Pleasantville

I know this movie was made in the ’90s and I’m just now getting around to watching it. If it hadn’t been for an article in Reason magazine, (January 2010, just now getting around to reading it!) I wouldn’t have even thought of watching the movie. The article was about all the social upheaval in society that we experienced in the 1960s. The beginning of the article talked about this movie and how the critics all missed the point of it. They all thought it was about how the people in the 1950s were living life unaware of all the things we knew about and experienced in the 1990s. As a result they lived such boring lives, everything was in black and white. The writer of the article, Jesse Walker, thought the movie “contrasts the faux ’50s of our TV-fueled nostalgia with the social ferment that was actually taking place while those sanitized shows first aired.” I saw the movie differently.

This movie is about two teenagers from the 1990s who get stuck in a TV show that is set in the 1950s. The people in the town that the show is named for, Pleasantville, are following a script. They don’t seem to have any thoughts or feelings of their own. They could be talking cardboard, it is so unreal. Everything is scripted to be perfect – great bowling scores, the high school basketball team never misses a shot, it never rains, there are no injuries, no houses catch fire. It’s pleasant, but is it perfect? Everything and everyone, including the two new arrivals, is in black and white. It’s only when feelings are acknowledged that they experience colors. Objects and even people change from black and white to color. Some people who don’t want change try to shut down the others. Even change is a new experience and they are fighting it without acknowledging their feelings at first.

Don’t you think this is how life is? If we live by the script – what we think others expect – if we are not honest with ourselves about our wants and our emotions, aren’t we living a shadow life? Don’t all our feelings and thoughts and desires, whether they are right or wrong, need to be acknowledged by us? Not broadcast to the world, but not stuffed down inside of us either. I think some folks call it being authentic. I think it’s the basis for an honestly lived life.

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