Imperfect, Pure Americana Suburbia

Pleasantville Movie Review

Pleasantville’s a movie that explores the concept of a utopian dystopia. Within the movie 1990s teenage twins, David and Reese, are transported into David’s favorite comfort sitcom show set in a seemingly perfect, 1950s, black and white Americana Suburbia. At first arrival, David and Reese are confused and reluctant to accept their circumstance; however, David conforms to his persona, Bud, more quickly than his sister. Reese has difficulties enveloping her persona as Mary Sue and begins to act herself because she’s more secure of her modern identity. The film explores the twins’ personal and social journey within the town.

A subtle scene within the film I enjoyed was when Mary Sue, Reese, went to the bathroom and there was no toilet. This throwaway scene actually has a deeper meaning and I loved it. It fully encapsulates and demonstrates the perfect purity that existed in actual 1950s Americana Suburbia sitcoms. Sitcoms during those times weren’t allowed to show toilets, let alone bathrooms, because they were viewed as impure. It’s silly to individuals who didn’t grow up during that era, but that was actually true. Viewers of those shows during the time found it so uncomfortable to view a toilet that they voiced their concerns when one was shown to them. The film’s more overt expression of 1950s purity about sex was prevalent too; however, I wanted to explore the more absurd purity take on the toilet scene. That scene made me laugh because I understood the implication. It was cool that the writers thought of scripting it. 

Once some people of Pleasantville began changing colors and havoc was released unto the town, non-colored individuals began associating the colored with havoc. In the film, no actual colloquial colored (Black and other POCs) people were seen except for people who were actually in color compared to their black and white counterparts. Because of the assumptions conjured by the traditionalist black and white Pleasantville people, discrimination was enacted on those people of color who didn’t conform to the town’s natural, older order. They were required to follow the rules that the black and white residents created to preserve the town’s pleasant nature. The discrimination went and far as barring colored people from certain spaces. I enjoyed how the film had Caucasian Americans divided amongst themselves as colored and non-colored people because it gave them a chance to understand and experience what colloquial colored people endured. It was an interesting allegory for the racial tension that existed during those times.    

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