Analyzing Pleasantville 1998 Film - Essay Example

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Gary Ross wrote and directed the film Pleasantville 1998. The story in the film is a comedy and attempt to compare the live in 1950s and in the 1990s. The entire story is about two siblings attempting to fit into the life of a small town Pleasantville. The setting of the story is Midwest town where the residents seem perfect and innocent from the eyes of the two major characters. There are many social issue in the town and involves freedom of expressions and racism. The entire essay is the analysis of themes.


The film depicts two teenagers David and Jenifer drown in Pleasantville, a television fiction of 1950.David and Jenifer are twins, but embraces unique social lives in high school. The author characterizes David as introvert whiles her sister Jenifer as an extrovert. David uses much of the time watching television. One evening, a conflict of interest erupted between the two siblings. David and Jenifer wanted to watch different TV channels at the same time and therefore the pursuit of individual interest lead to a fight because none of them was willing to give up watching the preferred TV station (Reinhartz,2003). The fight between David and Jenifer resulted in the damage of the remote and therefore none of the two would watch the TV. David was anticipating watching Pleasantville marathon while her sister intended to watch a concert on a different channel. Later, David and Jenifer decided to keep off their differences from the people in the town. As the film advance, Jenifer falls in love with a high school boy and engage in sex without the knowledge of fellow citizens in the town. The author notifies the viewer of the drastic changes in the Pleasantville, which includes the fact those citizens of discovering sex, music, and art. The film depicts David and Jenifer apart of the Pleasantville, a television fiction of the 1950s. David and Jenifer are compelled to play the roles of Bud and Marry sue. The author of the film uses David and Jenifer to depict the nature of living standards in the 1950s.



Jenifer and David are teenagers of 1990s but enter a TV show of 1950s. The author takes the viewer to the town of Pleasantville where David and his sister Jenifer are agents of changes. It is apparent from the film that when the two teenagers entered the town, they triggered emotional change among the residents in the town. For example, there were emotional changes in the town where the people began thinking independently. It is apparent that people of Pleasantville perceived the change in different perspective. For example, some of the people in Pleasantville perceived the change as monsters while other rejoiced because of the change. Some citizens in the city did not like the change because they viewed it as destructors to the normal functioning of the society. Besides, this category of people did like the change in the society because it was likely to disrupt the normal functioning of the society (Reinhartz,2003). However, the category of citizens that welcomed the change perceived the change as the avenue to embrace independence of thoughts.

Pleasantville is a society where the gender roles are important. The culture in Pleasantville requires that women submit to their husband in love. Besides, the society expects the women to perform their duties such as feeding the family and making a home. For example, in the film, George comes home and expects that Betty will Cooke dinner for the family. The society seems to fear to accept the change in the society because the change will interfere with norms in the society.

Men in Pleasantville value the gender roles of the women than the women. George in the film came home one evening expecting that Betty has prepared the dinner. It is apparent that George was not shocked that his wife was not at home in that evening but was baffled because there was no dinner. Viewers can easily conclude that men in Pleasantville are interested in services from their women and not the women. George appears to be looking for the persons who will be there for him to cook dinner. In the film, Betty as an individual is not important to George but her roles in the family.

The film is a flashback of the life of the 1950s. The author introduces the life of the people in the town of Pleasantville where most people are perfectionists. However, the presence of the two characters David and Jenifer in Pleasantville is the start of the change in the town. Some of the changes in the Pleasantville town include the discovery of art, books, sex, musics, and the ideas of non-conformity. Initially, the Pleasantville is a town of black and white. However, with the presence David and Jenifer, the issues idea of color erupted and the color was in various parts of the town within a short time (Reinhartz, 2003). The citizens of the Pleasantville began to threaten the mayor to rid some colors that tainted the image of the town. The aims of citizens of Pleasantville were to trigger reforms in the town to turn the town to its original nature.

Double standards

The film portrays the lifestyle of the people in the town as that of the double standards. In the 1950s, the societal gender roles were different from those in the present society. For example, as evident in the film the role of women in the 1950s was to stay at home and to cook food for their families. The film also depicts a society where women are expected to be beautiful and make their contributions in the daily activities at home. The women of the 21st century participate in the reforms in the society because they are equally empowered. The film depicts the women in the 1950s as individuals who are not expected to worry about the social problems but to concentrate on their roles in the home. George and Betty are sets of characters living in the lifestyles of the 1950s. George is depicted as having a great interest in the dinner and not the presence of his wife in the home.

Pleasantville as Hollywood Biblical film

The film alludes to the Bible in many instances. The author uses colors to depict different social issues in the in the film. The change from black and white to color is a symbol of sin in the society. The life of the people in the film depicts that of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In Pleasantville, the citizens were as innocent and perfect as the people in Garden of Eden were. However, the presence of Jenifer and David in Pleasantville marked the beginning of change. In the 1990s, the pessimistic knowledge prevailed. Jenifer was one of the pessimists of the thus she become of one of the individuals that discovered sex. The discovery of sex in Pleasantville contributed to the breakage of the perfect harmony of the society. The color change in Pleasantville is a symbol of sin and corrupt means of life in the city (Ross, 2015). The story of Jenifer resembles the change in the book of Genesis when the serpent tricked Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. The discovery of bad and good in the Garden of Eden was the source of evil in the bible. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the life of the people changed.


In the film, there are pieces of evidence of conflict between siblings. As the story opens, the author introduces the conflicting interests of the two siblings, David and Jenifer. First, the two siblings portray unique characters that the sources of the conflicts throughout the film. David is an introvert and his passion is spending time watching different TV channels. On the other hand, Jenifer is an extrovert. The difference in the characters of the David and Jenifer is the source of conflicts. The pursuits of the personal interest are the source of conflict between David and Jenifer (Ross, 2015). In the film, David and Jenifer are fighting because each one of them wanted to fulfill their interest. David wanted to watch marathon while Jenifer had an intention to watch a concert. The two major characters are in a conflict of interests. The result of the fight between the two siblings is breaking the remote. As a result, the interests of the two characters did not succeed because of their differences.

Another instance of conflict is that between the citizens of Pleasantville and the outsiders. The people of Pleasantville observe their traditions, especially concerning the gender roles. However, the presence of outsiders in the town was negative to the posterity of the cultural practices in the society. The people in the Pleasantville fear giving up the traditional lifestyle for the foreign cultures. The outsiders in Pleasantville are the source of change and the change was to bring benefits to the people in the area. For example, the change that the people of Pleasantville feared is the independence of thoughts.

The conflicts in the film result from the class between the people advocating for change and the people fearing the change. The status quo in the film fear that the outsider will interfere with norms in the society and the stability of culture of the people (Ross, 2015). The citizens in the town preserve their cultures and perceive the intruders as the source of interruptions to the stable cultures in the town. The citizens in the Pleasantville have divergent views of regarding the change. There is a category of individuals that embrace the change because of the benefits that result from it, and the category that fears change because of the personal reasons. For this reason, there is a serious clash between the individuals that advocates for the change and those against the change. The status quo fears the unknown that comes because of change in their society.


Reinhartz, A. (2003). Scripture on the Silver Screen (Louisville. KY: Westminster John Knox.

Ross, M. (2015). Arresting Forms. In 3D Cinema (pp. 126-148). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

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