1998’s Pleasantville was one of the most underrated movies of the decade. The movie’s premise is based on two modern day (late 90s) siblings played by Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon who are transported into the fictional TV world of Pleasantville, an idyllic 1950s black and white community. Maguire and Witherspoon attempt to “fit in” to maintain the harmony within the community.
Witherspoon soon breaks character and begins behaving like her natural 90s self and begins to change the culture within Pleasantville so much so the community starts becoming coloured. The moment the characters begin to question their status quo and behave contrary to it is when they change and realize their true colours.
Leaving your comfort zone is never a pleasant experience. Pleasantville remained pleasant because nobody really stepped out of their boundaries. Nobody went beyond the status quo. But in doing so, they failed to grow or change. But they were happy. Obliviously happy. But true personal growth only happens outside of what you’re used to.
The movie reminded me of an old friend from work, Red. He was the nicest person I’ve ever met. As the stereotypical Canadian with a double dose of politeness and sensitivity. He was so considerate of others it came at the expense of himself.
Red’s own personal Pleasantville was working two jobs over 60 hours a week and making ends meet. He was so frightful of new things. He wouldn’t even eat something beyond sandwiches. He was a rule follower to an extreme and is always afraid something bad would happen if we “broke the rules”. If we did anything out of the ordinary. And yet he adored Pleasantville. The irony wasn’t lost on me.
A part of me looked at Red like a charity case. Maybe he will one day get over his fear of trying new things or maybe he’ll learn to put his own needs ahead of others or if he’ll finally eat something that isn’t a sandwich. I wish him well, the poor soul eternally running in a hamster wheel.
Red marked an extreme case scenario for me. I prided myself as someone who was more spontaneous. Fun. Ever-shifting. Yet I really was just one or two bad days away from falling into a shell where I just lock myself in my bachelor’s, do just enough work to make the money, and not try any new things. I’ve had so many great ideas about what to do with my life and so many ideas to write about. I’m so inspired but when the application happens, I’m nowhere to be found.
Dreaming up new scenarios is so easy anyone can do it. But I was too afraid. Too unsure of myself. And too unmotivated because of how comfortable I’ve become. How pleasant my life has been. I loved my Pleasantville and I saw no reason to change it.
But try as I might to maintain my Pleasantville, it wouldn’t happen. Watching Netflix, playing video games, drinking for fun, all the mindless distractions couldn’t stop me from wanting to change. I needed to grow because it’s what is natural. You don’t fit in the same clothes you wore in kindergarten, high school, or even five years ago. Just like our bodies change, so does our minds. And no amount of distractions will silence that voice in your head telling you to move. To grow. To mature.
Change doesn’t need to be drastic. You don’t need to quit your day job (although I did) and start your own business. Just take some time to listen to yourself. When doing the same old just isn’t fun anymore, it’s time to change.
Instead of watching Netflix, listen to podcasts. Instead of drinking, try running. Try a new hobby. Visit a new place. Order a new item from the menu. The unease you’ll feel is natural and temporary. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Instead, be afraid of never leaving Pleasantville and maintaining a monotonous black-and-white existence. Find your true colours.