Living in Pleasantville

Seen any Trojan Horses lately?   My wife and I recently did as we watched Pleasantville – a seemingly innocuous movie which details the lives of two ‘90’s teenagers sent back to experience life in a 1950’s sitcom similar to “Father Knows Best”.

This brother and sister teenage duo are miraculously transported by a TV repairman from their vibrant and colorful life in the ‘90’s to the black and white life of the TV town of  Pleasantville.   Their 90’s mores are radically challenged as they begin life as the “pleasant” children of very “pleasant” parents in this idealized 1950’s town.  Their mission,  pursued with a special enthusiasm by the sister, appears to be “colorizing” the town – replacing the various shades of  monotonous gray with the vibrant colors of real life.  It is an interesting plot but the serpent’s slither can be detected in the way that this “colorizing” takes place.  It appears that color comes to those who break free of the shackles of traditional “pleasantness” and embrace an enlightened, or should I say “encolored”, view of life and morals.

Color comes to those who are passionate and who live life with zest, mainly a zest for sin.  Teenagers are “encolored” when they have sex in their cars up on “Lover’s Lane”.  A wife is “encolored” when she too discovers sex and breaks free of her “pleasant” husband and sleeps with a newly “encolored” artist.   A son is “encolored” when he slugs a black and white bully in the face in defense of his “encolored” mother.  A daughter is “encolored” when she reads one of DH Lawrence’s racy novels. The movie even has an “anti-fall” scene complete with a woman eating a bright red apple resulting in her being “encolored”.  The implication is clear:  Traditional morality is boring, limited, and colorless.  On the other hand,  passionate sin is invigorating, exciting, and vibrant.  The fall of mankind was literally a fall up according to this movie – a positive move in the right direction.

This misguided thinking is as old as the original fall of man when the serpent used the same logic which he is currently promoting in this film:  God is keeping some wonderful experience from you – throw off those black and white restrictions and really live!  Yet, the movie presents the lie in such a convincing and sugar coated manner that it is easily swallowed by those who are watching.  Pleasantville presents only two groups of people:  the “encolored” and the “black and whites”.  The “encoloreds” are liberated and free while the black and whites are uptight and full of self-righteousness and anger.  The message is clear – the only way to truly live is through casting off the restraints and morality of the past.

Satan rarely comes through the front door.  It is easy to detect his work in movies such as “The Last Temptation of Christ” but his most clever and dangerous work comes packaged with vibrant colors and sweet sentiments.  Satan’s only hope of success is to blind our eyes to the truth and beauty of Christ (II Cor. 4:4). He began by calling God’s goodness into question in the Garden and that continues to be his main strategy.  He desperately wants to convince us that our future with God is less satisfying than what sin presently offers us.  He wants us to see sin as liberating us and broadening our horizons – “encoloring” us according to the visual metaphor used in Pleasantville.  But the truth is that sin enslaves and robs us of joy and life itself regardless of how attractive celluloid images of sin may be.   The truly vibrant and free life can only be experienced through a relationship with Jesus Christ (John 10:10).

So next time you are tempted by the subtlety of the Evil One as he hisses, “Sin will allow you to really experience life…don’t stay trapped in that dull gray world of rules and regulations… God is trying to keep you from enjoying life to the full,”  remember the Father of Lies is just trying to get you to swallow the same line Eve swallowed.  Spit it out no matter how sugar coated and sweet it may taste!

“If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free…I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”
John 8:31-36