Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is Truman Burbank. And this is The Truman Show. The Truman Show is coming to you live on TV, 24/7, courtesy of Hulu movies on demand. This first appeared on the big screen in 1998, courtesy of Paramount Pictures and directed by Peter Weir. Details are from Wikipedia.

Truman Burbank is played by Jim Carrey, and Truman lives the perfect life in a perfect village on an island separated from the mainland by an artificial channel.

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What Truman does not realize is that everything about his life is artificial. The village, the island, even the weather, are managed by a television production company headed by Christof, played by Ed Harris. From the time of his birth Truman has been an unknowing prisoner of The Truman Show. Everybody else in the village, everybody else in Truman’s life, is an actor paid to play a role, many for the duration of Truman’s life in the village.

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Cameras are concealed all over the island. TV viewers, starved for the ultimate reality, watch religiously. Fast food workers staring at monitors on the wall.

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Families in foreign countries watching at home.

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The enterprise is supported completely by product placement. Here Truman’s pretty wife Meryl shows off one of the products to Truman, ensuring that all the TV viewers see it as well. Meryl is really actor Hannah Gill, who is played by Laura Linney. It does get complicated.

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Cameras in Truman’s car capture him as he drives to and from work. Truman is the only person in the world not in on the scam.

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Truman’s world comes, literally, crashing down one fine morning. A studio light falls, seemingly from the sky, but instead from the roof of the dome that encloses the television set. Picking up the light, Truman begins to wonder and to guess at the awful truth.

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All of Truman’s efforts to escape the island are thwarted by quick-action, directed by Christof. As Truman attempts to leave the village in his car with Meryl, a massive traffic jam materializes from side streets. He is forced to turn back.

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But Truman fools them. He reverses unexpectedly and makes his way to the causeway that separates the island from the mainland. He has been conditioned to fear traveling over water, but he shoves control of the car into Meryl’s hands and floors the gas.

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They make it to the mainland, but a phony pipeline explosion blocks their path. Truman sees through the ruse and plows on through. No good. Christof has prepared for such an eventuality, and a fake nuclear disaster provides the excuse for having Truman carpeted by men in hazmat suits and hauled back to the island.

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In the end Truman gets inventive and fools the ever-observant cameras, making it off the island in a sail bod. But only to run smack into the painted background at the perimeter of the television set, where stairs and a door give him the opportunity, if he chooses, to accept it, to exit The Truman Show. The movie ends not with a bang, but with a whimper.

There is a lot more to the movie, including a love interest denied to Truman because it was not in the script. And that’s all I’m going to tell about the plot.

What is so galling about this plot is what it shows of the depicted humanity. Millions of TV viewers spend hours of their days watching a prisoner squirm in captivity. People, this has got to be sick. It’s a good thing this was all make believe. Unless… Have you ever considered your own life might be a staged production being watched by millions of real people.

There is a science fiction short story I read years ago about a city that was encapsulated within a managed enclosure. It started as an actual city, but one day a man who worked in the city and commuted to the suburbs began to notice a transformation he experienced every time he left or returned to the city. The city was real, but people’s lives outside the city were simulated. The Truman Show is sort of the reverse of that. Much thanks to anybody who can supply me the name of that short story.

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One thought on “Bad Movie Wednesday

  1. Pingback: Bad Movie Wednesday | Skeptical Analysis

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