Pleasant-Ville

I recently watched the movie Pleasantville again, and was reminded of what a lovely, poignant film it is.

For those who haven’t seen it yet, it’s about a boy who escapes his life by watching his favorite show, Pleasantville; a black and white TV series set in the 50s with a Leave it to Beaver kind of feel to the world.  Everything is “safe,” and “pleasant,” and “happy.”  Through a strange twist of fate, the boy and his sister end up trapped inside the world of Pleasantville, and all of its homogenous niceness.

However, because of the entrance of our two “real world” people, things start changing in the town.  People learn of sex, or of stories in books (which were all blank before), or of real life events like fire.  As each person is affected by something s/he has never experienced before, they change from the black and white look into glorious technicolor.

The movie goes on from there, and it’s interesting to see what it is that changes each person into the vivid hues that you and I are accustomed to seeing.  What makes them come alive.  Even the people who hold fast to their “normal” ways leave the black and white safety behind eventually.

pleasantville-book-burning

I love the metaphor of this movie.  It’s great to watch people who are open to change and are actually awed by experiences that have newly become available to them.  Maybe it’s gardening and seeing an explosion of color just outside their window.  Or maybe it’s hearing their baby’s laughter for the first time.

I know one of the things that does it for me is music.  I LOVE music.  I’ve loved it ever since I can remember.  Singing, dancing, just being moved by a classical piece or a coloratura soprano hitting a high, glass-breaking note; all of these affect me from time to time and in various ways.  Certain songs evoke an explosion along my nerve endings and I feel every cell in my body come alive and shiver with excitement.  I would love to be hooked up to some sort scientific graphing machines when I hear those particular songs, so I can see what that process looks like (if any of you know if this is possible, please share, because I REALLY would like to do this sometime).

But even in the movie, it’s interesting to see those who are so afraid of this change that they begin to turn on their neighbors–people they’ve known forever–just because their neighbors are now a little different than they were before.  Whether it’s from anger at those who embrace the changes, or shock at seeing just how close those changes are to their own life.

These same themes are true in the real world around us.  Whether it’s about something as simple as music or food, or something more complex like equality, freedom or freedom of speech, you can see people come alive when they find something they truly enjoy or believe in.  Just like in the movie, it’s not always easy to accept what our “neighbor” holds true to his/her happiness, or to embrace her/his right to express him-/her-self in the ways that feel right to them.  But also like in the movie, that change or growth comes whether we’re happy about it or not.

It’s safer to see it all play out in a movie than in real life, especially if you’re in opposition to something, because you can rail at the screen and not hurt the feelings of those around you, but maybe, just maybe, seeing it on a movie screen will also help us come to accept those “scary” changes more easily.  That’s where I enjoy watching movies imitate life.  It gives me a chance to see events that I might not normally come into contact with, and to decide if I like certain choices people make, or if I’d do it differently.

I invite everyone to watch the people around you in that same way.  Rather than be upset or scared that they’re different than you are, take a deeper look and find out what it is that makes them bloom into vivid colors.  What makes their spirit soar.  What makes their skin tingle like the wind flowing through some chimes.

Maybe then our world would seem more “pleasant.”

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