Pleasantville Essay, Research Paper
The other day while over a friend s house we started watching the movie Pleasantville. At first I thought it looked terrible and was actually about to leave when I realized that the whole movie was based on the functionalist perspective of sociology.
The movie was about a brother and sister from the 90 s who get zapped into the 50 s television show Pleasantville where everything is perfect and nothing ever goes wrong. Throughout the movie their ideas contaminate the people and things are no longer so pleasant. What we see in the end though is that even the things that seem terrible actually serve a function in the way that things work.
One of the most obvious symbols in the movie is that when people do something that they normally would not have they become colored while everything else is black and white. When people start becoming colored, the others start to discriminate against them. In same cases, through their anger for the colored people, these people did things they would not have normally done, causing them to become colored. Therefore the function in making these people colored was to eventually cause everyone to be colored and equal. It also caused a bond between the people who were originally colored, and being outcasts already they were more willing to try new things.
Before the two teenagers arrived, the people of Pleasantville had never heard of sex. How they reproduced was never really explained (the stork maybe?). But anyway, these people would live their whole lives and according to Mary Sue (the girl from the 90 s) never experience the real pleasure in life. Well, she took care of that and before you knew it sex and masturbation was taking Pleasantville by storm. By having sex was how some people got their colors, and other just got their kicks.
Another big functionalist point in the movie was when a diner owner secretly admitted that he had always wanted to paint. After getting his colors he figured what the hell and it turned out he had a lot of talent. Painting things, in color no less outraged the town and before you knew it his home was being vandalized. This anger brought out the colors in some of the people. I am not really sure what the function of the anger was besides bringing out the colors, but I am sure there was some point to it.
Mary Sue, who had already done everything you could imagine, had a little trouble getting her colors. It turned out she had to read a book. Once she read this book she found that she loved reading and continued to read and improve herself. Instead of being all about sex and mischief she was now concerned with learning. Before she read the book, all of the books in Pleasantville were blank. After she read her book and started telling people about it the books started to fill in. Therefore the function of the written word is simple, education, recreation and also history. The fact that they never had books before was depriving them.
One of the funniest scenes in the movie was when Bud (Mary Sues brother) sees a tree in the yard go on fire. No one in Pleasantville had even seen fire and when Bud went to the fire department he had to scream cat!!!!! to get them to come. Then he himself had to put out the fire, becoming the hero of the town. As terrible as fire can be, it does serve a function of warmth and light and I don t quite understand how people could do things like cook without it, but I guess that is just a lack of verisimilitude.
In conclusion, the movie Pleasantville, as ridiculous as it was, demonstrated a functionalist point of view. It showed that things like anger, sex and fire, however terrible they may seem, actually serve a function. Although I would not recommend the movie, it was an interesting idea and has some good special effects along with funny scenes. Applying the functionalist view to the movie made it more interesting and had me thinking about what the function of certain things are.