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Pleasantville

I watched this film again last night and there's a scene which always makes me feel uneasy.

Late into the film, just after Our Hero (Tobey Maguire) decides to stick out the nastiness of the changes occuring in Pleasantville and ignores the pleadings of the cable repairman, he sees his mother being harrassed for being "coloured". Earlier on he was angsting over how everybody else was turning coloured but nothing he did would pull him from his monochrome appearance. However, when he runs up and punches his mother's attacker he magically springs into technicolour.

My sarcastic response is usually to say "he's a real man now". I saw his fundamental change being that of assuming the 'courage' and bravery of Men. My friend Polly though suggested that his changing was due to his decision to finally take care of his mother. I don't agree with this because I think he more than takes care of her in earlier parts.

I'm not sure I really have the vocabulary to express what I'm taking issue with in this case. Has anybody else seen this movie? What do they they think about the 'defining moment'?

Comments

It's been a long time since I saw the movie, but I thought it was intense emotion that was the "colorizing" factor for the characters, rather than conforming to a gender role. Didn't one of the minor male characters become "colored" through pursuing artistic endeavors?

As I understood it Tobey Maguire's character stated monochrome so long because he fit in so well in the "pleasant" environment - he was one of the privileged ones. It didn't "hit home," so to speak, until Joan Allen's character (was she actually his mother, or was it just the "Mom" character from the show?) was attacked.
It's been a while since I've seen the movie, but I basically saw it the same as jfpbookworm . The "colourizing" happened to people willing to step outside of the box -- for many of the teens of Pleasantville as well as the mother that was a sexual awakening, for his sister it was taking control of her life via learning, and for him it was letting go of his fantasy of "perfection".

Now that you point it out, however, I do find this particular male "coming of age" ritual problematic. I don't think that it's a coincidence that Hero and Sister's family consisted of a single mother -- she was portrayed as irresponsible (going on trips with a boyfriend who dumps her at the end), and I see that as the implied reason why her kids were "screwed up".

Hero also has the traits that many "pro traditional family" advocates attribute to a single mother household: a passive boy who is more interested in daydreaming than living in reality. Basically a "feminized" boy. Which, of course is a problem because it's bad, bad, bad for a man to be like a woman.

I don't think it's a coincidence that his "revelation" moment comes when he leaps to the defense of his Pleasantville mother. Especially since the conclusion of the movie has him comforting his real life mother -- both of which let him assume the role of "man of the house". No longer does he cling to the skirts of the women in his life, but he's proven his virility and courage and can now take his proper place in the world.

Ugh. Thanks, now I'm all annoyed over what I used to think as a fun fluff movie :P

January 2008

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