Pleasant Dreams

The last time I watched Pleasantville I didn’t have this blog running to discuss it.  It was also during the Obama administration where it felt more like nostalgia rather than a documentary.  In case you’re not familiar, Pleasantville is a movie about how a nerdy teen, David, and his cool sister Jennifer get sucked into a 1950’s sitcom, “Pleasantville.”  They find themselves in black-and-white and in a world as regimented as Stepford, but somewhat more humorously so.  As Jennifer is eager to get back home, she introduces this colorless world to sex, and as the two-dimensional characters begin to experience strong emotions colors start to appear.  The “picture perfect” Pleasantville begins to let the plastic facade of the 1950s slip to reveal a complex and messy world of true humanity beneath.

Watching the film in the age of Trump, as with most things, interjected a current of fear.  The townspeople feel threatened by those who are different, colorful.  They want everything just as it was—women serving their husbands, everyone the same hue, and pretending that sexuality doesn’t exist.  It may have been originally intended as an homage to the the 1960s, but what became clear in an age of MAGA is that crowds easily respond to suggestions of hatred.  Many of those in the group, individually, are “coloreds” themselves, but fear to let it show.  Conformity is much safer even if it means hating those who are different.  I wasn’t alive in the 1950s, but the superiority of the white man apparently was.  One of the characters is, tellingly, named Whitey.

Initially drawn to the film seeking biblical references (occupational hazard) I knew there was an Eden scene before I first watched it.  Margaret, on whom David has a crush, has discovered actual fruit at Lover’s Lane.  She brings him an apple which, the TV Repairman (if you’re lost, please watch the movie—it’s quite enjoyable) points out, is a form of sin in this world of simple answers and unspoken repression.  A mash-up of Jasper Fforde and American Graffiti, the film exposes the lie behind the idea that all were put on earth to serve the white man.  Jennifer discovers books and stays behind in colorized Pleasantville to go to college, something of a rarity in those days.  Although the movie bombed at the box office, it has a serious message to convey.  There was no perfect 1950s iconic America.  The process of becoming great is one of evolution, rather than that of a fabled Eden, available only in black-and-white.


Hashtag MAGA

Mental Acuity Gone, America?  When facts face a nation, naked, unobscured, and the faithful still deny them, we’re truly on hallowed ground.  Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are guilty of very serious crimes in which MAGA POTUS is implicated.  Of course, anyone with an intact medulla oblongata knew that Trump was lying from well before the election.  I just wonder if America is suffering from mass mental illness.  

A few years ago I visited Ellis Island.  This port of entry into the United States turned the hopeful—let’s call them dreamers—away for many reasons.  The room at the museum that bothered me the most was the one where mental illness was discussed.  An enormous number of would-be Americans were turned away because of what we would now recognize as mental illness.  It had many less flattering names back in the day, but the idea was that we only wanted bright, or at least competent, specimens to build up this nation.  Theirs was a misplaced and misguided fear; we specialize in home-grown.  Any rational person has difficulty explaining the election of Trump in any other way.

Who can imagine running for the highest office in the land with literally thousands of open lawsuits against him (or her)?  Who can claim to be elected when their own home state—which knows him (or her) best—roundly and soundly rejects him (or her)?  When clear evidence of Russian collusion emerges, the GOP rises up and says “We see nothing wrong with a foreign government running the country.”  And this is not mental illness?  Is our Mental Acuity Gone, America?  Have we become a nation of (hashtag) idiots?

The events of the last few days have revealed in clear light what many rational people knew from the beginning—there has been massive and willful deception from the very inception of this administration.  The simple fact that 45 would assert that Cohen wouldn’t flip on him indicates that the incumbent had done something wrong and was counting on the loyalty of comrades to keep him in the clear.  Mental illness takes many forms.  One of them is a pathological avoidance of the truth.  Now that we know truth isn’t truth and that 45’s fixer knows more than he’s said so far, we have to wonder how deep down this incompetence goes.  Yet the GOP marches along in goose-step.  Depending on your angle of view, Miss Liberty won’t even show her face.