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Pleasantville – A Christian Movie Review

Some of you may not believe this—some of you may not care—but I just saw the movie, “Pleasantville,” for the first time today. It’s here in the year 2015; this thing came out in 1998. I had never seen it before. My wife said, “Oh, I know a show you’ll like,” and so she put it on.

It was well-told as a story. It had Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William Macy, Reese Witherspoon, J.T. Walsh… directed by Gary Ross (as if any of this matters.)

Wow! As we started to get into it, I realized very quickly they were mirroring some of the book of Genesis where they talk about the Garden of Eden and the Fall. I realized they were making references or bringing allegories back from the book of Genesis but things were… off.

Really, this whole movie is a batch of mixed messages about good and evil where good is evil and evil is good. It very much plays on the book of Genesis. It spends time in the Garden of Eden, which is Pleasantville, which has been made static and dulled, it’s made black and white. The residents there are automatons who don’t know how to do anything for themselves. They are unenlightened.

The brother and sister who are transported back, they’re fighting over a remote control back in our colored reality and the remote control breaks. Barney Fife walks in as the TV repairman just unannounced. He just shows up once the remote breaks. He gives them a new remote, a space age remote that takes them into Pleasantville, which is a TV show that the son—or the Adam in this case—he really loved this show.

He and his sister are transported back into Pleasantville, back in time. This nods to the movie, Back to the Future. As they start their butterfly effect of messing up this alternative universe, they bring to the universe sin. This is the charge towards sin as led by the wayward sister, in this case, Reese Witherspoon. She deflowers the innocent captain of the basketball team in Pleasantville. He tells his buddies, and then the word starts getting out. As this happens, the world, Eden, starts to come into full Technicolor. Color or richness, visual richness, visual beauty is brought on by sin in this case. It just downward spirals from there.

Obviously, in this analogy, the TV repairman is God. The remote control is the key into Eden, the key into the Garden. It’s not so pleasant to be in the Garden as it is because you’re just an automaton, you’re mindless. You’re just wondering around in bliss, thinking it’s bliss, and not knowing any better. You don’t have the knowledge to know it’s supposed to be more colorful, it’s supposed to be more rich. The characters, most of them, fall into sin, usually adultery or some sexual sin. Really, it’s amazing to see the erosion game that Hollywood is playing with us. And this happened back in 1998! This is seven years ago!

The characters all start to fall, one at a time. For Bud’s mother, in this case, the Adam character, Tobey Maguire. His character’s name is Bud in Pleasantville. His mother, for her, she turns to color, from black and white to color, by pleasuring herself. She was taught how to do this by the daughter. The daughter tells her, “This is what you can do,” and so she gains her color that way.

For Bud, it comes from hitting another boy in defense of his mother.

For one of the other characters, the restaurant owner turned artist, it’s in seducing Bud’s mother.

For Mary Sue, the sister—the Eve in this story—it comes from actually rejecting her wanton ways because she enters Eden full of sin, full of sexual sin. She actually rejects that here. There’s a little bit of confusion that they just decided to sprinkle in. For her, it’s gleaning towards knowledge so she finds, as far as we can tell, a fictional classic. That’s where she dives into. She actually rejects one of the overtures from the captain of the basketball team, turns him away because she’s finally found the book. She’s got to study. She’s got to get to her classes. That was interesting.

Bud’s father finally gains his color. He’s one of the holdouts along with many of the men in town. For Bud’s father, it’s finally expressing his love for his wife; that changes his color.

Then, the mayor, in this case, the mayor of the town who actually turns out to be the judge as well in the final scenes. He’s obviously the Christ-figure who’s trying to maintain the status quo. He’s trying to maintain or trying to save his town from falling into sin, from falling into Technicolor. Bud, the Adam, inflames him so much, antagonizes him so much. While he’s trying to pass judgment over the townspeople, over Adam in this case, that he turns colors. He finds his color there, just out of rage, which totally breaks the symbolic mechanism that they were trying to work with everybody else.

All in all, this movie is fairly treacherous. There’s teen sex, adultery, profanity, all with a dash of racist segregation and one well-placed punch to the jaw. Traditional values are painted as being dull and boring and colorless.

It’s just more of the Hollywood erosion game, really. This is what it boils down to.

Again, it was well-construed as a story. It had all sorts of holes. They even got down to a place where right in the middle of the movie, one of the girls who had changed color (because she found herself in some way) brings an apple to the Adam character (Bud). Really overt, in your face. Yeah, we’re definitely nodding back to the book of Genesis.

I regret seeing it. My wife, I won’t tell her that I regret seeing it. She’ll have to watch this video to find out I regret seeing it. But, it gave me some material for this, right? I got to talk to you as a result, so I don’t regret seeing it. I’m a little wiser as a result of it. But, I wouldn’t recommend seeing it. Not at all.

Anyways, there’s my report. Hope you guys are doing well. This is Matt Schoenherr signing off.

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One comment

  1. Clay Richardson says:

    I am glad that I am not the only person who seemed to notice this. When I looked the movie up on RottenTomatoes.com (after seeing it sadly) I was shocked to find out that it’s rating was so incredibly high! The entire movie I kept thin king about the “colored” world they had left and in the earlier scenes it stated how poor the economy was, how high STD and AIDS related diseases were and overall how hopeless everything in the real world seemed to be. All of that and yet they still bring this to the people of Pleasantville? I could not get off the obvious attacks of how these happy people were “mind controlled” but there was no pain, sickness, lust, greed, violence or injustice. Everything was in balance. Oh adding to the pot of craziness was the people at the book burning and the Mural on the wall painted on the Police Department in defiance by Jeff Bridges features a snake curled around an apple (not sure if you caught that). They also left the story almost in a loop. We know what will happen we see it in real life and firsthand in the beginning of the movie with teachers shoving sad, depressing statistics down your throat and in the end we see Pleasantville in full color wondering what happens next.

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