The Truman Show: Why it still resonates

The Truman Show

Recently I watched, again, the movie, The Truman Show. It’s a good flick that came out in 1998. Jim Carrey plays the lead role as Truman Burbank, a person who the world has been watching live since his birth. A man named Cristof created the world’s largest set for filming, a giant half globe structure, and placed the newborn baby, Truman, inside. Truman grows up not knowing it’s a show, but everyone else does. Everyone else is an actor and the whole world is watching.

The movie holds up well, some 16 years later. Two points the show tries to make reminds me of the ethos of 1998. First, the fear of what technology (especially the internet) might do to humanity and the second, a blatant smack-in-the-face against, not only Christianity, but all religion. Both of those ideas still permeate culture today but somehow they felt newer, fresher and more tangible in the 90’s and The Truman Show encapsulates it well.

I don’t want to dwell on those two themes as they are not what makes this movie great. Perhaps they help lend to the movie’s relevancy, but even if you take them out you still have a solid story.

I believe the movie resonates because it hits on two major themes all humans struggle with understanding. One theme enlightens us to the interdependency of humans with each other and the environment. Another calls us all to have hopes, dreams and gumption. It calls us to break free of the expectations and assumptions that hold us back.

ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE

Forever, it seems, we’ve had this odd concept that, as Shakespeare says, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

The Truman Show takes Shakespeare’s quote literally. Truman’s world is, in fact, a stage and everyone else is an actor. At one point Truman says, quite truly, “It’s like the whole world revolves around me.” Who hasn’t felt that way or thought that at some moment in their lives? Sometimes it seems the whole world is conspiring against me or working in my favor. Sometimes I just sit and think, “What if it’s only me and the rest is pretend? What if I’m the only real thing?”

The real world is an odd place, an odd thing, an odd dimension. As a Christian I believe in a very real and very active spiritual world beyond the physical. Somehow, since God is God and omni-everything, His interaction in this world does make us feel, at times, that we’re the only one. If God is really, truly omnipresent, every person can actually be the center of His world.

WHAT WILL YOU DO?

God gives us free will. I believe we have the ability to make our own decisions within this free will. I read a book once that talks of God knowing counterfactuals; knowing all possible outcomes. It suggested the way God knows the future is because he knows every choice we could choose and therefore knows the choice we will choose.

The Truman Show hits on this. The “creator” of the show even says to Truman at the end, “I know you better than yourself.” Truman, rightfully, responds, “You’ve never had a camera in my head.” This is true. Since the creator of the show is not actually God, not actually omni-everything he doesn’t know the choice Truman will and can make.

OVERCOMING THE ODDS

In what I thought was a very poignant scene, Truman has managed to start his “escape” and all of the actors break out of their roles and go hunting for him. In this scene they link arms sweeping together the city square searching. To me, it signifies everyone being against Truman. Everyone he’s ever known links arms to try to keep him in their controlled environment. Only what they wanted mattered, not what Truman wanted. Even though their whole world was for him, in a real sense the whole world was against him.

In the end (spoiler) Truman gets out of his world into the “real” world. The show’s creator never thought Truman would leave, in fact they fabricated all sorts of ways to make him stay. They even write-in Truman’s father dying. His father pretended to drown so Truman would be scared of the water and therefore scared of leaving. In the introductory montage of actors one says, “It’s all true. It’s all real. Nothing here is fake. Nothing you see on this show is fake. It’s merely controlled.”

The series creator, in the movie, states, “We accept the reality with which we are presented.” Too often that is true of all of us even though we wish it wasn’t.  We all wish we acted on our God-granted free will, but often we don’t.

We want the world to revolve around us while simultaneously wanting part of the world, the controlling, manipulative stifling part, to just let us break free.

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