A few days ago, I watched “Pleasantville” for the first time. My husband thought I’d like it because most of it was in black-and-white, and was set during the time period, which, according to a BuzzFeed quiz, I belong in.
Yes, I love “I Love Lucy” (I rewatch the series every few years and am a “liker” of the Facebook fan page, “A Daily Dose of ‘I Love Lucy’; when I was younger, I always said if I ever had fraternal twins, I would name them Lucy and Ricky), I wear red lipstick (Mary Kay’s Downtown Brown, which looks red on me), saddle oxfords were my favorite shoes as a little girl, and the only pair of pants I own is the one pair I have to wear for work (dresses and skirts always outside of work); even my wedding dress (or suit) looked more like something my grandmother would have worn to the Justice of the Peace, and my wedding hat and veil (reminiscent of Jackie O)
was an original from the sixties–an Etsy find. My grandmother’s copper Jell-O molds (which I’ve spotted in old movies–always a thrill) adorn my kitchen wall; I even work at a retro-style diner.
When I got an unexpected check in the mail, the first words that came to mind weren’t “Hot damn!”, but rather, “Hot dog!” Yes, I watch lots of old movies (95% of the movies I own pre-date 1965, though I no longer buy movies, now that I have a DV-R). ABBA is the most recent band I like.
I am what you would call a square, with rounded, perhaps lacy edges.
When I was eighteen, I saw a commercial with a placid woman standing in front of a lighthouse, advertising a free Book of Mormon. The commercial appealed to me, and so I ordered a book online. I had a choice between having the book sent to me via USPS, or I could have two Mormon missionaries deliver it to me personally. I chose the latter (pun intended).
I chose that option because I wanted to see what Mormons look like. Of course, the first thing that came to mind was polygamy. I think it was more curiosity than anything that prompted me to order the book, and what a life-changing whim that turned out to be.
I ended up becoming baptized, though when the missionaries mentioned tithing, and how it was required to be a member in good standing, I, remembering what my parents said about being beware of any church that asks for money, fell away.
Nine months or so passed, and I met a boy (at a political group at University) whose name was familiar from high school, though we’d never met. He sort of dated/socialized me back into the Church, and by the time we broke up, I was fully converted. I hadn’t fallen in love with him, but I’d fallen in love with the Church. The Mormon lifestyle is like a throwback to the Fifties–I felt like I’d finally found the Church that I was made for.
Living in the South, I’d churched around quite a bit. (Being a “Jesus Freak” was big in the eighties and early nineties, though I never referred to myself as one. Just not my personality to wear my religion on my sleeve). Pensacola, Florida, is like a Christianity smorgasbord–if you’re a Christian, there is a church for you somewhere here. Never before had I felt so welcomed. It felt good, and it felt right, and it was, for me, at that time.
The Church was a wonderful experience, till I went to Utah, and lost my testimony in Joseph Smith. The father of the boy I had dated had admonished me not to go, and, to the best of my recollection, he’d told me if I went, they’d lose me, and they did. I can never regret going, though, for because of my leaving, I am the person I am today.
I went through a period of bitterness towards the Church, and then I found my way back as not an ex-Mormon (which has an negative connotation), but as a former Mormon. My Mormon friends, whom I’d avoided for so long, did not judge me, or stop being my friend (they are still some of my closest friends), even though they know I will never come back.
So, to segue back to my opening, I watched “Pleasantville”–a film which I believe some parts are open to interpretation (sort of like the Bible). The townspeople who live a moral lifestyle are shown as being bland and colorless, while the ones who engage in sin become vibrant and full of life. I don’t look back and see my life as a Mormon that way. Being a member of the Church did not stifle my creativity, but enhance it. Granted, some of the stuff I write now, they would not approve of, but my experience as a Mormon helped me tap into a spiritual wellspring (and bring me closer to God) that no other Church had ever been able to do.
The boy Reese Witherspoon has sex with sees a rose in color for the first time because he fell in love, but Reese doesn’t see color after their trysts because she doesn’t feel the same–she doesn’t see color until she reads a classic book for pleasure. Tobey Maguire becomes colorized when he saves his mother from being molested by a group of young boys (after the man she is having an affair with, who supposedly loves her and she him, paints a nude picture of her on his malt/soda shoppe’s window). Jeff Daniels doesn’t see color until he begins to pursue his passion of painting, and the woman who plays Tobey and Reese’s mother doesn’t turn colorful (or see in color) until she pleasures herself sexually/has an affair with Jeff Daniels (one of the points of the film I had a problem with–I’d have preferred her to become colorized when she and her husband had rediscovered each other on a deeper level). Though Reese putting aside her whorish ways was a positive note to end on, Don Knotts (who will always live on as Barney Fife) using the Lord’s name in vain, was a sour one to begin with.
I know there is much, much more to the movie than what I’ve discussed, but those particular parts of the film I related to.
Though I don’t agree with everything the movie says (or tries to say), I do think it’s worth watching at least once. A great film it isn’t (in my opinion), but it makes you think, which is more than most movies accomplish.
I do agree that a false nostalgia exists, even for those who never lived during that time. (Just as one can romanticize the Amish lifestyle, though they would never want to live it.) Though I love so many things about that era, I belong in this present time. I love the technology and medical advances that exist now, and all the opportunities for women to have fulfilling careers. I’m glad it isn’t just chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. I love more things that exist now, but didn’t then, than I could possibly enumerate.
“Pleasantville” is a state of mind, not of place and time. Tobey and Reese seeing “the man behind the curtain”, so to speak, ripped off the beautiful façade that television presented. I love “Leave it to Beaver”, knowing that things weren’t exactly like that, but rather a representation of all the good things that were.