Truman Show and Religion
Every movie supports certain theory or notion that is enhanced and crafted by directors with the help of art to fashion theological, philosophical or political statements. For the same reason, the director Peter Weir and the creator of the story Andrew Niccol weave a web around protagonist who tries to run away from his home to get self-sufficiency like a person who wants to seek freedom just like when he is liberated from sins by Christ. Moreover, many theological themes can be interpreted from the story like the theme of God, utopia, rebellion and role of media (which is devoid of ethics and religiosity) makes it a religious allegory. It is a movie about one man’s expedition towards self-realization and freedom that, ultimately, leads to a truthful emancipation for his own self and for the viewers too that is a true concept of redemption.
To highlight the religious connection, it is quite pertinent to know the story of the movie in an explicit manner. In the movie, Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) seems to be living an ideal standard life on an Island (Seaheacen). He is spending his time wandering around the flawlessly designed world. He is working in an insurance company. His life is perfect as he has his best friend around (Noah Emmerich). He has a wonderful wife, Meryl (Laura Linney). He is not short of any blessing a man can think of.
Truman is living a comforted, peaceful, and normal life. There is nothing abnormal except for the fact that he is naively the celebrity of a reality television show (which is not in his knowledge). Christof (Ed Harris), the creator and director of the show, is taping Truman all day and night. He has created Seahaven as the world’s largest set which is established in the Hollywood Hills. There he has hired many actors and actresses as Truman’s family and friends. There is not a single moment which has been hidden from the viewer. From his birth to his bathroom routines, his complete life is being filmed to be broadcasted worldwide.
The relation between this movie and religion can be made at various places and levels. For example, the protagonist Jim Carrey who is playing the character of Truman Burbank is a thirty-year-old man who apparently, has a free will. He is living in a world of God who is all knowing. According to the primary belief, knowing and understanding of God and one’s self are interrelated. Secondly, man cannot escape God and this world. Thirdly; to understand God, one must fully understand his own self. In the movie, a TV program was controlling his life and he was totally unaware of that. Things were absolutely unnatural in his case because he was simply a tool of entertainment.
It is later that he realized that it was purely God’s decision. God wanted his life to be like that. After getting familiar with the reality, he tried to escape for the sake of freedom. When he talked to Christof (owner of the studio) for the first time, he said:” I am the creator…of a television show that gives hope and joy and inspiration to everybody. Here, it is quite easy to explore the theme of God. Later, in the struggle to find God and himself, Truman found out that Christof was a sham god and decided to leave his make belief world in the journey to find his true self.
At many places, the dialogues give the impression as if Truman is talking to God himself because God is the real creator and one draws hope and inspiration from Him. The character of Christof (as his name also gives the impression for being God) feels himself the powerful person from whom there is no escape. When Truman decides to leave that make belief world of Christof while standing at the verge of real world, Christof gives him the option to stay in his protected world or to step in the unknown world. Truman utilizes his free will and decides to leave. After Truman’s exit, Christof and his team halts transmission of the show. The devoted viewers started to rejoice over Truman’s escape but Truman as a free man has no ground.
There are some significant religious interpretations and arguments that must be discussed here. First of them is; there is something wrong with this world. It is artificial and focuses on materialistic gains. Everyone has a different notion about the existence and running of world even The Truman Show reveals another aspect of the world which is entirely different and unreal. The reason for this opposite face of the world is; we have lost that sensibility that can enable us to find real things around. It is because of indulgence in the worldly affairs that materialism is strengthening its roots. Even Christof offers viewers to compare real world with Truman’s world: “We’ve become bored watching actors give us phony emotions…While the world he inhabits is in some respects counterfeit, there’s nothing fake about Truman himself. It isn’t always Shakespeare, but it’s genuine. It’s a life.” and when in the end, Truman asks Chistof; “Was nothing real?” Christof replies: “You were.”
Christian faith reinforces the same idea that something is wrong with our world which is more than any particular ailment. The whole issue is much bigger than we perceive. According to Jesus, the technical word for this ailment is sin. Many people misinterpret the term, and consider that its meaning is doing something immoral. On the other hand, they don’t know that God has created this world and reality, and God is the source of all reality, so playing with this reality is actually committing sin.
Another imperative presence of religion can be felt in the form of angels. At many times, the presence of angels can be felt that shows that human is always given signs by God and His angels. For example, when the lamp falls from the sky, an unexpected rain showers on him but it was not raining anywhere else. Likewise, cops with whom he has never met before identifies him and knows his name. And then, above all the character of Lauren who is from the outside world, cares about Truman, and feels sorry for him because she wants to save him from all this counterfeit world and its fake realities.
Christians believe that God tries to communicate to them because there is a bigger reality than this fake world and God wants his people to identify this. He always wants us to get through. In a world of appearance and unreality, or deception, manipulation and distrust, God wants his people to rely on him because only, He is real. He wants his people to join the nurturing values not materialistic gains. The example can be traced from the movie where Christof acknowledges: “If [Truman] was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him…He could leave at any time.” But it’s not easy to pursue that new reality.” So this dialogue leads to another religious metaphor in the movie which is; breaking the so called shell of superficial norms.
Here, the problem lies that Truman is showing that zeal and zest to get out of this shell whereas, the people around him does not want him to. For instance, His wife says: “Let me get you some help. You’re not well…You’re having a nervous breakdown.” Of course. Society doesn’t appreciate and encourage defiant because he stands as a threat for the status quo. He was flowing against the society’s ebb and flow that is why, he had to face harsh realities of life which Christians are already warned of.
On the other hand, Truman tried to get out from the fake world. For him, things were not easy. His attempt to leave by plane went in vain because there was no plane for a month. He tried to get out by car, and was halted by a phony accident at a nuclear power plant. He managed to get on a bus to reach Chicago but the driver deliberately barred the gears. This is a deliberate use of free will v/s God’s that reveals the placement of human being in this world and further tells us that humans eventually meet to their destiny no matter what they choose to be or want to do.
Truman was stuck between his choice to face the unknown world and the opportunity to stay safe in the fake known world. It was not going to be easy to fit into the bigger jigsaw puzzle. He was in confinement for his whole life and suddenly, he met with a harshest reality of his life which Jesus warned about. Jesus said that it would be hard and all people had to get ready for such difficulties and it could even cost death. So Truman chose this path and he was ready to pay the price for his decision.
So, it can be summed up on this note that the movie itself is not made to preach theological themes but these themes can be interpreted through the actions and happenings in the movie. The truth of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, has been, surprisingly, acknowledged in it because Jesus condemns “the god of this world” and promises his followers that the actual reality is much larger than we see around us. So, they must strive to reach to the real world. He took risk and left everything that he was familiar with. He thought he was running after light and goodness but actually, it was a dark mysterious gorge. It was a precisely fabricated make belief world that otherwise gave Truman a chance to find the real truth and authentic reality of the world. The more audience ponder, the more they begin to realize that the Truman Show is not just amovie for fun and entertainment rather a religious allegory in which our modern day realities are highlighted. All people in this world feel disrupted and lost in this transition. The disclosure that all powerful people with eminence are not God but merely people who are only manipulating others are actually lying and duping them. They are tricked by the empty ideologies and for sham freedom as in reality, freedom is nothing but devastating truth. God’s decision are always implemented no matter which direction you take with your free will.