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David's Change and Transformation - Character Development in Pleasantville

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Rachel Witheridge

on 18 August 2016

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Transcript of David's Change and Transformation - Character Development in Pleasantville

David's Transformation - Pleasantville
David is a shy character and watches the t.v. show
Pleasantville
on his spare time. David at his school in the 90's is not popular and appears to be an outsider. He knows the show
Pleasantville
very well and soon takes the place of the charachter Bud in the t.v show. When in
Pleasantville
David is relied upon a lot, not just by his sister but, soon all the people in
Pleasantville
. When changes start to occur he has to explain things and shares how he knows this information.
Initial Characterisation
David feels out of place in reality and is drawn to the fantasy world of the 1950's sictcom "Pleasantville" and its seemly problem free idealised existence. This is realised through a number of cinematic techniques, namely:
The shot reverse shot in the opening sequence leading the audience to believe David is asking a girl out. This abruptly cuts to an extreme long shot of David standing alone and isolated in the playground.
The close up of David's disenchanted face immediately after the depressing classroom montage, revealing a future with few prospects.
The sequence which clearly highlights the juxtaposition between David's broken and dysfunctional family and the perfection of the original family from the sitcom world of
Pleasantville.
Analysis the following film transcript from the opening sequence of "Pleasantville"
[David and Howard are eating lunch at school and studying for the "Pleasantville" Trivia Competition]

Howard: Okay, in the very first "Pleasantville" episode, whose window did Bud break when he was playing with his father's golf clubs?

David: Easy: Mister Jenkins. What job did Mister Jenkins have?

[Howard doesn't know]

David: Salesman. What did Bud and Mary Sue name the cat they found in the gutter?

Howard: Scout?

David: Marmalade! All right, all right, here's one. Why did their parents come home early from their weekend at the lake?

[Howard doesn't know]

David: 'Cause Bud didn't answer the phone and they were worried about him.

Howard: Man. You're unbelievable. You'll win this thing for sure. When is it on?

David: Uh, marathon starts at 6:30, contest is tomorrow at noon.

Howard: A thousand bucks, huh? And it's on all night?

David: Well, of course it is, Howard. That's why they call it a marathon.
Foreshadowing Change
One evening while their mother, Sherry (Jane Kaczmarek), is away, they fight over the TV. Jennifer wants to watch a concert on MTV, but David wants to watch a marathon of
Pleasantville,
a black and white 1950s sitcom about the idyllic Parker family, who live in the squeaky-clean suburb of Pleasantville, Iowa. During the fight, the remote control breaks, and the TV cannot be turned on manually.

A mysterious TV repairman (Knotts) shows up, quizzes David about
Pleasantville,
then gives him a strange remote control. The repairman leaves, and David and Jennifer resume fighting. However, they are then transported by the remote into the Parkers' black and white
Pleasantville
living room in 1958. David tries to reason with the repairman (with whom he communicates through the Parkers' television), but he succeeds only in chasing him away. With the remote no longer functioning, David and Jennifer must now pretend they are Bud and Mary Sue Parker, the son and daughter on the show.

Note the company slogan "We'll fix you for good" and that the night is stormy. Storms are an archetypical symbol often associated with change. Storms breakdown old orders so they can be replaced with new better orders. They are also often associated with cleansing.

Consider how David needs to be "fixed".
Home Away from Home
David feels more at home in his dream world "Pleasantville". It offers him everything he wants in reality; family, a sense of belonging and a problem free existence. He views "Pleasantville" as utopia. He relishes in his role of playing and pretending to be Bud Parker. When first transported, Jennifer his distraught sister even notices David's joy by stating
"You really like this!".

David and Jennifer witness the wholesome nature of the town, such as a group of firemen who only rescue cats stuck in trees, as there are no fires to fight. David tells Jennifer they must stay in character and not disrupt the lives of the town's citizens, who do not notice any difference between Bud and Mary Sue, and David and Jennifer.
David's Attitude Toward Change
David resents the idea of his utopian world changing and chastises his sister Jennifer for not following the script and changing his perfect world. Analyse the following scene and film transcript.
David/Bud: You can't do this Jennifer. I warned you!

Jennifer/Mary Sue: So what's the big deal? Oh. Okay — they're like not good at basketball anymore. Ohmigawd, what a tragedy.

David/Bud: You don't understand. You're messing with their whole goddamn universe!

Jennifer/Mary Sue: Well maybe it needs to be messed with, David. Did that ever occur to you?
Ironically David himself becomes a Catalyst
STARTING WITH Mr Johnson
Mr Johnson is initially unable to function outside of his mandune routine until David, casually without realising he is setting the wheels of change in motion, intervenes, he firstly arrives late to his shift, then gives Mr Johnson an art book. Mr Johnson's outlook on his life changes, he realises he is bored with his routine existence. Analyse the following frame and scene.
He begins to abandon the plot
Masaccio’s ‘Expulsion from the Garden of Eden’.
The first painting
A foreshaowing and symbolic allusion
This is one of the first paintings depicted in the art book that David gives Mr Johnson.

This painting is an early renaissance painting. The majority of other renaissance painters of the time painted in the Gothic style, which flattened forms and idealised beauty. In this painting Masaccio broke away from this style, causing huge controversy.

This controversy is why Gary Ross included this painting in "Pleasantville", as it foreshadows the controversy Bill's painting will create. It also symbolises the beginnings of the end of this supposedly Utopian society. Just like Adam and Eve, the inhabitants of
Pleasantville
will be expelled from paradise.
Another allusion to Adam and Eve

Lover’s Land is depicted as the Garden of Eden (a paradise and perfect place without evil and sin).
Margaret becomes a naive Eve like-character, and David a naïve Adam like-character.
The perfect conventions of
Pleasantville
are challenged, evil, what is bad, anger, disharmony all enter the world of
Pleasantville
after this scene aligning it with reality. All these aspects challenge the initial order and paradigms of
Pleasantville
.

And empower them with knowledge
Analyse the following scene
He eventually sees
Pleasantville
not as the utopia he once imagined but as a dystopia as individuality is not accepted and 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, accepting his role as the catalyst.
David's Transformation
David connects with his
Pleasantville
Mother Betty Parker. Forming a Mother-Son bond, a bond he didn't experience in the real world. He defends her, demonstrating leadership and deviating from the wholesome conventions of
Pleasantville
he once idealised by punching Whitey. A very "unpleasant" thing to do. This is an aggressive act of passion. He is passionately angry with Whitey, and passionately protective of Betty. He is no longer the quiet onlooker, but an active and willing participant. David final rejects fantasy and therefore transforms, shown through his "coloured" self.
David's Mom: When your father was here, I used to think, "This was it. This is the way it was always going to be. I had the right house. I had the right car. I had the right life."

David: There is no right house. There is no right car.

David's Mom: God, my face must be a mess.

David: It looks great.

David's Mom: Honey, it's really sweet of you, but I'm sure it does not look "great."

David: Sure it does. Come here.

David's Mom: I'm 40 years old. I mean, it's not supposed to be like this.

David: It's not supposed to be anything. Hold still.

David's Mom: How'd you get so smart all of a sudden?

David: [long slow smile] I had a good day.
The final Scene
By the end of David's journey he has learn't to accept his reality completing his transformation and demonstrating new found maturity and wisdom.
Essay question
How does the characterisation of David explore the concept of change?

In your response you must make reference to textual evidence and film techniques.
Full transcript