In the movie ‘The Truman Show’ (Peter Weir, 1998) the character Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is turned into the main character of a worldwide successful TV show without knowing it. He had been an unwanted child and was adopted by a company, thus becoming the first child in the world adopted by a company.
The television show portrays his life in ‘Seahaven’ from his birth on, where he is the unknowingly the main character, while all the other persons in ‘his world’ are actors directed by the producer Christof (Ed Harris), who wants to create the ‘perfect world’ and therefore plans every single step Truman takes and all the relationships that Truman establishes. The movie ‘The Truman Show’ can be interpreted as a portrait of the encroachment of the media onto the private lives of the american nation, which forces them to watch and buy their products.Order now
Since the 16th century people have always wanted ‘an engrossing conflation of real and imaginary’ (Tony E. Jackson 2010, 141). This has had the effect that film studios and producers have come up with TV shows which have become the most popular television formats in the last couple of years. One explanation which accounts most for the success is that ‘reality television makes it possible for the average person to be both a viewer and a TV star’ at the same time (Breyer 2004, 3).
The producers use this desire to get deeply into the personal lives of the ‘pseudo-stars’. As a result it keeps them watching these shows on a regular basis. In the movie the producer Christof manufactures ‘ways to keep on the island’ (Jackson, 2010, 145). When Truman was a boy Christof created a scene where Truman was sailing on a boot with his father, when suddenly a big storm came up and his father vanished. ‘One programmed outcome of this event is a fear of going over water’; as a result he can’t leave the island ‘Seahaven’ (Jackson 2010, 145).
When the character suspects for the first time that his world might be fake, the producer tries to use this fear in order to keep him on the island. Since this trick didn’t work, he creates a leak in a nuclear power plant, which finally prevails on Truman to go back into his ‘world’. In the USA the media use the power of storytelling in television shows and movies by creating dramatic turning points, cliffhangers and unexpected or happy endings to make the viewers wanting to turn on the TV on a weekly basis.
The anticipation of the end is what makes the beginning and middle of any story engaging’ (Jackson 2010, 146). Every movie or TV Show budget is partly financed by commercial breaks, through the film studios which make money by showing specific advertisement and therefore getting money from the producing company of the products (Glickman and Kim 2012, 1). Since the television show The Truman Show in the movie ”The Truman Show” presents the life of the main character 24 hours a day without any break, there is no place for commercial breaks.
As a result, the show generates ‘enormous revenues through far from subtle product placements’ (Knox Fall 2010, 2). Every product seen on the show -from food, shoes to buildings- can be bought in the Truman catalogue (Wise 2002, 37). In this way they try to reach their goal of influencing people to buy their products. The media landscape of the US use the product placement as representative of ‘the migration of advertisements from separated, regulated spaces into the spaces of programs, films, and eventually out of the media and into our lives’ (Wise 2002, 37).
Wise describes these kind of branding everyday life as work of the advertiser to make the brands and logos the ‘personal habits of the consumer’ (2002, 37). In conclusion we can state that the movie illustrates, on the one hand, how the film studios in Hollywood influence and manipulate us by advertising products through product placement; on the other hand, the movie stands for the wish of the average American to become famous and rich (that is to say, the American Dream). All this is done cleverly by building up a thrilling arc of suspense, thus making the viewer watch their shows and buy their products.
Breyer, Richard. 2004. ‘Reality TV’. The World & I. 19 (1): 3
Glickman, Len and Kim, Anita. 2012. ‘Product Placement and Technology: Developments, Opportunities, and Challenges’. The Entertainment and Sports Lawyer. 30:1
Jackson, Tony E. September 2010. ‘Televisual Realism: Truman Show’. Mosaic 43(3):140-146.
Knox, Simone. Fall 2010. ‘Reading The Truman Show Inside Out’. Film Criticism.35 (1): 1
Wise, Macgregor .2002. ‘Mapping the Culture of Control – Seeing through the Truman Show’. Television New Media. 3: 37-
‘The Meaning of The Truman Show’. TransparencyNow. http://www.transparencynow.com/trusig.htm (Accessed: 02.10.14 16:42)
”Other Meanings:Birth, Mind, Myth”. TransparencyNow. http://www.transparencynow.com/trudom.htm (Accessed: 02.10.14 17:16)