Firstly, the non-coloured setting was cleverly used to depict the lives of the people living in this 50s sitcom, representing the typical lives they had and social conformity. As the director introduces us to the setting, I saw that everyone has the same white fence around their garden; similar clothes, for example all girls are clad in a poodle skirt and a sweater set; and the same skin and hair colour – grey. Another example that showed the monotonity of the town is inferred from Mary Sue’s lesson on street geography. When she asked a question “So what’s outside of Main Street?” Everyone in class stared at her in bewilderment as they only know main street since the end of main street is simply the beginning of main street. This highlights the ridiculousness of a town which goes in circles, as if everyday is a monotonous cycle that repeats itself and none of the citizens “think out of the town”.
Secondly, it was clearly shown that social rules restrained people of their personality. Evidence is shown when the head of the Chamber of Commerce mentioned that the conformity in Pleasantville, shown by the grey colour, is pleasant, while the situations where coloured people and objects appeared were considered unpleasant. The people had no rights to judge for themselves what was pleasant or unpleasant to them. To viewers who live in colour(duh), everyone in Pleasantville led dull lives. However, it is ironic that the Pleasantville citizens put on a facade of happiness to cover their literally dull lives they have without personal emotions. An example not related to colours is Johnson, the man at the soda shop, who also represented the typical Pleasantville citizen who was bound by rules, and did not know what to do when Bud was not around. He said in an emotionless tone that he kept wiping the table as Bud has not set up the napkins, and he could not go on to the next step. This showed us that the Pleasantville citizens stick to the rules and were afraid of change, which will affect their daily routine.
Next, there is a change from a black and white setting to a coloured one when people showed freedom from society’s restricitions, in other words, showing their true emotions. At Lover’s Lane, I noticed that the people who were telling stories were coloured, while the listeners were still uncoloured. This is due to the fact that the storytellers express emotions through storytelling. Bud also turned coloured only when he expressed his anger when defending Betty. Whereas Johnson who felt stifled by his role as a hamburger flipper, expressed his emotions through his colourful paintings, Betty turned coloured upon declaring her true love for Johnson, breaking free from the wife’s role to cook and wash dishes for her husband. Thus, the transition from black and white to colour showed that emotions make society more interesting, and those who broke free from tradition with their own personality and expression led more interesting lives than the norm who remain uncoloured.
2. Another obvious role of colour in this movie is to bring out the issue of racial discrimination.
As more and more coloured people, especially youngsters, appeared, Pleasantville, ironically, broke out into unpleasant chaos. They burned coloured books and destroyed Johnson’s coloured artworks. The remaining black and white people were still willing to maintain the status quo, resorting to violence against the coloured. They found the coloured people outrageous and a threat to the pleasant state of Pleasantville. This is somewhat related to the situation of racial discrimination against blacks, or otherwise coloured people in the 50s. They were discriminated against because of the different colour of their skin and as in the movie, they do not agree with the beliefs of the black and white people. This led to strong hostilty against them. Even though it is in a TV sitcom Pleasantville where we see that the door signs on shops say “No Coloured People” and coloured people could only observe a court case from the second floor balcony, these situations are actually reflected in the 50s in America too.