In a famous 50’s movie called Pleasantville, there have been many themes being presented which includes racial discrimination, personal freedom and love. This movie presented many other themes like chauvism, sexism, sex, and so on. But in this essay I must state only three themes. In the following paragraphs there would be a summary of this popular movie and descriptions of the themes above.
David and Jennifer are twins that attend the same high school. Jennifer is mainly concerned with her appearance, relationships and popularity while David watches a lot of TV, has very few friends and is socially awkward. One day, their mother leaves Jennifer and David alone at home while she heads out of town for a date with her younger boyfriend. When she leaves, the twins begins to fight over the downstairs TV because Jennifer wants to watch an MTV concert with her boyfriend Mark Davis, while her brother, David, wants to watch the marathon of Pleasantville. Pleasantville is a black-and-white 1950’s sitcom which is a cross between “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” that centers around the idyllic Parker family George, his wife Betty, and their two children, Bud and Mary Sue. During the fight between David and Jennifer, the remote breaks and the TV can’t be turned on manually.
A moment later, a mysterious TV repairman shows up uninvited, and quizzes David on Pleasantville before giving him a strange-looking, retro-styled remote. Soon after he leaves, David and Jennifer continue fighting. However, though some mechanism that was located onto the remote, David and Jennifer gets transported into the television, ending up in the Parkers’ black and white Pleasantville living room. David tries to reason with the repairman, who can communicate with them through the Parkers’ TV set, but he only succeeds in chasing him away. David and Jennifer must now pretend they are, respectively, Bud and Mary Sue Parker. But, while staying in Pleasantville, things began changing. Everything in Pleasantville turns to color, starting with a single rose. Also everyone in Pleasantville has not been as respectful as before.
They all start vandalizing people’s shops and personal belongings. People also began to harass the “colored” people that walk on the streets. Later on David/Bud and Bill(a store owner) gets sent to court for disobeying the “Pleasantville Code of Conduct” by playing loud music and using colorful paints in the streets, but soon, in court, everyone in the courtroom changes colors and the mayor leaves in horror for being exposed to be having changed as well. At the end of the movie, Jennifer chooses to stay behind in the neighboring Springfield. She had changed her ways and she doesn’t want to go back where everyone thinks of her as a bad kid. Back in reality, David finds his mother crying over her failed relationship. She complains to him and he replies by saying, “It’s not ‘supposed’ to be ‘anything’.”
One theme in the movie Pleasantville is racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is a discriminating or abusive behavior towards another race or skin color. It’s like the people in Pleasantville that’s judging and using abusive behavior towards the “colored” people. As more and more colored people, especially the young ones, appeared, Pleasantville, ironically, broke out into an unpleasant chaos. They burned colored books and destroyed Bill’s colored artworks. The remaining black and white people were still willing to maintain the status quo, restoring to violence against the colored. They found the colored people outrageous and a threat to the pleasant stare of Pleasantville. This is somewhat related to the situation of racial discrimination against blacks, or otherwise colored people in the 50s.
They were discriminated against because of the different color of their skin and as in the movie they do not agree with the beliefs of the black and white people. This led to strong hostility against them. Even though It is in a TV sitcom Pleasantville, its where we see the door signs on the shops say “No Colored People” and colored people could only observe a court case from the second floor balcony. These situations are actually reflected in the 50s in America too. Also, the director reiterated the fact that everyone should be equal in terms of emotional expression and from the transformation of the entire town into color. During the trial of Bill and Bud, everyone actually turned to color reminding us that after all, the black and whites still have emotions in their hearts, except that they do not wish to express them. Thus the uses of colors are successful in symbolizing and mocking racial discrimination.
Another theme that was seen in the movie was personal freedom. Personal freedom means to be free in doing or saying whatever you want. Firstly, in Pleasantville, the non-colored setting was cleverly used to depict the lives of the people living in this 50s sitcom, representing the typical lives they had and socially conformity. As the director introduces us to the setting, I saw that everyone has the same white fence around their garden, similar clothes, for example all girls are clad in poodle skirts and sweater sets, and they have the same skin and hair color, which is grey. Another example that showed the monotonity of the town is inferred from Mary Sue/Jennifer’s lesson on street geography. When she asked a question, “So what’s outside of Main Street?” everyone in class stared at her in bewilderment are they only know Main Street since the end of Main Street is simply the beginning of Main Street. This highlights the ridiculousness of a town which goes in circles, as if every day is a monotonous cycle that repeats itself and none of the citizens “think out of town”.
Secondly, it was clearly shown that social rules restrained people of their personality. Evidence is shown when the head of the Chamber of Commerce mentioned that the conformity in Pleasantville, shown by the grey color, is pleasant, while the situations where colored people and objects appeared were considered unpleasant. The people had no rights to judge for themselves what was pleasant or unpleasant to them. To viewers who live in color, everyone in Pleasantville led dull lives. However, it is ironic that Pleasantville citizens put on a facade of happiness to cover their literally dull lives they have without personal emotions. An example not related to colors is Bill, the man at the soda shop, who also represented the typical Pleasantville citizen who has bound by rules, and did not know what to do when Bud/David was not around. He said in an emotionless tone that he kept wiping the table as Bud has not set up the napkins, and he could not go on to the next step. This showed us that the Pleasantville citizens stick to the rules and was afraid of change, which would affect their daily routine.
Lastly there is a change from a black and white setting to a colored one when people showed freedom from society’s restrictions, in other words, showing their true emotions. At lover’s Lane, I noticed that the people who were telling stories were colored, while the listeners were still uncolored. This is due to the fact that the storytellers express emotions through storytelling. Bud also turned colored only when he expressed his anger when defending Betty (his mother). Where Bill who felt stifled by his role as a hamburger flipper, expressed his emotions through his colorful paintings, Betty turned colored upon declaring her true love for Bill, breaking free from the wife’s role to cook and wash dishes for her husband. Thus, the transition from the black and white to color showed that emotions make society more interesting, and those who broke free from tradition, with their own personality and expression led more interesting lives than the norm who remains uncolored.
The third theme is love that was seen through the movie. Love is a feeling of a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone. One example of love is when Bill and Betty, Bud’s mother, falls in love, which causes her to leave home, throwing George Parker, Bud and Mary Sue’s father, into a complete confusion. Another example of love is between the brother and sister. Earlier in the movie David and Jennifer hadn’t cared at all for each other, but just as they got sucked into Pleasantville, they’ve grown a bond between them that brings them closer than before. The last example is George Parker’s love for his wife Betty. When George reaches home and he realizes that Betty was not home, he felt lost without her. By the end of the movie, George realizes that he truly loves her even though she’s “colored”.
In conclusion, the movie Pleasantville has many important themes but only three very important ones which are racial discrimination, personal freedom, and love. A lot of citizens in Pleasantville have been discriminated, nobody had any personal freedom, and there was love blooming between the citizens of Pleasantville.