Ok, time for another “You kids these days don’t know what good movies are” review, this time starring Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. In this prophetic look at reality TV before there was such a thing, this movie not only presents a totally new wave of entertainment, but the inevitable consequences of this as well.
The Truman Show is literally a 24/7 broadcast of the main character’s life, from the time he was a baby into adulthood. He becomes an Insurance salesman, has a wife and friends and lives in a small town. The twist is, every single thing in his life is make believe, or a prop in the TV show…every person he knows is an actor and a willing participant in the lie of Truman’s life. Everyone in the show is in on the lie except Truman. At certain points in the movie, some of the actors start to feel for Truman and are trying to alert him to what is going on, or they “break form” as an actor and start to mess up the process of keeping Truman in the dark. They start to show their human side, feeling guilty for what they are participating in, and how this person’s entire life is being exploited and on display for the world to see.
At some point, he starts to catch on to the fact that everything in his “real life” is not so real. Meanwhile, the show is being broadcast to the world, and gains so much popularity that everyone is watching. It becomes a worldwide phenomenon. At certain times, the world literally comes to a stop to watch what he is doing. As the movie comes to a very dramatic close, even the TV show producer does everything in his power to keep Truman from discovering that his life is a reality TV show. I don’t want to give away the ending, because it it pretty powerful in my opinion.
This movie is worth the watch.
Some of the takeaways from this will differ, and I think your age will have a lot to do with that. If you grew up a Millennial or Gen Z’er, this may have a totally different (and more familiar feel) to it. As someone in my age bracket of Gen X, this was a groundbreaking film that led us to believe that it was a likely possibility that this is what our future would look like. As it turns out, if you choose to indulge in reality TV of any kind, it did turn out this way. My wife watches 90 Day Fiancé and Housewives of Orange County and other crap like that. But I have watched many of the seasons of The Ultimate Fighter and sports documentaries that really are the same “peek behind the curtains” view of someone else’s life, so all things considered, it is the same thing. We are morbidly fascinated with other people’s lives. We do it for comparison reasons, for escapism reasons, and many others. Whether or not it is a healthy thing is a matter of opinion, but I lean heavily in the direction of this being an unhealthy practice.
Where I think this movie has real validity in today’s world is in a couple of places. First, the Kardashians certainly fall into the category of people who think their lives are interesting enough that the rest of us (should) want to watch them 24/7. This has triggered entire generations of people who believe the same thing, and if only they could get “discovered”, we would all be so interested in them instead. WRONG. No one is that interesting, and you as an individual should never give that much weight and value to someone else’s lifestyle and thoughts. Second, broadcasting your life to the world leads itself to less authentic behaviors than you are capable of, and should be focused on.
Having lived a life that started before all of the social media, reality TV and other mind-clogging crap, I can tell you that this has not improved our society, it has degraded it in many ways. You can pinpoint people throughout our modern culture’s history that lived this way, but they didn’t have the bandwidth to broadcast it like today. For me, it started with Cher, and then Madonna took over that crown. These superstars had massive egos and it was apparent that they did not really want to live “off camera”. Next in line…Paris Hilton. She really took things to the next level. Super rich kid with too much time and money on her hands. She portrayed this character that was Paris Hilton, and the world fell for it hook, line and sinker. She brought friends into the mix, and soon they were sharing their lavish lifestyles all the time for the rest of us to fawn over. The sickness hit a tipping point in this era, and the world has not been the same since.
The desire for more access and less privacy took off, the technology that was developed assisted the landslide. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many other options to not only play voyeur, but to also participate in the game by broadcasting your life came to prominence. I started a Facebook account under protest, but since many of the kids I coach at ASU were using it, it became the most convenient mass communication tool available. So I caved and made a profile with only the bare minimum information required. However, the kids all made fun of me for “hiding” or “not playing like the others” and so I enhanced my profile with more pictures and more information about my life. Before long, I was logging in all the time, and broadcasting my own life to the world. Peer pressure is a strange thing, and apparently I am susceptible just like others are. But the day I got a friend invite from my Mom on Facebook, I knew things had changed. The world was now in that app, not just the college crowd and younger generations. It had hooked everyone.
In my own opinion of all this again, having been along for the ride from the start, but also having a frame of reference by living before this technology became so pervasive in our lives, I would consider myself a barely willing participant at this point. I do it out of curiosity, despite knowing that most of the times that I log into Twitter I am going to read something that pisses me off. It is the tech equivalent of driving past a car crash, part of me doesn’t want to look, but part of me can’t look away either. I don’t like the fact that it has any kind of hold on me, and after seeing The Social Dilemma documentary, I cancelled my Facebook account and I no longer interact on Twitter or Instagram. I have shifted to observer.
So, circling back to the beginning of this blog, I can tell you that if you desire to have the whole world know who you are and everything about you, you’ve got a hard slap of reality coming your way. In most cases, not enough people care for you to ever feel satisfied by this. It is an empty pursuit, trust me. Secondly, if you did actually “go viral” and become famous for something you posted, are you really prepared for everything that goes with it? Do you really want that level of scrutiny of the minutia of your life? Are you ready to lose it all in one shot because you say the wrong thing, post an opinion that gets spun in a direction you never intended but you pay the price anyway? I seriously doubt it.
I think what most people will come to realize is that what they think they want and what will really make them happy are two very different things. It is a shallow people who needs the constant adulation of others to feel good about themselves.
Get this through your head as soon as possible:
YOU DO NOT WANT THE STARRING ROLE IN THE TRUMAN SHOW.
You might think you do, but you have no idea what comes along with this, and the responsibility is far greater than you can possibly imagine. You are not ready for it or equipped to deal with it. You will crash and burn, just like pretty much everyone else who have walked that path.
If you could burn through this cycle in a couple of months instead of a couple of years, think how much better off your life would be, and how much ground you would gain over the others around you who are going through the same process. Whether you are striving to make it big in the corporate world or starting a family, focus on your own growth and development and quit worrying about what so many others think. it only leads to bad things and low self esteem in most cases. Skip over this dismal period of your life, and leapfrog to where most end up anyway…right where I am today. I am an unwilling and infrequent observer. I find most of the stuff I see on the news, on “reality TV’ and social media to not only be far removed from my life, but also to have little to no positive impact whatsoever.
As a rule of thumb, if everyone else is doing it, it is probably not worth doing. Be an individual, the best version of yourself and as soon as possible. Be brave, and cut the proverbial cord…