The Republic in the movies: Pleasantville – Human Nature and Social Norms

Another instance where society is controlled in an entertainment setting is in the movie Pleasantville. I watched this movie in high school at one point and it brought up the discussion of people being held back by what society holds them to. The movie starts where there are a brother and sister trying to watch a show, but when they break the television remote and it is stuck on the show they had been watching, a mysterious television repairman comes and changes the world to match the life in the show. This life is very reserved and they do not experience any sort of corruptions in social behaviors and it’s a very traditional white bread world. As few people in the movie start to stray from what society deems correct of them, their black and white world (as the movie becomes when they get sucked into the television) starts to become colored and alive .

I bring this up because I think that a social analysis of the Republic is fascinating. I would love to have a conversation with one of these hypothetical members of Socrates’ society and hear straight from their mouths whether or not they actually do stray from the norms of their society. It seems almost impossible in terms of human nature that a society like this could succeed because I think that the desire to go against social norms is something that resides naturally within us. Of course social groups and trends exist, but these group interests only happen as result of common interest, not necessarily that you can find a group of people as large as a society to be able to gel together and follow the society that Socrates is trying to set up.

One scene that sticks out to me, and I apologize for he vulgar nature, is that the primary mother in Pleasantville experiments with masturbation in her bathtub due to being unable to please her sexual appetite. Of course it may not be “just” of the soul in Socrates eyes to succumb to this, but let’s face it… a woman has her needs and desires. How can Socrates really believe that a human could be strong enough to subdue their sexual tendencies that their bodies naturally produce for an entire year until they go wild at the festival? Especially for those who are not chosen to participate, so they would have the unfortunate situation of just dealing it and taking a series of “cold showers” so to speak. Sexuality is spread throughout the town and color is being introduced rapidly as the movie moves on, but some of the fathers in the movie do not approve and just look on and discredit these moral violations. I feel like these men act as Socrates, filling a position of enlarged egos and judgment. Of course complete ignorance is not something to pat on the back, but these people are not doing anything ridiculously offensive, just as Ancient Greece may not have been completely flawed in their established society. Socrates and these people who held disapproval in Pleasantville need to lay off and live a little. A little bit of fun doesn’t hurt!


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