11 September 2018
David’s Character Arc
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 and his sister must play along with the script or face dramatic continuity changes; “They’re happy like this. No, David. Nobody’s happy in a poodle skirt and a sweater set.” (Pleasantville). The citizens are slaved to this ideal, evident when Jennifer asked the question “So what’s outside of Main Street?” (Pleasantville) Everyone in class stared at her in bewilderment as they only know main street since the end of main street is simply the beginning of main street. This highlights the ridiculousness of a town which goes in circles, as if everyday is a monotonous cycle that repeats itself and none of the citizens have perception of knowledge and depend on their collective dynamic. Throughout the film, this is the major issue that David and the fellow Pleasantville citizens struggle with; individuality. Although much of his efforts of stabilizing the continuity, happiness in this paradise becomes his nightmare where freedom of choice and expression is severely limited. David’s transformation happens as he evolves from dreamy outcast to leader of the changes that take place in Pleasantville. Through the usage of color, the movie was able to address major social issues and allude to racism, which are deeply rooted concerns in American culture. 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 lose 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 as Judith states, “my skin color, size, and appearance were variables that were judged according to my current self-image” (Cofer).
Fear of change is natural, but in order to gain what one desires they must accept it. David and Jennifer evoked change in their society in order to break the cycle of standardization and improve the townspeople’s quality of life. The people of Pleasantville desired the freedom to expand their knowledge and experience individual lives. The undertones of racism in Pleasantville and the rules set forth by the mayor which prevents the colored individuals from participating in their preferred hobbies. People can be discriminated against based upon race, ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation. When viewed by the dominant part of society, individuals that are discriminated against are seen as monsters for disrupting the dominant social categorization. A change in the dominant part of society’s mindset would be beneficial in order to facilitate equal opportunities for everyone. Judith Cofer also realizes in her adult life that the body was just a container for what is inside. Her intellect, her talents, and the respect she received as an individual were more important in defining her identity