It’s Thursday again, so it’s time to look back on the great science fiction of the past with Throwback Thursday. And today, I’d like to take a look back on a movie that is often overly maligned, and may seem the least sci-fi of any of the sci-fi we’ve taken a look at: ‘The Truman Show.’
‘The Truman Show’ is a movie that asks a very pertinent science fiction question: “What if our reality isn’t real?” And you know it is because this one of the central questions in ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, or as it is more commonly known, ‘Blade Runner‘.
It follows the life and times of Truman, an unwanted baby who is raised in a completely artificial environment that is watched as a television show. They manipulate his reality, and create scenarios for him that -while real- force him to follow their plot lines. They kill his father off in a boating accident to make him afraid of water, and too scared to leave the island on which he lives. They force away his love interest and connive for him to marry a woman who is a very good actress, but has no interest in being with him.
They even pepper the travel agency he goes to with posters to convince him leaving is a bad idea.
The reality of the show is that there is no reality in it, which makes for a very fascinating idea to engage with. This is especially true when Truman starts to realize his world is manufactured, but he has no idea who to trust. Unfortunately, since it’s the only world he knows, he finds he has to confide in his friends who are paid to be his friends, or his wife, who is paid to be his wife, all the while as they try to hock new kitchen items or their favorite beers to the viewers at home.
The movie looks into the future the way science fiction should and makes it truer to the genre than many others with aliens and spaceships do. Keep in mind, in 1998 reality TV was something you saw on the “Real World”, but not a whole lot of other places. This movie predicted the onslaught of reality television that would hit our airwaves and extrapolated out to an extreme but believable outcome. How very sci-fi.
Not only that, it’s sci-fi in its technologies. It predicts an environment that can be completely controlled by outside influences, something we have seen recently in ‘The Hunger Games‘. It also predicted a world where cameras were mobile and hidden everywhere, which is definitely not something that was possible on the scale of ‘The Truman Show’ in 1998.
I’m never sure why this movie is maligned, other than it was Jim Carrey’s first famous serious role after everyone knew him as a ‘Pet Detective’ or wearing ‘The Mask.’ Perhaps they thought his over the top 50s-esque acting was not what serious acting was, and if that’s the case, they missed the point of the movie. They purposely created Truman’s world to mimic the 50s because that was what people believed to be a perfect world in the 90s. The irony is, that the world we imagine as perfect in the 50s is just as manufactured as ‘The Truman Show’ is.
What I can surmise then is that the audience wasn’t ready for the many layers of ‘The Truman Show,’ and the movie itself was unapologetic in not spoon-feeding it to its viewers.
It still stands out today to me as one of our greatest science fiction movies. So if you haven’t seen it, go do that. And if you have, maybe look at it in a new light.