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33 thoughts we had while watching Pleasantville

By Clare McBride
pleasantville rainbow

Part of the reason I’ve started tricking myself into journaling is so I can try and remember when I encountered things for the first time. Case in point: I know I’ve watched Pleasantville at some point in my movie-watching career. I couldn’t tell you when. But what I can tell you is that Pleasantville is an incredible movie.

Some might not be able to muscle through the extreme '90s of the opening scenes (for which I will not blame them). But once the action moves to Pleasantville, the idyllic ‘50s sitcom beloved by David (Tobey Maguire), Pleasantville becomes this lovely, tenderly observed exploration of how who we’re told to be conflicts and suppresses who we really are. While it’s a little too popular to be considered a hidden gem, I still think more people should see it. So why don’t you join me for a little trip to Pleasantville? No crinoline required.

1. TVTime: when TVLand refuses to license their likeness to you for obvious reasons.

2. Is there anything more aggressively '90s than a short-sleeved ribbed turtleneck?

3. So these teens are learning that the job market sucks, there’s still no cure for HIV/AIDs, and the environment is collapsing… hold on… let me just check the calendar… 

4. This is a movie about a teen boy who transports himself into his favorite TV show to escape the cruelties of the world, which means that the 2010s-set remake of this film will be about The Great British Bake-Off

5. The casting in this movie is incredible. The kid playing Bud on Pleasantville is so preppy I feel like I need to blast Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge as a protective barrier.

6. “I can’t believe you’re related to him.” “Only on my parents’ side.” FRIENDS, REESE WITHERSPOON HAS ENTERED THE MOVIE AS TOBEY’S MEAN SISTER JEN AND IT IS INCREDIBLE.

7. The decor in David’s bedroom tells me he’s either going to grow up to be an Imagineer or a serial killer. 

8. David bests Don Knotts in Pleasantville trivia and earns a magic remote that transports him and Jen into the show. Is this what people think happens when you win an argument about Star Wars

9. You might be understandably distressed about getting drop-kicked into a 1950s sitcom, but Jen takes one look at a young Paul Walker and invents sex so hard there are now greasers in Pleasantville. Jen is a legend

pleasantville paul walker

10. You can just see the Eat, Pray, Love trying to break out from within Joan Allen’s 1950s housewife Betty.

11. The ‘50s teens want to know more about the world, so David tells them… the ending to Huckleberry Finn. DAVID, COME. ON.

12. Betty has just realized that she does not need a man because Betty has just realized she looks like Joan Allen.

13. The young folks are educating themselves, having consensual sex, and starting to see in color!!! The old white men of the town just can’t stand for this kind of thing!

14. If Pleasantville’s geography is a hellish ouroboros, who does the Chamber of Commerce do business with?

15. Don Knotts is furious that David and Jen have been writing their own Pleasantville AU and threatens them over the TV, which confirms that he is old-timey Jigsaw.

16. People are turning colorized not because of the sex, Jen, but because of the self-actualization!


pleasantville cubist santa

18. Bill and Betty are having a tender moment where he removes her makeup to see that she’s colorized underneath and tells her she’s beautiful. Don’t mind me, I’m just sobbing to Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” 

19. Jen is spurning Paul Walker so she can stay in and finish Lady Chatterley’s Lover. ONE OF US ONE OF US

20. People are having so many emotions it’s started to rain, because the weather, as we all know, runs on feelings.

21. The men have noticed that the women and youth are self-actualizing so hard that their wives care more about becoming actual people than ironing their shirts! MADNESS! 

22. Betty is a much kinder woman than I for leaving her husband a couple of meals while she’s also actually leaving him.


24. After Bill paints a nude of Betty, the town slides immediately into curfews, book burnings, and property damage, with the colorized folks hunkered down in the remains of the soda shop. This got real Hunger Games real fast, y’all.

25. The movie’s established that the only outside pop culture in Pleasantville is the stuff David and Jen can remember, so I’m assuming the jukebox is sourced entirely from David’s Pleasantville fanmixes.

26. David hatches a brilliant plan: they’re going to forcibly self-actualize the whole town through public art. DAVID.

27. Betty’s husband is talking about how lost he feels because everything was fine just a little while ago, while I’m just hollering “Everything was not fine! You just weren’t aware everything was not fine!!!” at the screen.

28. David’s chance to roleplay Atticus Finch in To Killing a Mockingbird HAS FINALLY COME.

pleasantville court room

29. Just admit that you’re a human being with feelings and desires and BOOM you’re in color! I wish this was how therapy worked.

30. Jen’s staying behind so she can go to college for cheap and avoid the terrible job market she’s graduating into back in the '90s. Again, Jen is a genius. 

31. ...wait, how is David going to explain to their mom that Jen is just gone

32. I just realized the eyes on the family watching TV on Don Knotts’ van have all been gouged out, so let me just scream for a minute. 

33. David gets to use his hard-earned Pleasantville wisdom to help out his real, human mom. And also make sure she never watches an episode of Pleasantville and wonder why her only daughter is on a show from the ‘50s. Good luck, David!