know what has happened, the crowd holds that he is an alien, yet they have been with him for a long time. Due to prejudice, people come up with unsubstantiated accusations towards Les Goodman. Steve is also accused of making a mysterious radio, while Charlie shoots Pete. In addition, the narrative underscores the fact that people love blaming others for their problems, which highlights irresponsibility.
Social problems of the time
The most outstanding social issue of the 1960s was McCarthyism. In his masterpiece book, McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History, Fried posits that McCarthyism is “a political attitude…characterized by the use of tactics involving personal attacks on individuals by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations, especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges” (2).
During this time, Americans rose against communism by using fear campaigns. Between 1950 and 1956, many American citizens were seen as communists or sympathizers of communism, and thus they were subjected to unwarranted scrutiny under the watch of both government and private institutions.
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During the investigations, unsubstantiated claims were taken as collaborative evidence to pass judgment on the victims. Senator McCarthy was at the middle of promoting these ideals by giving numerous speeches coupled with being involved in disparate investigations and hearings. One’s beliefs concerning communism was enough evidence to warrant job loss or jail term. Therefore, Rob Sterling addresses these issues in this short episode. Rob’s concern is not communism per se, but how people react to speculations and respond to a crisis. In most cases, prejudices dictate how people respond to any form of threat to their comfort zones.
In contemporary times
In the contemporary times, the face of McCarthyism has evolved, but the principles remain the same. For instance, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the attitudes towards American Muslims changed. Panagopoulos posits, “Following September 11, 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported a 1,700 percent increase of hate crimes against Muslim Americans between 2000 to 2001” (610).
These attitudes are informed by prejudice and the inordinate notion that all people from Middle East or Arab countries are terrorists. After the terrorist attacks, Muslims were targets of negative stereotyping based on their beliefs. This form of stereotyping and profiling embodies the principles of McCarthyism and even though the term is no longer used openly, Muslims are going through what the perceived communists of the 1950s experienced.
The hate crimes targeting Muslims in the United States is akin to the accusations levelled against Les Goodman in Rob Sterling’s narrative. In the story, people do not have enough evidence that Goodman is an alien, but they accuse him anyway. Similarly, the perpetuators of hate crime towards Muslims in post 9/11 era do not have any evidence that such persons are terrorists. Prejudice defines who qualifies as a terrorist in the eyes of these warmongers in the contemporary United States.
Rob Sterling’s narrative, The Monsters are due on Maple Street, highlights the shortcomings of human beings to deal with crises rationally. When faced with a threat, human beings act unreasonably by passing blame to others fuelled by prejudice.
Les Goodman is suspected of being an alien albeit without evidence. Pete dies for no reason, while Steve becomes a target for the finger-pointing game in the quest to establish the cause of the sudden darkness. Rob sought to highlight the McCarthyism, which was prevalent in the 1960s. In the contemporary times, the post 9/11 profiling of Muslims underscores the same social issues that Rob addressed in the narrative.
Fried, Albert. McCarthyism, The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Print.
Panagopoulos, Costas. “The polls-trends: Arab and Muslim Americans and Islam in the aftermath of 9/11.” Public Opinion Quarterly 70.1 (2006): 608–624. Print.
The Monsters are due on Maple Street. Dir. Debbie Allen. Los Angeles, CA: United Paramount Network. 2003. DVD.