The Truman Show



Today was my second trip to The Truman Show...and I am struck once again by the deep connection Truman's audience feels with him, and their   presence in the film as a reflection of US as TVs "real life" audience. They want so much for him to ESCAPE - as we finally see in their  enthusiastic response to "The End." They reach out to him emotionally at a real level, and we must know that neither they nor us ever reach out to strangers in that way in real life.

Despite all Weir's intriguing questions regarding media and its presence in shaping the world we believe we live in - it is this mercurial line between Truman's audience, and US as audience where I  believe the most frightening questions lie regarding who we have become in relationship to our fellow travelers.

Thanks for the forum!
 Brenna Hopkins


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I'm not a religion nut or anything, I actually don't know that much about, say, Christianity or Bible studies at all. But it seems to me that in your critique and analysis of The Truman Show, the whole biblical aspect of the film has been left out for primarily media related aspects of the films implicit meaning. Needless to say, "Christof"; that is, Christ of. Truman was in the vicinity of thirty years old when he underwent his journey, as was Jesus. The whole walking on water scene at the end and his speaking to the ethereal voice booming from the heavens. At the beginning of the film, the light falls out of the sky. Written on the light is the word Sirius, making reference to a star. From Earth, Sirius is the closest star to us, and therefore the brightest star in the sky. It only makes sense that it's falling out of the sky directly correlates with the symbolism of Truman being the brightest star as well. This event marks the beginning of his descent too. Just some observations that I picked up and thought I'd drop in a line for you. Take them or leave them, I just think this is a film wonderful on many different levels for critical deconstruction.

Matthew Velick

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Here's a really interesting quote from "Truman Show" writer Andrew Niccol: "More and more, we're being encouraged by these media to substitute cheap emotionalism for deeper feelings and real experiences. There's a disturbing scene in the movie where Truman has a reunion with the father he thought had died. By then, we know that the emotion is counterfeit, but we're strangely moved anyway, as are the viewers onscreen. It's very twisted."

How do you like them apples at the end of that quote? That truth -- that I knew the emotion was counterfeit and twisted but was moved nonetheless -- was really interesting, and didn't even occur to me until I read that Niccol quote just a minute ago. Remember the emotion in the control room as they orchestrated the father reunion scene, with "Cue the music" and "Louder!", "Not yet...", "Now, pull back!", and then their elation at their brilliant handiwork? (That scene in the control room) was a great commentary on all the real world positions people occupy where they detach themselves from their subjects, even innocent, defenseless human beings, and coldly manipulate hopes, assign destinies, destroy wills; and think themselves virtuous nonetheless.

Two last things about the totality of the movie. BTW, did you notice the advertising ("product placement") early on? (Here is what Director Peter Weir said that is relevant:) "I've lived on either side of this incredible growth spurt of the media monster over the last 20 years, and you can handle it if you know what life was like before. But you have to wonder about the kids who've grown up completely wired by this. I'm not making judgments about what's good or bad for them to see, but simply the bombardment of their senses and their brain all the time. You wonder what it's doing to their perception of what we call reality." I think this is an astute (not to say original) observation, particularly the part about kids grow up not knowing what it was like before. Following right on the heels of the last two decades' (?), and particularly the last few years', intense video barrages and media bombardment, is the next realm of entertainment and product placement: hyper-relations. Hyper, if you haven't heard of/thought of it, is basically tie-ins (such as in The Truman Show) of products, but with more and more subtle placement, and more subtle relationships. (The best ads people don't even realize are ads, or even that they saw anything.) Hyper-relations typically involves customized impressions of ads, things tailored to the viewer. Hyper-relations also allow for scheduling of ad campaigns to individual users across diverse channels, optionally completely unobtrusively. It's going on right now, and particularly prevalent on the Internet. You may not know it, but already ad banners you see are typically much more targeted to you than you could imagine. Moreover, entire campaigns at you are scheduled across diverse web sites, and you don't even know it. In a way, this puts us into worlds like Truman's, under the eye of advertisers who know our every information query and our purchase, and tell us what we want to buy and why we want it, and most of us have no idea it's happening. The disturbing part is when, where we grow up bombarded with mass media and information overload and vaguely remember a time when it was less so, our children will grow up bombarded with directed media and tailored information and complete (but inaccessible to them) histories, and don't remember a time when it wasn't that way.

My other point about the movie as a whole is in reaction to a statement made by an anonymous viewer of the film. We viewed the film perhaps with a mindset that we were above the multitudes of Truman's viewers, and with a place to judge Christof and the rest of the shindig. She proposed that there was no distinction between the film audience and the onscreen audience:

All the onscreen viewers knew the whole deal was orchestrated from the start, as did we -
They all knew the product placements were ads, as did we.
-They all knew about OmniCam, as did we.
-They all cared about Truman and wanted him to success, as did we.
-They all knew Truman wanted to get out, as did we.
-They all knew Truman's father was a lie in that whole reunion scene, but got just as emotional as we.
-They all knew how sincere Marlon's "Would I lie to you?" was.
...But, just like us, they got completely wrapped up in the fiction, even to the point of discounting the facade that was the heartfelt warmth in Truman's world; *and*, they imprisoned Truman by continuing to watch, continuing to buy, continuing to invest so much time and energy into the world that they constructed for him both in their minds and, by viewership, in reality. Save that we in the real world had no way to contribute to Truman's imprisonment, we experienced all the same emotions and drama, and, were we onscreen viewers, might well have tuned in transfixed and kept Truman under the world's eye. (I like to think that I would have eventually evaluated this in myself and joined Sylvia's Truman Liberation Front <www.freetruman.com>.) The onscreen viewers were addicted to the romance, in no way differently than we. (Or at least me, I on the edge of my seat throughout as I was. <g>) I really like that I didn't see this interpretation until it was proposed to me.

(P.S.) My first aware run-in with targeted hyper-related ads was about a year ago, on AltaVista. I did a search for something, and when I got my results page, I had the fleetingest of a feeling that the banner ad on the results page seemed uncannily related to my search. (This thought was like a microsecond of a "That's an interesting coincidence," but not at all on a conscious level.) On my next search, the same perception of uncanniness hit me, but this time I knew why. I instantly became hugely paranoid that the ad wasn't a coincidence at all. Then, like Truman Burbank might have done, I tried talking to the control room. I made a new search, and my only search term, picked off the top of my head, was "Honda." Lo, and behold a Honda ad. I almost jumped out of my seat. Who knew that all this time people have been targeting ads at me based on my personal information searches? And they didn't even tell me? What brilliant manipulator dreamed up that idea?

Since then, I've done a bit of research into Internet ad delivery. There are targeting practices that even I, knowing to look for them, having a pretty good idea of how things work, and being a pretty smart and intuitive guy, didn't foresee.

It's an interesting world our children will be born into.

Christian

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Impressive site!

I haven't been everywhere here, but I didn't see anything on Weir's use of music in the movie. There was a brief discussion of the movie's music recently on the amslist (an unofficial e-mail list of members of the American musicological community). Weir himself blurs the line between the various modes of "reality" with the music. 

There are three different "modes" (my term--I hope I am using it correctly) of musical experience in this movie. We, the MOVIE audience hear it all. Then there is the music that WE hear and the TV audience hears. And finally there is the music that WE hear and the TV audience hears and the music that Truman hears (the car radio, the dance, Marlon's less than adequate trumpet playing). The blur occurs late in the movie. It is late at night and Christof is watching Truman sleep. WE hear the soundtrack of what we think is the movie--but as the camera pans we see a pianist (actually it is Philip Glass contemporary minimalist composer and one of the sources of the music, after Dallwitz, for the movie) playing what we are hearing.

So at one point the TV soundtrack and the MOVIE soundtrack are the same--played before our eyes by one of the composers of the movie. The lines separating the realities are blurred.

Thanks for your time.

David in Pittsburgh

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The Truman Show: A Review by Tony Severa

(All rights reserved, 1998)

After seeing the advertisements for The Truman Show, one would expect the usual Carrey sense of humor and crass jokes. Fortunately, this is not true. The Truman Show is much more that what was advertised. Rather than a comedy, it is more like a tragedy-comedy.

The Truman Show has a very dark side that provoked me into writing this paper. The Truman Show provides an opportunity to consider many topics. This includes such topics as what it means to be innocent? How it feels to feel betrayal by those you trust? What do you do when your sense of reality has reason to be questioned? What do you do with the broadening knowledge that 'everything you know is wrong? There is more, much, much more in The Truman Show.

Innocence and Betrayal:

I would have liked to see this movie without the prior knowledge (innocence) of what the situation was all about (manipulation, brainwashing, entertainment). Advertisements for The Truman Show focused on the humor, and betrayed the reality that Truman lived in (pathos).

We are told in the advertisements that a man by the name of Truman (innocence) finds that he is living in a studio since birth and everything that has happened to him has been staged for public entertainment. Even the advertisements betray the audience (innocence) by telling them the general plot of the story. This film is a tragedy-comedy-drama, with the focus on pathos. Yes, there is comedy, but the pathos that exudes from Truman's eyes and his situation take the humor right out of it.

The theater I saw this film in was filled with young people (high school age) who were definitely Dumb and Dumber fans (rowdy, loud, aggressive). Yet, during the film they were quiet and applauded at the end.

The Village:

My first impression at the start of the film was that Truman was living in a very utopian society reminding me of The Village in the cult series, The Prisoner.

In The Prisoner, the hero (Number Seven) was aware he was in a synthetic village and was always attempting to escape. However, in The Truman Show, it is a devious situation in that, until late in the film, Truman is not aware that everything he knows is wrong, (Fireside Theatre) manipulated, synthetic and staged for the amusement of an audience.

In The Prisoner series, the hero made friends interacted with others in the Village, and even fell in love. But Number Seven was always working against being manipulated. Truman isn't aware of the fact that his mother, father, wife and especially his male friend are synthetic and not based on anything else but a script, ratings, and plain emotional manipulation.

In one very delicate scene we observe Truman and his best friend talking about what it means to trust someone. Suddenly we discover that the friend's dialogue is being prompted to Truman's friend as he talks through a hidden earphone. The friend is not allowed to ad-lib for fear of saying something that cannot be validated later on by the studio.

Surveillance:

Another impression I noticed was the awareness that Truman was constantly under surveillance. In The Prisoner series, surveillance was a very important part of the show, except that the hero knew he was being observed by those in charge (Number Two). Truman doesn't realize he is under constant surveillance until late in the film.

Once Truman learns of the observation, he manipulates the cameras much like the hero in The Prisoner series does. In The Truman Show we are aware of when Truman is being seen through the eyes of the hidden cameras due to the hole effect on the screen (the outside edges of the scene are darkened as if seen through a monocular lens.

It is interesting and kind of fun to observe when and if the perspective we are given changes and why it is changed.

Why Is This Show So Highly Rated? The Audience:

The basic premise of this film is that The Truman Show is shown, internationally, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It has been the number one show for over 30 years. I began wondering what kinds of people would watch this kind of entertainment?

Truman's life appears to me to be somewhat bland and outright boring. Truman appears to be a very nice guy; he's very friendly and polite with almost everyone he meets and talks to. He's a little strange when alone and looking in a mirror (taken from Carrey's real life?), but basically Truman is someone who goes about his life as an insurance salesman, friend and husband in an honest manner. Truman is living the kind of life that the producers of the show want others to have in the world.

But Truman has a deep, hidden need for something else in his life. His life seems to lack passion, and he has passion for two things: exploration and his first love.

Except for the loss of his father in a terrible drowning (manipulation, psychological trauma, water phobia, abandonment), and the loss of his first true "real" love (paranoia, abandonment), we get the feeling nothing much goes on in Truman's life that is exciting. Certainly not as exciting as the kind of stuff the current Soap Operas seem to be pushing into our living rooms. He seems bored and longs to travel and see the world and find his lost love in Fiji.

Then, what is the draw that gets people to watch this show? The few audience scenes we see consists of two older sisters on a couch; a bar full of drinking clients; an elderly man taking a bath; a Japanese family, and two men who seem to work in an underground parking garage.

We are told nothing else about why the audience finds The Truman Show so important. Except that we are told that some people find The Truman Show so comforting that they leave it on all the time, even when they sleep. Why is this? I have found myself, at times, leaving the TV on to whatever show is on while I move about the house, doing house work, cooking, reading a book. Is this an extension of this type of behavior?

Could The Truman Show provide the audience an experience where there they know there is no real danger to Truman (like TV sitcoms) who is a real person and not just an actor? Do they believe that, above all else that happens to Truman, he will survive? Is the draw the fact that they don't have to fear for his life? Do they somehow get the satisfaction, comfort, and ease of mind from The Truman Show because they fear for their own lives? And, there is not other way for them to feel comfortable and safe?

Is it is important to the audience to at least observe and experience with Truman the joy of knowing exactly what is going to happen each and every day (detracting them of their fear of the unknown)?

My wife said she saw a definite connection with how Truman was treated and how someone would treat a pet. We could love the pet, take care of the pet, groom and maintain the pet, find a mate for the pet, but would we allow the pet have any rights? Truman is loved, taken care of, maintained physically, allowed to have a wife, but does he have any rights?

Even though Truman is told that he should take-on a new insurance contract because the company is going to lay off employees, we are given the belief that it is only to manipulate him into reinforcing his phobia against water (sunken ship, water sounds, father drowning, fear, abandonment). The men who operate the ferry don't even know how to operate the vessel. They are just actors. The ferry doesn't go anywhere, anyway. Truman never gets on board, it is there just to test and reinforce his phobia of water and prevent him from leaving the island.

Does the general audience who watches The Truman Show truly care what happens to Truman as a real person? Christof, the producer-director, says that the reason he thought of developing The Truman Show was because audiences were tired of fake emotions from actors.

Does the audience truly care about Truman, the person, the human being? The film ends with a loud message that I believe answers this question. Of course not! They are just looking for another way to pass time and maybe be detracted from their lives.

The audience doesn't care anymore for Truman than they do for any celebrity. Do we really care about our celebrities? If so, why do we get so much satisfaction reading about their problems?

All the audience seems to care about is what channel to turn to next, now that The Truman Show is off the air. Did they question the ethics of what happened in The Truman Show? Of course not.

The audience is not innocent anymore than Christof is. They buy into the manipulation of Truman just as people today purchase the photos of Princess Diane before and after her death.

Someone said recently, "If we could produce a show that broadcasts a real execution, people would flock to see it." That's probably true (look at the Jerry Springer Show), but that doesn't make it right.

It is not always right to give people what they want. There is a price to pay that must be identified first. If people were given everything they wanted, pornography would be the best selling item in the world. Look what's happening in the Internet world regarding the availability of pornography.

Everything Is Sanitized (innocence):

The towns called Seahaven even looks a lot like "The Village" in The Prisoner series. It is kept immaculate and pretty (Blue Velvet). Even the trashcans are kept artificially full. Men move about picking up imaginary trash.

This concept of keeping things clean is also reinforced by the town's negative attitude towards down-and-out, homeless people. We aren't told that homeless people were ever dealt with prior to the sudden and unplanned arrival of Truman's dead father. But the director does a good job in "cleaning the streets".

The removal of his father is even reinforced by newspaper headings the next day that indicate the town is taking a no-nonsense approach to down-and-out people. They are not wanted in this place. His mother also reinforces this attitude when she says, "Why do we want Seahaven to be like the rest of the world?"

Seahaven is a place where real problems don't occur and no one (Truman) should feel embarrassed that they have too much or that someone else may not have anything.

Truman's wife, Meryl, is very clean (innocence, nurse), his home is clean (ever seen a dirty home in an advertisement?), the only place that seems to be unorganized is the cellar where Truman keeps his "precious" few memories of his first love and his desire to be an explorer.

Truman's mind is also not as clean as the director of the show may have believed or wanted. Truman knows something is wrong with his world, but just can't seem to put the puzzle pieces together. Every time he notices something strange, the studio immediately moves to use propaganda to distract his attention or minimize his concerns.

Sex doesn't seem to be an issue that Truman has to deal with much. He admits he knows that his wife doesn't even like him (and he is right). The magazines he buys for his wife seem only to have full face pictures of women and nothing related to sexual content. I was expecting him to be secretly looking at women in underclothing ads, but they weren't there, they weren't anywhere to be seen.

He uses these magazines to help him fantasize about his first love.

Obviously his sexual drive is also being controlled. The only reference to his sexual life is when we are told that when he and his wife become sexual, the camera turns to the curtain and beautiful music is played while the curtain moves. So, they do have sex.

Another indication that they have sex is when his wife indicates that she is ready (its in the script (Fireside Theater) to have a child. It would be the first conception on live television.

Truman watches television and we see he is fed a gruel of black and white movies and I Love Lucy reruns. The radio he listens to while driving to and from work also feeds him gruel of pabulum filled news and music. Magazines at the paper store is filled with magazines focusing on Dog Rearing (reinforce his phobia with dogs) and child bearing (get him thinking about having a child).

Accepting The World You Live In:

Christof, when interviewed, says that the reason Truman Show has been successful is that Truman, like everybody else, accepts the world they are given (Is he talking about us?).

This is especially true if they don't know any different. I did not notice books in the film (Fahrenheit 451, Nazi book burning) except some rather thin hard bound books in his cellar. They had no titles I could make out. I wonder if Truman was allowed to read anything like novels and study philosophy in school. I tend to doubt it. They don't want him thinking for himself (Seconds, The Body Snatchers).

This provokes the question of exactly how much of the world we live in is taken for granted, without thinking or questioning? Mr. Siskel (of Siskel and Ebert) even mentions this in his review of The Truman Show when he asks, "When was the last time you reflected on how really odd a tree looks?"

How close do we really take a look at the objects around us? In a world full of manipulation (advertising, TV, radio, propaganda, politics), should we question more of what we see, hear and understand more than we do? Do we question it at all? Truman didn't, and look where it got him? Where has it gotten us?

Fiji:

Fiji represents both Truman's secret love (innocence, loss) for a woman and his love for exploring the world. What little relationship he had with Sylvia was very special and reeks of innocence. Even Sylvia shows love and care for Truman (it obviously wasn't in the script). We aren't sure if her caring for Truman was because she was a part of the 'revolt against The Truman Show' or if she became a rebel after she fell in love with him and was ousted from the studio.

When Truman first attempts to talk to Sylvia she is very hesitant and appears to be sincere that she knows that she shouldn't be talking to him. Besides, she has no script. But we seem to be assured that she has pity and love for him. She even runs out to find him when he leaves the studio. Maybe he won't have to wait for Fiji to find her again.

Fiji also represents a goal for Truman that truly comes from himself and would get him out of the village. Truman doesn't know what other villages, towns and cities are truly are. He sees old movies, newspaper headlines touting the dangers of other cities, and sees travel advertising. Truman has always wanted to be an explorer but had to deal with his teacher telling him, as a child, "Why? Everything has already been discovered."

Who Controls Truman's World?

Truman's world is controlled by a producer/director named Christof (Of Christ? Christ like?). He has a control room conveniently placed in the Moon, which is always high in the sky and never moves. It doesn't have to move since Truman was probably never taught about the heavens and how the planets, sun and moon work. It is attached to the synthetic horizon over the synthetic ocean and overlooks Seahaven.

Christof dismisses protestors who believe Truman is the victim of a cruel deception. He even goes on to say that he has done a good thing for Truman (paternal benevolent dictator, Svengali, Hitler, Stalin). He says that Truman lives in a safe world where nothing harmful would ever happen to him.

It depends on what he means by harmful. The phobias that are created and psychological pressure put upon this man can be interpreted as harmful.

Isn't feeling safe something we all seem to have wanted at one point or another in our lives? Our media seems to look at the 50's as that sort of world. Where everything seemed to be in control or under control and people just went about life living bland, happy existences (i.e., safe). Is this true?

When interviewed, Christof has the audacity to say, "I have given Truman a chance to lead a normal life," he says. "Seahaven is the way the world should be."

Would you want to live in a world where you were the only one who was real and had real feelings? Obviously Christof is only talking about such things as dirt, creativity, spontaneity, crime, etc. He is talking about a world with no tension.

When I was a child growing up in the 50's, I seem to remember problems like the Bomb, fallout shelters, blatant racism, gangs (Hells Angels), drugs, and crime. I don't remember the 50's as the media is representing them. We, who grew up in the 50's didn't just spend our time in sock-hops dancing to Bill Haley and His Comets or driving our hot-rods at racetracks. There was also a lot of real fear going on in the 50's.

Christof uses technical language or what some call Technospeak that further isolates him and the actions he performs on Truman with the results of his manipulation (denial, psychological trauma, love). He says, "there is our hero shot." He doesn't mention that hero shot is just a film making term and has no relationship to real emotions.

Christof truly believes he loves Truman in a fatherly, godlike manner. You can see this when he touches the screen while Truman sleeps and when he finally talks to Truman. He is a loving guardian who will do anything he feels will sell the show, a true dichotomy (innocence, betrayal).

This reminds me of those parents who manipulate and work their children in the world of children's beauty pageants. Who's interest is truly being served here? Christof's? Or is it Truman's?

Christof's drive to keep the show alive has contaminated Christof's love for Truman. For the show to stay alive, Christof must keep Truman alive, but in the dark about the real world. Even when Truman learns from Christof of his true situation, Christof seems to think that Truman will come back to live the rest of his life as a pawn (bird in the cage with the open door).

Understanding The Truth Of His World:

This movie chronicles Truman's attempt to understand that his world is not real, that the buildings are not what they represent (banks are not banks, elevators are just fronts of a stage set), that people are not what they seem (male buddy, wife, friends).

This becomes apparent when he attempts to step out in front of vehicles and they stop without even reacting to him. He also displays this same phenomenon when he claps in the store and no one turns his or her face to look at who made the sound. He doesn't understand why they don't react to him, but they don't. He even whacks a man on the butt to get a reaction and the guy just goes about doing what his script calls for.

We begin see Truman's desperate attempt to maintain control over his sanity while he observes more and more that objects, people, and relationships may not be what they seem. Perhaps it was best that he didn't fully comprehend the truth about his male buddy (betrayal), and his wife (innocence, betrayal) and their relationship with him till the end of the movie.

Just What Is Entertainment?

This is not going to be a treatise on the philosophical aspects of entertainment. However, I do believe that, as a society, we need to address this question. What one person sees as entertainment another person may see as dumb, evil, dangerous, funny, essential, tragic or a stupid waste of time. Entertainment is similar to what McCluhan said about art. "Art is anything you can get away with." We can say the same thing about entertainment in our world. Hasn't entertainment become anything they can get away with?.

For Truman, entertainment is actually propaganda oriented towards keeping Truman under control.

Entertainment has become more than just a way for us to pass time. It seems to have become a habit that we find impossible to stop. Ever try and have a TV-less week? Try it, and you might be surprised about how addicted to TV and media you have become. Is media and entertainment a method being used to help control us? And, if so, to what purpose?

Does the audience watching The Truman Show just go back to their lives when the show is over? I'll bet the suicide prevention phones began ringing all over the world once the show went off.

Media Saturated Culture:

The Truman Show allows us to take a look at the media saturated culture we now find ourselves in. In Truman's world, media is everywhere he looks. But it is nothing like what we encounter in a normal day. For Truman, though, it has the same effect.

In Truman's world the direction the media is pushing has but one purpose: to control Truman's thoughts, likes, dislikes, and thoughts to focus on one particular interest. In our culture, media is so fragmented and controlled by so many special interests, we are probably lucky it isn't focused enough to push only one vision of reality for us to live in. Did I say lucky?

Imagine the impact if all the special interests involved in media decided to rid tobacco from our world?

Media in Truman's world include TV (old movies) used so that Truman has no reference on what real life is like in the outside world. This is evident because the movies are obviously of the 30-40's classics or the Lucy Show so that phrases like, ""That's the whole kit and caboodle" enter into Truman's dialogue. The radio programming consists of boring music, soft talk about weather, and to directly answer questions Truman may have about something that he has suspicious feelings about. We don't see many books, but there are signs (ads) and posters that push (subliminal) his fear about traveling in planes; his fear of dogs, and his fear of being over water.

Media also becomes a part of the leak of reality into Truman's world when something goes wrong with his radio and he begins to pick up the technical director staging events for Truman as he drives to work. This could be a direct metaphor for what this movie's author wanted to do for us today. Maybe this film is a leak of reality in our world?

Ex-Duce Machine:

With all the effort that Christof puts into manipulating Truman's entire environment (weather, sun, friends, deaths, etc.) he has little control over equipment and some extras that work on the show. Machinery continues to be a problem throughout the film and provide Truman many of the hints that all is not what it appears. It starts with the fall of the studio lamp, continues with the failing radio, and continues on with the staff who attempt to tell Truman the truth about his world.

I was amused when the sprinkler system didn't work right and the rain only fell on Truman for a little while. Truman was even confused and tried to get away from the errant sprinkler. The crew attempted, in vain, to keep the rain on him until the rest of the sprinkler system came on. This was truly funny and yet tragic. What was the effect on Truman's concept of rain? Had this ever happened to him before? How would you feel if something like this happened to you?

Technology is what makes The Truman Show possible, and may also be what brings The Truman Show down. It's hard to explain to Truman why his ship's front mast gets stuck in the horizon at the edge of the set or why steps seem to climb into the sky.

Christof also has trouble controlling extras like the first girl Truman falls in love with (Sylvia) and the sudden appearance of his father after Truman thought he was dead for 20 years.

Voluntary Exhibitionism:

In The Truman Show we see what exhibitionism truly looks and feels like. A phenomenon we see more and more in our world is the blending and violation of the boundaries between our private and public lives. Shows like Cops, Real TV, Funny Home Videos, The Jerry Springer Show, Oprah, and other talk shows blur the boundaries of what should be private and what is appropriate to be public.

I am stunned, yet find myself drawn to these types of public displays of private lives. I find it alluring to watch, yet have to remind myself it is only selling me to an advertisement. There must be a study that explains why people are so willing to display their dirty underwear (or someone else's dirty underwear) on TV for all to see and laugh at.

In the 60's movie, Friends, the start and end of the movie play the same dialogue by two men sitting at a bench in the middle of a park.

The phrase is, "Look, you can see her underpants." The first time they say it is when they see a woman sitting on the grass in the park sunning herself. The last time they say it is when the woman's dead body is being carried to a waiting ambulance on a stretcher.

It is said with the same lack of emotion and bland interest. There is no interest in the woman, who she is or was, why she is there, even why she was killed. Their only interest is that they can see something that isn't normally displayed in public. They got to see something that was private.

Laughing at people; their weaknesses; their sorrows; their sadness; their indifference to the suffering of others; and their meanness has become a money making opportunity for those like Christof and talk show producers.

At least Truman didn't volunteer to be displayed as such. What can those we see daily on our televisions say about their motivations for such boundary violations?

But the fault isn't only with them. It also lies with those of us (alas, including me) who watch these sorts of public displays. Like the audience rooting for Truman during his struggle for survival in the make believe sea, they don't realize that they are the reason he is in jeopardy in the first place.

Are we willing to take responsibility for what is done to and by people for our entertainment?

Spontaneity:

In The Truman Show spontaneity is always possible even though everything is scripted and thought-out. When something spontaneous occurs, the director immediately takes control and manipulates it to the show's advantage, away from Truman's advantage.

How similar this is to what happens in our media filled world today. Nothing important that spontaneously occurs can get away from being influenced or corrupted by media in some manner (spinning).

Look at the death of Princes DI for a simple example. Look at the Clinton - Star conflicts. No matter what happens, planned for or spontaneous, media begins the spin control to take advantage of the situation for someone's purpose.

Fear:

One of the prime methods used to manipulate Truman is fear. Truman's fears are created to provide a method to control him. Christof doesn't want Truman leaving Seahaven so he uses the synthetic drowning of his father to create a phobia to prevent him from ever using the sea as a means to escape.

Christof uses the reinforcement of a barking dog every day so that the dog he runs into in the walkway leading out of the town scares him back.

Christof uses news stories in the paper that mention the problems of other cities and how SeaHaven is the safest place to live just to keep Truman satisfied and scared of the outside world. Christof also uses posters that advertise the risk of flying so that Truman consider flying out of SeaHaven.

Media, in our world, also uses fear. Advertising continues to implant and press us with images of dirty homes (fear of germs), dirty dishes (fear of disease), dirty toilets (fear of disease), wrong clothes (fear of public opinion, shame), wrong shoes (fear of peer disapproval), and many more.

In a world where everyone is given the message that it is important to be an "individual", why is everyone wearing the same kinds of fashions, driving the same kind of trucks, vans, etc.?

Freedom:

Truman is obviously attempting to gain a freedom and right he has never known. He has felt the pain of containment without knowing the real truth about how really contained he was. The Truman Show is about a person who must break through all the barriers, even to the point of talking back to his God (JB).

Many people learn in movie appreciation classes that in movies and any visual media, what is not shown may be as important or more important than what is shown to the audience. Important information about reality is constantly filtered and kept from Truman all the time (1984).

This also happens to us. Media continually filters what is given to us. Our emotions and feelings are manipulated by what is fed us and not fed us. Our imagination is also fed to limit its use and effectiveness.

When was the last time you attempted to write a story or poem? TV, radio, movies, advertisements send messages (subliminal and not so subliminal) that the authors want us to respond to. Sometimes these messages are hidden from our perception (subliminal). They still have an effect on many of us.

The Truman Show provides us a glimpse of what an exciting world it would be to break free of the constraints and experience life for what it truly is, not what some advertiser wants Truman to believe it is.

Is that possible anymore for us?

Was it ever?

* * * * * *

THE SKY IS A ROOF!
FREE TO BE HUMAN: PREFACE FOR THE THIRD PRINTING

By: David Edwards

There is a wonderful moment in the film 'The Truman Show' when Truman's
'friend' of more than thirty years, Marlon, responds to Truman's growing
sense that his entire reality is somehow being fabricated as part of some
great conspiracy:

"The last thing that I would do is lie to you. If everybody was in on it, I'
d have to be in on it too. I'm not in on it, Truman, because there is no 'in
'."

The beauty of the scene is that Marlon's passionately sincere assurances
that he would not lie, that he is not in on any conspiracy, are in fact
being relayed to him through a microphone by a director watching the entire
scene from atop the vast dome that covers the entire mock town and doubles
as the sky.

Truman, it turns out, has guessed right. He is the first child to be
"legally adopted by a corporation" and has spent his entire life on a giant
theatrical set modelled on small-town America, Sea Haven, observed through
5,000 pinhole cameras. His mother and father, his friends, his wife, are all
actors in the ultimate docu-soap: 'The Truman Show'. Only the unwitting
Truman is real. His society, of course, has programmed him to view all
speculation on such a conspiracy as utter madness: he is controlled by
fears, hopes, the need to belong, just like you are. Just like I am.

The Truman Show is a perfect metaphor for our time. It is exactly this level
of deception to which we are subjected - the unadulterated lie presenting
itself as the absolute truth. As the historian Howard Zinn notes:

"The truth is so often the reverse of what has been told us by our culture
that we cannot turn our heads far enough around to see it."

You and I, nice people that we are, normally do not expect human beings to
say the exact opposite of what is true. We know that people twist the truth,
squash it a little, stretch it, but they generally don't reverse it. This is
why it is important to remember that when we are listening to corporate and
state spokespeople disseminating "the truth" of our culture, we are not
listening to the independent human beings of ordinary, day-to-day
experience, we are listening to human beings radically constrained by the
structural requirements of their institutions.

'Oh come on, people aren't that dishonest!', I hear you cry. Oh, but they
are - especially with themselves. Upton Sinclair explained the problem:

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary
depends upon his not understanding it."

Women too! People have a capacity for saying and believing whatever they
have to say and believe in order to keep their jobs - history suggests that
there are few if any limits to this self-deception.

Alas, seeing through the illusions of society is far harder for us than for
Truman. A conspiracy can always be betrayed, exposed. The deceptions in our
society, however, are not the product of a conspiracy; they are the product
of market forces. Nobody conspires to build a snowflake, it is in the nature
of water, ice, air and cold temperatures for snowflakes - which look for all
the world like they have been painstakingly designed - to be perfectly
symmetrical.

Likewise, nobody conspires to prevent the media telling the truth: a
profit-seeking media system operating within a capitalist society dominated
by corporate and state power just comes to report in a way that reflects the
values, interests and goals of that power. Editors and journalists just come
to believe that what they write is the unadulterated, unexpurgated truth.
People who challenge the notion that a corporate press could be a free
press, are odd, Truman-like figures shouting 'The sky is a roof! The sky is
a roof! There is more!'. Kalle Lasn of Adbusters describes how editors
received his attempts to place his anti-consumerist TV adverts:

"They laughed me out of the building... They just giggled and laughed and
said 'Hey, this isn't a commercial, we don't play this kind of thing'."

When environmental journalist George Monbiot raised the issue of resource
use and global warming with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
"they burst into gales of laughter. They found these concepts funny, I think
because... anyone who could compare them in importance to the growth of
their industry had to be either joking or insane".

As Truman's wife pleads, "Let me get you some help, Truman, you're not
 well."

In Sea Haven, the local paper's headline reads: "Sea Haven: The Best Place
on Earth". When Truman tells his teacher he wants "to be an explorer, like
Magellan", she replies: "You're too late, there's really nothing left to
explore." In the town's tourist office, a poster shows an airliner being
struck by lightning: "It Could Happen To You!" it warns. Naturally enough,
everything is designed to work against Truman's wanderlust.

In our corporate capitalist society, talk shows ask "Shopping or sex: which
is better?" Education ministers openly declare that "The end-users of
education are the employers." Our news broadcasters announce: "And the main
headline this lunchtime: Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles have
appeared as a couple, in public, for the first time." Naturally enough,
everything is designed to work against our wonderlust.

As Norman Mailer has written, all of this comes at a certain cost for the
editors and journalists:

"There is an odour to any Press Headquarters that is unmistakable... the
unavoidable smell of flesh burning quietly and slowly in the service of a
machine."

Many of the ideas in our heads - the notion that we live in a free
democracy, that the West supports human rights in the Third World, there is
nothing more to life than fun, status is success, life is meaningless,
romantic love is 'the answer', anger is empowering - are what comes out of
the end of this machine. It's not pretty.

Few of us question the version of reality with which we are presented. But,
as happens to Truman, glitches in the programme are beginning to wake us
from our slumber. In the film, Truman begins to wake up when an object
crashes down from the 'sky'. It is clearly a light from a TV studio and is
labeled 'Sirius' - being the light used to represent that star on the roof
of the dome. In the same way, climate change, ozone depletion, the mass
death of species, are all waking us up to the fact that 'normal' is in fact
pathological - the devastation of the environment may well prove to be the
best thing that ever happened to freedom of thought!


David Edwards, February 2000

* * * * * *

Well, I'm writing to you after visiting your site of the Truman Show. I
looked for some information of this movie because I've just watched this
one yesterday and I kept thinking about it during the rest of my day. I
was impressed by the different style of this movie, mainly due to the
massive movies alike that are produced nowadays where we can even
discover what is going to happen in the next few minutes and after we
leave the cinema it is possible we forget the whole story at the nearest
corner. Each scene of this movie was a discover for me. I had already
read some notes about the plot but I had never been informed how things
would take place. I liked very much the way he (the director) turned the
movie language into a TV language (sometimes it seems we are watching TV
but not a movie) that day by day, try treating us as children, as having
no own conscious.
So, today I decided to look for a site that had any information about
The Truman Show. The fist I came across was this one for my happiness. I
like sites that brigs wide explanation and critics of the movie, and not
only the movie's advertisement. One of the questions you make us is if
the view is simplified in creating villains and heroes. Well, its
something really hard to answer, because whereas the companies try
manipulating people it does seem people want really to live in a
wonderful world of fantasy. As you have mentioned the Disneyland, I
think I can even mention the drugs. You see, people try to run away from
reality by the same way as the Disney´┐Żs visitors looking for the same
kind of thing: "pretend their lives could be like those few precious
minutes of illusion". So if they want to feel like this, why to blame
the
illusion Companies for this situation?
Here in my country, Brazil, it was discussed last year about the
control the government should have over the TV's programming, because
naked woman and violence was becoming trivial on TV on Sundays. Some
writers didn't like this opinion: they claimed that if the government
had the power to decide what should be showed on TV, we would be
returning to dictatorship ages where artists were not free to exposure
their ideas. The argue keeps going on and I haven't yet decided who's
right, or better saying, who's more right.

Congratulations for your site!!!!

Vinicius Bittencourt Peixoto de Melo

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