Let’s Talk About ‘The Truman Show’ (1998)

“And in case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night!”

What The Truman Show Means to Us

I remember that I wasn’t that interested in seeing The Truman Show when it first arrived. I’d seen The Cable Guy – Jim Carrey’s supposed first foray into “serious” acting – and hadn’t been impressed. Still, I liked Ed Harris and Laura Linney, so I eventually gave it a shot. And I was entranced, transported. It was a film that had layers and Carrey, well, dammit Carrey was GOOD in it. He was freakin’ great. It remains one of the few Jim Carrey films I can watch anywhere at any time. It’s funny enough to be entertaining and deep enough to keep you talking about afterward. It really foretold the growth of “reality” entertainment and social media – the 24/7 entertainment cycle of shows like Big Brother and the focus on people’s lives as the product for social “influencers.”

Aside from all that, it’s an enjoyable and affecting film. And I kinda want to see it again now.

Bob Cram

The Truman Show is one of the movies that probably messed me up the most. I remember being completely fascinated with the idea of one man unsuspectingly being watched by millions of people. Growing up with an imagination, I started to think that maybe people were also watching me. Which is a little something the internet likes to call “main character syndrome” these days. No matter what I did or where I was, whether I was out with friends or even all alone in my room, I would act as if people were watching me … and I would make damn sure that whatever they were watching was going to be entertaining. It was insane!

Over time, I came to acknowledge the message that The Truman Show was trying to convey and it will forever remain one of my top 10 movies from the 1990s. I also believe that it helped to shape me into who I have become today. Much like Truman finally realizing the truth and refusing to continue to live an inauthentic life and instead of succumbing to his prison, he took his fate into his own hands and chose to break free. I like to believe that no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we can always choose to break free and I look to Truman for inspiration to take a leap of faith no matter what door I choose to walk through next.


The Truman Show‘s Downfall Could Have Been Prevented

As I rewatched The Truman Show earlier this week, the familiar thought of if this could actually work in real life crept back into my mind. Regardless of whether a studio or network could legally adopt a child, I’ve always toyed with how this could realistically be achieved. The movie shows that the fictional town of Seahaven is a huge sound stage occupying a large portion of land near the Hollywood sign. That makes sense, although one could argue that it would be cheaper to build a fictional town in a different state, perhaps in a rural local with lots of farmland. However, the thing I realized for the first time during my recent rewatch is that I always thought that if The Truman Show was done in real life, it would skew much closer to reality than the 1998 film ever did.

Let me explain. I believe the greatest mistake the creators behind The Truman Show made was running the whole thing like a television show. If you’re employing thousands of people as extras, why not just run Seahaven like an actual town? Why hire an actor to play a doctor? Why not hire an actual doctor and have the actors and other extras go there when they need to be checked out? Why not hire a real bus driver or someone who can actually operate a ferry? If the show operated more like a town, with its “citizens” actually having their own daily schedule, this would eliminate several of the signs that ultimately tipped Truman off that his life was fabricated. Gone are the lady on a red bike, the man with flowers, and the dented Volkswagen circling the block on a loop.

If The Truman Show had kept the cast of actors to those in Truman’s inner circle, and had the rest of Seahaven operating like a town with its own inhabitants living their own self-contained lives, I think the creator could have successfully prevented Truman from learning the truth. Sure, you’d still have the occasional stage light falling from the sky, but it’d be much easier to write off than people not knowing how to do their professions or constantly doing things out of the ordinary.

The Scripted Nature of Reality TV

Of course, the fact that The Truman Show is entirely fabricated is part of the appeal of the show. Reality TV is notoriously scripted, whether the network states it is or not. Truman is the wild card, the one thing the network cannot predict. Reality TV is an obsession for some people even though they are aware that it’s fake. Millions of people tuned into The Truman Show every day even though most of what they saw was entirely pre-determined by a writers’ room. Truman never wanted to marry Meryl. He wanted Lauren a.k.a Sylvia. The show never gave Truman what he actually desired, yet people still watched because it made for good television.

“You were real, that’s what made you so good to watch,” Christof tells Truman at the end of the film. Honestly, that one line probably explains the current problem with today’s reality shows. It’s fun to watch for a season or two, but then once you realize that people are only doing them to become “influencers” or “instafamous,” it becomes unwatchable. Most reality stars are living a fake life in a real world to gain followers. Truman was the exact opposite. He was living a real life in a fake world. That’s what is missing from reality TV today: authenticity.

“It feels like the whole world revolves around me somehow.”

Gaslighting 101

When you watch a film or series knowing you have to write about it, you really start to pick up on stuff you never noticed before. Case in point: The Truman Show gaslights the fuck out of its star. I mean, Truman’s so-called friend, Marlon, tells him, “And the lat thing I would ever do is lie to you.” Except that’s exactly what you’re doing! In my opinion, that actually might be the saddest line in the whole movie. Marlon has grown up with Truman his whole life, the show makes them out to be best friends, yet at the end of the day, Marlon is in on the fact that everything is scripted, including their supposed friendship. The only person who actually cares about Truman is Sylvia and, to a lesser extent, Christof, who has watched over Truman since birth. However, Sylvia actually has Truman’s best interests in mind while Christof is merely trying to make good TV.

Jim Carrey Deserved That Oscar

Jim Carrey being snubbed in the Best Actor category at the 71st Academy Awards is nothing new. It’s a common talking point in movie circles at this point. Should he have been nominated? Yes. Why? Well, seeing Truman start to suspect his reality is an illusion is amazing to watch. It’s a great acting performance from Carrey. He goes through a range of emotions as Truman, none better than when Meryl tries to sneak a damn Cocoa commercial into their conversation, leading Truman to wonder aloud, “Who the hell are you talking to?” I mean, if Ed Harris can be nominated for The Truman Show then surely the Academy could have found room for Carrey. It’s a travesty. The Truman Show relies so heavily on Carrey’s performance that if he hadn’t knocked it out of the park the whole movie might not have worked. #JusticeForCarrey and #JusticeForTruman, am I right?

It would take more than a thousand words to properly dissect the intricacies and themes of The Truman Show, but hopefully, this Canon entry has got the ball rolling for a larger discussion in the comments.

Are you a fan of The Truman Show? Do you have a fun fact, piece of trivia, or analysis about the film? Share it in the comments below!

Author: Marmaduke Karlston

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute Doc, uh, are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?"