The Truman Show came out before the reality TV craze really set in, so its prescience is commendable and chilling.
Truman Burbank (Jim Carey) is a man who’s been filmed since birth, and for 30 years, the world has watched him round the clock. The only person who doesn’t know that Truman’s a big, big star is Truman himself, who believes himself to be living a normal life. An entire town has been hired and created to convince him of this, but everyone’s in on it, everyone’s an actor with their own motives and agendas. When Truman does begin to catch on to the ruse, no one is more keen to stop his leaving than his director of 30 years, Christoff (Ed Harris).
When Sisken and Ebert reviewed The Truman Show, they gave it an enthusiastic two-thumbs-up, but also gave an unprecedented on-air apology to Jim Carrey for having said that he would never have a career when they hate-reviewed Ace Ventura: Pet Detective just a few years earlier.
The Truman Show wasn’t just a hit at the box office, it became a cultural phenomenon. In 2008, Popular Mechanics declared it one of the 10 most prophetic science fiction films ever. Big Brother debuted just a year after The Truman Show hit theatres, and the popularity of other shows like it probably predict the downfall of humanity, but the fact that so many people flocked to the movies to see that same thing satirized has to be a good sign, right?
The Truman Show is studied in lots of Media Ethics courses. Of course they look at Truman’s creator, Christoff, the director who stalked unwanted pregnancies and eventually trapped an unwitting human in a very big but very fake bubble. But they also look at Marlon, Truman’s best friend, and Meryl, his wife. These of course are simply actors playing a part – Meryl (Laura Linney) basically prostitutes herself for the role and is willing to bear Truman’s child, who will be a star of a spin-off.
Even more interestingly, psychologists are reporting real people experiencing the “Truman Syndrome” or the “Truman Show Delusion”, basically people believing they are the unwilling stars of their own reality TV shows. Some people may be happy about this fake fame, others tormented. But they believe cameras are secretly following and filming them around the clock. One such person traveled to NYC after 9\11 to check that the towers had indeed fallen; this person believed that it was perhaps just an elaborate plot twist in his personal storyline. Another such person climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty believing his long-lost high school girlfriend would meet him there, and he’d finally be released from the show.
I’m betting\hoping The Truman Show was a little less life-altering for you than it was for some of these poor people, but doesn’t that just go to show the effect the media can have on our lives?