Movies can make you believe some crazy things, and when I saw…
…I thought because of all of the bizarre things that had happened in my life, I thought I too was being watched 24/7, with people manipulating my daily choices in life.
It didn’t help that I had barely left my little crazy small town all that much, either. So in my limited viewpoint, I essentially was in that kind of town.
I wasn’t alone however, and while I didn’t take this seriously, it is a real thing. It’s called The Truman Show Delusion. As one might expect, it’s the belief that you are also being watched 24/7 whether it be from the Government, Aliens, or as part of a similar type of reality show.
It’s easy to let the mind wander and experience the same thoughts, as there’s almost an excitement that emanates from it. The idea that you could be important enough to get that sort of attention… there’s some longing behind that emotion; the need to be wanted.
In The Truman Show, Truman Burbank is indeed living under the watchful eye of billions from around the world, and he isn’t the least aware. His day-to-day actions are monitored and controlled to make the most effective dramatic outcome to appease the network and their precious ratings.
Kristoff (that’s it; another one-name pretension) is the director and creator of the show. Every moment that goes onto the screen is through his approval, and his say alone. He’s essentially the God in this allegory: The Father, The Creator.
But there is much more than Biblical Daddy Issues here. There are a lot of other relatable themes that The Truman Show toys with.
Truman is isolated; surrounded by hundreds and watched by millions, but completely alone. There isn’t anyone like him, no one to share in this experience without fear of breaking the illusion.
The daily grind he motions through: the repetition, the restrictions; it’s something we all face in a world that doesn’t make sense to us. We cling to these “securities” in order to gain some control over our surroundings, but in the end if we need to justify these limitations in such a manner, are we ever truly living?
And finally, the one that hits home the most is the feeling of restraint. While this sounds awfully similar to the idea of restrictions, it’s more about trying to make a living that you can enjoy in our world. So when Truman tries to fly to Fiji to give it all up and be with Sylvia, the “Man” (Kristoff) holds him back.
Like a boa tightening its grip around your torso, the world shrinks in scale and what’s left around you just isn’t enough. You’re held down, restricted from growth. The most obvious real world analogy to this innate emotion is the financial (and contractual) obligations preventing one from truly living life or seeing the world.
Now think about how Truman’s journey once he gets out of that dome at the end of the film–
He’ll go meet Sylvia, who is the one of the few who fought for his freedom on the outside. Truman, an established household personality, somehow able to live a care-free and simple life, will be bombarded with celebrity and forced to rethink what it means to simply live.
If he were to lean into it, he could float quite nicely on the money he would make from his talk show appearances, public visits, and eventual tell-all book/ movie deals. He would be thrown into the political conversation on corporate adoption and the moral dilemma regarding taking advantage of a child and ruining their lives.
He’d become a figurehead for their movement either way. But is that what Truman wants? Is that what he currently knows as “living?” Can he ever experience a semi-normal life again? Kristen himself said it: The world is different, full of fear and sadness. Seahaven is a pleasant and docile world. But he didn’t want to be a part of any of this, in fact, he never had a choice to begin with.
Then there is the idea that everyone around Truman has been faking their interactions and emotional connections with him. He has never felt a real connection, except the one with Sylvia. Talk about massive trust issues when he’s out.
That could also be interpreted as a mental disorder. If you think the whole world is out to get you, or worse, talks about you behind your back, then not only do you experience trust issues, but you’re unable to relate to anyone in a meaningful way. And in Truman’s case… He’s had a rough childhood, er– and adulthood.
We could talk about the themes and they relate to real life all day, and this is why I love this movie. The idea, while not original, is a beautiful depiction of such a plot.
Speaking to my experience with “believing” I was being watched, I remember giving a hard time to my younger brother then, telling him repeatedly “Trav, it’s ok. I know. I know it’s all fake.” Essentially that scene from Good Will Hunting. I was a pretty mean older brother.
While that thought (and following pestering) didn’t last, it can be a lifetime of The Truman Show Delusion. That is a scary thought.
Okay, back to the movie.
The Truman Show is one of those films that came out near the release of another film with an extremely similar concept, formally called Twin Films (More on that soon), with the parallel here being the 1999 movie, EdTV.
I had originally watched this movie because at the time my all-time favorite actor, Jim Carrey, was a part of it. Thankfully, he made a film like this, because it really made me appreciate a compelling story and dramatic acting for a change.
Where/ when did I first see it?
I first watched The Truman Show on VHS in the late 90s. As I mentioned earlier, I watched it because I had loved Jim Carrey then; like an unhealthy obsession with him.
And yes, undoubtedly I rented it at the Video Market.
How does it hold up?
Short answer: Amazingly well. Longer answer: The film stands the test of time for it relies solely upon the premise with a few technical gripes. The town itself is an idealic 50s/60s setting, which could say a lot about Kristoff’s view on the modern world. As he himself was raised during this innocent time period, he wanted to instill that same sense of security and peace. At best Kristoff is an old man viewing his surroundings in the “Back in my Day” mentality we all share; At worst? He’s a nutcase afraid of the world around us.
The technology regarding cameras surely has advanced (briefly mentioned in the film), but it’s seriously not an issue.
What did I like about it and why?
Initially it was the idea of watching someone grow up on TV. As a big couch potato at this time, I was excited by the idea and would have paid money to watch a show like that. It spoke to the voyeuristic nature deeply seeded in all of us.
As I grew up, I had come to appreciate the aforementioned themes more and truly grew to love the film on a whole new level.
- If you see a studio light fall from the sky, you should be concerned.
- If you see people suddenly grab people with whom you’d like to react, run after them.
- If you’re reading this, you’re in a television centered around your life. Smile for the camera!
Where can you see it?
Check out The Truman Show on CanIStream.It?