“We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented in The Truman Show. It’s as simple as that. Listen to me, Truman. There’s no more truth out there than there is in the world I created for you. The same lies. The same deceit. But in my world, you have nothing to fear. I know you better than you know yourself.”Christof, The Truman Show
I would like to begin the article by making an honest confession, which is that I did not watch ” The Truman Show” until very recently. I know(sighs) and I can imagine the disappointment on your face, which is fair and square. But Hey! as they say, “ Better late than never“. Watching ” The Truman Show” from the lens of 2021, looked more relevant than ever. It felt like the movie predicted everything from controlled reality to how social media and reality TV would come to dominate our lives. The film touches upon various aspects of our contemporary lives. It asks various pertinent questions like,” Is there a line between public and private life?”. ” Have people blurred the difference between reality and entertainment?” ” Has everything become about controlled reality?”
More Relevant Than ever-The Truman Show
The Truman Show is a metaphor for the world that we live in. A world where we can tune in for entertainment 24/7, we can know about anybody and everybody under the sun, and a constant need to know what the other guy is doing in life. The social media apps have made everyone Truman of their lives. A place where everyone can be available all the time, share anything they want and feel happy, and get insecure about others. The celebrities share every aspect of their lives on various platforms. The life where they are perfectly curated, work under a narrative, and add an aspirational value to their being. Yet the question remains, ” Are they able to live their authentic life?” The answer is no, and they don’t care about wanting to explore their real selves.
Everything is about traction and views, creators are willing to go to any depths, just to get that sweet piece of fame and following. The more numbers you have, the more the sponsors and ultimately, more money. The movie portrays the same, where Christof curates the life of Truman just to garner more attraction. He does not care about how it is affecting Truman’s life and his privacy. There are no emotions, his parents, wife, and even his best friend are all staged in his life. In a similar fashion, the creators do not care about what they are showing and its impact. Till the time it gets the numbers that they want, Everything is fine.
Problem with the Audience-The Truman Show
If the creators, platforms, and the media are a mess, then the audience is the creator of that mess. It is because everything revolves around eyeballs and content is turning out the way it is- as it has an audience for it. If the audience won’t demand such content, nobody will provide such content. Is it the case? The people want to know everything about their perfect idols. They want to know if the celebrities face the same meager problems as they do.
This aspect of the audience has been depicted beautifully in the movie through a hotel staff, a parking tickets watchman, a foreign family, a guy in the bathtub, and an old-aged couple. They constantly watch, place bets, and relate with Truman. They feel happy when Truman finds his true love in the form of Slivia and feel sad when Truman wants to get out of the artificial facility.
One may think that such coverage will make people more empathetic instead it has the opposite effect; people see them as props and tools for spectacle. It has been shown subtly in a scene where Truman finally escapes the facility, the parking ticket guys immediately lose their interest and change the channel of the television. Peter Wier, the creator. has said it aptly while speaking with The Independent in the interview that,” The viewers in my film are part of monstrous exploitation of a person to the point where they have lost the ability to differentiate between real and unreal.”
Controlled Reality-The Truman Show
” Nothing in the show is fake, it is just controlled”Marlon, Truman’s best friend
The major problem of the entertainment industry is a phenomenon termed as “controlled reality“. The producers want to show what the audience aspires to be. They want to portray a cinematic experience for a normal guy like us. An aspiration,a desire is there in the eyes of everybody for things to happen in a cinematic way for them. With cameras recording their memories to the romantic background sound when they propose. The producer adhering to the needs of the audience often curates the narrative and creates a willing suspension of disbelief. They want their actors to act in a certain way that makes the show more spicy and addictive. It happens in shows like- “Big Brother“. “ The Bachelor”.”Keeping up with the Kardasians”
In The Truman Show, Christof, the producer, goes on to take extreme steps for the drama. Truman developed a phobia for water, by staging a storm that supposedly kills his father and making the poor kid feel responsible for it. And 22 years later, the father is brought back in Truman’s life. just to bring up a sentimental value with a perfect camera angle and emotional background music.
Paparazzi, delivering what the people require by covering every public movement of relevant celebrities. Not providing them with their deserved privacy. Peter Wier, said about Princess Diana’s death,” The very people who were outraged of the perceived cause of her death which were the paparazzi chasing her car, were the same people who bought the magazines and tabloid papers. They loved her, but they wanted to watch every moment of her life. If they had a camera in her house, they would have had the viewership of the Truman show or more“
The Truman Delusion
In our world, everything has become about being perfect. There is a certain preconceived notion about doing everything in an accurate manner. The desire to excel at everything is propelled by the influencers and media personnel who depict their wonderful life. They show all the highs of their life and a few times, their downslide, from which they will recover in a heroic manner. Ordinary life is not that black and white. Every day is not full of bliss and everyone goes through ups and downs in their life. However, the aspiration is to become the influencer, whose life is exciting and perfect according to societal norms.
The movie tries to convey a message through Truman. Just like his name, he wants to be true and try to escape the fake world he lives in. He is what many people aspire to be. Yrt he is not satisfied with it, showing no glory in such a life.
In the process, a void is created in a person which has led to various mental disorders. After the movie, a mental disorder was discovered known as ” The Truman Delusion” Under this, the people feel they are being recorded and broadcasted. They feel like they are part of the reality show. Many celebrities have openly admitted the disorder. Like Kanye West, once said,” I have reached a point in my life where my Truman Show has hit the painting.”
In an idealistic world, art should be separated from the commercial world. But do we live in an ideal world? The entertainment industry requires sponsors for them to run effectively, which is perfectly alright. The problem comes when it becomes more about money than art. Everything has become a product. The corporations want their product to be shown in every possible way. We witness across various platforms, where creators promote a brand that is showcased in a way that it looks like the brand is a part of their everyday life.
In The Truman Show, various products are being showcased through the fictional characters in Truman’s life. It also states that the fictional characters do not know what their real life is. They are busy making the show successful. In a scene, where Truman and Meryl fight, Meryl suddenly states, ” All natural cocoa beans from upper slopes of Mount Nicargna. No artificial sweetness.” Pointing out in a way, the importance of fulfilling every company’s demand. Christof states that,” Everything on the show is for sale. From the actor’s wardrobe, food products to the very homes they live in.”
One of the themes that the show explores is an existential question, that is, Predestination vs Free will. Are we in control of the decisions that we make? Is there anything like free will? Are we just a part of the world where everything is predestined? The film poses such a question through the life of Truman. For 22 years until the time he escaped, he believed in what he was told. In the same manner, are we part of a bigger narrative? Do we have a specific purpose to fulfill? It is a spiritual and an essential question that the film poses.
In a way, Christof is the God for Truman because he has decided everything that Truman will get access to. The film constantly throws such heavy questions around especially in the last scene. The scene where Truman is about to escape the artificial world for the very first time. It makes one wonder, Do we know things? Can Truman really be that blind? And really, what is real in this ever-changing world? The best part about The Truman show is the ability to pose such heavy questions with the laughs coming simultaneously.
In conclusion, the film is way ahead of its time. It raises some serious questions for our society. It gave us warning signs which we did not follow. We have to realize the kind of mess we are in. And ignoring these problems will further exacerbate our situation. We will have to realize the line between reality and entertainment. As an audience, we need to get more empathetic and realize that everything can not be perfect. Some things will happen in ways that we may not like. We need to get better both as a society and audience. If you read the article in the morning, Good Morning! Oh, and in case you read it anytime else, Good afternoon, Good evening and Good Night( if you know, you know).