Paused for thought

Paused for thought

Friday, 22 May 2015

The Truman Show

My husband and I enjoyed a date night last night. Snuggled on the sofa we chose to relax with a film and the film we decided to watch was The Truman Show. One which neither of us had seen for years.

I recall I watched this film shortly after it was released on DVD, in my university years. Along with the rest of the fictional America depicted in the film I was saddened by the boundaries and restrictions placed upon an unwitting Truman. Horrified by a director calling for a storm at the conclusion to try and dissuade Truman from escape. The coldness with which the line "he was born in front of a live audience" was uttered in response to Moses's appeal to cease the storm because Truman might die was unnerving, a human social experiment and entertainment show gone too far. I was delighted when Truman gave his final "good afternoon, good evening and good night" and disappeared through the door in the cloud.

This time though, I watched it with a different view. One which, quite honestly, surprised me. Yes the experiment, the reality show, was extreme. To do that to another human in the name of entertainment would be completely uncalled for. But to me, on this viewing, Andrew Niccol's writing took on another element. Perhaps, instead of willing Truman to be free, we should will him to be captive. He had been brought up in a very safe and sunny world. One where his biggest problems (ignoring momentarily his fear of water) were being jumped upon by his neighbour's dog and being accosted by twins who manoeuvred him up against the bill boards of advertisers paying to get a mention in the show. He had a job, family and friends. Ignore too that these relationships were largely false and completely set up. To him they were real. This was his world as he knew it and one that for him, at that time, was a safe place.

As an audience we are seemingly encouraged to want more for him, to want his freedom, to want him to know what's happening. When we learn of Sylvia's removal from the show we wish she'd said more rather than just planting a seed of doubt in his mind. But if he had lived in ignorance would he perhaps have been happier than an adult propelled into a world who knew him, but one in which he knew virtually no truth? The complexities of real relationships, jobs, responsibilities were something that had been staged for him on the show and would be new to him outside it. Of course we hope he lived happily ever after. We hope he and Sylvia found each other and she supported him as he adjusted to reality. 

There isn't a Truman Show 2, and I don't have access to Andrew Niccol to put my thoughts to him and understand what he believes happened to Truman post show. Hope is therefore all I have to offer to this fictional character. But concern is underlying it in every step.

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