David BruceBringing color to a black and white 1950's world. What a great idea this film is. My head spins with all the psychological, metaphorical and spiritual parallels.
Review by David Bruce

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The mythical 50's
meets the all too real 90's!

When Jennifer brings her Nineties permissiveness into this unsuspecting era of Fifties innocence, things start to happen in lurid color.
Gary Ross, the Academy Award®-nominated screenwriter of Big and Dave, makes his directorial debut with his original screenplay, Pleasantville, starring JEFF DANIELS, JOAN ALLEN, WILLIAM H. MACY, TOBEY MAGUIRE, REESE WITHERSPOON, DON KNOTTS and J.T. WALSH. Produced by Jon Kilik, Bob Degus and Gary Ross. Steven Soderbergh serves as executive producer.

PG-13, this is NOT a little kid movie.

You may want to see the movie first.
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     The nineties! Good grief! What's to look forward to? HIV? Joblessness? Ozone depletion? Superficial relationships? Depressing! Uninspiring! When there is no good tomorrow, we tend to get nostalgic. We escape to the past. We forget that the past wasn't without its own set of problems. More than that, a nostalgic past is reconstructed history --a history that never existed! It's Pleasantville. But even if we could go back to a Pleasantville of fantasy, it to would have its own problems, too. Pleasantville doesn't really exist, and it never has!
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     David Wagner (Maguire) is a Nineties kid with a Fifties addiction. He's hooked on reruns of a classic television show called "Pleasantville," set in a simple place where everyone is swell and perky, "confrontation" is a dirty word and life is pleasingly pleasant.

     Addicted to this utopian world, David immerses himself in "Pleasantville" as an innocent escape from the trouble-plagued real world that he must share with his ultra-hip, totally popular twin sister, Jennifer (Witherspoon). But one evening, life takes a bizarre twist when a peculiar repairman (Knotts) gives him a strange remote control, which zaps David and his sister straight into Pleasantville.

     Helpful hint here: the repairman is a God type, Pleasantville is the Garden of Eden, and David and Jennifer are... well, take a guess.

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     Trapped in a radically different dimension of sight and sound, David and Jennifer find themselves cast as members of the TV family, the Parkers. David has become "Bud" and Jennifer has been transformed into "Mary Sue," and they are surrounded by the black and white suburbia that once kept David glued to the tube for hours.

     It doesn't take long to discover that there's no news, weather or sports when you're living in a black and white paradise where everything is always... pleasant. Books have no words, the high school basketball team always wins, and nobody ever questions why things are always so perfect. Initially, David revels in the Prozac-like haze that has gripped Pleasantville. But when Jennifer brings her Nineties permissiveness into this unsuspecting era of innocence, things start to happen in lurid color.

     "Jennifer goes through a lot of different phases in the film," the actress Reese Witherspoon notes. "In Pleasantville, she realizes that she doesn't have to base her identity on her sexuality and constantly trying to conform. She's always seen herself as a sexy young woman but when she starts reading books and really opens her mind, she finds that much more exciting. After spending so much of her life being objectified, it's really liberating to be defined by her intellect instead."

     In the Garden of Eden story there is the "Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil." The film interprets this as the gaining of literary knowledge (the good) and the promotion of irresponsible sexuality (the evil). The youth of the Pleasantville are suddenly interested in Lover's Lane and in books from the library. They become very colorful.

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     Explains filmmaker Gary Ross: Mrs. Parker "is a character who experiences a massive turn, who literally goes from two dimensions to three dimensions. In the beginning, Joan would ask me 'Is she like a repressed 50's housewife?' and I would say that instead of thinking that way, think of her as a blank slate, as someone who doesn't even have judgment. She doesn't even know what sex is, so she doesn't know it's wrong. In a sense, what Joan had to play is Eve, the very first woman. And she does it brilliantly."

     Coming between George and Betty is Mr. Johnson, the mild-mannered soda jerk who becomes a wildly prismatic painter when color comes to Pleasantville, played by Jeff Daniels. He is the artist who paints Mrs. Parker in the nude on the window of the soda shop -like stained glass in a church.

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The film is loaded with Biblical parallels. The whole film is loosely structured around the "Garden of Eden" story in Genesis. There is even a whole scene devoted to the picking of the apple. The apple is offered to David and, guess what, he eats it.
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     There are a ton of Bible connections in this film. There is a burning bush. The God-like moon behind the garden's apple. And even a rainbow of color and promise over Pleasantville.

     I found this film very difficult to watch. I didn't want the mystical paradise to become colored with sin and change. I cringed when the teens started to experiment with free and ultra causal sex. I hated what Jennifer was doing sexually and the film seemed to celebrate her permissiveness. I kept thinking, "what about babies born to fatherless homes and HIV." The burning bush was not the result of God; rather it was the result of Mrs. Parker's sexual exploration. It was hard to watch.

     After thinking about the film for a week I suddenly realized it was probably the most honest and real-to-life films I had seen in a long time. It is a true thing; we all justify and celebrate our own sins. We all have done wrong things, fully understanding the consequences. Life never remains innocent. Never. That is what makes this film so honest.

David and Jennifer knowing all about the trouble-plagued real world go back in time and plant the very seeds that produce the problem colored world we now have.  They create the very world David was seeking to escape from. Ironic, isn't it?



In the Bible (Romans 3:10-18 Msg) we read:
     Scripture leaves no doubt about it: "There's nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They've all taken the wrong turn; they've all wandered down blind alleys.
     No one's living right; I can't find a single one. Their throats are gaping graves, their tongues slick as mud slides. Every word they speak is tinged with poison.  They open their mouths and pollute the air.  They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year, litter the land with heartbreak and ruin, Don't know the first thing about living with others. They never give God the time of day."


     Since we've compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us,  God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.  (Romans 3:23-24 Msg)


Where to now?

"Where do we go from here?"
"I don't know"

Hmmm, what to do with lostness?


I am sure that reviewers will call attention to the fact that the 1950s were not all that innocent. And true enough, we forget how lively they really were. And already there are comparisons to The Truman Show. But, this is not the point of this film. It is not a return to the "real" fifties, but to the fifties of popular mythology. We all go there, every time we watch The Andy Griffith show or a host of other late 50s and early 60s TV shows. The casting of Don Knotts as God was genius and a tip off to the mythology the film reproduces. It's a great place to visit. To escape. To enjoy. In fact, we need fantasy and myth. But, we must not live there. Visit? Yes! Live there? No! This is the point of the story. In life our nostalgia is often reconstructed history. We create a "history" we want and think we need. To often, however, this nostalgia is based on television reruns. Not good. Point of the film: Let realities of the present color the past and vice versa. Memories should always remain connected to the now. Life should not be disconnected.

The word "Remember" means to re-member. As though one was re-connecting a body part (member) to their body. "Re-membering" is to connect the past to the present in a powerfully truthful way that helps one toward tomorrow.

In the Bible the ancient Hebrews (Jewish folk) let their collected memory of their past inform them about their future. For example, when they were in captivity in Babylon they remembered the past captivity in Egypt. Freedom from Egypt (past) gave them hope (present) for freedom from Babylon (future). The Bible begins with Genesis (the beginning) and ends with Revelation (the future). The Bible, like time, is connected to the past, present and future. And, so should we. Connection to the lessons of the past means successful outcomes tomorrow.

There are so many ways to analyze this film. Examples may include:

Isolationism results in a black and white world.

New experiences and relationships bring color to our lives.

We can and do influence our world. Make it more colorful. But in what way?

We resist change, but want it at the same time.

Life isn't always what we think or wish.

Careful of wishes. Wishes may come true and not be what we really want. Put your mind on positive constructive things. Establish noble life goals.

In the end, a broad range of experience (colors) makes us more alive and human.

Bulletin Board: 
I watched the movie right after I finished watching "American History X."  The two movies seemed related.   They were both about fear and hate of what we don't know.

For me, "Pleasantville" was about overcoming fear. "Let the real you out," said David, the main character, to the man who was to judge his fate in court.  The "real you," can seldom come out because we are all bound so tightly by our fears.  The road to freedom can only be found by breaking through our fears.  We will never know all God has for us by clinging to what is safe and acceptable.

After watching the movie, I plopped down on my bed to read the last page in the greatest frontier writer (Louis L'Amour) of all time.  It was his autobiography.  These are his parting words to his readers.  It was the perfect review for "Pleasantville." 

"We are, finally, all wanderers in search of knowledge.  Most of us hold the dream of becoming something better than we are, something larger, richer, in some way more important to the world and ourselves.  Too often, the way taken is the wrong way, with too much emphasis on what we want to have, rather than what we wish to become.

"What has been offered here (in this book) is one man's quest for knowledge, in which he is much less impressed by what he has done than by what has not been done...In Sinkiang and the Pamirs, the Taklamakan and some parts of Tibet, when one party meets another on the way, the greeting is often "May there be a road!"  It is a land of frequent snowslides, rockslides, and cave-ins.  Roads are casually made; bridges are usually hanging from ropes, so the saying is apropos: One hopes the way will be clear, the road open.  So as one pilgrim to another, I leave you with that wish:  "May there be a road!"

After everyone overcame their fears and found their "color" the roads in Pleasantville actually went from being circular to going somewhere.  Jennifer found her road and took it.  She went from being an object of anyone and everyone's affection to finding her purpose in life. 

The circular roads of our lives bind us to our fears.  Pushing through them is the transformational moment that changes us forever. 

The path of freedom often lies outside the confines of all that is pleasant.


The Scene:
The Pearly Gates to Heaven. St. Peter is the receptionist at the entrance. A cat shows up.

St. Peter says, "I know you! You were a very nice cat on earth and didn't cause any trouble, so I want to offer a gift to you of one special thing you have always wanted."

Cat: "Well, I did always long to own a nice satin pillow like my master had, so I could lie on it."

St. Peter: "That's easy. Granted. You shall have the satin pillow after you enter in."

Next a group of mice appeared.

St. Peter: "Ah, I remember you! You were such good mice on earth. You didn't steal food from anyone's house and never hurt other animals. Therefore, I want to grant you one special wish you always wanted."

The Chief Mouse replied, "Well, we always watched the children playing and saw them roller skate. It was beautiful and it looked like so much fun. So can we each have some roller skates, please?"

St. Peter: "Granted. You shall have your wish."

Next day, St. Peter is making rounds inside the Gates and sees the cat.

"Well, Cat...did you enjoy the satin pillow?"

Cat: "Oh, indeed I did. And say....that "Meals-on-Wheels" thing was a nice touch, too!"


I have two internet friends, one a Buddhist and the other a Christian. My Christian friend was dismayed by the un-Christian world view of the film. My Buddhist friend celebrated it. Here are their comments.

My Christian Richard Vincent writes: As the movie closes, and David returns back to the real world, we discover that he is much wiser for the trip. He has been changed by his encounter with Pleasantville. In a quick closing episode, obviously included in the movie to make a significant moral point, David is surprised to find his mother at home, crying and distraught. She was scheduled to be away for the weekend with her\ much younger lover. Instead of spending the weekend with him, she realizes that her relationship with him is not what she expected. He makes her feel older rather than younger. This makes her miserable. She then bemoans the fact that her life is not as it should be. She is disturbed that she is not living the idyllic yet elusive existence of the normal nuclear family. David consoles her by informing her that there is no right or wrong way of life. Indeed, there really is no right and wrong, no black or white.
     This is the lesson he has learned. Since there is no right and wrong, nothing really ultimately matters. And since nothing ultimately matters, then all his mother does--no matter how seemingly foolish, hurtful, or even wise--does not ultimately matter either. Therefore, she should just be herself and let her true colors shine through. David's mother then says, "Where did you get so smart?" Obviously, he has learned this from his experience in Pleasantville. She views his comments as enlightened, mature, and wise.

My Buddhist Friend Tom Armstong writes: David, I enjoyed your review of Pleasantville, but despite the Christian symbolism, the film is Buddhist! When our review comes out in a few days, we will enlighten you as to the true meaning of the film. [I will send you an email directing you to Zen Unbound Ezine and the new issue.]
     BTW, what is it that you have against studs on the tongue? You crazy Christians! Aren't there more important things to worry about!?
     BTW, congrats on getting your review in IMDB so quickly. Your reviews are fun, colorful and a kick.


Subject: Plesantville
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002
From: "corey sax"

After watching Pleasentville, I searched the net for any sites related to the movie and stumbled across "hollywood". I read your intereptation of the film and was sadly disapointed in the narrowness of your scope of understanding the message of the director.

In the movie after david and his sister feel alienated by a problem ridden world, they use TV as an escape from truth. They become powerless in the mindset they adopt, thus limiting the scope of their intellegence and giving others the authority to decide how they should view reality and react to it, until they go to pleasentville and learn how to create (rearranging things we see in reality). Leaving the mythical garden of eden is not "the fall of man" but instead the opening of mans eyes to the fact that nature cannot be created or destroyed (The axiom that existence exists ie the law of identity). Man's volition is to percieve or evade reality.

In the movie david and his sister learn this, they start to perceive reality, discovering the properties of the metaphyiscally given. Only through this knowledge can man survive; by rearranging the things he sees in nature to fit his needs. Creation does not imply the power to bring something into existence from nothingness, but an arragement of natural elements that has never been before.

To evade these priniples is to engage in a futile extempt to negate existance; David and his sister in the 90's feel that some other force created the world, its problems, and the people in it. They discover their identity through understanding that they can change the things in the world to suit their needs.

Your idea of the world being evil, and that people are sinners goes against reality. The idea that we cannot change ourselves, but that the metaphyical can be changed by some magical force ie god is flawed. In reality it is the metaphysical that cannot be changed and you and I that can. If men are sinners then reason cannot exist, but if reason does not exist then hoe do you know men are sinners. Religion denies the metaphysical and the logical in place for menial fanatasy.

"Think it over. Consider the subject, check your premises, check past history and find out whether it is true that man can never be free. It isn't because man has been free. Find out what made it possible. See for yourself. And then if you are rationally convinced, we can save the world together. We still have time. Let your mind and love of existence decide."
Thank you
Corey Sax

Response: There is evil in the world, consider 9/11. And no one is perfect, we all error (sin). So, it stands to "reason" the humans are sinners. And God does change things. That is reality. -David

Subject: Pleasantville
Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2001
From: Tom Snyder

I hated PLEASANTVILLE. The movie was pro-sin and anti-Christian. It also seemed to support moral relativism. In fact, I attended a screening with the director, and he turned out to be just like his movie. He was also self-contradictory. He hated moral judgments but he kept making moral judgments throughout his talk and the Q&A Session.
Tom Snyder

Subject: Pleasantville
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2000
From: Stephen

I just found your site a few days ago and have been most intrigued. But let me focus on this film: I saw this in the theater with one of my non-christian (yet extremely intelligent) friends. We both loved the film, but came away with very different impressions. My initial reaction was largely due the the change in Reese Witherspoon's character. I was impressed by the hollowness depicted in her WORLDLY life early on in the movie, and that she gained her color when she chose NOT to party. I saw this aspect of the movie as endorsing a higher way of life--pointing out the emptiness of a people-pleasing existance. I LOVED when she said, "I tried the slut thing. It got old." My friend, however, saw this as a freedom of choice/resisting authority/coming of age movie and believed that the movie largely wanted for us to identify with David/Bud's (and the rest of the town's) development toward freedom of thought. He clings fiercely to the ideas of freedom: religious, moral, ethical, emotional, financial, governmental, and universal. He appreciated the nostalgic sense given to the original Pleasantville as having something that our generation lacked, but he felt a greater sense of well-being as the superficial (naive/sheltered) lives are replaced by dis-ordered, natural emotions and actions. "you can't stop it because it's inside you and you can't stop something that's inside you." Since then, I've seen the movie a few more times recently and have come to the following conclusions:

1. The movie was not written, directed, or produced by followers of Christ--so any parralels that we may draw (even the obvious ones) about Christian life are probably not the primary intended effects of the movie on it's viewers,

2. The movie primarily celebrates freedom and knowledge (both of good and evil),

3. This movie Secondly glorifies action and passion (sieze the day) opposed to complacency and control. Even though the movie is cluttered with post-modernist propaganda (both good and bad)throughout most of it, I belive that the primary and secondary focuses of the movie are worthy of consideration to Christians today.

God clearly, throughout the Bible (particularly in the New Testament), values both freedom and knowledge. God refuses to force people to love (or even believe) in Him throughout the entire Bible. He allows humanity to do what it chooses, even though He is often dissappointed or even enraged by what we do. It seems that God created love to be of free will: Forced love cannot be real (even for God). I believe that much of the suffering and pain of this world is the price that we pay for the freedom to truly love God and eachother. Jesus clearly speaks of a faith and life that is not ignorant of the truth. We are to KNOW the truth (and the truth will set us free). In fact, Jesus uses the word TRUTH 108 times in the NIV translation of the gospels! We are clearly not asked to check our brains to follow God (even though faith is sometimes required to superceed knowledge).

So even though we are asked to "suspend judgement" on some issues of faith, I don't think that God nessecarily wants us to be naive (or un-knowedgable) now that the world is fallen, in fact, I believe that we can usually give more glory to God when we are knowledgable about good and evil (consider Paul in Athens. He uses one of their Gods as a starting point to explain OUR God). Now just because we know many things (both right and wrong), doesn't mean that we are expected to ACCEPT all things. Instead we are to use all knowledge to further the kingdom of God on earth, and Glorify Him with our lives. I belive that Scriptures also call us to live lives that are full of actions as well as words. As I look at the actions of the apostles after the resurrection and assention in Acts, I am convinced that we are called to live full, active lives (in fact, when David returns "home" at the end of the movie and helps his mom feel better, I see that as a close parralel to the change in the apostles' lives. They were drasticly changed after they encountered the risen Christ, and went and proclaimed it. David was almost doing the same thing after his life-changing experience in Pleasantville. Why else would that scene have been included?).

God wants us to SIEZE THE DAY for Him! Time is ticking away. What a gift we have in this life to know the Love that we have found in God through Christ Jesus. God doesn't want us to waste His time here. But as I read your review, for this movie and many others, I am troubled by your apparent need to "fit" this movie into a Biblical setting. Clearly the movie was not intended to bring people closer to God. It was not designed to encourage us in our journeys of faith, or push us to a higher moral standard. The apple scene was eerily Biblical, but to say that Don Knotts represents God is a stretch. David and Jennifer don't come close to representing Adam and Eve because they lived in the fallen world BEFORE they went to the "garden".

I am dissappointed by several "parralels" that you draw about many movies that I also see as a stretch. I do appreciate all the effort that goes into this site (it makes me think, which is always good), but I don't know why you try so hard to associate everything (or close to it) to Spiritual Reality (which can only be known through Christ). Paul calls us to be "in the world, but not of the world", and I see that this movie is clearly "of the world". We can learn from it for ourselves as believers, but to assign specific Biblical identities to eny character in this movie just doesn't do justice to the real thing (people in Scripture). Let me know what you think. I am eager to hear from you.

Subject: Pleasantville
My thoughts
Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 12:13:17 -0600
From: Jon Perrin

I just found your site today and enjoyed it. I appreciate someone who decides to translate (post-) modern culture rather than hide from it. I have written an article on Pleasantville. It can be found at
Feel free to use part or all of it.
Thanks for the insight,
Jon Perrin

May 11, 1999. We saw it with our 3 children (Ages 12, 10, and 6) and we knew something was really wrong but couldn't put our finger on it. This movie really upset us spiritually but as with all clear forms of deception it often takes some time to figure it out. I shows actions without their nature consequences, the Mom is interested in a another man, the daughter is sleeping around with everybody, and yet there is no broken family and sexual diseases. The TV repairman who sends them back to the past is supposed to be God or a God-like figure. The goal of the characters is to be rebellious and do whatever they want, they won't come to life until they "rebel" or let cave into all of their own desires. You figure it out for yourselves if this is a truthful message about life or not. --Dave Leskiw,

April 17, 1999. Fisher: This movie made my spirit crawl. I sat down to the video with my husband and our 2 children (14 & 12). We were all disgusted enough within 20 minutes that we had to turn it off (especially when we realized what was about to take place in the bathtub). We didn't realize that with a "PG-13"; rating, 13 is 30 in "Hollywood years". I tell you, you can talk about "eye-opening" and "full of "truth", but anybody who needs analogies of sleaze from a Hollywood movie to enlighten them really does need to get a life. As for Jesus hanging with sinners, tis true, but he wouldn't have been sitting around reading their dirty books.
My response: Ouch! I need to get a life? Okay! I will. BTW 'hanging with sinners' does mean listening to their 'dirty' stories.

March 24, 1999. See many Christians walked out on the film. Though I agree that the film at least in part glorified sin and made morality a bland, strict existence, I think Christians should see it. We need to quit seeing everyone who disagrees with us as "tainting" us or whatever. Until you hear people out, you can never relate to them. Without that, the Gospel is just a sales pitch and not a personal experience. The best way in today's society to earn the right to share your point of view is to first let others have the floor. That doesn't mean you have to say everyone's beliefs are okay. It DOES mean you should do to others as you would have them do to you. walking out on a movie is just shutting yourself off to what the filmmakers have to say. No wonder Christians always seem to cut non-Christians off in mid-sentence. Our moral indignation is a good thing as far as rightly discerning right from wrong, but it can also make us poor listeners. And no one wants to hear from someone who won't listen. --Kevin Neece<><

March 23, 1999.It's just a film fer pete's sake..You people NEED to get a life (ed: referring to certain comments below) ..did it make you want to go out and have wild sex? no! did it make you want to question authority? Perhaps...perhaps one of the reasons the world is so screwed up today as the 20th century grinds to a halt, is the waffing of so many christians..which brings us to the old joke..there's good news and bad news about Jesus's return.. good news being he's back and bad news being HE'S pissed as HECK!!!! I grew up in the 50's remember it well, it wasn't all that great..had it's problems like every decade..perhaps, not as bad as the 90's are..with that Blowzo in the white house, Chinese stealing our nuclear secrets, HIV, gay rights, left wing, right wing zealots, people and society DO have freedom of choice, and CAN change..but it all starts with you..if you believe what you believe-MORE power to you, practice what you believe in..and hopefully, the 21st century WON'T be as dark as the experts are suggesting...this was a GREAT film, nothing did OPEN people's eyes..and MADE them THINK...By the way, this film was a box office flop...only did a little over 39 popular culture didn't exactly embrace it..perhaps it will have a second life on video & DVD..After all, didn't GOD give you all 'FREE' will? use it..and draw yer own conclusions...

March 22, 1999. Wish I could add to all the excellent comments already posted, but I was Blown AWAY by the film! I didn’t realize all the symbolism until I came upon this fine web site. As a non-religious person, it has made me rethink a lot of things and realize that U are very correct in the analyzation of this fine piece. It made me cry quite often during the film, for why at the time I didn’t know, but now I can see why. This is the most important film of the 90s I have seen. Thanks for your time to dedicate the review of this so we can truly see what this film was REALLY about.–Pat
It is a film that brings on a lot of self reflection. I found myself thinking about this film for days after I saw it. Did you identify with any of the characters in the story? You are right it is a powerful film.

March 11, 1999. From Jon Zuck It's mid-March, and I'm still finding new things in P-ville! Also I want to suggest that David is somewhat of a Christ figure and Jennifer a serpent figure. Jennifer introduces seduction to the world, David wants to preserve it in its holiness. As Jennifer begins introducing more and more chaos into Pleasantville, David wants to stop her, but can't interfere with her free will, which she uses rebelliously. David is concerned and hears the inner cry from the hearts of people who talk to him. (Mr. Johnson confessing his dream of painting in the soda shop), Jennifer acts on self-interest, and gets others to do so to. (Seduction, teaching masturbation.) David finds his purpose, as Jesus did, in teaching others to use their free will for good. Jennifer finds that she really has no purpose. David's purpose leads him to become a Saviour. Punching Whitey is symbolic of the decisive blow against evil dealt with on the Cross. That is his defining moment, when he is stretched, what allows us to see his "true colors." Beyond that he becomes an Advocate (like Christ) before the Judge, loving all men, and his speech urging Mr. Parker to LOVE, is the greatest Commandment Christ gave us. Everyone's response to that, whether they agree with him or hate him, gets them to show their "true colors." The masks are off! That's exactly how Christ said he will judge us (Matt 25). The symbolism continues. Jennifer stays in the lower realm, still searching. The TV Repairman returns David to his world, (the Ascension). And there, David is doing what the Saviour is always doing: LOVING. Dave, you also have a Christian friend who thinks Pleasantville and the changes that happen are cause for celebration! I think charges that the film teaches moral relativism are simply hogwash. It shows plainly how the very smallest seeds of evil which seem innocent and pleasurable in themselves contain within them the source of riots, hatred, violence, etc. Yet it is a reminder that Garden of Eden story is complex. The Fall didn't unleash just the Knowledge of Evil, but the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God Himself seemed to have something much, much more glorious in mind by giving us free will than for us to stay in unaware innocence forever. After all, as St. Paul said, "where sin abounded, Grace abounded all the more," and this wonderful Grace brought to us by our Saviour gives Pleasantville its triumph!
MY RESPONSE: Jon, you never cease to amaze me! I love your analysis. You are so right about the Fall being complex. Pleasantville is indeed a reminder of this!

Feb 10, 1999. I think you were far too kind in labeling Pleasantville as "honest." I agree with you as to the ironies of the situation, BUT the movie does NOT recognize these as ironies. It's like a movie about the Garden of Eden that celebrates the FALL! You are right on, however, about Blast from the Past, which could be called Pleasantville in reverse. -Dave Forsmark
My response: You are right about Blast From the Past being Pleasantville in reverse. And yes, I was too kind. In fact, it was a hard film for me to sit through because it was honest to the fall. It was like reliving the 60s, 70s, and 80s all over again knowing the outcome. I wanted to stop the flow of events, but was powerless to do so. Which made it both powerful and depressing. I believe it was the writer's father (I could be wrong) who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era of the 50s. I believe the film flows from the idea that television sitcoms of the 50s were repressed, censured, and untrue to life, as indeed they were in many ways.

Jan 25 1999, Could you see Jesus sitting down to watch a movie with swearing in it?! The Bible clearly states that we should not let unwholesome thoughts enter our minds...if we fill it with "f-words," etc. then we are disobeying God's commands! It WAS a great movie, though!
My response: Then... why were you watching it? I'm confused. You are as paradoxical as the film. You are delightful. Oh, yea, and Jesus, well... he often hung with sinners, just like you do. Neat, uhh?

Walked out on it
Jan 24 1999, It hurt me to see sin glorified. So many people fall into this trap when it comes to movies. We can't deny that they don't affect us in any way. And just knowing it's doin damage to someone spiritually, etc... I couldn't sit through it. Sure you can look behind it for symbolism and 'meaning' but what's up front...what's conveying the message is flat out wrong. I don't get it. Why fill our minds with crap and then read the contents to see if its nutritious or not? Doesn't make sense. Jesus said you're either for me our against me. I don't think he'd dig the movie. Just want people to have something to think about. I mean did this movie edify you in any way? At any time did it debase your values? Then ask yourself if it was worth it. I dunno...just bummed. Society saddens me. Jesus is coming. Can't wait. Hasta.

Jan 4, 1999. I loved the movie, because it made me think. Most films are mindless, but there are a lot of points no-one has made. Bud Parker AKA David Wagner went from being a total nerd to a player on the basketball team, with the prettiest girl in the whole school, the cheerleader Margaret Henderson as his girlfriend, and he goes BACK? That's like I work as a janitor, then win the lotto and give away the money and go back to cleaning toilets, sorry I don't buy it. Also Whitey and his gang tried to rape Bud's mom, Bud was able to save her by punching Whitey out. Bud was not able to save his girlfriend Margaret. We find crying with her with her umbrella torn (symbolism for loss of virginity) and dress torn. It does not take a genius to figure out what happened to her. Nobody talks about that. Bud draws this scene on the wall by the way. Right next to the burning books. -Carlos

This is truly a good idea gone berserk. The first thirty minutes flow good and keep you entertained. But after this, the film seems to take a turn for the "lets totally glorify anything wrong" turn and it  left em sitting there, trying to figure out what went wrong. Instead of focusing on mny aspects that it could have, it simply used great imagery to highlight these things. Even the hot subject of racism comes through   between the "colored"s and the "black-and-white"ies. So don't waste your time. As for the acting, no one wants to hear Don Knotts cuss, or see Joan Allen masturbate. Horrid Film


I would like other people's response to what they think made people turn color. I'm not sure if I have the right idea or not, so I would appreciate e-mail on this subject. Please write me and I'll respond with my thoughts.  --Joe Passion

This was a horrible worthless film that Christian people should not even think of going to see. It was a brutal assault on family values, that portrayed morality as black and white and adultery and unmarital sex as "enlightening". Don Knott's language was also profane. We walked out of this junk before the film was through.

The film is about the conflict between love and fear (hatred), not about right vs. wrong. A lot of people are upset about the sister's sexual behavior, but 1) they don't comment about the boys she has sex with, and 2) no one has criticized the behavior of the boys who try to rape the colored women. The film deals directly with the unpleasant nature of racism today, but in such a "pleasant" manner that racists and fascists are unable to put their finger on exactly why they are disturbed by it. I'm not sure that this is the best way to confront evils such as racism and fascism, but if it gets the racists and fascists to start thinking critically about themselves, then maybe it is. For all you folks who are upset about the sex in the movie (especially if you are not bothered by the violence in the movie), then you obviously aren't colored yet. It is never wrong to love someone, and sex is nothing to be ashamed of, certainly nothing to fear. The command (by God?) to love one another is the most challenging moral position to take, one that involves constant questioning of yourself and your intentions with regard to others; it is much easier to rely instead upon a simplistic set of rules of what is "moral" behavior, and to paint as immoral people who deviate from that. It is the fear of the challenge to love that created the artificial cocoon of "Pleasantville", and it is love in all its various forms that finally connected "Pleasantville" into a more realistic universe. In the real world, it is fear that creates that religiosity which is so at odds with love that it has a problem with this movie. To truly love one another means abandoning the certainties of "morality", to admit, as the characters at the end of the movie admit, that you don't know what is going to happen, that you can't say absolutely what is right and wrong, and that is OK as long as love is your guide. --Chris Vail

     There is an unintentional irony at the end of the film that I'm sure the producers did not intend. They leave us with the image that everyone in Pleasentville is truly happy. They don't take the story further to explore the pain and suffering the characters will experience now that sin has entered their lives. David goes back to the 90's and finds his heartbroken mother in terrible pain because she can't find herself. This is exactly where some of the people in Pleasantville will end up now that they are"free." Their lives won't be total unbounded joy, as the producers would have us think. They will never be as happy as they were before David and his sister arrived.
     It is disturbing that this movie portrays perfect innocence as dull, insipid, routine, and somewhat moronic. The fall from grace is portrayed as lively, joyful, enlightening, liberating, carefree. In reality, it is the other way around. In a life of sin we are trapped in a limited world, burdened by our actions and choices. Once we accept Christ as our saviour, we are free and filled with joy. Our burden of sin is lifted and life has new meaning. To me, this movie has purposely skewed the reality of life to present a message that glorifies sin and denegrates righteousness.

It would have been a hit in my high school film study class.... loaded with symbolism. While I was also painfully aware of the biblical comparisons, I would venture to say spending very much time analyzing the symbols in this fantasy isn't a productive use of valuable time. Too many questions??? Good lesson 1: After the intelligent dialogue (Hey, Hey, Hey) Bud's sister has little to return to with Bud. Was interesting that the great awakening seemed to first come from sexual experiences... pretty shallow.  In summary, just a different film, one of those that I wonder why I stayed for the whole thing as I left the theater, but certainly not an academy award nominee....

From Bud Ruggia:
I found the movie both fascinating and thought provoking. The basic message I heard was in the value of a passionate, rather than a dispassionate life. The enlightenment of the young sister came when she realized that passion and sexuality are not synonymous. She was sexually promiscuous, but still grey, but when she read D.H. Lawrence and encountered his passion for life (including sensuality), she came alive. That's an insight we seldom find in today's hyper-sexual world. -Bud Ruggia

I responded this past Tuesday, concluding that the main point of the movie was absolutes. As I've been mulling it over in my mind, I'm wondering if the message isn't more" "pointed" Do the "black and white" people of Pleasantville really represent the church? The world views the church as always seeing everything in black and white...very self-righteous and narrow. Every Christian symbol in the film is turned upside down. In the Bible, the first rain is the flood... God's judgment... something to be feared. In the film, Bud says, "Don't be afraid... it's only rain" The burning bush in Scripture is God's the film it goes up in flames when the mom has her first sexual experience... sex has indeed become a "god" in our society. Shame and guilt were the result of eating the fruit in the Garden... here it was symbolic of "enlightenment" And the rainbow... symbol of "new life" but what kind of new "life???" In the courtroom scene the "colored people" are sitting upstairs (where the black people in our history used to have to sit...the persecuted). In the movie the "colored people" are depicted as being persecuted by the black and whites (the church). When the last person holding out (the mayor/judge) shows his "true colors" victory is won! The church is completely destroyed and the world bursts into living color! The church is what "stands in the way" of TRUE LIFE! If I'm right, then the message is really disturbing, but I think we need to be ready to dialogue with others about it.

From Corrigan Clay:
Pleasantville, is pretty true to sin... we wallow in it. Frankly, the movie almost made me cry because of how painfully aware of the sin of our culture it made me. What is with masturbation scenes in movies lately? Anyway, it made me care more about people. Pleasantville needs a Messiah, someone to take away the death and demoralization, while bringing enlightenment and joy.

SOOOO thought provoking. I enjoying reading your insights. I agreed with you and also the "Christian friend" who responded. I felt the main point of the movie was that there are no right or wrong...just CHOOSE and ACT (existential???). Very cleverly done!

From Joe Toth: Thank you so much for the T-shirt and CD. I was given tickets to the movie and saw it last night. The movie takes you through so many different feelings. One thing that bothered me was the painting of Mrs. Parker on the shop window. There was no apology from her like it was ok to go that far that quickly.  Her family never thought twice about it and no concern was given to Mr. Parker. I mean some of the things the town did you think, ok that’s funny, but you could also see things that were no good that was being seen in the positive light. It made me sad, happy, angry and the mood changed every few minutes. You could see Nazism, american racism, lust and wonder. I think my girls 10 and 11 would like the movie but I would edit a few scenes first.

From Rosemary Hein:
The movie was as intriguing to experience what "was" in Pleasantville as "was not" in Pleasantville.

From Craig Carrington:
Here's an interesting tidbit--ever since seeing Pleasantville came out, I've been sort of in a wishful, semi-melancholy mood of late because the film, as I mentioned in my last email, is such a strong reminder of how much innocence has been lost in the world. Although it's true that the 50s weren't as innocent as they're reputed to be (I mean, it's true every decade has it's problems that seem bad at the time), the 50s were still in so many ways calm compared to today. And now that I've watched 3 decades pass before my eyes in my own life, it amazes me how each one I've seen has gotten progressively worse so quickly. When a child, I thought the 70s could seem frightening at times ...but the 80s made the 70s look tame...and now the 90s are even more graphic than when they started. It trunly makes me wonder if we ARE at the genuine end times or just merely getting ready to go through another one of those "dark" times in history, as history goes in spirals, not circles. Are we at the end, or is this only temporary? I have no idea. All I have to say it--I don't intend to waste any time in either case, whichever, as I have work to do here. ;) Got a word from the Lord last night concerning my prayer requests I mentioned to you last time... it made me wonder if you had already received my email and started praying over them? ;)
Anyway, thanks for your time.

From Allison in Indiana.
I loved the movie so much, I give it a ten 10. I've seen it twice and I would go see it 100 more times it I could. I think the stars in the movie were great too. The stars in it were amazing and the color and black and white, how they did that was terrific.  I love that song across the universe. I give the movie a ten. This movie is my favorite.


Pleasantville © 1998 New Line Cinema. All rights reserved.


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