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Discuss why the film makers decided to use both black and white and colour in “Pleasantville” Pleasantville was released in September 1998 but is set mostly in a 1950s sitcom after the main characters are sent into a televison because the two main characters, David and Jennifer broke their television remote; disabling their television. Gary Ross uses colour to make the viewer think about important events in history, to put across some important messages and also, using colour small referances are made throughout the film to historical events. His main messages are about communism and the mcarthy era in the 1940s to 50s, the black rights movement and a sense of an idealistic reality. This is all shown by the gradual changing of the colour of objects and people in Pleasantville.
The Mcarthy era was a time during the cold war from the late 1940s to the late 1950s where America was afraid of communism. It was named to critisize the actions and followers or Senitor Mcarthy who lead many political witch hunts, however the mcarthy period extended back before Senetor Mcarthy had a part in it and the term is used to generalise this period in time. In these political hunts, anyone could be acused of being a communist, especially government members and people in the entertainment industry (like Gary Ross’ father who was also a director). These people could have everything taken away from them, and many jobs were lost in America due to these witch hunts, the people in question would be ‘thrown’ infront of a jury and be forced to confess other ‘communists’ and how the person in question had broken the law.
This is shown when Bud (the main character played by Toby Maguire) and Mr.Jonson (the local shop owner) is taken and has been put on trial, without a lawyer and a chance to defend themselves. They are taken because they were ‘coloured’ and did not conform with ‘Code of Public Conduct’ which was established when the black and white inhabitants of Pleasantville are scared of change and being in colour, much like the people in the Mcarthy era.
The people of the Mcarthy era were scared of change, they saw change and wanting freedom a way of rebelling and wanting to overthrow the left wing, democratic government. This is very hypocritical as America portrayed itself to be ‘The leader of the free world’. Many things were done to stop this, for example when the ‘black and white’ people of Pleasantville smashed the ‘coloured’ stain glass window with a bench. The use of colour in this case is shown to divide the two groups of people: the new generation of people, open to change and not scared of the future (the ‘coloured’ people) and the older fashioned generation, set in their ways and afraid of change (the black and white people).
The other major historical event pictured is the major African-American civil rights movement in the late 1950s. This is depicted by coloured people (signfying the African American people) being segregated from the ‘black and white’ people (signifying the ‘white), this is evident in the courtroom scene colour divided scenes, very much like the relationship between white supremists and the black population of America at that time.