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the truman show as commentary on consumer society

The Truman Show as Commentary on Consumer Society

Quotation from reading: Thus does the movie [The Truman Show] offer us a metaphor for our own situation. The fake landscape Truman lives in is our own media landscape in which news, politics, advertising and public affairs are increasingly made up of theatrical illusions. Like our media landscape, it is convincing in its realism, with lifelike simulations and story lines, from the high-tech facsimile of a sun that benevolently beams down on Truman to the mock sincerity of the actor he mistakenly believes is his best friend. It is also rewarding and masquerades as something benevolent. And it is seamless -- there are almost no flaws that give away the illusion -- at least until things start to go wrong.

general theory
General Theory
  • Truman is like the consumer in consumer society.
  • He is completely controlled and manipulated by his environment (and he doesn’t know it).
  • Consumers are constantly manipulated by advertising or other forms of media (reality TV) and many don’t seem to know it.
  • Truman is under constant surveillance.
  • We are not under constant surveillance in the same way Truman is (or at least I don’t think so), but information gathering on our behavior is growing day by day through data mining. Our beliefs, our likes, our purchases are all tracked and are being used to provide us exactly with what we want (or think we want).
claim 1
Claim 1
  • We, the viewers know, that the world around Truman is false. He is controlled at every turn.
  • But Truman is a social being. He believes the world around him is real because, as Cristof says, “we accept the reality that is presented to us.”
  • Truman is like a person who, having been raised in a consumer society, accepts this society as the only possible society (or reality).
claim 2 but
Claim 2: But
  • But while Truman accepts the reality of the world around him he appears vaguely discontent, or, dare we say, “alienated.”
  • He longs for a lost love.
  • He seeks adventure as an explorer.
  • His relation to his wife appears mechanical and perfunctory.
  • He in his social relations appears mechanical and fake.
claim 3 truman s choice
Claim 3: Truman’s Choice
  • Truman’s plight outlines a choice:
  • The average consumer can:
  • A) accept and continue to live in a manipulative social world because, as Christof, says it is “safe.”Quotation from reading: “Surveillance, they say, is for your own protection, direct marketing is for our leisure and convenience; commodification only sees to our pleasure (CC 195).”
  • B) somehow resist the manipulative control of the CS.
our choice
Our Choice?
  • Truman clearly makes a choice because he clearly has a choice. At the end of the movie, he decides to leave “Seahaven” for the “real” world.
  • But is Truman’s choice our choice? Or more exactly what choice do we have? Where are we as members of the consumer society going to go to find the “real” world.
  • Fiji?
  • That brings us to another element depicted in the movie -- you (and me). The movie isn't only a satire of television and other forms of media. It aims many of its most pointed barbs at us, the audience. After all, as we watch the characters hanging on Truman's every expression so they can feel something, that is us we see depicted on the screen. We are the one's who make this system possible, the movie tells us. The willingness of the audience to exploit Truman so it can enjoy his life as entertainment is our own willingness to exploit an endless parade of human victims of news and reality programming because they have the misfortune to be part of some "newsworthy" event. And both the audience and Truman portray our willingness to experience an easier and more exciting substitute for life, which is what fuels the media machine.
  • So Truman and the audience depict us. We're the villains and victims and hero of The Truman Show. And, ultimately, the only illusions we have to escape are the ones we create ourselves.
another quotation
Another Quotation
  • The third theme that can be read from The Truman Show is the triumph of the individual against Big Brother, against a technological society of control. Despite all the manipulation and the surveillance, Truman is able to resist. "You didn't have a camera in my head," he states defiantly. There is, then, according to this, an essential (plucky) humanism, a true nature: Tru­man Burbank. He is the "True-Man," an authentic human. But at the same time his last name denotes the Hollywood studio city in which he lives, and connotes the brash commercialism of TV (Nicco11998).
  • The trueman, the rational individual struggling against a manipulative, commercialized society, is ultimately resistant (in this scenario), though of course, there is no need to resist if the society is benevolent. Surveillance, they say, is for our own protection; direct marketing is for our leisure and convenience; commodification only sees to our pleasure. The true consum­ers can hardly be dissatisfied and alienated because the world, after all ­and like Truman's-revolves around them. What they want to watch is pro­grammed If. something does not sell it will not be forced down the consum­ers' throats; consumers are sovereign, after all. Modem society presents lots of choice.