What are the main existential themes in Pleasantville?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the most existential elements that come out of the film is the struggle to define reality in complex terms. Life in Pleasantville is a black and white existence.  This is both literal and figurative.  The simplicity that is presented in Pleasantville is challenged with the presence of colors, and divergent ways of thought.  This causes an existential crisis in the citizens of the town as it impacts their state of being in the world and how they interact with this world.  It is also existential because there is little in way of answer.  The ending of the film reflects this, where the husband, wife, and her lover are sitting on the bench and wondering what will happen to them next.  This is highly existential.  No character has "the answer."  No character has a transcendental figure to which they can turn for guidance.  Each character is left to "choose" what is to happen to them, as there is no script, no director, and with the presence of color, only freedom and choice as their companions.  This is highly existential in nature as it allows individuals to get away from "bad faith" and force the issue of choice upon their own in determining their destiny and their identities in the modern setting.

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