The Truman Show: Portrayal of a Capitalist Society
In The Truman Show, directed by Peter Weir and starring Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, an average man living in what appears to be a normal world, but it’s anything but. In actuality, he lives inside a massive dome-world created by Hollywood producers for the purpose of capitalizing on Truman’s life. He has lived in this dome for all of his life, unknowingly, and the God-like producer named Christof controls the day-to-day events that occur around the idyllic town of Seahaven. Early on in the film, we’re shown that the world is simply a fallacy. In fact, the opening scenes in the movie are of Christof discussing the show and its production. Within moments of meeting Truman, a massive stage light falls which is the first of many immersion breaking symptom in the film. As he goes about his life, he slowly notices things around him that don’t add up. The radio would cut to someone narrating his every move, seeing his dead father on the sidewalk alive and well, and mysteriously not being able to leave the island because of traffic or the bus breaks down, and so on. Truman realizes that something is fishy, so he begins to try and figure out what is happening; he discovers that by acting spontaneously and not doing what he would normally do, he could find more of the inconsistencies in what he previously felt was a paradise. In the end, Truman ends up confronting Christof and securing his freedom by leaving the dome, against the wishes of Christof. The movie exemplifies the emptiness of an American capitalist society and furthers the ideas about reality television that it is voyeuristic and perverse.
Reality television, such as portrayed in The Truman Show, is ultimately the apotheosis of capitalist society. These shows utilize people as objects in order to advertise the latest and greatest product. This is a paradigmatic example of the Marxist ‘reification’, where Karl Marx states that objects are converted into persons and persons are converted into objects. Marx argues against a capitalist society where the main idea is to try and sell as many products as possible and make the most money, in spite of any ethical concerns, such as the life of a human being in the case of The Truman Show . The actors in the show merely serve as a platform by which companies can present their items to the massive audience that show has. This can be shown in many parts of the movie where the characters will go out of their way to mention a product, such as when Truman’s best friend, Marlon, would be drinking a beer and carefully frame it so that the entire label is in the shot from the hidden camera, and state how tasty it is regardless of what the current conversation is about. Additionally, Truman's wife would reference her favorite kitchen product or food at random times, not-so-seamlessly advertising these products in an awkward fashion to ensure they meet their quota of brand naming. This effectively turns Truman’s life into a form of continuous commercial, just by using a product. Weir uses this to satirize the way commercialization has taken over; our entertainment has become commercials, and commercials have become our entertainment, effectively graying the area between advertising and programming. Objectification of actors in reality programming is nothing new to audiences, it is a very regular thing to do. The talent in these shows begin to simply sell themselves in order to milk the cash cow of their broadcast. One example of this is when members from the Jersey Shore started to do tours around the country and would act as an advertisement for a club in town. In reference to reality television, Jan Jagodzinski, a psychology professor at the University of Alberta, argues that “such television programs reinforce the very perversity they claim to cure” (Jagodzinski, 2005). These shows emphasize being a perfect world, however this a falsity. If anything, they characterize the obsession with excesses that the public possesses. The gross over-exaggeration of the merchandise in the show exhibits how used to commercialization and objectification the public is. Peter Weir is attempting to show how empty the capitalist society we live in is, so much so that the producer of the Truman Show is willing to forgo the emotions of the people onscreen in order to increase advertising revenue as much as possible with product placement.
The film also depicts the perversity and voyeurism involved in the reality television world.
Jagodzinski talks about reality television in one of his articles where he states, “Slippages into forms of domination and totalitarianism occur regularly…” (Jagodzinski, 2005) Christof continually changes the world around Truman in order to create better television. For example, Christof removes the father figure from Truman’s life at an early age by ‘killing’ him off the show, a cruel example that hinders Truman’s life and development as a child. The use of vignette shots hints at the hidden camera aspect of the show as well, and most notably exhibits the voyeuristic nature of hidden cameras with the high angle shot towards Truman’s butt in the garden (albeit this was also used for comedic effect). As the film progresses, we are shown many views of people watching the show at all hours of the day, even putting it on to sleep alongside Truman. This is another direct satirization of the audience of the show; Weir wants the viewing audience of the movie to be juxtaposed with the viewing audience of the television program, a group that gathers enjoyment watching another person live their life through a voyeuristic scenario.
The Truman Show depicts an ersatz paradise, harking back to halcyon times when people didn’t have to worry because everything was already set out and planned for them. Weir utilizes this to present a view on the emptiness of the capitalist society that entertains us on a daily basis.
- Quote paper
- Jack Foster (Author), 2013, Response to the Movie "The Truman Show", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/267805