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Societal expectations are continuously suffocating the world we live in.

With a film illustrating this way


we function, we can see how easy yet dangerous it is to be caught up in the conformity of a society.
Throughout the film Pleasantville, Gary Ross uses various language features to expose the audience to
the toxicity and destruction of a conforming society, and how despite this always being present in our
world, we have the ability to take action and enjoy the enlightening rewards that come as a result to any
form of change. In Pleasantville the audience are confronted with an alternate reality of 1950s America
where patriarchal hierarchy is present and creativity is non-existent. Ross uses literary allusion and
colour to highlight how destructive conformity is and colour and music to convey how beneficial change
can come from challenging the status quo.
Gary Ross makes use of the painting scene in Pleasantville to illustrate the idea that a conforming
society has toxic and destructive results. He does this through the film techniques of Literary Allusions
and colour. We are firstly shown Bud introduce Bill to a folio of grand artworks from a variety of famous
artists. The use of Literary Allusion is made through the use of one featured painting, Titian: Venus of
Urbino. Bill is shown this painting of the naked woman and immediately asks who produced it. To this
day Titian is recognised by others as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars" as he maintained a profound
influence on painters because of his dedication to the mastery of colour. The reference to Titian in this
scene implies that Ross is highlighting the necessity of success from the exploration of individuality.
However in Pleasantville art is not celebrated by society; to conform is to ignore creativity. With our
knowledge that Bill loves painting, the fact that he is so alienated to not only this artist, but the whole
idea of art itself, illustrates that being subjected to such a limited view of the world in a society that
never alters its values, we are left completely dislocated from our own beliefs and true identities. This
idea is made continually prominent by Ross through the use of colour. Throughout the film colour is
used to represent change from when citizens of Pleasantville break the barrier from living within their
previously conservative lives to expressing themselves freely. As Bill is shown in black and white, we
see him contrast greatly with the vibrant colours used within the folio of art. The technique of colour
nicely works with the literary allusion as Titian made ground-breaking work with his use of colour.
Although Bill is shown to have so much respect for all the artists in the book - and underneath has his
own beautiful ideas - through the dull monochrome palette of his figure we can see that he doesnt yet
have the courage to truly discover who he is without worrying about society's expectations of him. Ross
does all of this work with colour to draw our attention to a deeper contrast. How the art is this beautiful
symbol for creativity and individual thought whereas with our knowledge that Bill being black and white
means he hasnt done anything to show self expression, we can see how poisoned he has become as
a result of a lifetime divorced from new ideas in such a conforming society. Ultimately Ross aims to
manipulate these film techniques in order to equip us with this knowledge that societies can have
empowering expectations. Expectations that dont benefit anyone, but instead bottle up true identity and
ideas to benefit the future. Ross demands that we see the destruction of conformity not only occurring
in Pleasantville, but in our world today. That with a diverse and open society, we can keep our world
evolving.
Ross makes use of the soda shop scene in Pleasantville to highlight the idea that if we challenge the
status quo and neglect conformity we can make a beneficial change for ourselves and others. Through
placement, colour and music this important idea is brought to the viewers attention when Betty seeks

the comfort of Bill. Placement is incredibly essential here as prior to this, Betty has been constantly
sidelined and forced into the right or left third of the shot - allowing another aspect to take the true
focus. However now as we see her kiss Bill, Ross has deliberately centred her equally. Due to this we
see the underlying fact that Betty is finding a confidence in her own life and taking control of her
individual actions. Before this moment both characters were robotically accustomed to conforming with
societys expectation of them to love the right person. In the suffocating town, this couple is not
socially compatible in the slightest. Bill works at a Soda Shop and flips hamburgers for a living while
Betty is a gorgeous, housewife who is expected to tend to her white collar, working class husband.
These expectations have now been challenged and with the centred positioning of the two characters
we can see their confidence in their decision despite societys disapproval. This is also shown by
colour; clear and vibrant on Bettys face contrasting to all other monochrome elements of the shot.
Although Bill remains in a dull black and white, because of the effective placement, the audience is
ensured that Bill is acceptant of Betty and is willing to challenge society himself to be happy. This
highlights the fact that if we realise the destructive nature of society suffocating us with its own values then we can take the time to tend to our own and find true happiness. The song, At Last by Etta
James plays softly behind this scene and greatly reinforces this idea of positive new steps. With the
lyrics, A thrill that I have never known, highlights that neither character have ever known indulgence
into their own desires. In Pleasantville the only thrill comes from what society has agreed you can take
pleasure in. All techniques band together to create a lustful and exciting mood - all due to the thrill of
challenging what has been promoted as wrong by the power of society. Ross demands the viewer to
see how we too dont have to sideline our values because conformity is whats expected at times. We
each have the potential to show our true colours and take actions that make us happy and challenge
the status quo in society. We take the driver's seat in our own lives and if we step out of conforming
ways we can find a thrill we have never known and benefit both ourselves, others and the future of
society.
Gary Ross manipulates many film techniques throughout Pleasantville in order to open our eyes to a
beneficial and forward thinking truth. That everyone bares the potential to break free from the
destructive nature within a society. Values shoved down ones throat does not create enlightening and
thrilling rewards for anyone. Ross demands us to see this truth and enjoy the enlightening rewards that
come as a result to any form of change. We are ultimately called to attention through these powerful
elements throughout Pleasantville to pose a question to ourselves: Is silencing our own happiness and
desires ever worth the pain of conforming to societys suffocating values?

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