The Truman Show (1998)

The Truman show is one of THE iconic movies from the 90’s, deservedly so. Written by Andrew Niccol and directed by Peter Weir, The Truman Show follows Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey), a middle-aged man who leads what some would call a dream life. He lives in the picturesque town of Seahaven, works as an insurance agent, has a wonderful and caring wife (played by Laura Linney) and a best friend (Noah Emmerich a) to hang out with. However, the world around the benevolent Truman is nothing but a carefully crafted illusion. What he does not know is that the whole town is actually a huge studio, full of hidden cameras. All the people in his surroundings are professional paid actors, with his whole life being a reality show watched around the globe.

As we follow Truman’s daily routine and his doubts about his surroundings, we also witness the work of the producers behind the cameras, as well as the anxiety-inducing image of people in front of their television screens, watching every Truman’s move, even while he’s is asleep. Glued to their TV screens like a hypnotized crowd, neither them nor Truman truly live a “real” life. It could be argued that not even the godlike main producer Christof (played by Ed Harris) truly lives, since his life mostly revolves around simulating the life of another man.

This movie depicts the global alienation of people in a deeply satirical, tragicomic way. Instead of going out and spending their time with friends and family, they become slaves to a new deity – television. Their new god turns them into simple voyeurs, fully invested in the privacy of another person, from their daily routine to intimate moments, without them ever questioning the ethics of those actions. 

The rare few people who questioned this, still couldn’t help Truman break the illusion, as the only person who could snap him out of that blissful ignorance was his own self. There are many parallels between 1984 and The Truman show, as they both deal with constant surveillance, but they approach this subject in two completely distinct ways. In 1984, the dystopian authoritative government quite literally beats people into submission, dictating their every move in order to control them and gain political power, whereas the audience in The Truman Show just passively accepts their role as onlookers, probably because they completely lack any other fulfilling activities in their life.

Truman has been the star of the most popular TV show on the planet since childhood, with millions of viewers watching his daily life 24 hours a day, so the topics of privacy, free choice, and the pervasiveness of media dominate the discussion around this film. It is scary just how much the world has changed in two short decades. If made today, this movie would neither be original nor thought provoking, not because it lacks quality, but because today we live fully aware of these horrors, yet we are numb to our own awareness. What Truman had for a while, was at least some blissful ignorance. Nowadays, we aren’t as ignorant, but we are nowhere near blissful.