Pleasantville

pleasantville

Pleasantville (1998) is about a brother and sister pair who is transported accidentally into a 1950s TV show.  What makes this movie so compelling is that the perfect society, typical of shows from 1950s, gets disrupted.  As this happens, the black and white world of Pleasantville slowly turns to color as the characters shed their innocence and adopt modern values.  What ends up happening is that minor deviations in social norms in the Pleasantville world quickly become major offenses.

This relates to a famous vignette by the sociologist Émile Durkheim.  The vignette is commonly called the Society of Saints metaphor, which is from his book The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, published in 1915.  Consider it below:

“Imagine a society of saints…Crimes properly so called, will there be unknown; but faults which appear venial to the layman will create there the same scandal that the ordinary offense does in ordinary consciousness. If, then, this society has the power to judge and punish, it will define these acts as criminal and will treat them as such” (p. 226).

This is what ends up happening in the Pleasantville world.  Make sure to see the movie to see how it all plays out.  You can check out a more detailed summary on IMDb http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120789/plotsummary

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