Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Truman Show – Good Afternoon, Good Evening, and Goodnight

I know what you are probably thinking. Why write about a movie from 1998? After all, there are enough new films to talk about. A few nights ago, I watched The Truman Show. I believe there’s value in viewing older movies. In fact, I had forgotten just how good The Truman Show is.

I had not seen it for at least 10 years. In some ways, it felt like I was viewing the movie for the first time. There’s another reason for writing about The Truman Show. Today, there’s an entire generation that probably hasn’t seen it.

I think you would agree that in some ways we live in a throw-away society. At times, this applies to our movies and media choices. If it’s old, why watch it? How could it be relevant? But the truth is, by watching older movies, we can actually learn a great deal about our current situation. For example, The Truman Show is just as relevant today and perhaps even more so than it was in 1998.

If you don’t know the basic story line or are not familiar with the movie, The Truman Show stars Jim Carrey as Truman. Truman lives in the community of Seahaven. He does not realize that his world has been artificially created and is actually a television program that is broadcast 24 hours a day live. Everyone in Truman’s world are actors playing a part and creating the deception of a real world. Thousands of hidden cameras detail every aspect of Truman’s everyday life.

Everybody is in on the deception except Truman. A worldwide audience is mesmerized by Truman’s daily activities. Seahaven, a complete community, has actually been constructed under a gigantic dome creating the world’s largest studio. It’s during the 30th year of the Truman Show that Truman begins to discover that things are not what they seem to be. He begins to realize that everything around Seahaven seems to revolve around his life.

That’s quite a setup. But the real force behind The Truman Show is the god-like figure Christof played by Ed Harris. He is the program producer and creator and believes he has created a perfect utopia for Truman. There’s also a romantic interest involved as a former extra on the show made a real connection with Truman. She was quickly ushered away, but the memories begin to haunt Truman.

Much has been written over the years about The Truman Show. It has become a favorite of sorts for college thesis. Is it commentary about the complexities of living in a modern culture? Does it raise questions about our obsession with media and particularly reality shows? Is it possible what we see on television is more interesting than our own lives? It’s pretty obvious that The Truman Show gives us a lot to think about.

Recently, I wrote a book called The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture. Perhaps, I had forgotten just how much I was influenced by this movie because I saw a great deal of it in my book.

I think there are three things that we can all take away from this film. First, you and I, just like Truman, accept the things around us—the world we live in—as normal and routine. What we see we believe to be true. But the question is, is it real or just a deception. Second, when we start asking questions, especially the right questions, we’ll find answers. When Truman became aware that things just weren’t adding up any longer, he started looking for the truth. Christof tried to stop him by telling him that he will find no greater truth than his current reality. But Truman had gone too far to turn back. Just as the old sci-fi television show, The X-files, told us, “the truth is out there”.

And finally, Truman was committed to change—whatever it took. When we encounter the truth, it always has consequences, which ultimately leads to some form of change in our lives. It would seem that Truman lived in a perfect world and had no reason to leave. Perhaps, for me, the great revelation of The Truman Show on a spiritual level is this: we live in a world where we have a deceiver just like Chrisof telling us that it’s perfect, it’s the truth, and there’s no reason to leave it.

Just like Truman, will we have the courage to find the exit door and look for a greater truth?

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