ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)

Entertainment Media Analysis Report

Pleasantville (1998), PG-13
CAP Score: 54, CAP ID: 0.83

Thomas A. Carder
CAP President

Executive Summary/Commentary

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Probably most the significant issue in Pleasantville was that it was a slam against the wholesomeness and cleanness of the TV series of yesteryear in favor of hedonistic selfness. Pleasantville was a movie to promote sexual freedom and the lowering of the threshold of acceptability at the cost of ethics and morality. Characters were black-n-white until after virginity was lost. Sex gave you color. The first three quarters or so of the movie was about how sex would give you bright, living color -- and an attitude. One girl was presented as having the 'color disease' only on her tongue which spread to her lips but no more. I wonder from where that came? Once immoral sex creeped into the lives of the town teens, thier attitudes and outlook darkened. And in this show a mother performed masturbation. Some secular reviews fortify the almost-hidden portrayal in the movie that any high energy emotion transformed the colorless population into peacocks, but that revelation was in the last quarter or so of the movie.

Pleasantville was replete with arrogant invasion into other people's lives. A pseudo-wise and worldly teen duo pushed their enlightened and progressive morals as needed and for the town's own good. Before the "odd couple" ravaged the morals and ethics of the entire community, the town teens who parked in "Lover's Lane" were honest and wholesome and enjoyed the beauty of the town lights below. But after the teen terrors tainted the entire town, a scene at Lover's Lane presented legs flying and cars rocking. A scene of a teenage pair with the girl giving a boy an apple was a very cheap shot at the Garden of Eden; that the sins of Adam and Eve were caused by sexual attraction/lust between an unmarried underage couple -- lies on explicit Scripture. God's name in vain, both with and without the four letter expletive saturated the script. A number of implications of racism were thrown in: "No Coloreds [allowed]." The most foul word of the three/four letter word vocabulary was there. A teen girl saying things such as "I've had ten times as much sex as other girls", "He's not coming over to study" [about a male visitor while parents were away], "I bought new underwear" [for a date], "Mom's away for the weekend" [planning, with no father present], and "You can pin me anytime...maybe I'll just pin you" were a few of the theme-identifying comments in this movie. And all this was presented in an air of complete acceptability and enlightened awareness of the self. Further, nowhere was mentioned the consequences of immoral sexual activity, physical OR spiritual.

This movie was about as anti-Scripture as a movie can be, and in a subliminal, even invisible way. It presented many forms of personal arrogance, freedom from accountability, and freedom from authority and consequences -- the contemporary 'norms' of life -- in ways which would be very satisfying to those with little or no conviction to His expectations of us. These are all forms of rebellion and impunity. And Proverbs 6:16 through 6:19 remind us that of the seven things that Jesus hates, impunity and arrogance is the first in the list. Samuel 15:23 reminds us that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.



Pleasantville (1998) CAP Thermometers Wanton Violence/Crime (W) lost no maximum or intermediate level points.

Impunity/Hate (I)(1) lost the maximum level points twice, once due to the use of the most foul of the four letter word vocabulary and once due to a presentation that illicit sex, hate, lust and other evil are to be a normal part of life and acceptable and desirable.

Sex/Homosexuality (S) lost the maximum level points once due to a series of picture nudity of the quintessential boy's mother painted by her adulterous lover. Sex/Homosexuality lost the intermediate level points three times due to a mother masturbating with associated sounds and some visuals, due to a remark: "I've had ten times as much sex as other girls" by a teen girl with a voice of normality, and due to presentation of having sex out of wedlock is like living in paradise.

Drugs/Alcohol (D) lost no maximum or intermediate level points.

Offense to God (O)(2) lost the maximum level of points three times, twice due to the use of God's name in vain with the four letter expletive and once due to a portrayal of the sins of the Garden of Eden being caused by sexual attraction/lust between an unmarried underage couple -- lies on and before explicit Scripture.

Murder/Suicide (M)(3) lost no maximum nor intermediate level points.

Additional examples of unacceptable programming warranting the lost of the minimum level points included:

  • 22 additional uses of God's name in vain but without the four letter expletive
  • very frequent portrayal of sexual freedom; that sexual aggression by teens is acceptable
  • promotion of a psychic TV network in the background
  • portrayal that sexual activity increases wisdom and maturity
  • sexual innuendo
  • "Mom's away for the weekend!" planning, twice (no father)
  • "You can pin me anytime...maybe I'll just pin you."
  • frequent arrogant invasion into other people's lifestyles as needed and for their good
  • alcoholic beverage as a typical welcome-home-after-work beverage
  • a mother talking of taking a mud bath with her boyfriend
  • a polite verbal flip off to a mother
  • adolescent smoking
  • revealing dress (female anatomy ghosting through upper garment)
  • "He's not coming over to study" by a teen girl about her male visitor while parents are away
  • a teen girl with her pants unsnapped
  • a "spirit" visitor
  • nine uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary
  • "I bought new underwear" while anticipating a visit by a boyfriend
  • an adolescent mentoring his mother
  • portrayal that sexual purity is undesirable and to be avoided
  • dragging a boy off to have sex with him
  • female underwear visible at least twice
  • sexual foreplay
  • invitation to sex
  • presenting the HIV virus in a positive light: "Your chance of dying in a car wreck" is much greater than dying from AIDS
  • 'You'll thank me when you're older' attitudes
  • a mother leaving her husband for selfish reasons
  • talk of skinny dipping as acceptable
  • portrayal that an adulterous romance is blissful
  • violent vigilantism
  • camera angle to force observer to view private regions

    In accordance with the numeric comparative baseline database of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model, Pleasantville (1998) presented programming equivalent to R-rated material in Impunity/Hate, Sex/Homosexuality, and Offense to God. The movie was equivalent to G-rated programming in Wanton Violence/Crime, Drugs/Alcohol, and Murder/Suicide. Thus, Pleasantville is equivalent to 50% R-rated programming, 50% G-rated programming.

    (1) As noted in CAP Special Report-001, "Investigation Area and Scoring Trend," of the six CAP Investigation Areas, Impunity/Hate was the strongest presence in all four movie classifications. It has a strong revelation about the entertainment media.

    (2) The use of the three/four letter word vocabulary without God's name is incorporated into the Impunity/Hate Investigation Area. The use of God's name with or without the three/four letter word vocabulary is incorporated into the Offense to God Investigation Area. There is no duplication. As required of the Holy Scriptures, unless God's name is used with reverence to His glory and praise, its use is considered in vain, whether literal or euphemistic.

    (3) Only portrayal of successful murder or suicide are incorporated into Murder/Suicide. Presentation of attempts to commit murder or suicide, deaths by police action, and deaths by war are incorporated into Wanton Violence/Crime.

    Please remember we believe that if even one of the six Investigation Area scores for a movie is equivalent to the CAP comparative baseline database scoring range for R, PG-13, or PG material, the entire movie should be regarded as so rated.  For example, if only Wanton Violence/Crime earns a score equivalent to R but all other Investigation Areas earn a score equivalent to G, THERE IS R-RATED MATERIAL IN THE MOVIE AND YOUR KIDS WILL SEE IT AND HEAR IT IF THEY WATCH THE MOVIE!

    Additional reviews of this movie may be located at "Movie Review Query Engine at Telerama."

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    Thomas A. Carder
    ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)

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