The Truman Show: A Show Within A Movie
October 10, 2022
The Truman Show’s premise is every bit as fascinating as it is fantastical. It essentially is a show within a movie. It follows Truman Burbank, the unsuspecting star of The Truman Show, a hit reality soap that is broadcasted to viewers globally. His entire life takes place within a giant dome in a Hollywood set, which is intricately worked to create the seaside town of Seahaven Island. Inside are over five thousand cameras installed to monitor every detail of his life. Truman lives a seemingly perfect life. He has a loving wife, friendly neighbors, great friends, and a well-paying job.
Unknown to him, his life is a lie. The producer of the hit show, Christof, organized the first-ever adoption of a baby by a corporation, placing Truman within the dome-set as soon as the papers were signed. Christof had every detail of Truman’s life planned from the start. To discourage Truman from wondering about the world outside of Seahaven, Christof instilled aquaphobia in him by making Truman witness his supposed father’s drowning in a boat accident. All of Seahaven's residents are actors being fed lines by Christof. Somehow, the only actor/resident to ever show any sympathy for Truman was Sylvia, with whom Truman fell in love with during “college”. After multiple subtle but failed attempts at breaking the truth to Truman, Sylvia is fired by Christof, who forces the narrative that she decided to move to Fiji. Uncoincidentally, signs warning about the dangers of flying are plastered all around Seahaven after Sylvia’s “move.” Truman’s despair at her leaving shows, yet again, how Truman’s genuine reactions are put on display due to events completely out of his control.
The level of detail that the director of the actual movie, Peter Weir, includes in the movie is truly exceptional. This is shown countless times; a quick frame of Truman picking up the newspaper displays “Vol. 29, No. 10,765”, an allusion to Truman being 29 years old and that day being the show’s 10,765th day of airing (the exact number of days Truman has been alive). Truman greets his neighbors every morning with the same phrase: “Good morning! And in case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.” When he says this, as he has subconsciously been trained to, he is unintentionally addressing his viewers from all time zones. The only music that’s played on the radio is classical, because it is considered public domain, allowing for royalty-free use on television.
The concept of The Truman Show, as in the reality soap itself, is seemingly mundane but has sky-high viewership. Throughout the movie, multiple scenes show people of all nationalities watching The Truman Show in different settings. Some like to watch Truman eat dinner while they themselves eat dinner. Some have television sets mounted all over their house constantly airing his life. But why are people so obsessed with Truman’s life when theirs isn’t all that different? I believe that it could be a brief escape from reality for some, with the cheery townsfolk and the beautiful cityscape. A much darker theory I have is that people have a sense of superiority when watching Truman. After all, they know one thing that Truman does not: that his world is artificial. The degree of autonomy that viewers have over Truman is also way higher. Maybe people are all watching out of morbid curiosity, waiting for the moment when Truman realizes he’s been living a lie.
Throughout the movie, product placements are everywhere and there are sometimes blatant product pitches at inappropriate places. For example, Truman lives in a dome where he is devoid of contact with the sun, which causes him to be in need of Vitamin D pills. In one scene where Meryl, Truman’s wife, hands him a pill, she frantically turns to a nearby camera to advertise it with a fake smile. Everything in The Truman Show is considered merchandise. Something as insignificant as Meryl’sblouse is seen as a must-have fashion item in the outside world.
Though fictional, The Truman Show is a powerful movie that resonates with so many, not least because of its unique premise of a show within a movie. Its pop-culture resonance has seen a psychological disease be named after it. Its uniqueness makes it worth watching.
Image Credit to IMDB and The Stack, respectively.