Pleasantville and Islamic Supremacism

Saturday

They discover they are inside the TV program.
The movie, Pleasantville is the story of the rise and fall of an Islamic state. I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me for a moment. I've been immersed in studying about Islam, terrorism, and Islamic states like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan (when the Taliban were running things). I didn't realize before that it is a Muslim's duty to create an Islamic state, wherever they live. And to kill and die for this purpose if that's what it takes. I recently watched Pleasantville. I had seen the movie before, but this time I saw it in a new light.

If the movie can be seen as a metaphor, let's look at the parallels. First, someone had a vision of a perfect world. In the movie, it was the creator of the Pleasantville TV show, and in Islam, it was Muhammad (or Allah speaking through Muhammad). They each had a vision of an ideal world. (Learn more about that here.)

Now, if everybody does what they're supposed to do, this vision can become a reality and people can enjoy a peaceful, orderly society. The key is getting everyone to do what they're supposed to do. The problem is, people love freedom. And of course freedom brings with it unwanted side-effects, as you see in the movie (and as you can see by looking around you).

But the lack of freedom also has side-effects. Which is better, living in a Pleasantville world but having to do what you're supposed to do all the time — or living a life where you choose your own destiny but also have to live in a society with others who are choosing their destiny too? I don't know who can answer that question for all of us, but I know which one I prefer. Give me liberty or give me death.

The movie is about the danger and the splendor of freedom.

When the movie begins, the teenager, David, is in a modern American high school, living in a free society complete with its dangers and side-effects. David is a fan of an old television show from the fifties. Everything was perfect in the show. It was an ideal world where people treated each other courteously, parents had loving, conflict-free marriages, and kids were wholesome and innocent. David yearns for a life like that instead of the messy, chaotic world he lives in. And he gets his wish. He is magically transported into the Pleasantville television show. It's in black and white. Every day is a perfectly sunny 72 degrees. It never rains.

But he discovers that there is a cost to living in paradise — a drastic lack of freedom. In the movie, when the teenagers started having sex and the world was beginning to go Technicolor, the leaders of the town were horrified. Things were getting out of control. And you can see they had good intentions when they tried to make it go back the way it was.

That's what the Taliban did in Afghanistan back in the 90's (you can see an accurate depiction of their perfect world in the movie, Osama). And that's what Iran tried to do with their revolution. And what Saudi Arabia is doing. They're trying to force it back in the box. They're trying to fulfill the vision written in the Qur'an of the perfect world. They are struggling against human beings' natural desire for freedom. They have to use force to get people to do what they're supposed to do all the time. They use extreme force and they still can't get everyone to conform.

And who hasn't had the same conflict in their own life? Haven't you? Haven't you gone through cycles of cracking down on yourself and then loosening up? Haven't you ever gotten a regime all worked out so you can get in shape or whatever and then after awhile you start feeling closed in by it and you want to break out of the restricting and regimented monotony?

When I was younger, I spent many fruitless hours trying to come up with the perfect system. A perfect week would have a certain amount of exercise, a certain amount of communication with loved ones, writing time, goofing off time, etc. A perfect life plan is not very difficult to come up with. But actually doing it turns into a nightmare of routine. Most people would never do something like that voluntarily for very long. I loved creating the perfect system, but I hated living in it. And it was my system. What if some else created the system? It would be nearly impossible to make me conform to it.

Our longing for freedom and change and adventure always makes us want to break out. The Qur'an has an idea: Enforce the system from the outside. People can't do it on their own. But if you could make everyone in a society follow the perfect system, you could have a perfect society.

In the movie Pleasantville, the men join together and try to restore order, under the banner of the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce. They try to enforce pleasant behavior. They create a code of conduct for everyone to live by and they punish the ones who rebel. And what you see is what happens in real life. People feel a conflict. Yes, they want a pleasant society, but not at the cost of their personal freedoms. Many wonderful and terrible things didn't exist in the perfect world of Pleasantville: Art, sex, women's rights, creativity, exciting music, novelty, love, passion, anger, awakening, self-discovery, self-expression, disagreement, conflict, change, violence, book-burning, discovery, exploration, experimentation, new experience, rebellion, defiance, personal growth, and the list goes on and on. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

What does it take to keep the ugly and bad stuff away? You have to get rid of a lot of the good stuff. That's what it takes. And you have to make it a crime to step out of line. You have to have punishments. So the perfect world has its own ugly side. Do you know about the punishments in Islamic law? If you steal something, they cut off your hand. If you have premarital sex or drink alcohol, you get flogged. For adultery, both the man and the woman are stoned to death.

The punishments are intentionally extreme so they are a strong deterrent. They don't cut very many hands off because that law really discourages theft, and after getting caught twice, you don't have any hands left to steal anything with. I'm not advocating this by any means. You already know how I feel. I believe in freedom. But that doesn't mean people who try to come up with the perfect systems are necessarily evil.

I think the movie could help freedom-lovers sympathize with the perfect-world-lovers because after all, we in the audience are also attracted to the perfect world of Pleasantville at first. We sympathize with David, who wants to get away from his ugly, sometimes painful life, and doesn't realize or appreciate how much freedom he enjoys until it is taken away from him.

And the movie could also help the perfect-world-lovers see the beauty and magnificence of freedom — and the joy of not knowing what's going to happen next. And the satisfaction of choosing your own destiny.

In the book, Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals, Robert Pirsig wrote about the difference between static quality (the perfect world) and dynamic quality (a free society), and how these two forces are always and necessarily in conflict, and in a way the tension between the two is a good thing in the long run, or at least could be a good thing.

In one of the scenes in the movie, David and his girlfriend are out by the lake. She has just found out that David has seen the world outside of Pleasantville. She never has, and until recently, didn't even know it existed. She asks him, "So what's it like out there?"

He says, "Well...it's louder. And scarier, I guess. And it's a lot more dangerous."

"It sounds fantastic!" she says enthusiastically. Sure. For someone whose life has been ordered and perfect, a little dynamic quality would be like cool water to someone dying of thirst. That's the glory and the downside of human nature living in a free society.

With freedom, you have to learn to live with the fact that things aren't the same any more and never will be. That's both tragic and wonderful.

Learn more about the teachings of Islam.

10 comments:

Anna Doe 2:18 AM  

Thank you very much for all the work done in this website.

I find the concept of comparing the enforcing of a "perfect" society on Pleasantville and the enforcing of islam interesting except that it seems to me you forgot or don't know or decided to downplay the whole truth about islam, maybe to make a point:

Even if everybody follows islam to the letter in Pleasantville and all are true Muslims and submit completely to allah and there is no islamic sins done, islam allows slavery and sex slavery through taking captives while bringing allah's message outside of Pleasantville, and allows men even old to have sex with little girls and to have 4 wives.

These are all halal if you have the money or the power or go to jihad (so some who don't may have no wives at all, this alone create instability and of course, pedophily will too). Also the slaves may not always follow islam and cruel punishments may ensue like you listed.

Even if the whole world is following islam, there maybe no more slavery (although slaves can be Muslims in islam) and polygamy (as there is more men than women in the adequate age range, but here too, it is a question of money, nowhere it is say that a Muslim has to give up one of his wives if another has none) but there will still be pedophily (specially with the will for polygamy), and as long as a father is willing to give his girl... (and Muslims will to follow the sunnah or to get rich or because they had or will get one day a young girl too).

So when Dawood is asked how it is outside, he will respond to the girl he loves that there she can't be forced to marry a 70 years old because it is against the law.

Unlike in the other Pleasantville, it's not only freedoms that are missed under islam but humanity and decency. This is worst for me. I think this will bring more and earlier revolts and so much misery.

"people who try to come up with the perfect systems are [not] necessarily evil" but mohamed was. If only for the little girls.

But I hope Muslims will read that article. It may make some Muslims understand some things islamocritics are saying, in a indirect way. Although I hope they don't see the movie, because if i remember well, it mess the point because of too much sex. Like as if freedom means adultery and casual sex for each and all. This is exactly what we argue against with many Muslims at FFI. Argh Hollywood...

jetabler 12:29 PM  

This article provided an interesting perspective, but I have to disagree with the basic idea. Islam is more fascist than Pleasantville. And where women had few rights in Pleasantville, they still had reasonably enjoyable lives as self-respecting human beings who they enjoyed a place in society. Women in Islam have no rights, no dignity, and no place in society. They are born in hell and they die there, and at some point they get their genitals sliced off and then their parents pimp them away to someone so they can get raped and beaten for the rest of their lives.

And Pleasantville's idea was for everyone to be happy and live in harmony, whereas there is not supposed to be happiness or harmony in Islam. One is to deny all worldly pleasures except sex (because it's free), and to overemphasize sex's importance so as to turn men into predatorial animals in heat for the purpose of spreading Islam. Islam's natural state is war, not harmony. And when there is no society to destroy and parasitize, it cannibalizes, just like any totalitarian fascist regime. That's why there's never been a self-sustaining Muslim country in the history of time. Even insanely wealthy Saudi Arabia can't sustain itself without endlessly importing guest workers because its own people, no matter how educated, are incapable of doing the simplest of jobs because (a) they are raised in this parasitic "you shall find sustenance under the shade of my sword" ideology and have no work ethic, and (b) they're inbred to within two generations of being monkeys. That's why there are no Arabs on Star Trek. In the future they will all be in zoos, as the result of millenia of inbreeding.

Pleasantville actually had an inclusive ideology, whereas Islam's ideology was devised to expand the power of one narcissistic necrophiliac psychopath pedophile who got off on zombifying people. It perpetuates itself because it is a cult, not because of any higher reason. Islam begets nothing but more Islam. It's ironic how it's self-perpetuating (like all cults, and to the exclusion of any real progress) and yet still parasitic, but that's because, like fascism and communism, it arises out a basic deathwish. Muslims are not to work for the betterment of their own lives or the improvement of the world, but for the perpetuation of Islam.

There's no divinity in Islam. There's not even any dignity in Islam. The fact that it's boring, stagnant, and doesn't allow room for much individuality are really its least destructive, least regressive, least dangerous, least oppressive facets.

But it was a decent analogy. I just think that behind Islam laid always a much more sinister (and bloody and violently oppressive of women) ideology.

Citizen Warrior 1:51 PM  

Jetabler,

Women in Pleasantville had a reasonably pleasant life and were respected as long AS LONG AS THEY KNEW THEIR PLACE and didn't appear in color or have orgasms or whatever. How they were so controlled by men we'll never know, but the outward appearance would be the same in and Islamic society: The women would be "respected" in public and probably most of them have a reasonably pleasant life as long as they keep their place. Not all women in Islamic societies are beaten. Not all women try to rebel. They try to be "good Muslims" and do what their husband tells them to do. Just like the women in Pleasantville.

You said, "And Pleasantville's idea was for everyone to be happy and live in harmony, whereas there is not supposed to be happiness or harmony in Islam."

On the contrary, WITHIN the Islamic society there is SUPPOSED to be happiness and harmony. The only reason they are supposed to go to war with infidels and apostates is because the existence of infidels and apostates is a threat to the peace and harmony that will prevail when the whole world submits to Islam. The whole POINT of it, as far as the philosophy of Islam is concerned, is a world of peace and harmony, where everyone knows his or her place, and does what Allah tells them to do.

And of course, the makers of Pleasantville were probably not trying to depict Islamic society and the analogy only goes so far. The thing I thought was striking was that when people started gaining freedom from their oppressive society, the people in charge of the local government had to crack down, and all for the good of decency and pleasantness.

I wrote the article to non-Muslims primarily. I wanted us to see the goals and purposes of Islam from the point of view of Muslims themselves. I wanted us to see that an ordered and decent society where everyone knows their place is in many ways appealing.

The two kids that went from modern society into this supernice society were in many ways charmed by it. They had a mother and a father who cared for them and cared for each other. People on the street were pleasant to each other. Everything was clean. In the classroom, there were no "attitudes" or violence.

I think most people have a desire for that kind of world. But the movie shows clearly that to get that kind of a world, you have to lose something: Personal freedom. You have to submit or it doesn't work. Not only do YOU have to submit, but you have to make sure EVERYONE submits, and that's where the trouble starts.

If this article can help us infidels understand the appeal of a perfect world, I think it will do some good. It is easy and natural to polarize us against them, and to see EVERYTHING about Islamic society as bad. But that kind of polarization obscures some realities and doesn't help us deal with it. It makes us hate them, and them hate us if only in defense of their religion, even if they were relatively open-minded Muslims to begin with.

In other words, to see Islam through the lens of Pleasantville, we can see the reality more truly and if any solutions to this worldwide problem are to be found, we'd better be dealing with reality. What better way to deal with reality than to study a completely fictional movie about a completely fictional world, eh? ;)

Matthew Aguilar 9:13 PM  

I wish to point something out. The Leftist Elite tries to demonize the West, especially the traditional West. However, there is a question of sustainability of a culture. History is much more cyclical than linerar, (where are the Ancient Greek, Egyptian, Mionean, Roman, Mayan, and Pheonichan civilizations?) If history was linear, these civilizations would be far more advanced than ours, because they got started earlier. All these civilzations are gone, because civilzations aren't just born, they die as well (societies don't just mature, they can age and rot as well). They die from ignoring virtues than make a society sustainable. This is hailed as progress, but involves sacrificing the future for the present (living on borrowed time and money).

The society becomes decadent, with Big Government, a weak military, a breakdown of family and moral norms, a belief that it is invincible, and sloth and indulgence. They are usually conquered by a society that is less advanced but also less decayed (has the virtues that make a society sustainable). The "advanced" society looks down on the conquering society as "primitive barbarians", but the "primitive barbarians" do conquer the "advanced, enlighted", society.

The West in the days of Pleasantville (Pre-1960's) had a sustainable culture with freedom. It now has a culture that is based on Multiculturalism, which states that Western Culture ALONE is the monolithic, oppresive culture; and that it must make concessions, to other "primitive" cultures. This DOES NOT celebrate all cultures, BUT DESTROYS THE SOCIAL STRENGTH AND VITAL DISTINCTIVENESS OF OUR OWN.

The true mark of a culture is not how good it "feels" but whether it can last. Islam is overly harsh (certainly compared to Pleasantville) but both societies were or are sustainable. The simple rule of life -- some 'freedoms' must be limited -- actually some responsibilities must be expected and practiced by individuals -- for society to survive and be sustainable. [This is why libertarianism hasn't gotten off the ground as a serious movement].

The problem we face is not Islam, but rather Multiculturalism that radicalizes Islam. If the West wants to survive, we must rebuild our culture into one that is free AND sustainable. Our Elite 'Leaders' feel so ashamed of our "oppresive, intolerant" culture that the MUST give concessions to other cultures (such as Islam) TO BE ABLE TO SLEEP AT NIGHT.

If one finds the culture of Pleasantville, where norms and responsibilities are expected, to be too "oppressive", either explain how our culture could REALLY STOP conceding to Islam or go live under Shariah, since that is a non-western culture, and therefore less "oppresive". How would the culture of Pleasantville handle the Islamist threat (Compare the war coverage in WWII to the war coverage in Iraq for a clue). The Islamists would NEVER have had a CHANCE against the West with a Pleasantville culture [We would have never conceded anything and wiped out Islamism {check out what we did to Nazi Germany}], our modern, "free, advanced" culture doesn't have a PRAYER of stopping the concessions unless we reform it. The Muslims just happen to be the ones to benefit from our culture's weakness-- With enemies like our elite, how do they need friends?

Our greatest weakness as a culture is an inability to look beyond our own generation, while Muslims think in terms of multiple generations ahead. If We don't throw the Liberal Elites out of power (totally) and rebuild a culture that is responsible and sustainable-- against islam, WE WILL BE ASSIMILATED; RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

Citizen Warrior 10:55 PM  

Well said, Matthew. I was just reading Why We Fight and thought William Bennett made a good point: Multiculturalism simply says we might have something to learn from other cultures. For several centuries, Westerners have taken up multiculturalism with a passion, often driven by a reaction to the self-righteous snobbery of Europeans when they came into contact with "primitive" people.

The openness and willingness to look for value in other cultures is good, and the willingness to consider people from other cultures as just as human as people in your own culture — that's good too.

But over time, the concept has streamlined. It simplified into merely: "My own culture sucks. Other cultures are worth respecting and appreciating. Except mine."

Maybe multiculturalism combined with the natural teenage rebellion against the "establishment," I don't know.

But however it morphed from something completely legitimate to something self-destructive, there is no doubt it has morphed, and this simplified, dumbed-down multicultural ethos has infused and permeated into two very influential positions: School teachers and journalists. The vast majority of teachers, from kindergarten to graduate school, are died-in-the-wool blind multiculturalists. And so are the majority of journalists in mainstream media.

It's not really multiculturalism that is bad. The original idea is very good. But blind, oversimplified multiculturalism could be our downfall.

Anonymous 2:53 PM  

Please please please people, before you make statements of judgement on the position of women in islam, or the punishments surrounding certain crimes, get some information on it other than hearsay... I have been in Iran myself, and while it is true that gender equality has a long way to go there, Iranians are in many ways much more respectful of women than a number of North-Americans I know.

Also, one should note that the islamic law changes with each islamic country, punishments (or lack thereof) change from one to another. I would be surprised if "cutting a hand for theft" has been done in years, appart from in the Aladin movie...

I thought the article was an interesting exercise in interpretation, and the author brought up a worthy comparison. While I am very much against the kind of totalitarianism seen in many middle-eastern countries, I am really sick and tired of hearing the same statements of misunderstanding being put up. I highly recomment that those who keep putting down everything middle-eastern go and see it for themselves, step outside the confines of the hotels and actually talk to the locals to understand them.

Citizen Warrior 12:06 AM  

Anonymous, although I mention Middle Eastern countries as illustrations of places where people are trying to follow the Islamic teachings, my point was not about the Middle East, but about the doctrine of Islam, based on the Qur'an and the Hadith. Have you read the Qur'an? Do you know about the principle of abrogation?

The reason I'm asking is that many Muslims (I'm assuming you're a Muslim) have not read the Qur'an and only know about Islamic teachings from what they're told or hear in the Friday "sermons." But I've read the Qur'an and learned about the Islamic teachings, and that's what I am trying to tell non-Muslims about because they need to know. Why? Because 61 percent of the Qur'an is about non-Muslims — how they rate in the big scheme of things and how Muslims should treat them.

In other words, the Middle East is not the issue. One of the worst Islamic countries is the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean. It doesn't really matter how closely Iran or Syria follows Shari'a law. The point is there are millions of dedicated Muslims who follow the teachings of the Qur'an closely and we non-Muslims need to know what they want and what they believe, because at the moment, they are advancing into Western countries, getting their way, and most Western non-Muslims are completely clueless about it. This is a dangerous situation.

We could talk to the locals in Iran all we want and it would not change Islamic teachings. Just like in any other ideology, some people are somewhat casual about it and some are quite passionate about it. But most non-Muslims in Western countries would be absolutely shocked at some of the most basic teachings of Islam. And they would be horrified to learn the goals and methods of mainstream Islam. I feel it is my duty to share it with them.

My question for you is: "What do you think am I misunderstanding?" You said you're sick and tired of hearing the same statements of misunderstandings. Which statements are wrong? And can you tell me, based on basic, mainstream Islamic teachings, why you think they are mistaken? Or why you think non-Muslims should be kept in the dark about them (if you do).

Infidel753 3:19 AM  

Very interesting concept, and one which resonated with me since Pleasantville is one of my favorite movies. Of course objections can be made (as a couple of the commenters have) -- no analogy is 100% exact -- but yes, there are a lot of parallels.

Pleasantville looked "free", at least in its initial state, in the sense that there was no oppressive official agency enforcing the behavioral norms -- everyone behaved the way they were supposed to because it came from within. (There were, for example, no gays in Pleasantville, and couldn't have been.) This is the Islamic ideal too -- it is a belief system (ideology) which is supposed to shape behavior from within as well as fixing the ideal state of society. Of course, in reality human beings are not like that, and no society can exist in perfect (or even close) approximation to any set of norms without some sort of totalitarian enforcement such as SharĂ®'ah in an Islamic state would provide.

The problem is that, as you say, people love freedom, partly because in reality everybody is different. Like Bud's boss who secretly aspired to be a painter, we all have sides to our humanity that can't be accommodated within a completely homogenized way of life.

Totalitarian systems need a hard exterior because inwardly they are brittle and fragile. They need to control people through fear and through restricted access to information (recall Pleasantville's blank books and how going to the library later becomes a form of rebellion) because freedom, once people are exposed to it, is simply too appealing. Exposure to people from the real world broke down Pleasantville's stagnant perfection quite quickly, and there is evidence that Islam is similarly vulnerable, which is why its fanatics need to defend it with such vehemence and violence.

Anonymous 8:06 PM  

Ifinally got to read intelligent comments about an article written about Islam. Especially that by Matthew. I am sure many people with a little background in Ancient History have thought of similar conclusions;especially how 'the barbarians' conquer the 'advanced societies' and the cycle of culture continues-Rome and the Huns,the Colonists and Mother England,etc.
I wish someone would write about defeating radical Islamists by using a counter religiosity tactic as we are in a religious war that cannot be won be military force tactics. I would suggest disarming their certainty of God and containing them in a God belief only. I have found this very difficult to talk about with friends some of whom are Jews or Christians and who also have a certainty of their God even tho they say they know the difference between Biblical belief and empirical fact.

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

Have to disagree with a lot of this. Traditional America was wonderful -- I grew up then. May mother was the head of the family with an advanced degree; my father an 8th grade drop-out who worked in a factory. To say women had to know their place is a leftist stereotype and part of what is taught in multiculturalism -- the idea that traditional America was confiining.

Besides my parents' example, we kids were much freerer. We took off on our bikes all day and came home when the streetlights came on. Our parents never conceived that they might be deprived because they couldn't get ahold of us with cell phones.

Th culture, especially compared to now, with it's "polar-bear-hunting" and "flash mobs" was safe and comfortable. It's important for those of us who were around then to let others 9usually college students who think it was all about lynchings and torturing gays) that traditional America is worth saving....if there is enough of it left to do so.

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One of the most unusual articles on CitizenWarrior.com is Pleasantville and Islamic Supremacism.

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Click here to read the article.


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