The Truman Show: Fiction vs. Reality

The Truman Show (1998)

The Truman Show (1998), directed by Peter Weir and starring Jim Carrey, was– for a long time– the only film that ever kept me up at night. After watching Truman Burbank’s final moments in the film I felt very satisfied. Truman is a character that the audience can root for. Clueless, brilliant, clumsy, and stealthy: he has all of us on our seats wondering whether he will choose to live the illusion of reality, or to break the fourth wall and enter the outside world. When he eventually makes his decision, we cheered for him and felt a sense of accomplishment that something good had been done in the world.

Yet I also walked away with a feeling of discomfort. The Truman Show reminded me immensely of the “allegory of the cave.” A brief synopsis of this allegory is that if a person spends their entire life in a cave and believed that this cave was all there was of the world, would they or would they not want to believe or live in the world outside of the world once they discovered it was there. This is the same dilemma Truman was faced with in The Truman Show. Should Truman stay in the simulation because it is what he knows to be reality, even though it limits his potential? Or should he explore reality, even though it may be difficult to fit into a society that isn’t tailored for his needs like the simulation was.

Ultimately, he chooses the harder choice, as most would say they would choose as well. But I believe people flatter themselves too much. The Truman Show is a movie where it is expected of the protagonist to figure out the workings of the show and make the harder choice to leave. Outside of the movie, in real life, if we were presented with a fact that contradicted what we believe to be reality, would you really want to believe it? Would you run towards the risk or choose to ignore it and go about your happy, ignorant life? The cold truth is that most people don’t want to believe the facts, because believing that there is a problem in what we have always known to be in perfect condition is threatening to our reality. It’s like when you stay awake an extra three hours than you normally would and your circadian rhythm is thrown off for a week afterward.

For a college student with no time to watch movies but continues to do so, I would definitely recommend people watch The Truman Show. Specifically, I think people who believe they have their ducks in a row should watch the film because when I was finished with it I felt like everything I knew wasn’t what it seemed. I would also recommend watching it before five in the evening, because if you watch it too late, you will probably stay up at night thinking about it, whereas if you watch it mid-day you are likely to fill your brain up with images that will snap you right back into reality— or at least what you believe to be so.