All is Well in Pleasantville

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What if life was censored?

The Oscars will be awarded in a couple of weeks and The Artist (fortunately) has a decent shot at winning it all. Here’s why. Hollywood loves stories about Hollywood. From A Star is Born to Sunset Blvd. to Get Shorty, movies have revolved around some of the film industry’s favorite people - themselves.

Midst this inbred collective, Pleasantville might be the most cleverly disguised. And while it could arguably represent a number of narratives, this “Leave-it-to-Beaver” throwback is ultimately telling the story of Hollywood’s fight against censorship. Actually, director and writer Gary Ross is telling the story of his father, Arthur Ross, who was blacklisted during the Red Scare era of the 1940s – 1950s.

Being that nobody actually reading this was around during this era, most of us will not pick up on the nuances of the storyline; however, we do get the benefit of experiencing new questions that emerge when Ross pushes the notion of censorship to its limits. He does so by creating a picture-perfect world that only knows one way to see… in black and white.

But when Ross decides to inject a little technicolor in Pleasantville, we begin to see the themes of creation, sin, racism, identity, good/evil, and liberation come to light – all with theological undertones. What happens when “choice” enters our world? Does God operate like a distant TV repairmen (played by Don Knotts)? What would our world look like with no (authentic) expression? What does it take for “me” to be “me”? To be human?

Maybe Pleasantville is not so much about Hollywood after all. Or maybe it’s just that Hollywood is more like us than we give it credit.