When I saw the movie The Truman Show as a kid I remember sincerely speculating about the possibility that my life, like Truman’s, might secretly be a television show. When I say ‘sincerely speculate’ I mean, like, if I was alone in the bathroom I would talk as if there was a camera watching me. Because you know, eleven-year-olds are impressionable creatures who will believe anything. I know I’m not the only one because friends of mine have corroborated this post-Truman Show behavior.
Now that I’m an adult re-watching The Truman Show my take-away is different (thankfully). It was easy to identify with Truman’s absolute urge to travel, especially since I recently drove across the country in sort of willy-nilly quest to find… who knows what. Truman Burbank didn’t have much of a plan and neither did I. After all, plans weren’t what propelled me out onto the road. It was a lust to go and see whatever might reveal itself, to let yourself be pressed against questions for which there aren’t words and perhaps find an answer or perhaps find nothing, or most circuitously of all, find both at the same time. Needless to say I was rooting for Truman to get out there and travel.
Within the movie, the biggest thing the show’s creators have to grapple with is keeping Truman from leaving the town, which they do through coercion, suggestion and, most cruelly, by inflicting psychological damage upon him. Watching Truman ram himself against these invisible barriers is part of what makes the movie fun. Over the course of his life, despite all efforts, Truman begins to realize that there’s something deeply flawed with the world around him but he just can’t put his finger on it.
Every time he tries to leave it seems like everything is against him. I had a day like that yesterday, and I’m sure we’ve all had similar experiences. Yesterday morning I was packing my car because today I was supposed to move to Portland. After meticulously cramming it full of stuff I realized that one of my back tires was flat. Unfortunately this meant that I had to unpack my car just so I could get my spare from under the trunk. After getting it changed out and repaired (there was a razor blade embedded in my tire) I again re-packed everything. Then my future room mate called to tell me that the guy Anthony, who’s room I’m moving into, had not actually moved out yet, despite that he said he’d out by the 15th, and might not be completely moved out of the house until next week. This was the icing on the cake. Everything I’d “accomplished” that day was for nothing.
The shows’ director, Christof, claims that “We accept the reality with which we are presented,” though to be honest I spend a good deal of time in quiet wonderment of how weird it is that “This” is reality. I mean, the world is a weird place. The universe is totally weird. Most of all, I am a weirdo. Why are things like this?
And Truman Burbank lives in a world that is even weirder. It seems like it was just a ticking time bomb. Of course he was going to leave. They should have let him go on a vacation. If they had the resources to build a town for him to live in, surely they could have created a way for him to go on a vacation?
The movie also gives him a love interest which helps spurn his exodus, but I like to think that it’s not love that drives him, it’s the search for authenticity. At the very least, however, he’s got someone to take him in on the outside. In my mind fame in general must be a nightmare, but Truman’s fame is beyond anything our culture of celebrity-worship has been able to manufacture. The poor guy will probably have to get some serious plastic surgery if he hopes to live a normal life. I just hope Sylvia’s a nice person…