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« Robert Wise Centenary: Star!(1968)| Main| TIFF: The Last Five Years »
Tuesday
Sep 09 2014

Learning the Power of Knowledge from "Pleasantville"

Back to school week continues withAbstewon Pleasantville...

Let's face it,sometimes school can be a real drag.When you're not trying to find your place among the social circles (which is just as much work as any assignment a teacher could give),there's the constant pressure of doing well academically so that you can go to a good college so that you won't waste your life!(Nope,nopressure at all...) When David (a pre-Spider-ManTobey Maguire) isn't having imaginary conversations with pretty girls that are out of his league,he has to sit through bleak lectures that are so depressing in their statistics that it kinda makes you just wanna give-up:

For those of you going on to college next year,the chance of finding a good job will actually decrease by the time you graduate.The available number of entry level jobs will drop 31% over the next 4 years.Median income for those jobs will go down as well.Obviously,my friends,it's a competitive world.And good grades are your only ticket through.In fact by the year 2000...

...Contracting HIV from a non-monogamous lifestyle will climb to 1 in 150.The odds of dying in an auto accident are only 1 in 2,500.Now this marks a drastic increase...

...14 years ago when ozone depletion was just at 10% the current level.By the time you are 30 years old,the average global temperature will have risen 2.5 degrees.Causing such catastrophic consequences as typhoons,floods,widespread drought,and famine.Okay...who can tell me what "famine"is?

Yikes.No wonder David seeks out the simpler times captured in the 1950's sitcom world of his favorite show"Pleasantville".[more...]

Pleasantville seems perfect.The toughest thing is making sure you gorge down your lumberjack-sized breakfast of pancakes,eggs,sausage,bacon,and,of course,ham steak (anyone else queasy just thinking of all that food?) before heading off to an idyllic high school with such hard-hitting lessons as these:

Teacher:Last week,class,we discussed the geography of "Main Street".This week we're going to be talking about "Elm Street".Now can anyone tell me the difference between "Main Street"and "Elm Street"?Tommy?

Tommy:It's not as long?

Teacher:That's right,Tommy.It's not as long.Also,it only has houses.So,the geography of "Main Street"is different than the geography of "Elm Street".Mary Sue?

Jennifer/Mary Sue:Yeah...what's outside of Pleasantville?

Teacher:I don't understand.

Oh,but the town of Pleasantville will very soon begin to understand that ignorance is not necessarily bliss.Thanks to 90s teens David and his bad girl sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) who are magically transported to the suburban utopia of 1950's Pleasantville via a mystical remote control from Don Knotts (yeah,don't try to make sense of it),the two start to bring their modern world into the simplistic town.And as the black and white inhabitants begin to discover more about life,love,and learning,their world suddenly comes to life in vivid technicolor.

Jennifer,who never had nostalgia for the Good Ol' Days,is eager to bring her 90s girl sensibility to the teenagers (that's code for teaching them about sex),but the greatest gift she gives them happens by accident when they ask her aboutThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.Previously in Pleasantville,all of the books were blank inside.After all it's not right for people to read,soon they start getting ideas and thinking...After telling them what happens ("Only up to the raft,cause that's as far as I read"),the pages magically begin to fill with Mark Twain's words.David,reluctant at first,soon sees that the students are hungry for knowledge and continues the story so that the rest of the novel appears.

They've had a taste of independent learning and are eager to devour more.The books all begin to fill their pages with stories as the words fill the heads of the students with new concepts and perceptions.Even Jennifer who once cared only about boys,clothes,and shopping,starts to read a novel by D.H.Lawrence ("It seemed sexy."Most likelyLady Chatterly's Lover) opening her own mind to the power of knowledge.Suddenly the "it"place to be is the Pleasantville Public Library.Crowds line up to check out more books and expand their horizons.Proving that perhaps what they teach in school (in the 90s or in the sitcom world of the 50s) won't always have all the answers.It's best to seek it out in the pages of a book (or a thought provoking film likePleasantville).The More You Know...

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Reader Comments (1)

I love this movie!The symbolism is a tad on the blatant side but delivered as it is by this ideal cast it goes down,dare I say,pleasantly.How perfect was Don Knotts in this!I haven't seen it in a while but I'm inspired to give it a re-view soon.

Has it ever been a Hit Me With Your Best Shot entry?It would be an excellent choice if it hasn't.

September 9,2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

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