Truman Show Essay, Research Paper
Truman Show Essay
The Truman Show is not only a work about contemporary society but it is also disguised with stories about birth, the mind, families, and the Bible. Thus, in addition to representing people breaking free from oppressive social systems, the characters are also disguised depictions of babies being born from the fake paradises of high-tech wombs into the world. At the same time, they portray a mind breaking free from neurosis and children breaking free from smothering and controlling parents. And they are re-creations of ancient myths that tell stories about heroes who try to free themselves from oppressive supernatural beings. All of these meanings relate to each other and, in all of them, the character’s effort to break through the social control is an essential element of the story.
The movie also offers a concealed role playing of a baby being born and of the stages of birth. Truman begins in a simple womblike paradise of safety and comfort in which he is at one with his world and accepts everything he is given. Then there is a disruption caused by his recognition that he is being watched, and there is a difficult birth as he braves a storm at sea, is tossed around and almost drowns. At the end, in a more peaceful scene that combines images of birth and death, he reaches the open door that will lead him into the world. His creator tells him it is safe inside but he has the urge to genuinely live. He rejects the fake heaven of his high-tech womb, in order to be born, so he will have a chance at an authentic, although a more difficult, life.
We also see the camouflaged image of the mind of a man lost in a false personality of false happiness. His mind is kept in this state by an internalized and controlling image of a father who wants to stop him from achieving maturity. When Truman stumbles on the backstage area in the movie, that is a depiction of the mind perceiving a part of the unconscious where this defensive false self is generated. When the security guards then drag Truman away that is the forces of psychological defense barring the mind from perceiving the forbidden territory of the unconscious.
The fear of water that is instilled in Truman, keeping him trapped on the island and away from the world outside, is the neurosis of agoraphobia that keeps this person locked in a false self. When he tries to grow into a fuller person with a real life, he comes up against the barrier of more defenses in the form of fire, the supposed radiation-leak and the people who block him, catch him and take him back to his fake world. But he suffers through his fears and breaks through.
In the end, Truman is beckoned forward not merely by the prospect of a more genuine life but also by the memory of a woman who, in his youth, revealed to him that he is trapped in a TV show, before they took her away. Thus, the internalized image of the controlling, threatening, father keeps him from linking up with a woman in what would presumably be a genuine marriage. The other woman who plays the role of his mother, and who tries to keep Truman there, as well, is the internalized image of a mother, who similarly is trying to keep him from growing out of childhood.
In terms of Biblical imagery, Truman is both Adam and Christ. He is Adam, who escapes from a false paradise and falls by choice into nature and history, and he is Christ who knows of a higher world and is crucified on the boat as a result. In using this imagery, The Truman Show is repeating a common image seen in stories about false paradises. These works typically merge the images of the first and second Adam. Logan in Logan’s Run, for example, is the first Adam who escapes from a false paradise of another enclosed city and he is the second Adam who brings the truth of a better world back to the people and is crucified as a result.
Truman is composed of the words “true man”. He is a true man who will mature into adulthood and have a genuine relationship with a woman. He is a true man in the sense that he is brave. And he is the true man in the sense that he is the archetypal man for our age, who stands up to the false God and illusions of the media manipulators and develops the potential for an authentic life. Christof is God crucifying his only son, who is resurrected at the end.
Finally, the movie uses this mythological raw material to tell a new myth about contemporary America and the connection between invented substitutes for reality and the misuse of power. This new myth takes a number of elements of our current media landscape and mixes them together to convey its meaning. In part, it plays on the way we increasingly find ourselves watching staged events and theatrical illusions on television, even when we are viewing news, politics, advertising and public affairs. But in place of showing us an audience like ourselves that is being tricked, it cleverly turns the star of the show into the victim of the fraud.
Through these multiple meanings, these works tell us we have to mature, individually and collectively, and be born out of false paradises of media and technology into a harsher world of truth. They tell us we experience the new media class of entertainment, news, politics and corporations as made up of corrupt and controlling parents who try to use us for their own ends. And these works depict the members of this class as suffering from a god complex, in which they toy with human lives and act as if they are above and beyond life’s travails.