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Nothing is as simple as Black and White.

"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 movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire, who play main characters Jennifer and David, a pair of 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 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 idealistic). David is thrilled because it's his favorite show; it is 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. They both want to get home, and David wants to do so without upsetting the community - but the remote gets broken and 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 (in other words, they show their True Colors).

The movie is clever and well-written, but also Anvilicious in its parallels, and your enjoyment may depend upon your tolerance for such things. For an oddly similar experience in book form, try The Giver.

Tropes used in Pleasantville include:
  • Artistic License Sex Ed: Considering her inexperience, Betty makes that tree burst into flames amazingly quickly.
    • Or maybe it's because of her inexperience?
  • Ascended Fanboy: David becomes Bud which he loves at first.
  • Attempted Rape: We don't see it, but during the montage of vandalization and violence Margaret is seen running across the street in a panic with her blouse torn. It's pretty clear what Whitey and possibly some other black and white supremacists tried to do.
    • Before that, Whitey and a bunch of other guys chase Betty into an alley and corner her with the intent to strip her naked and have their way with her. Bud clocks Whitey a good one and chases them off before they can do anything, earning his color.
  • Bland-Name Product: TVTime for TVLand.
  • Blank Book: The entire library.
  • Blithe Spirit: The entire point of the kids' visit, which winds up changing everything in the town.
  • 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, due to the Artistic License Sex Ed trope above a tree bursts into flame. David catches wind of it and runs to the nearest firestation. Of course due to its pleasantry fires never happened in Pleasantville and this happens:

 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?

  • 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. Likewise, Jennifer starts as a shallow, slutty 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.
  • The Chew Toy: The rival basketball team. After all, their sole purpose for existing is to lose to the Pleasantville team.
  • 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 The Fifties coming of age as a decade if you will.
  • Cut and Paste Suburb
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Betty the housewife after getting the sex talk from her "daughter" Mary Sue/Jennifer.
  • Dead TV Remote Gag: Causes the plot.
  • Deliberately Monochrome

 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!

  • 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 his girlfriend are in Lover's Lane. She tempts him into eating a red apple. Now what biblical story involves eating a certain Forbidden Fruit.
  • Dueling Movies: Released in 1998, the same year as The Truman Show, both films center on folks living happily and unknowingly in a television world who eventually learn of the wonderful challenges human nature and actual reality provide.
  • Dystopia: How Pleasantville appears to really be.
  • Fantastic Racism: And because you wouldn't be able to figure it out for yourself they actually refer to the newly colorized people as "coloreds."
  • Fisher Kingdom: Initially. When David and Jennifer first enter the TV show, they're turned monochrome and adopt the clothing of the world around them.
    • Not only that, they actually take the roles of pre-existing characters, complete with friends and histories. As far as everyone else is concerned, they've been there all along.
  • Fridge Logic: A rare in-universe example, all over the place with the show. Highlighted once they enter the show's world where the things never addressed in the show simply don't exist. There are no toilets, there's literally nothing outside of Pleasantville, and the residents don't even know what sex is. And of course, the entire world is actually monochromatic.
    • Out of universe: If there's nothing outside Pleasantville, where did the opposing basketball team come from? At the very least, without any roads leading out, how did they get in?
      • They're cross-town rivals.
      • Another explanation: they get in off-screen. The citizens know about the USA, they just don't need to go there.
  • Genre Savvy: David, due to Pleasantville being his favorite show.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Hi, Jonathan and Riley from the Buffy Verse!
  • Hot Mom: Betty!
  • I Choose to Stay: Jennifer.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Whitey and a bunch of other guys corner Betty in an alley, with Whitey slowly advancing with a rapey look in his eyes. Bud decks him good before he can do anything.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Again, due to David's genre savvy. He even tries to warn his sister against averting Tropes.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Inverted.
  • Love Triangle: George, Betty, and Bill.
  • Mary Sue: In-Universe. A perfect, sweet sister character named Mary Sue — though quickly subverted once Jennifer occupies the role.
  • Medium Awareness: David and Jennifer of course, being Trapped in Another World.
  • Monochrome Casting: People claim this is justified because non-white characters weren't depicted on TV in the 50s. However, you would think a movie so concerned with racism could have found a way around this.
    • They did. Listen to the music they listen to on the radio.
  • Nobody Poops: There aren't any toilets. The stalls are empty!
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Parodied and ultimately subverted; the world of the show is initially the rosy idea of The Fifties that everyone loves to reminisce about, but once the "colour infection" starts to spread, the uglier side of the decade (such as "racial" and gender discrimination) is gradually reflected.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. In the TV series, both the the mother and one of Mary Sue's friends are named "Betty."
  • Rape Is Okay When Its 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.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Pleasantville starts off as the version of the 1950s shown on old TV shows, but gradually becomes more like the actual 1950s, with teenagers making out in parked cars, kids wearing leather jackets and slicked-back hair, and bebop music on the radio. This caused some people to complain that the good, wholesome black-and-white Pleasantville, which they saw as the "real" 1950s, was impugned by all that "modern" stuff like teenage sex, smoking, and the existence of marital difficulties.
    • One can only assume those same people never saw Back to The Future, or forgot that the lustful, smoking Lorianne lived in 1955.
  • Shallow Parody: Shows like Leave It to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show were not nearly as gritty and dramatic as a more modern show, but they were hardly the surrealistically-perfect world Pleasantville is. The film more parodies the modern conception of older shows than the actual shows.
  • 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. (Though, as noted above, some thought it moved from Realism to Cynicism.)
  • 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.
  • Stealth Pun: Some early film posters colored "tv" differently from the rest of the title.
  • The Talk: Inverted, in that it's a teenage daughter giving it to her mother. Further subverted; when the mother is sure the father won't be interested, the daughter points out that the man is actually dispensable.
  • The Theme Park Version: Pleasantville starts out as a version of the 1950s that could only come from, well, an old TV show.
    • Though, one would be hard-pressed to find an actual 50s sitcom where the outside world, pop music, and sexuality literally were non-existent.
      • However, these were more meant to Lampshade the way old shows never went anywhere and never seemed to talk about anything further away than "downtown". The scenes of learning Main Street loops wouldn't have been shown on the broadcast, David just learns this now that he's inside the show. It's both an indication of how there's more than what he sees on the screen, and symbolism.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.