Pleasantville

Pleasantville, directed by Gary Ross, introduces the lives of two teenagers, David and his sister Jennifer, and they somehow are transported into the television, ending up in David’s favorite show, Pleasantville, a 1950s black and white sitcom. David realizes that they have to inhabit the ‘real’ characters as he definitely knows the world well, but soon discovers that it is impossible- that change is inevitable. Judith Ortiz Cofer, author of The Story of My Life, undergoes a similar transition depicted in her childhood as she faces issues such as identity crisis, societal standards and beauty ideals. Though faced with this predicament, the sibling’s roles in this environment brings their “evil” knowledge from the modern world to the citizens of Pleasantville, which they must in turn either abide by the rules or break the blinded citizens from the regime of this make believe world. Cofer, as well, is caught up in the juxtaposition with both the desire to assimilate yet hold onto their Cuban heritage and culture. David and Cofer exhibit polar opposite personalities, yet go through the same transition where their arrival in a foreign environment forces them to find their true persona and abandon the boundaries forced onto them by society.
Both David and Cofer begin their transition after the mere exposure of their new lives. David is the protagonist who feels distant from reality at the beginning of the film and is more at home at the dream world of Pleasantville. He is characterized as being timid, self conscious, unathletic, and aloof from his family. After being transported into the world which he idolizes, David begins to realize that the perceived happiness in Pleasantville is nearly as fulfilling as he hoped it would be. His paradise soon becomes his nightmare where freedom of choice and expression is severely limited. His transformation happens as he evolves from dreamy outcast to leader of the changes that take place in Pleasantville. In Story of My Life, Cofer recollects her childhood, telling of her experiences in both New Jersey and her place of birth, Puerto Rico. She examines issues of family relations, isolation, assimilation, and racism in daily life in an ethnic urban neighborhood. She makes it clear the tensions created by these issues through her combination of detailed descriptions of childhood in a New Jersey barrio with descriptions of a home movie she watches with her mother. Cofer recalls when one man had asked my father “You Cuban?”, pointing at his name tag on the Navy uniform — even though my father had the fair skin and light-brown hair of his northern Spanish background, and the name Ortiz is as common in Puerto Rico as Johnson is in the United States.”No,” my father had answered, looking past the finger into his adversary’s angry eyes. “I’m Puerto Rican.” “Same shit.” And the door closed (The Story of My Body). In her earlier years, Judith believed that she was pretty, only to loose that believe due to the hierarchy of popularity within her surroundings. She once again did not feel like she was good enough. It took a long time for her to value herself. Judith states, “my skin color, size, and appearance were variables that were judged according to my current self-image” (Ortiz Cofer, 2014, p. 621).

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