“Pleasantville” is not really a very pleasant place to live. For some people. For others, a utopia. As a movie, “Pleasantville” is most definitely one of the more entertaining ways to deepen your appreciation of the Culture Nazis. The title “Pleasantville” derives from an old black a white TV show enjoyed by the lead character. His technical world of contemporary reality decades removed from the innocence of 1950s TV land seems a less friendly, more dangerous and ultimately less comfortable place to live than the literally black and white world of the old 1950s TV show. Toss in a little bit of imagination and magic and he is able to enter that world of strict conformity, white supremacy and male domination. All things that go with traditional culture, but are not necessarily integral to its survival. When color is introduced into the black and white world of “Pleasantville” what you are witnessing is a pop cultural commentary on the pop culture establishment of early TV that sought to replicate all those things that made culture respectable. You sorta kinda have one leading Culture Nazi in this movie to act as the antagonist, but what makes it better is the realization that many Culture Nazis exist around all of us who do not even realize what they are doing in trying to stem the inevitable tide of pop culture.
Interestingly, just ever so slightly before “Footloose” took the idea of pop music censorship as an indictment of the Platonic war on pop culture, the corporate band Styx did kind of the same thing. If Styx seems an odd band to be at the forefront of a concept album about revolution, be aware that “Kilroy was Here” fares much better as concept than as album, but that album is definitely worth consideration. Over the course of its 40 minutes, Styx provides a Culture Nazi organization very much based on the reality of the time. The Majority for Musical Morality (MMM) carries all the fascist stink of other fictional Culture Nazis as well as some non-fictional organizations of the era like the Moral Majority and the Parents Music Resource Center. The protagonist trying his darndest to protect the rights of pop culture regardless of how low it may go in the eyes of those standing for Culture is Kilroy who has been captured by Dr. Righteous of MMM. He manages to escape by donning a disguise and that disguise is one of the most unfortunate icons of the 1980s pop culture: “Mr. Roboto.”
For a brief, gloriously successful moment, no less an icon of pop culture than Marge Simpson herself became a Culture Nazi. The episode is titled “Itchy and Scratchy and Marge” and it is one of the most eye-opening moments in the short history of pop culture. Why? Because it actually forces the hardiest defender of pop culture to view themselves through the eyes of the Culture Nazi. The hardest thing about pop culture survival isn’t making it through the battle against the Culture Nazis. If you love the Beatles, you are going to find plenty of teammates in the fight against opera lovers who put down “Sgt. Pepper.” But what if you love the Beatles and you find yourself having to defend Justin Bieber against opera lovers? If you don’t defend the pop culture you don’t love against the Culture Nazis, then they win just a little bit. Marge may hate the violence of “Itchy and Scratchy” but she comes to understand that one man’s art is always another man’s obscenity when she’s called upon to enlist in the battle to have the Michelangelo’s statue of David censored on the very same moral grounds that she had “Itchy and Scratchy” cartoons censored.