“Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”-George Bernard Shaw. While originally depicted in the idealized and simplistic setting of “Leave it to Beaver” lifestyle, Pleasantville is in actually a repressed and bland dystopian society painted as a utopian society in shades of black, white, gray, and ignorance. The objects of power and beauty that bring the “downfall” of Pleasantville- art, music, sex, and literature, are aspects and pleasures illustrated and ingrained by and in the unconventional, are instantly regarded with shock and controversy, both positive and negative. “Forbidden fruits” and the “liberated woman” are both elements of feminine sexuality that has always been rejected in fear of change or freedom of the stifled class that had given the “higher” class benefits or power, i.e. the housewife that is “free” to clean for her husband or serve his boss horderves. To describe the sense of terrifying astonishment to social equality and intellectual liberation that is being introduced to Pleasantville is the same as a noir world suddenly being introduced to color. However, the only crime that the “forbidden fruit” had truly done in retrospect was to reveal the sense of loss and unfulfillment that citizens, such as Betty, had but couldn’t name. Moral dilemmas are explored as Betty deeps into a domestic situation described in Betty Friedman’s Feminine Mystique, wanting more than be a mother and a wife, and scared, yet inexorably adamant about holding on to her transformation, “I don’t want it to go away.” Furthermore, when Bill is introduced the various joys and freedom of direction that art and color has brought, his professing, “I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t paint”, highlights the aesthetic and artistic needs to the human spirit aside from the fundamental. The “forbidden fruits” is more than the physical nature of sex, it is the existence of freedom and individuality and conflict in monotonous, safe, and “pleasant” world. A cinematic reference that illustrates this freedom is when David stands arms out open to the rain, a scene reminiscent of an innocent prisoner’s escape in The Shawshank Redemption. The movie while seeming as benign at first as a 50’s sitcom, reveals darker aspects reminiscent of dystopian literature, such as 1984 by George Orwell, The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which both portray themes of the denial of freedom through the denial of free will, thought, and art. Even the book burning scene springing from the “descent” of Pleasantville, parallels Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, expressing that the freedom of one society’s derives from the essence of intellectual freedom and those objects of truth and beauty, such as books. Shaw was right, our “forbidden fruits” like those Fahrenheit 451, are things worth living for and while scorned, are also celebrated, like fireworks in darkened skies.
Pleasantville: Brief Analysis of Art of the Forbidden Fruit
June 16, 2013