Thoughts on speculative fiction. Join in the conversation on books, television and film. I review everything I read or watch from the world of the imaginative and the fantastic.

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January 23, 2013

Why The Truman Show Haunted Me

The Truman Show terrified me.

Actually, I believe its concept first began to bother me when I saw EdTV, where some average Joe becomes an instant celebrity when he airs every moment of his day on national television. The twist in the Truman show is that Truman Burbank does not know he's the star of a 24 hour, round the clock, exclusive reality TV show. If you've seen The Truman Show, you may think you know where this is going, but please hold tight, friends and readers.
Jodie Foster put (at least) one thing beautifully at the Golden Globes when she said, after objecting to the idea that every celebrity should air their lives in public, "Please don't cry; my reality show would be so boring." If an actress whom IMDB credits with 75 roles in mostly Hollywood films can say that her show would not be worth watching, I think we could all learn some humility and admit the same. None of us are Truman Burbank. Nobody would want to watch any of us 24/7, and there is no need to be paranoid that the world is a conspiracy theory centred around your secret reality TV show.

What the thought experiment in The Truman Show contributes to, for me, is the idea of complete and total indoctrination.

We can all examine our perspectives and see where we have been indoctrinated in one way or another. For example, if you're anything like me you might be up in arms lately about the accusation that the "liberal media" is taking over the United States. However, it is important to think critically about where our information comes from and what filters it passes through before it reaches our ears. It's important that we never forget that our view is limited by where we come from, to whom we speak, and most importantly, to whom we listen.
"We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented" — Cristof

The reason why The Truman Show haunts me is not because I'm afraid for my privacy, which is the fear that is most commonly drawn from the film. Another good theme is Freedom of Choice; would Truman have chosen the same life for himself as the one Christof chose for him? But the most applicable message from The Truman Show, in my opinion, is that every experience we have in the world is colored by bias, and we continue to color those experiences with our interpretation.

At the risk of getting heavy handed with this, I'll list just a couple of examples. The most obvious, that we can all see, is Truman's fear of water and the ocean, induced on purpose to keep him from leaving the set of his home town. But you have to imagine that if the control Christof has over Truman could go that far, it could also go as far as to mould him into the person that he is. Christof could have raised Truman to believe that the color of the sky is called Salmon, and as trivial and funny as that sounds, he could also have taught him that Canada is a sovereign dynasty made up of peasants who communicate in the dead language of Latin. Still trivial? Well, my ending thought would be to consider the extent to which we pass on beliefs to our children in much the same way. Please let me know if you agree or disagree. Am I the one being paranoid?

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