Kathryn Aegis <email@example.com> wrote to the Extropy List:
Indications are that many people who intended to see this movie have indeed done so, and I will now share my thoughts on it. (Warning: contains a multitude of plot spoilers)
Many of the subtexts within this movie merit discussion in other forums: media manipulation, privacy, dissent within a mass culture, allusions to Hamlet and Homer. One subtext, corporate control of a human life, may relate to the cloning discussions that took place here many months ago; I would like to see someone address that if it interests.
The transhumanist aspect of this movie that completely hooked me early on and let me identify with Truman was the way in which Truman's life was controlled through the use of manufactured limits, and the methods by which those limits were incorporated into Truman's psyche. To keep him on the island 'voluntarily', a violent death at sea was staged, in which Truman 'loses' his father and henceforth must avoid open water. In his days at grade school, the young Truman stands up proudly in class and declares, 'I want to be an explorer, just like Magellan...' On cue, the teacher instantly draws down the world map and sweetly tells Truman, 'You're too late!' Airplanes lose parts that fall from the sky and posters in the travel agency warn of dire consequences to those who venture abroad (yet this does not deter Truman from booking a flight to Fiji, one aspect of the plot that seems out of place.) The analogy is obvious--many of our fears and limitations as human beings have bases in the society around us and its agents.
When the cracks begin to show in the carefully constructed world, and Truman begins to realize the machinations of events surrounding him, at first he thinks he is losing his mind. Everyone treats him as if he were indeed losing his mind, in order to contain his growing independence and questioning. At this point in the movie, one can see the strain under which the actors labor; their lives have reached a stasis point in which the only achievement to strive towards is the repression of another's desire to break out of a stultifying routine.
The filmmakers brought out this theme in the latter half of the movie by casting it as a classical epic, in which Truman battles against a manipulative god who would rather kill his creation than lose his control over it. Truman survives a terrible storm and thinks that his escape is complete---and then his boat literally runs into the end of the world. Now, please understand--I don't generally have big emotional reactions to movies,
most are too calculated for my taste. But when Truman stands against that wall and realizes the true enormity of what he faces, and he throws himself against that well, trying to physically will himself through it to freedom--well, I just lost it and had to go see the movie again in order to see the full ending! The last twenty minutes of the film provide a perfect visualization of the human species trying to break free of the twin shackles forged by religious belief and by mortality. At least Truman got to confront his god, and to reject him with as much grace and dignity as a chattel slave can muster upon shedding the chains. I hope that someday we all get that chance.
The irony of Truman was that he was not a "trueman" until
the end of the movie. He was a fake. He had every
opportunity to leave his little island -- just like his "god", the
director, said. Truman could have ended up just like Citizen
Kane thinking of the life he could've had if he had been real --
Truman's experience of self-limitation was actually his own doing. Society was not "out to get Truman". In fact, they loved him. He was the height of a false reality. Society vicariously sought to live through him -- kinda like Hollywood? This isn't a crime. In fact, it's human nature to want to be safe by limiting risks. Perhaps unreality is part of the process -- why else the unreality? :o)
How to break out? Risk. Even with the fear involved in risk, as
creatures and creators, we do have an exploratory nature. Why are risks so dangerous to those who aren't even taking them? Wasn't the teacher in the film so much like those smothering loving parents that fear what will happen to the love of their lives (their children) if there aren't some boundaries? Plus, the unreality of it all will end and they'll have to fess up to life's uncertainty or admit that they really can't control everyone else on the planet. There's a paradox involved. To love brings out feelings of protection. But to truly love and let someone become a mature human being means letting go .with the possibility of destruction (if you believe in that sort of thing).
How did Truman find himself? Testing boundaries? Questioning authority? Institutions? Questioning himself? Looking at how he interpreted the past? How about that picture he pasted together of his idea of something real -- the picture of love -- the first sense of meaning in his life?
The movie watchers in the theater of life that saw the movie Truman
and those in the "movie", cheered on as he embodied the nobility of
the human spirit to break through the bullshit -- no matter what the
cost. He was willing to risk it all to have a full life. "Truemen" and
"Truewomen" do exactly that when they realize who they really are
and live according to the principles they believe in -- not ones arbitrarily assigned to them by others. Truman was heroic. Getting past fear and taking risks is always heroic.
Isn't it interesting to note that the film brings out paranoia in some of the watchers? Was Truman paranoid when he became a "Trueman?" He simply took a bow for the part he had played and gracefully opened the exit door that is always there for us in life.
At the end did you notice how he was banging on the wall at first? How easy was it to just "open the door?" Good grief! The door even said, "Exit." What more do you want? That's the lesson. It's the fear of fear that holds most of us back -- the stormy sea of that emotion that causes so much self-doubt that we think "everyone is in on it" when we're the biggest culprit. We're the center of it. It's our world. Hmmm.
So, if the film is under your skin -- it may be highlighting the
you're living. If there's anything to learn from Truman it's that being real begins at home in your own self. Truman could have waited for his "god" to become "real" or his wife to become "real" etc. You get the drift? --- Pun ---- Ha!
He did it. What a great hope and opportunity -- to set out to be the first
if necessary -- but to do it.
I loved that movie and I feel great about myself and other people. So what if we've got hang-ups -- we're working on them. OK, it's taken thousands of years -- but so what!? Just becoming upright was a hell of a task.
As each human being overcomes fear we will see real changes in all areas of human endeavor. I'm taking my bow and I challenge you to start making that picture of what seems most real to you, sail the stormy sea -- the only thing that dies is your fear, don't bang your head on the wall, take the path of least resistance which is the open door -- your true nature and step into the unknown of really living freely and being yourself.
Laurel Wentzel <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
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