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Scenes from the SuburbsThe Suburb in Contemporary US Film and Television$
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Timotheus Vermeulen

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748691661

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748691661.001.0001

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Pleasantville: The Suburb as World

Pleasantville: The Suburb as World

(p.21) Chapter 1 Pleasantville: The Suburb as World
Scenes from the Suburbs

Timotheus Vermeulen

Edinburgh University Press

The first chapter examines how Gary Ross’ 1998 blockbuster film Pleasantville presents the nature of the suburb’s fictional world. Each film or television programme postulates its own fictional world, which in turn delineates the possibilities for, and limitations of, the plot. The fictional world of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, for instance, allows for very different plot developments than the fictional world of Sense and Sensibility. In the former, plots may come to include wizards, elves, and hobbits, resurrections and afterlives, whereas no such creations can ever populate the story world of Jane Austen. This chapter explores the kind of world the cinematic suburb might be: what are its natural laws, what is its internal logic, what can and cannot happen there? Paying close attention at the relationships between temporality, spatiality, genre and the various stylistic registers employed and drawing on the work of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, it is argued that Pleasantville, the film’s eponymous suburb, is characterised by an intrinsic ontological instability that renders narrative and style per definition unpredictable, contradictory, and essentially open ended.

Keywords:   Pleasantville, Fictional world, Temporality, Spatiality, Genre, Giorgio Agamben

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