Pleasantville Character Essay

Pleasantville Character Essay-53
What distinguishes Pleasantville, however, is the device used to show the transformation: the slow-ripple change from black-and-white film to color.It's one of the most ingenious visual devices ever conceived for a mainstream movie, and certainly makes for one of the most inviting preview trailers in a long while.He introduces his soda fountain boss to Art, and the boss’s artistic tendencies blossom. The book burners are also in black and white; the scene has been compared to 1930s Germany, but burning Beatle albums are just as good a comparison.

What distinguishes Pleasantville, however, is the device used to show the transformation: the slow-ripple change from black-and-white film to color.

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Some suburbanites came directly from the rural towns and tried to reproduce their own histories in that way.

Others came from the cities, fleeing modern life, with all its temptations, temptations they themselves had already sampled, but, well, best to protect the kids from them. As indeed we did, as we were bored beyond imagining, hoping to get the hell out of there so our lives could “begin.” Jean Shepherd used to start up his college gigs by asking his audience, “How many of you out there believe that your life hasn’t started yet?

She’s mortified, and can’t talk in person without the stutter—until they ask her about her radio rig, and suddenly the speech impediment disappears. I can easily remember a dozen 50s-early 60s sitcom plots that could never have appeared on the imaginary .

But that’s because Pleasantville isn’t about 1950s sitcoms, any more than it’s really about suburbia, or the 1950s generally, or even about childhood and adolescence.

Skip misses a basket during basketball practice and everyone treats the ball as if it were radioactive; no one had ever missed a basket before, nor had they ever lost a game.

But sex spreads and saps the energy from the hitherto perfectly sublimated athletes, and they lose a game, again, a first.In fact, everyone has that journey offered to them; each of us takes it to varying degrees. I hope it has resonance for a broader group than us aging Boomers. But I do so wish, given the wry ironies about Bud’s “colored girlfriend,” and the use of images that obviously emanate from civil rights marches and sit-ins, that there had been some actual black people in Pleasantville at the end.Try as I might, however, I couldn’t think of a way to do that without it seeming forced.It’s about memory, memory and its bastard cousin, nostalgia.Current nostalgia for the suburban 1950s targets the memories of boomers such as myself, but it depends upon the coincidence of those memories with the more general phenomenon of childhood memories.[This essay originally appeared in my newsgroup on Feb. I'm uploading it here because I'm about to post an essay on Rick Nelson, whose early life appeared on a sitcom.Note: the first couple of times I began this essay, it dissolved into failure, mostly because I was attempting to synopsize portions of the movie. Movies are experiential, even more than most; if you haven’t seen it, you should might want to skip this essay, not so much because of “spoilers” but simply because what I’m saying may not make much sense.There were no black families living in Donelson when I was young.It was only my thrice weekly trips to downtown Nashville that let me view the world in black and white, and not just white.Pleasantville charms; on the visual level, it dazzles.Half comedy, half fable, it flips the premise of The Truman Show, presenting, instead of a man trapped in a TV world he thinks is real but discovers to be a colossal fake, a TV world made up of potential Trumans who need an outsider to help transform the fake into reality.


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