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Film / Pleasantville

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"There are some places that the road doesn't go in a circle. There are some places where the road keeps going."

A deliberately Troperrific 1998 comedy-drama film, written and directed by Gary Ross and starring Reese Witherspoon, Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, J. T. Walsh, and Don Knotts.

Jennifer (Witherspoon) and David (Maguire) are a pair of '90s teen siblings who, during an argument over who gets to use the big TV in the living room, wind up Trapped in TV Land due to a strange TV repairman (Knotts) and a stranger magical remote. Specifically, they wind up in Pleasantville, an old black-and-white show portraying the stereotypical 1950s American suburb (along the lines of Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best, but even more idealized). David is thrilled because it's his favorite show, taking place in a happy world where nothing bad ever happens (as a contrast to David and Jennifer's unstable home life). Jennifer, being more of a party girl, finds Pleasantville incredibly dull and wants to liven the place up. Still, they both want to get home, and David wants to do so without upsetting the community — but the repairman gets antsy and they're stuck.

Their presence winds up throwing the heavily-idealized world into chaos. As things become less idealized and more like the real world, they begin to show up in color instead of black and white — people cease to be monochrome whenever they stop staying nice and snug within their boundaries and break out, displaying some inner truth about their character.

For an oddly similar experience in book form, try The Giver. Also see Midnight in Paris for a similar story dealing with escapism, and WandaVision for a Psychological Surreal Superhero Horror-based take on the premise, which is set in not only the 50s, but in the following six decades as well (kinda).

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  • The '50s: Exaggerated if not parodied with the Pleasantville sitcom.
  • The '90s: Where the real world is set, being enough of a Crapsack World for David to resort to watching a '50s sitcom for escapism. The film was a response to the Moral Guardians of that decade who condemned changes in family structure, and promoted Leave It to Beaver-style “family values”.
  • Actor Allusion: The TV Repairman is played by Don Knotts, who played Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show, one of the more 50s-ish sitcoms out there in spite of the fact that it was made in The '60s.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The film doesn't provide us with a clear answer about how the situation will work out between Betty, Bill, and George (though of course part of the film's message is learning to appreciate the lack of the predictability that their old world enforced).
  • An Aesop:
    • Life is not perfect, but there's always a way to deal with it.
    • Families and relationships are complicated. Non-traditional families are as valid as traditional ones.
  • Anti-Escapism Aesop: The film ends with the town being in color and learning to work with their problems.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Subverted. Basketballs that don't go through the hoop every time and no dinner on the table in the evening are just as much of a rupture in Pleasantville's reality, and just as frightening and traumatic to the inhabitants, as the first real rain or fire.
  • Ascended Fanboy: David becomes Bud, which he loves at first.
  • Auto Erotica: What mainly goes down at Lovers' Lane, and seen (or rather, heard) firsthand between Jennifer and Skip at that location.
  • Bland-Name Product: TVTime for TVLand.
  • Blank Book: The entire library in Pleasantville is completely blank — nobody ever read on the show, after all. Once David and Jennifer recall the plots to the teenagers and further changes begin occurring in the town, the books start to get filled.
  • Blithe Spirit: The entire point of the kids' visit, which winds up changing everything in the town.
  • Book Burning: Still-grey people burn books which appeared in the library because they saw it as sign of corruption and end of their happy, non-complicated existence.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Eventually, all of the racists are revealed to have the same passions inside them that reveal their true colors, just like everyone else.
  • Breakout Character: In-Universe example. Bill is treated this way for the Pleasantville show given that he's advertised alongside the Parker family members in the TV advertisement.
  • Brick Joke: David helping put out a fire is a hilarious example. First of all the movie establishes that all the firemen in town ever do is getting cats down from trees. Later, a tree bursts into flame. David catches wind of it and runs to the nearest fire station. Of course, there's never been an actual fire in Pleasantville until now:
    David: Fire! (Confused firemen stare at him.) FIRE!!! (They still stare.)... Cat? (They rush to the scene.)
    Fireman watching the tree burn: Where's the cat?
    • One of them is then surprised to see water come from one of the hoses when David hitches it up, saying he always wondered what they were for.
  • Cat Up a Tree: The only thing the firemen do at first is rescuing cats from trees. There are no fires or other emergencies in the idyllic world of Pleasantville.
  • Character Development:
    • David starts out the film as an introverted loner who thinks of the show as escapism. Halfway through the film, he begins to display more assertive leader traits and earns his color by punching out a thug who was attacking his TV mom. He ends the film by returning to his life and comforting his mother over the difficulties of her life as a single mom with two kids and a deadbeat ex-husband.
    • Likewise, Jennifer starts as a shallow, promiscuous fashionista whose original intent is to shake things up, but when given a fresh start, she realizes the value of education and earns her color by breaking a date to study.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Bill's painting ability. He and David paint a huge mural to provoke still-grey people into action. The process sparks the color in all of them.
  • The Chew Toy: The rival basketball team. After all, their sole purpose for existing is to lose to the Pleasantville team.
  • Chiaroscuro: The film uses its black and white setting to good effect when George comes home and discovers, to his horror, that his wife doesn't have dinner ready and waiting for him. He wanders the house, confused and increasingly upset with his face in shadow, repeatedly asking "Where's my dinner?".
  • Clothing Damage: Attacked by a mob, newly colored Margaret runs crying into frame with her blouse ripped at the shoulder.
  • Coloring in the World: The main protagonists Jennifer and David get trapped in the black-and-white show of Pleasantville, which seems to be a pleasant place as the name implies at first, but it turns out the inhabitants have their own sorts of hidden issues and are stuck in a drab, formulaic lifestyle. Gradually, the protagonists cause color to spread throughout the place via growing out of their comfort zones and confronting their inner turmoil, to show that the change is all for the better.
  • Coming of Age Story: When people of all age ranges step outside their formula lifestyle, symbolized by the transition to color. The whole film is an allegory for Character Development and almost chronicles the rise of the teenager, The '50s coming of age as a decade if you will.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Pleasantville gradually reveals itself to be one. It looks bright and sunny (as bright as black and white can be) but everyone is either deeply repressed, very bigoted or in Bill's case, going through an existential crisis.
  • Crapsack World: The movie opens setting up the world of the 90s this way, with David being told over and over and over by various teachers and lecturers that the future is going to be terrible and the kids will never have jobs and the environment will be totally destroyed before they're thirty.
  • Culture Police: Utilized as the presence of two kids from the real world starts making a small town from a sitcom set in an idealized version of The '50s more and more real. One particularly non-subtle scene visually features an angry mob breaking into a store and tearing paintings apart — then moving on to burn books. The town establishes a Code of Conduct prohibiting all recorded music except "Pat Boone, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Jack Jones, the marches of John Philip Sousa or 'The Star Spangled Banner'."
  • Cut-and-Paste Suburb: The entire town of Pleasantville, with a generic city hall, one instance each of a soda shop, a hat store, a general store, a clothing store, a fire station, a high school, a library, and a designated Lovers Lane.
  • Dead TV Remote Gag: David and Jennifer break their remote and can't interact with the television (due to it being very new and lacking any buttons and knobs—lampshaded by Jennifer), leading the magic TV repairman to come to the door and give them a new remote that sends the siblings to Pleasantville, kick-starting the plot.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Of 50's sitcoms and nostalgia for the era. Main character David thinks that the titular town, which shares its name with the television program in the film, is this: everything seems happy and idyllic, the town is permanently in the "nice" part of The '50s (no greasers/rock 'n roll/war, etc.), and all problems are resolved in thirty short minutes. But when David and his sister Jennifer are sucked into the show, he discovers just how miserable it is: none of the books have any print in them, everybody's happy because they're mandated to be, nobody has any sex whatsoever (to the point where Jennifer teaching her sitcom "mother" to masturbate and experience orgasm for the first time causes a nearby tree to burst into flame), and the town's Main Street ends in a circle—there's no getting out of it whatsoever. By the end, David and Jennifer have transformed the town into a place that's not nearly as perfect, but much more human and genuine.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Lampshaded when Jennifer points out how absurd the concept of being in a TV show from the 1950s is:
    Jennifer: And I still don't see why we're doing this!
    David: Because we're supposed to be in school.
    Jennifer: We're supposed to be at home, David. We're supposed to be in COLOR!
  • Descriptiveville: The town is an actual 1950s sitcom town. It is, indeed, quite pleasant.
  • Disappeared Dad: David and Jennifer’s dad is mentioned but not seen.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Not that the movie's subtle about its parallels with a cultural revolution. The signs discriminating against non-monochrome people even read "No Coloreds".
    • The scene where Bud and Margaret are in Lovers' Lane. She tempts him into eating a red apple. Now what biblical story involves a woman handing a man a certain Forbidden Fruit?
    • The still-grey people of Pleasantville burning books.
    • The Chamber of Commerce's logo seems vaguely menacing (reminiscent of fascist symbols), especially coupled with the angry atmosphere when it meets later. It starts invoking the Red Scare (appropriately for a '50s based show) with their quite repressive Code of Conduct which bans all art or music they feel goes against Pleasantville's traditions, and also the Kangaroo Court-like trial later. They also mandate that history textbooks not teach any "changeist" view, which seems like an allegory of the anti-evolution efforts during the early 20th century.
  • Domestic Appliance Disaster: The all-male bowling club has a member named Roy who was asked, as a proof of the new anarchy, to show the back of his shirt hidden under his jacket. It has an iron-shaped mark burned into it. How did it happen? Apparently, Roy's wife was distracted because she was "thinking".
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Jennifer goes on a date with the town jock, who she quickly manipulates into having sex with her. This is Played for Laughs, though at the time, the boy had no idea what sex was (or for that matter, STD's or even pregnancy), was visibly freaked out, and even mistook his erection for an "illness." Had the sexes been reversed, the boy would have been villified.
  • Dramatic Thunder:
    • When George returns home to an (unknown to him at the time) empty house, devoid of his wife, his kids and his dinner, he announces "Honey, I'm home!". The heavens immediately respond with a loud crash.
    • This also happens during the scene when the TV Repairman interacts with the teens near the beginning of the movie. The teens appear aware of the odd thunder, looking up in mild confusion when it strikes.
  • Dreamville: Pleasantville, a schmaltzy 1950's style paradise existing only within a television show. Given that it's entirely fictional in nature and based entirely on the tropes of a light-hearted comedy show, disease, aging, bad weather and hardship are unknown... but there's no world outside of town, fires are impossible to start, the books are all blank, and sex is unknown.
  • Dutch Angle: When the Mayor's town hall addresses cut to his fellow members of the Chamber of Commerce, it switches from Hitler Cam to an ominous angled shot.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Two bickering siblings go into a 50's sitcom, where it's slowly revealed that all the characters are either repressed one way or another, or deeply bigoted.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Despite Big Bob being the leader of the repressive backlash to the changes in Pleasantville he condemns the destruction of the malt shop and the book burning. That said he uses it as an excuse to codify bans on books, colors, and areas such as the public library.
  • Fantastic Racism: Newly technicolorized people are referred to as "colored", a slur used mainly against blacks or people of color. Ironically, said "colored" characters are still white.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook:
    • Betty Parker takes care of her family and it's demonstrated by making extremely lavish breakfasts and dinners. At the end of the movie, she makes David promise he will eat wholesome.
    • Margaret, a gorgeous cheerleader baked cookies for her Love Interest. Originally, it was Whitey, but she's charmed with David. She gives him cookies and it kicks off their romance.
  • Fisher King/Keystone Army: The entire town goes technicolor and connects to the rest of the Earth after both George and The Mayor are changed in quick succession. Either character(or both) might be considered the Fisher King as the former was the last of the in-show "Protagonist Family" to change and sets off an entire crowd when he does change while the latter is the highest authority in the town and is the only character to actually be shown changing on-screen.
  • Fisher Kingdom: When David and Jennifer first enter the TV show, they're turned monochrome and adopt the clothing of the world around them, and take on the roles of pre-existing characters, complete with friends and histories. As far as everyone else is concerned, they've been there all along.
  • Food Porn: A bit downplayed since it's in black and white, but the breakfast that Betty makes and serves to "Mary Sue" is nothing short of spectacular.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Subverted with David and Jennifer. It seems like nerdy David is the responsible sibling to worldly, slutty Jennifer's foolish, but the fact is that they're both avoiding reality and its responsibilities, as he's ducking out of life by diving into Pleasantville while she hides in meaningless sex.
  • For Your Own Good: Skip attempts this excuse when trying to burn Jennifer's copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover. She retaliates with a Groin Attack.
  • Garden of Eden: The film utilizes Adam-and-Eve/Eden symbolism a couple times. The titular location is an innocent 1950s town that loses its innocence; in one scene, Margaret tempts Bud into eating a red apple, alluding to the myth.
  • Genre Savvy: David, due to Pleasantville being his favorite show.
  • Genre Shift: The movie starts out as a straight Trapped in TV Land comedy, but then becomes something more weighty when the changes in the town have more serious ramifications.
  • Good Parents: Betty and George; despite all the chaos happening, they both love "Bud" and "Mary Sue."
  • Groin Attack: When still-grey people begin a large fire to throw books into, Skip is seen trying to wrestle Jennifer's copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover—a book she actually liked—away from her, and this is how she disarms him and reclaims the book.
  • Happy Rain: David is joyous when it starts raining for the first time ever in Pleasantville. Other colored teens and Betty with Bill love it also.
  • Held Gaze: Betty and Bill when the latter comes to the Parkers' house. David awkwardly has to break it up.
  • Heel–Face Turn: It can be assumed that Skip, Whitey and some of the more prejudiced youths of Pleasantville redeemed themselves after the whole town was colored. While this isn’t seen, we do see this with the previously grey citizens who have been colored.
  • Hitler Cam: The mayor's addresses to the town meetings are filmed at a low angle with the Chamber of Commerce's handshake symbol framed behind him (looking more like a pair of fists than a handshake).
  • Homage:
    • The set in the courtroom scene, and the segregation of the "colored" characters is very similar to To Kill a Mockingbird.
    • David's reaction the first time it rains in Pleasantville is almost identical to a shot in The Shawshank Redemption. However, this is unintentional according to invokedWord of God, who said that he didn't realize he did "the Shawshank shot" until a friend pointed it out when it was released.
    • Many scenes with Big Bob copy the famous agrandizing shots of the main character in Citizen Kane.
    • Jennifer falls in love with the book Lady Chatterley's Lover, which was a highly controversial novel about a young wife engaging in an affair, with her husband's permission (as he'd been rendered paralytic and impotent during WWI). Jennifer is likewise a sexual woman who becomes incredibly controversial in the 1950s setting of Pleasantville. The book was involved in legal drama as it was repeatedly banned and went through court cases, just like Jennifer.
  • Housewife: Betty is supposed to be the epitome of this trope in-universe, but once she learns about sex from Jennifer, it begins a transformation of her character.
  • I Choose to Stay: Jennifer decides to stay as she reasons with how badly she was failing back in reality, there is no way she could get into a good college.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Taken up to eleven. Betty is moderately vocal when working herself up to it, but we don't know what she sounded like when she actually climaxed, because a tree outside exploded into flames. This is even more impressive than it sounds, since previously nothing would burn in Pleasantville. An adult woman having an orgasm changed the nature of the world. It took whole crowds of teenagers humping away for weeks to achieve similar results with the rain.
  • Intimate Artistry: When they begin to explore their feelings, Bill paints a brightly colored nude mural of Betty on the soda shop windows as an act of rebellion against the Culture Police and also as an expression of their newfound relationship.
  • Irony: Despite being the ones to instigate the chaos in Pleasantville, David and Jennifer are among the last open minded teens to change to color, because it's not about being Darker and Edgier or Hotter and Sexier, it's about growth, and they had a ways to go.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Jennifer was originally a very selfish snob, and her decision to shake up the world is for less-than-noble reasons. However, even David comes to realize that his sister has a point.
    • Jennifer again when she tries to claim the good TV for her date. She is trying to watch a live concert with someone she wants to impress, for which a larger screen and stereo sound would be preferable (though not at all essential.) David is alone, watching reruns of a black and white show that he has already seen each episode of likely a dozen times. Not that good means it is unimportant.
  • Karmic Trickster: The TV repairman. He pretends he's rewarding David for his knowledge of Pleasantville trivia, but really he's putting David and Jennifer through the wringer for some Character Development.
  • Kubrick Stare: George has one at the bowling alley after he came to the house while Betty decides to leave George, it's raining in Pleasantville for the first time, and there's no dinner.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • The movie opens with a montage talking about the upcoming Pleasantville marathon that points out a lot of the 50s tropes (especially "safe sex".
    • David is very genre savvy, and constantly points out tropes as they happen in-universe (but not for the movie as a whole). He even tries to warn his sister against defying tropes.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Inverted by Mary Sue/Jennifer. She originally wears her hair loose but as she discovers the joy of reading and becomes studious, she wears her hair up or tied in a high ponytail.
  • Literal Metaphor: A variation. Pleasantville residents become colorized the moment they show who they really are or act on what they truly feel. In other words, they're showing their "true colors".
  • Love Epiphany: David gets George to realize exactly why he misses Betty—and it's not for the cooking and cleaning she does.
  • Love Triangle: Part of Betty's awakening is cheating on her husband with the guy who owns the malt shop. (One of the odder moments in the film, as Betty has a pregnant "moment" with Bill when they first meet that comes out of nowhere.)
  • Malt Shop: Being a stereotypical 50's sitcom town, one is featured as a prime hangout for the town's teens.
  • Manly Tears: George weeps as he admits his wife is as beautiful as the day he married her an that he truly loves her.
  • Maybe Ever After: The film ends with Betty and Bill sitting on a bench, completely uncertain of what the future holds for them for the first time in their lives.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • What's the name of the sweet, perfect girl in Pleasantville? Mary Sue.
    • One of the bad guys in the show is nicknamed "Whitey" to emphasize the race allegory of the film, for those few that were still unaware of it despite the "No Coloreds" sign.
  • Media Transmigration: 90's teenagers David and Jennifer end up trapped as characters Bud and Mary Sue in David's favorite show, a Leave It to Beaver-esque sitcom. Their presence winds up throwing the heavily-idealized world into chaos.
  • Monochrome Casting: Being reflective of actual sitcoms of the 1950s, there is not a single racial or ethnic minority resident in Pleasantville.
  • Monochrome to Color: The film has the two main characters Jennifer and David Trapped in TV Land in the world of a black and white TV show called Pleasantville. As they interact more with that world and cause the people in it to act more individualistic like people in the real world it gains more and more people and objects with Splashes Of Color, until by the end of the movie the world of Pleasantville is fully color just like the real world.
  • Mood Motif: The day after David tricks the fire department into fighting a fire, all the teens in town are gathered in the diner to ask him how he knew how to fight the fire and he starts explaining life outside Pleasantville to them, opening up their world. The music playing is Dave Brubeck's Take Five, a song written in 5/4 time during the era of Big Band and Swing, when everything was written in 4/4 time so everyone could dance to it. Everyone predicted the song would bomb because no one would be able to dance in 5/4, but it was a hit and no one had any trouble dancing in 5/4. The scene and the music are about the teens breaking the mold and moving to a different beat than they had before.
  • Nice Guy: Deliberately invoked by the atmosphere of the town to the degree where everyone initially appears this way. The facade slips for people who participate in the repressive backlash to the changing culture of the town but for many including George, Betty and Mr. Johnson the trope genuinely applies.
  • Nobody Poops: There aren't any toilets. When inspected, the stalls turn out to be empty. Safe to assume No Periods, Period applies as well for the same reason.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Parodied and ultimately subverted; the world of the show is initially the rosy idea of The '50s that everyone loves to reminisce about, but once the "color infection" starts to spread, the uglier side of the decade (such as "racial" and gender discrimination) is gradually reflected.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Barkeeping: Bill wiping down the soda shop's countertop in his introductory scene. He'd been at it so long that he had worn down the vinyl into a circular smear (since his purpose was to be David's boss, he couldn't think to do anything else until he showed up).
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. In the TV series, both the mother and one of Mary Sue's friends are named "Betty".
  • Parody Sue: The form of the perfect, sweet sister character named "Mary Sue" — although once Jennifer assumes her role, this quickly ends.
  • Passion Is Evil: Subverted. The people of Pleasantville maintain the typical calm, stoic, 50s demeanor up until they don't. People gain color, a full life, by discovering their passions, their best selves. Or their worst selves.
  • Precision F-Strike: The repairman drops one after Bud and Jennifer start changing things too much for his liking.
    TV Repairman: Don't make me get rough with you! I can get awfully fucking rough!
  • Romantic Rain: It starts raining on David and Margaret's date.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The movie makes an Adam and Eve allusion twice.
    • The first time when Jennifer sleeps with Skip, setting into motion Pleasantville becoming more "realistic."
    • The second time is less subtle, with David receiving an apple from Margaret, which is right before Margaret and a dozen or so other people change into color.
  • Screw Destiny: David's view is initially to follow the plots of the show by heart, but he eventually comes to embrace this trope.
  • Seemingly-Wholesome '50s Girl: Played with, where a girl from our day and age ends up stepping into this role... and by the time the movie's done, every girl in town is like that to some extent, except the girl who started the behavior.
  • Sexless Marriage: All of the marriages in Pleasantville, at least until the protagonists start shaking things up and double mattresses appear at the furniture store.
  • Sexy Sweater Girl: Jennifer is taken aback when she puts on the typical sweater and bullet bra combo.
    Jennifer: I could, like, kill a guy with these things.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: The enigmatic TV repairman played by Don Knotts doesn't appear in any of the trailers. The only hint of his existence comes from Knotts' name being listed during the credits box at the end of it.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The world of Pleasantville starts out with the dial pegged on Idealism, and steadily moves it over to Realism.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: The end of the movie:
    George: Do you know what's going to happen now?
    Betty: No, I don't. Do you know what's going to happen?
    George: (chuckles) No... I don't. [Camera pans over to Betty, then back to where George sat]
    Bill: [Sitting in George's chair] I guess I don't either.
  • Splash of Color: The town is in black-and-white until our heroes begin encouraging the natives to think for themselves. Ironically, David and Jennifer are not the first to change; they too must grow as people — Jennifer complains she is one of the last to change despite having more sex than anybody else in town, but this teaches her it's not all about sex.
  • Standard '50s Father: George Parker, Bud and Mary Sue's father, fits this trope to a T at first. Deconstructed as the town changes color when George is left uncertain of his role in the changing world, even asking his son Bud for advice.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: This was expected of every wife in the show. Betty's failure to have dinner ready for her husband one night sets off one of the major changes.
  • Stealth Mentor: Throughout the movie, the Repairman seems to want to keep Pleasantville the same and makes it clear he wants to stop the spread of color. However, after color has fully spread, the Repairman drives away with a smile; he set things up to help the kids grow.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Some early film posters colored "tv" differently from the rest of the title.
    • The opening montage announcing the upcoming Pleasantville marathon includes a bit about a trivia contest that includes a question about the secret ingredient in Betty's cherry pie.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Pleasantville is not as happy as it seems. People of Pleasantville gradually realize they have passions and desires that might not correspond to their scripted role.
  • Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred!: Invoked by David. He deliberately goads the increasingly irritated and upset Big Bob into breaking his "pleasant" facade in order to cause him to gain color. It works.
    David: (Leaning in) What do you want to do to me right now?
  • Supreme Chef: Betty's cooking is famed even in-universe where all of the housewives are implied to be this. That breakfast in particular could have fed 20 people.
  • Taken from a Dream: In the finale, while Jennifer chooses to remain in Pleasantville's TV Land, David decides to return to the real world. Ever the loving mother, Betty gives him a bag of pastries for the journey... and when David finds himself back in the real world, he finds that the bag returned to reality along with him.
  • The Talk: Zig-Zagged, in that it's a teenage daughter giving it to her mother, and then when the mother is sure the father won't be interested, the daughter points out that the man is actually dispensable.
  • Tempting Apple: David is offered an apple by his girlfriend in a film all about a fictional town's loss of innocence.
  • The Theme Park Version: Although Pleasantville might appear to be taken straight from a 1950s sitcom, sitcoms of that era were not actually that simple for the most part; references to pop culture, the outside world and sexuality occurred on even the strictest shows. This particular usage is more thematically deliberate, though: The film is more about how people think of and remember those shows than how they actually were.
  • Trapped in TV Land: How the film starts. It's not necessarily how it ends, though.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: David gives Margaret a red umbrella which he found among theatre props — she doesn't know what it is at first, but she loves it. They later share a kiss, hiding under the umbrella.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The film helped popularize subverted takes on '50s nostalgia that portrayed the decade as a Crapsaccharine World of Stepford Suburbia, red-baiting, and mainstream bigotry, yet David and Jennifer aren't necessarily portrayed as more enlightened than the sitcom characters around them, and the growth winds up flowing both ways as they themselves are changed by the world around them just as they change it in turn.
  • The Unfair Sex: Set up as if it's going to be played straight, but takes a different path. The wife who finds another love interest is portrayed sympathetically... but so is her husband, who simply doesn't understand how she feels, and his defining moment is realizing how much he loves her. The movie ends with all three noting that they don't know how this will turn out.
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: David's and Jennifer's mom opens the movie on the phone arguing with their father about when he gets the kids. It's his weekend to see them, but he's in jail and she won't bail him out.
  • Weirdness Search and Rescue: The film had the TV Repairman, who instigated the Trapped in TV Land plot, and then ineffectually tried to stop the fallout from it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • What happened to the old Bud and Mary Sue? You'd think that even the old Bud would come back once David leaves. It can be safe to assume, sadly, that they’re gone forever.
    • How about Big Bob the mayor, last seen running out a side door to the courtroom?
  • When Dimensions Collide: What the protagonists' presence does to Pleasantville. Everything is excessively pleasant (as well as lacking color, there is no rain, crime, homelessness, fire, sex or toilets). Throughout the film their actions impact the world around them and colors and concepts from the real world (like fire, sex, color and rain) start to appear as a result.
  • World Limited to the Plot: As David and Jennifer discover as they go through Pleasantville, the outside world barely exists, including a library of blank books, until their intervention changes it. The street design is even a Wrap Around (see below).
  • Wrap Around: Early in the film, the town's topology is such that someone going off one side of the town would end up on the other side.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: A week in Pleasantville is an hour in the real world presumably, because many TV sitcom episodes are 30 minutes to an hour in length and are usually broadcast a week apart. The Pleasantville episodes, however, are shown here in a marathon.

"Well that concludes the first hour of the Pleasantville marathon. Don't forget, we'll be going all night long until noon tomorrow."


Video Example(s):


It is NOT inside ME

Big Bob, the Mayor of Pleasentville insists that color (representing true emotions like love, desire, inspiration, and anger) doesn't exist inside him and is soon proven wrong.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / MirrorReveal

Media sources: