ART: The Truman Show

Kathryn Aegis (
Tue, 16 Jun 1998 15:30:57 -0700 (PDT)

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 the society around us and
its agents.

When the cracks begin to show in the carefully constructed world, and Truman
begins to realize the mechanations 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


Kathryn Aegis