The Truman Show, directed by Peter (1998), follows the life of Truman Burbank – a 30-year-old man who comes to realise that his entire life has been broadcast to millions as reality television. Everything about Truman’s life is fake: from his friends and family really being paid actors, to the town where he grew up, Seahaven, actually being the world’s largest movie set. Whilst the events of the film may seem out of this world, here are 6 things that prove that we’re all living in The Truman Show.
Reality TV is now the norm
While nowadays we’re all obsessed with reality tv shows such as Love Island and The Bachelorette, it wasn’t until the 2000s that reality tv really became mainstream. The Truman Show foreshadowed in many ways the rise of reality tv, with the first Big Brother show airing shortly after the film’s release.
At its release, the idea of a reality show where you could watch someone live out their ordinary lives might have seemed bizarre – but in 2021, can we really say it’s such a weird concept? After all, now you can even pay a special subscription to watch the Big Brother house 24/7 without ads, just like how the audience in the film can with Truman’s life.
‘Real’ events are staged for the cameras
In Truman’s world, nothing is authentic. Christof, the creator of the tv show, orchestrates everything- from Truman’s father’s death to when the rain falls. Everything is staged for the cameras.
While we know that reality tv is often far from true ‘reality’, with editors manipulating the footage for the sake of the storyline, nowadays this inauthenticity is leaking into every aspect of our lives. Remember Madison Beer at the BLM protest or Grimes reading The Communist Manifesto? Exactly.
So much of the things we see in our daily lives have been packaged and manufactured for the cameras. It’s not just influencers too: I’m sure we’re all guilty of our Instagram posts portraying a happier, more fun and more put together version of ourselves.
Surveillance equipment everywhere
Seahaven, Truman’s town, is filled with 5,000 hidden cameras to record his every move. There’s nowhere he can go to escape the cameras—just as, increasingly, we can’t escape from them either.
The film was released as concerns were high regarding the rising prominence of surveillance equipment, and the anxieties of being watched and controlled that the film addresses really highlights this. Now, in 2021, surveillance equipment is so prevalent and we’ve gotten used to the feeling of knowing that we’re almost always being watched. Just like Truman, we’re all being watched constantly.
We’re all guilty of being a little too obsessed about the lives of people we’ll never meet
The audience in The Truman Show are glued to their screens, obsessed with finding out the latest developments in Truman’s life. So obsessed, in fact, that we’re left to question if the audience are so busy watching Truman’s life that they’ve forgotten to live their own.
Whilst most of us aren’t busy obsessing over someone we’ve never met to such a degree, almost all of us are guilty of being parasocially invested in the lives of celebrities or other influencers.
In a world where anyone can become famous overnight for seemingly no reason—cough, Charlie D’Amelio, cough—it’s not unfeasible that one of us could post a TikTok and wake up the next day to thousands of people invested in watching their lives through the screen.
Family vloggers are turning children into a business just like Truman was
Truman, as Christof proudly notes, is the first child in the cinematic world to have been adopted by a corporation. While we’re not at that point (and hopefully never will be!), YouTube family vloggers have faced criticism for turning their children into a brand/business.
10-year-old Ryan Kaji from Ryan’s World (previously known as Ryan’s Toy Reviews) has over 30.8 million followers on YouTube alone, with tv shows, toy deals and books all born from his ‘brand’. Children are increasingly being treated as businesses (especially in the world of entertainment) just as baby Truman was.
Hidden sponsorships and The Truman Catalogue
The Truman Show is supported almost entirely by integrated advertisements as the show runs 24/7 without ad breaks. Truman’s wife Meryl is constantly coming home with new products to show Truman (and the audience) with the perfect ad read, and Truman himself is even filmed drinking certain brands of cocoa to encourage the audience to be just like him.
Truman has no idea that he’s being subject to advertisements from the cast of the show, just as many influencers online have tried to sneak sponsored ads past their followers and pretend that they’re being authentic. Whilst laws are getting more strict about disclosing sponsorships, just like Truman almost all of us have encountered hidden ads marketed as genuine opinions.
The other way that the Truman Show makes money is through ‘The Truman Catalogue’ – a catalogue where audience members can buy the houses, clothes and food shown on screen. With Love Island UK announcing that they’re launching a shoppable service where viewers can buy things they see on screen directly through the show, ‘The Truman Catalogue’ has fully arrived in 2021 and I’m sure many shows will be following in its steps.
As fantastical as the film may have appeared in 1998, the events of the film really aren’t that absurd in 2021. From shoppable tv to being able to watch the lives of others 24/7 and ‘reality’ being staged for the cameras, we’re truly living in Truman’s world.