Movies: The Truman Show

I first heard about The Truman Show (1998) from a Communications course I took at school.

The movie is about a man named Truman Burbank. He is described to be the first baby to ever be adopted by a corporation. He lives in a white-picket fence neighborhood with his wife and works as an insurance salesman. Everything about his town and the island he lives on is fake. It is all an elaborate TV set and every second of his life is broadcasted live to the entire world since his first day of birth. Of course, Truman himself is not aware of this fact and he lives his life thinking it is reality when everything is constructed by the show’s creator, Christof. All the people in his life: his mother, wife, best friend, neighbors, and the random strangers walking by on the street are paid actors. The weather and sea currents are all controlled by the control room on the 200-something floor of the studio (situated behind the moon). As a 30-year-old man, Truman finally notices strange occurrences in his life. He begins to uncover the truth, with everyone in his world trying to stop him.

We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.

It is an amazing movie, very thought-provoking and tests the ethical limits of television. The Truman Show creates many questionable parallels to the real world, such as the themes of betrayal and deceit, freedom and fear, a “creator”, and the conventional “happy” life. The very fact that I found the movie entertaining makes me question whether or not I would find the actual show fun to watch, if it actually existed.

A part of me goes: Hey! That is immoral! Truman is a prisoner trapped in a make-believe world. How can you just watch him like that for 30 years and allow him to live his entire life as a lie? How is that entertaining? How is that right?


It really makes me wonder if this kind of a television show can actually happen. I mean, this movie came out in the 90’s. Now, there are tons of popular reality TV shows. The Truman Show just takes it a few steps further.

Some memorable and fun moments from this film:

  • Clips of random people sneaking into The Truman Show and trying to tell him the truth.

There were some funny ones. I especially liked the one where a random guy pops out of a Christmas present on Christmas morning yelling, “They’re lying to you, Truman!” and wearing a sign saying “IT’S ALL TV”. He ends up getting pinned down onto the sofa by the father, to when he says “Yes! I’m on The Truman Show!”

  • The clear efforts to kill Truman’s curiosity about exploring and traveling the rest of the world.

Young Truman: I want to be an explorer, like the Great Magellan.
Teacher: [indicating a map of the world] Oh, you’re too late! There’s nothing left to explore!

Truman cannot go to Fiji… or anywhere, really. If he leaves he will find out that he is living on an island in a studio set.

  • When Truman’s father reappears after his death that occurred many years ago. The 2 hug and cry.

In order to instill fear into Truman so that he won’t want to leave the island, there was an episode where Truman’s father dies at sea while the 2 of them are out sailing. This is supposed to be a heart-warming reunion between them, but I found it to be a scene of betrayal and a twisted love. Truman’s father in this scene is his actual father. This means this role is not played by an actor. I assume Truman’s father agreed to be on the show with his son and has basically lied to him his entire life. He probably did not want to part from Truman (especially since he’s not actually dead), and wanted to be back in Truman’s life so he was rewritten back into the script and brought back to life. Because of this, I find this scene to be an ultimate scene of betrayal. Instead of trying to free his son from the cage he lives in, he ends up lying to him again just to be with him. What are the rules of parenting? What will you do as a parent in order to protect your child? Are you even protecting them or are you just restraining them?

  • Christof’s interview.

Christof gets interviewed as the creator of The Truman Show. He is an eccentric man whom I believe is a little mentally psychotic. He loves Truman (strokes the camera capture of his sleeping face) and has this possessive desire to maintain his “perfect world”. During the interview, he receives a call from someone who is against the show. The retorts Christof say back are cynical and critique the real world. While this movie is a comedy, some of the stuff Christof says during the interview stays in your mind for the rest of the film.

 I have given Truman the chance to lead a normal life. The world, the place you live in, is the sick place.

This line clicks into my mind. Yea, he’s kind of mentally unstable and probably has some issues, but what about everyone else? What about all the actors and actresses? And even more so, how about the audience? Why is this show loved and watched by millions? Are we not all sick people for him to create such a sick manifestation of a world?

  • Product Placement.

It takes a lot of money to fund this kind of a setup. Fortunately for this show, enormous amounts of revenue are generated through product placement. It was funny to see Truman’s wife suddenly staring right at the camera with this bright smile while endorsing for a coffee brand. Everything you see in The Truman Show is for sale, right down from the clothing on the actors or the household appliances or cars on the street. I guess I know why this movie was talked about in Communications. They seem to have a tendency to hate marketers and advertisers.

  • Truman is trying to sail away from the island after escaping from his house. The creator is trying to stop him in the control room, telling people to make bigger waves and more lightning.

Network Executive: For God’s sake, Chris! The whole world is watching. We can’t let him die in front of a live audience!
Christof (creator): He was born in front of a live audience.

I guess this is finally where some common sense and humanity kicks in. I guess lying to the poor man for 30 years is alright, but actually killing him is not. At least, not when everything is watched live by an audience.

  • When Truman finally sails to the end of the set after almost drowning. He walks alongside a wall of painted, blue sky and sees the stairs and the exit door. The creator of the show speaks to him from his room in the moon by audio, trying to persuade him to return.

It was no doubt this scene signaled the end of a life. Just like how it is thought to be that when a person dies, he or she will ascent up the stairs to Heaven, Truman finds himself standing on those steps. The creator never reveals his face to Truman, so Truman ends up listening to him while looking up at the sky/light/sun. The creator told him that he had built the perfect world for him, one that is just like the real one and he is the star. This last scene provides a fitting end to the world he tried to create.

A quick note: the name printed on Truman’s sailboat says Santa Maria, which is the same name as one of Christopher Columbus’s ships.

I knew Jim Carrey would bring his slapstick comedy (which I dislike…) into the movie. I guess in some ways he was a perfect fit for the time frame of the suburban 80’s/90’s lifestyle with his cheesy morning greetings. To play a man who grew up in the perfect world, I guess his cheesy acting was a good match. Overall, I think The Truman Show is a great film concept and brings out a lot of insights on media landscapes. If you don’t think too much about it, it could be just a silly movie.

We’ve become bored with watching actors give us phony emotions. We are tired of pyrotechnics and special effects. While the world he inhabits is, in some respects, counterfeit, there’s nothing fake about Truman himself. No scripts, no cue cards. It isn’t always Shakespeare, but it’s genuine. It’s a life.



3 thoughts on “Movies: The Truman Show

  1. This movie came out during the dawn of internet activity before social networks existed and reality shows were becoming all the rage like “Survivor”.

    During the early days, all the technology like camera access online was new and a few folks decided to put up webcams in their home or office so you could check in on them 24/7- as long as the camera was on. They became semi famous in getting interviewed by the media on what it’s like and received more notoriety when “Truman” came out due to direct comparisons of real life in front of the camera.

    In a way, the world has become more “Trumanized” than ever with more and more reality shows most news media telling us what they think we “want” to hear versus being told the essential things we need to know, all in the name of higher ratings and more money in advertising dollars along with behavior manipulation.

To Loewe:

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