Monster Culture Film Essay

Pleasantville is a film based in the 1950’s that changes the lives of two twins. David and Jennifer attend the same high school and are complete opposites. David is the unpopular one that spends his nights watching reruns of a black and white sitcom called “Pleasantville” while his twin sister Jennifer hangs out with the popular crowd going out on dates on weekends and being sexually active. One Friday night, David and Jennifer’s mom left town for the weekend and David and Jennifer mysteriously get sucked into the T.V. finding themselves in the Parkers living room playing Bud and Mary Sue from the Pleasantville sitcom. Pleasantville is a place where only black and white makes sense nothing falls apart, no challenges occur and everything is what they call pleasant. The Parkers live the perfect life where food is on the table every night at a quarter to six and everyone sits together and talks about how perfect their day went. Then Bud and Mary Sue come along and stir things up like a monster described by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen in “Monster Culture: Seven Theses”. “Monster Culture: Seven Theses” includes several different descriptions of monsters we cross paths with everyday. Cohen suggests we experience fear and anxiety by watching these monsters exaggerate social differences deemed unacceptable in our culture. (70) One monster Cohen speaks about is The Harbinger of Category crisis in thesis III. (70) I tie this thesis to David and Jennifer because without them Pleasantville would have never been disrupted. Bud and Mary Sue were the initial bringers that provoked Pleasantville to become what Big Bob says is unpleasant. Bud and Mary Sue disrupt categories in the people of Pleasantville’s lives forcing them to actually stop for a minute and see life through different eyes. Bud and Mary Sue brought twists and turns to a town that fell flat awakening the souls of many introducing them to sex, personal freedom and literature. Pleasantville is a town where sex is forbidden, personal freedom is controlled and literature is invincible. By Bud and Mary Sue disrupting these important categories they bring color into the lives of others allowing their true colors to shine that have been caged for so long.

Big Bob another major actor in this film is the mayor of Pleasantville. It is his job to keep everything pleasant. Bob himself is one who is afraid of change and forbids it to happen in Pleasantville. Bob also resembles a monster Cohen describes in “Monster Culture.” Thesis V: The Monster policies the borders of the possible. I believe this specific monster ties with Big Bob because he prohibits the town from seeing beyond the streets of Pleasantville making them think that certain behaviors are wrong and immoral. Bob goes as far as holding a town meeting to set certain regulations that everyone must follow or they will be criminally prosecuted. These regulations are called the “Pleasantville Codes of Conduct.” The rules set fourth are bizarre and unfair preventing the citizens from visiting the library, lovers’ lane, playing loud music and only allowing the use of colors that are white, black and grey. Anyone who has developed color in themselves is a sign of personal growth is no longer accepted and are harassed in the streets. Bob will not allow anyone to discover new freedoms or be diverse and different and he makes it known if they are they will suffer the consequences placing fear in the people. Bob himself fears change so he is trying to project those fears into others as well. Cohen suggests that monsters ask us to confront our fears. Bob is doing whatever he can to not let this happen while Bud and Mary Sue advocate resistance to these absurd codes of conduct. Bud and Mary Sue believe that Bob should no longer carry the power to keep the citizens afraid of growing, learning and feeling.

Cohen suggests that monsters ask us to confront our fears. If we don’t and are held back we fail to grow into something greater than what we are now. If Bud and Mary Sue never disrupted Pleasantville they may have lived a life of black and white forever. The people of Pleasantville wouldn’t have been able to discover their new life of sex, personal freedoms and literature thus keeping them from growing into someone greater. I feel this is important because we can not allow ourselves to fall flat. We need to utilize the knowledge and experience that is right at our finger tips. Things will stay black and white as long as we allow it to. We can not be afraid of change and new beginnings because it is a crucial ingredient to our personal growth. It is important for us to live our lives with an open mind taking advantage of every opportunity that is given to us seeing the many meanings it could entail.

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