A Conservative Backlash by The “Religious Wrong”‘ Attempts to Abort the Generational Changing of the Guard in America’s “Pleasantville”
“You Can’t Legislate Morals”
With the support of the Chamber of Commerce, we know Big Bob has the power to do whatever he will with the two on trial. And since the events preceding the trial has included mob actions which have included a book burning, the attack and destruction of the malt shop, and the cornering, physical intimidation, and physical attack of “coloreds” by gangs—images common to modern times which has seen these sorts of events in actuality occurring in the civil rights and anti–Vietnam-War movements, and currently in democracy and freedom uprisings in the Middle East, America, and throughout the world in the Occupy movement—the fate of the prisoners is imagined to include the ultimate penalty of death.
Indeed, this ominous possibility is promoted by the actions of the soda-jerk Artist who, at the trial, pitifully pleads for a compromise. This is pitiful since we know that his art is his life, that it is the one thing that has truly enriched his life and made it worth living.
Sitting at the Lunch Counter
We know of its importance in that, even after the attack on his malt shop, he defied the “rules” laid down by the town’s authorities which outlawed art and color by working with the Prince through the night to produce a colorful mural on the outside wall of his shop depicting the current events of the town and the feelings swirling about inside its residents.
This defiant act by the artist is reminiscent of antiwar demonstrators, who got fired upon at Kent State, of civil rights demonstrators, who police attacked with dogs, and of Tiananmen Square demonstrators, who were rolled over by tanks, shot, and killed, and most recently of all the courageous men and women of the Middle East risking their lives for freedom and of the Occupy heroes throughout the world putting their bodies in front of the most dire, widespread fascism ever to exist.
Since this character, recently so courageously defiant, is intimidated into pleading for a compromise in which he would be willing to use only certain colors or where he would submit for approval by the Chamber’s leader his ideas for painting beforehand–a compromise which his body language and facial expressions show, wonderfully acted by Jeff Daniels, is one near up against the very death of his soul–we know he fears for the loss of his physical life.
“Just Sign This Confession.”
The compromise is too much like the compromises we have witnessed being offered and come to expect being offered to some of the Tiananmen Square and other political prisoners of recent times wherein they are required to do something along the lines of admitting their guilt, apologizing to the State for the trouble they have caused it, and promising to never again to engage in such activities…and only in the most benevolent of circumstance being allowed to continue anything like their former activities but if so only under the supervision and with the approval of authorities with veto power over their proposed actions.
The Religious Wrong
So Big Bob and the Chamber of Commerce represent in the current social framework the Religious Right (sometimes referred to as the “religious wrong” and sometimes about which it is noted that the Religious Right is neither). Big Bob’s Chamber of Commerce represents Republicans, Tea Partiers, and those in general in our society who have succumbed to the rewards and threats of the World War Two Generation to live a regimented robot-like unfeeling passionless life; to become one of J. D. Salinger’s “phonies,” to abide by their misconstrued idea of “family values,” and above all to “behave” and not do anything to rock the boat of the status quo which might threaten the privileges of those currently enjoying power and wealth handed down, mostly, by heredity.
Civil Rights Movement
It is highly significant that in the courtroom scene the “colored” would be sitting in the balcony, above the black-and-white men. One might say this represents their status as being an elevated state, something to aspire to, and yet not on the level where matters are decided. But even more so, this scene is important in that it is a near exact replication of the courtroom scene in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” wherein the balcony of the courtroom is filled with Blacks, another kind of “colored.” This makes it clear that when the movie is dealing with the conflict between the adult males of the town and the “colored” it is referring to the Civil Rights movement.
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