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Pleasantville (1998) February 18, 2008

Posted by Sun Ran in Writings.
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What are the immediate differences that strike David and Jennifer betweeen their lives in the contemporary American suburbia and the idyllic American life in the 1950s as portrayed in the TV soap Pleasantville?

When David and Jennifer went to Pleasantville, the first things that struck them was that Pleasantville is in black and white. There are no colours. They are also dressed in sweaters and shirts, those those that people wear in 1950s. The have a 1950s hairdo,and they are assumed to be Bud and Mary Sue, with parents Betty and George.
In the 1990s, where the original story started, David and Jennifer had divoiced parents. The live with their mum, and on the night when the movie begins, their mum was going out of town. In Pleasantville, Betty is a stay at home mum who does all the household chores and rarely goes out. George says very idealistically “Honey, I’m home” whenever he reaches home. Betty would be at home, with dinner all ready on the table. I doubt their mum in the 1990s prepares dinner for Bud and Jennifer.
After Bud and Jennifer realises that they are in Plesantville, their parents calls them for breakfast. Jennifer is given a lot of food, such as bacon, eggs, waffle, pancakes, sausage, honey and ham. Jennifer is disgusted at the thought of eating so much and growing fat.

Pleasantville is a place where everyone is pleasant and civilised. As they walk to school, their neighbours greet them, asking them about their father’s new car. In the 1990s, people would say “cool”, but in 1950s, they replace it with “swell”. So when asked how the new car was, they replied, “swell”.

David and Jennifer noticed that the people around them are different. Jennifer, now Mary Sue, has a new group of friends and a new boyfriend. She brought about the first changes in Pleasantville. Jennifer realised that the people in Pleasantville have different way of thinking. They are happy where they are.
In the 1990s, we were shown how some lessons were conducted, about Global warming and all, but we were taken into a Geography lesson with Mary Sue. The teacher was telling them about the geography of Main Street and Elm street. Main street leads back to Main Street. There is no other world outside of Pleasantville.

Later, Jennifer/Mary Sue got lost in the school and went to the library. In the books, there was no words. The books all had empty pages. The firemen rescused cats in Pleasantville because nothing burns in there, and fires don’t exist. They did not know how to use the hose. A date meant differently to Jennifer than to Skip. She brought about the first changes in Pleasantville.

David and Jennifer changed Pleasantville, but Pleasantville changed them in the end as well. David was able to stand up for himself and talk to the Mayor and express his views. Jennifer decides to stay in Pleasantville (for the time being) and go to college.

However, I feel that the ending is very unclear. Is Betty with George or Bob in the end? How will jennifer return to the 1990s if David took the remote control with him?

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