The point of Pleasantville - how characters gain colour in the process of manifestation

The film Pleasantville is a fascinating piece of cinema that addresses the important themes of nostalgia and change. This film immerses us in the town of Pleasantville, where the black and white routine gradually gives way to colourful change. In this article, we will examine the storytelling features of the film "Pleasantville" and its impact on cinema and audiences.

Warning, there are spoilers!

Of course, the first thing that catches your eye is the film's black and white visuals, which gradually become colour. And the sheer number of symbols that appear throughout the film. Of course, the entire film is a metaphor for change and coming back to your real self. It's an allegory of character development and a chronicle of becoming a teenager, the transition of society from the 50s to the 2000s.
Jennifer and David are a brother and sister from the 90s who, during an argument over who gets to use the big TV in the living room, find themselves in TV land thanks to a strange TV repairman and an even stranger magic remote. Specifically, they find themselves in Pleasantville, an old black and white TV series depicting a stereotypical 1950s American suburb.

David is thrilled because it's his favourite show, set in a happy world where nothing bad ever happens (unlike David and Jennifer's unstable home life). Jennifer, who is more into partying, finds "Pleasantville" incredibly boring and wants to revitalise it. However, they both want to get home and David wants to do so without upsetting the residents, but they end up getting stuck.
A week in Pleasantville equals an hour in the real world, as many episodes of television sitcoms last between 30 minutes and an hour and are usually broadcast a week apart.

Here, however, the episodes of Pleasantville are shown as a marathon.

The presence of the characters leads to chaos in a highly idealised world.

As things become less idealised and more like the real world, they start to show up in colour rather than black and white - people stop being monochrome when they stop staying nice and cosy within their boundaries and break out, showing the inner truth of their character.
Pleasantville gradually reveals itself as such. It looks bright and sunny (as bright as black and white can be), but all the people are either deeply depressed, very bigoted or, as in Bill's case, going through an existential crisis. The only thing the firefighters do at first is rescue cats from trees. There are no fires or other emergencies in the idyllic world of Pleasantville.

David, the protagonist, believes that the town, whose name is the same as the name of the television programme in the film, is just that: everything seems happy and idyllic, the town is constantly in the "good" part of the 50s (no grinders/rock 'n' roll/war, etc.), and all problems are solved in thirty short minutes.
But when David and his sister Jennifer get caught up in the show, he discovers just how cheesy it is: none of the books have any prints in them, everyone is happy because they're supposed to be, no one has sex (right down to Jennifer teaching her "mum" how to masturbate and have an orgasm for the first time, causing a nearby tree to burst into flames), and the town's main street ends in a circle - there's no way to get out of it at any point. By the end of the film, David and Jennifer transform the small town into a place that is not so much ideal, but more human and sincere.

In the end, the inhabitants of Pleasantville become coloured the moment they show who they really are or act according to what they really feel. In other words, they show their "true colours" and undergo a real transformation.

The book as a symbol of enlightenment

The entire library in Pleasantville is completely empty - because no one in the series has ever read. After David and Jennifer reminisce about the teen stories, and further changes begin to take place in the town, the books begin to fill up.

Grey people burn books that appear in the library because they see it as a sign of decay and the end of their happy, uncomplicated existence.
Both protagonists go through significant changes
- David begins the film as a loner introvert who sees the series as escapism. In the middle of the film, he begins to show more solid leadership qualities and becomes a man of colour by punching the thug who attacked his mother.

- Similarly, Jennifer begins her journey as an unserious, promiscuous fashionista who initially wanted to shake things up, but given the opportunity to start fresh, she realises the value of education and becomes colourful, blowing off a date for the sake of studying. She initially wears her hair loose, but as she learns the joy of reading and begins to study, she wears her hair up or tied in a high ponytail.


  • The courtroom setting and segregation of "coloured" characters is very similar to "To Kill a Mockingbird."
  • Many of the scenes with Big Bob copy the famous agrandising shots of the main character in the film "Citizen Kane".
  • The allusion to Adam and Eve occurs twice in the film.

    - The first time Jennifer sleeps with Skip, which provides the impetus for Pleasantville to become more "realistic".

    - The second time is less subtle, when David gets an apple from Margaret, and it happens right before Margaret and about a dozen other people change colour.
  • A reference already to "Pleasantville" is in WandaVision when, after two black and white episodes, colour slowly starts to appear in the show.

The Aesop

- Life isn't perfect, but there's always a way to cope.
- Family and relationships are complicated things. Extraordinary people also exist in an ordinary world.

Have you seen "Pleasantville"? What characters and references did you see? Let me know in the comments