The Truman Show

I watched The Truman Show last night.  It’s a movie in which Truman’s wife, his best friend, his neighbours … are just actors, following a script.  A film which many people see as a satire on the media’s control over human beings.  But I think it’s far more.  Truman Burbank’s story calls us to embrace freedom, with all its beauty and blemishes.  To have courage.  To step beyond the norm.  To truly live.

***

TV Announcer: 1.7 billion were there for his birth. 220 countries tuned in for his first step. The world stood still for that stolen kiss. And as he grew, so did the technology. An entire human life recorded on an intricate network of hidden cameras, and broadcast live and unedited, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to an audience around the globe. Coming to you now from Seahaven Island, enclosed in the largest studio ever constructed, and along with the Great Wall of China one of only two man-made structures visible from space, now in its 30th great year… It’s The Truman Show!

Truman’s whole life … for all to see.  A carefully controlled life – only happy stuff.  No nasty sadness, fear or loneliness.

***

Mike Michaelson: Christof, let me ask you, why do you think that Truman has never come close to discovering the true nature of his world until now?

Christof: We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented. It’s as simple as that.

And what exactly are we being presented with?  “No, Bruce.  You can’t change the world.”  Spontaneity is somehow bad.  Fit in.  Do what people are comfortable with and life will be smoother.

***

Marlon: [Emotional almost to the point of tears] The point is, I would gladly step in front of traffic for you, Truman. And the last thing I would ever do to you…

Christof: [Feeding Marlon his lines] … is lie to you.

Marlon: …is lie to you.

Oh, may I have true relationships, where people are real in their love, in their anger, in the feedback they give me.

***

Mike Michaelson: The Hague for Christof. Hello? The Hague? All right, we’ve lost that call, let’s go to Hollywood, California. You’re on Trutalk.

Sylvia: Hi, Christof, I’d just like to say one thing, you’re a liar and a manipulator and what you’ve done to Truman is sick!

Christof: Well. We remember this voice, don’t we? How could we forget?

Mike Michaelson: Uh, let’s go to another call, what do we have…

Christof: No. No, no, no, no, no, it’s fine, it’s fine, Mike. I love to reminisce with former members of the cast. Sylvia, as you announced so melodramatically to the world, do you think because you batted your eyes at Truman once, flirted with him, stole a few minutes of airtime with him to thrust yourself and your politics into the limelight, that you know him? That you know what’s right for him? You really think you’re in a position to judge him?

Sylvia: What right do you have to take a baby and turn his life into some kind of mockery? Don’t you ever feel guilty?

Christof: I have given Truman the chance to lead a normal life. The world, the place you live in, is the sick place. Seahaven is the way the world should be.

Sylvia: He’s not a performer, he’s a prisoner. Look at him, look at what you’ve done to him!

Christof: He could leave at any time. If his was more than just a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him. I think what distresses you, really, caller, is that ultimately Truman prefers his cell, as you call it.

Sylvia: Well, that’s where you’re wrong. You’re so wrong! And he’ll prove you wrong!

Do we prefer our cells?  Our comfy cozy sanctuaries?  Is the world of gains and losses, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, and fame and disrepute, the sick place?  Or is that world also the home of transcendence, peace and true love?

***

Christof: We’ve become bored with watching actors give us phony emotions. We are tired of pyrotechnics and special effects. While the world he inhabits is, in some respects, counterfeit, there’s nothing fake about Truman himself. No scripts, no cue cards. It isn’t always Shakespeare, but it’s genuine. It’s a life.

May I always be genuine, and may you be as well, so we can look each other in the eyes and see ourselves.

***

Truman Burbank: Was nothing real?

Christof: You were real. That’s what made you so good to watch…

Indeed.  Give me a real person to cherish.  Whether rich or poor, pretty or plain, assertive or shy.  None of that stuff matters.

***

Christof: As Truman grew up, we were forced to manufacture ways to keep him on the island.

[flashback to Truman at school]

Young Truman: I’d like to be an explorer, like the great Magellan.

Teacher: [rolling down a map of the world] Oh, you’re too late. There’s really nothing left to explore.

This is not about teachers … in fact, I’m a retired one.  But some folks in our lives don’t want us to stretch, to go outside of the nine dots, to become something new.

***

Truman: I figure we can scrape together $8,000…

Meryl: Every time you and Marlon get together…

Truman: We can bum around the world for a year on that!

Meryl: And then what, Truman? We’d be where we were five years ago. You’re talking like a teenager.

Truman: Well, maybe I feel like a teenager.

Meryl: We have mortgage payments, Truman.

[He sighs]

Meryl: We have car payments. What, we’re going to just walk away from our financial obligations?

Truman: [He stands, whirls around, bends pleadingly, his hands reaching as though to grab the world] It would be an adventure!

Meryl: I thought we were gonna try for a baby.

[He turns away and rubs the back of his neck]

Meryl: Isn’t that enough of an adventure?

Truman: [Truman turns back, waves his arms dramatically] That can wait. I want to get away, see some of the world! Explore!

Meryl: [teasing him] Honey, you wanna be an explorer.

[She rises, goes to him, strokes his cheek]

Meryl: This’ll pass. We all think like this now and then.

***

May the deepest urges of our humanity never pass
May we explore the infinities of life
May we heed the call of adventure
May we not regress to the mean

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