Five Minutes: The Truman Show

Audio: Use controls to play, pause, etc.

Download 'The Truman Show': Five-Minute Commentary Track (mp3, 2.0 MB).

(Culture Snob’s second offering for its own Misunderstood Blog-a-thon.)

Truman Burbank: Into the wildThere’s a maxim that says a movie teaches you how to watch it, but Peter Weir’s The Truman Show teaches you how to watch it the wrong way. And in its brazen audience cues, it hints that you should question your reaction to the film. This is a movie that was made for misunderstanding.

This marks the debut of a new feature at Culture Snob, in which I choose a short section of a movie (roughly five minutes) and use it to explore larger issues in the film. With The Truman Show, I use the final six minutes to discuss the ways that Weir manipulates the audience into feeling that it’s seeing a happy ending. The reality is that Truman Burbank — to this point, always protected as the unwitting star of an extreme reality-television show — faces a difficult if not impossible life.

You don’t need to watch along, but a familiarity with the movie helps.

The praise for this film always has puzzled me. It seems like a better idea than an actual movie and I never understood how Ed Harris got an Oscar nod for sitting in a control booth, looking solemn and saying “Truman” softly while touching the monitor.

I agree with you about Ed Harris — I’m much more impressed with Carrey and Laura Linney — but I do believe that The Truman Show was prescient and beautifully made. And it captures the cruelty of reality television, in the sense that we get deeply invested without genuinely caring about the people we’re investing in.

And I think it’s also a lovely treatment of the ambivalence of parenting/protecting.

I like this new feature, as well as your comments. I thought anyone who wanted to follow along with the film, here’s a link to the end:

Something I neglected to mention in my original post was that I wanted to offer audio content that wasn’t as cumbersome as the Culture Snob commentary tracks, in terms of time investment and practical/technical requirements.

And it doesn’t require as much time on my part.

Anyway, I’m glad you liked it.

You say the movie wants us to see its ending as some personal triumph of the spirit, or some such thing, which you claim is nonsense as Truman probably wouldn’t survive in the real world. Fair enough, but what about the very final moment in the movie? It’s been a while, but I recall two people sitting watching Truman escape, and cheering. Then, as soon as Truman leaves his “world” they stop cheering and then say, “What else is on?” I think this implies as to what’s in store for Truman Burbank. Even though he’s a celebrity, how much good will could he get by on before even his fans get sick of him and leave him to his own devices? Of course, there are other questions, such as what exactly is outside the dome (aside from “reality”)? Are there security people there who would stop him? Even kill him, now that he’s no longer of any use? One other thing I wonder is that Cristof states that Truman is better off inside the TV world, but what happens when the ratings drop and the show can no longer be financially supported? The final moment does point out the fickleness and apathy that many TV viewers display toward what they’re watching (and not completely without just cause, as most TV is meant to be watched and then pretty much forgotten). To me, that final moment seems more like a satirical reversal of a manipulative ploy. We’re supposed to cheer for Truman’s escape, but then at the last second the movie says to us, “Oh really?” and leaves the rest to our imaginations.

i always saw the ending as a mataphor. He is finally realizing he hasnt been in control of his own life.. and is taking bold steps to gain it .. he is freeing himself.

One can make a strong argument that he is the first cyber hero. this movie relates more and more to our daily lives with the massive amounts of attention and time ppl spend on social media. it also suggests that there is some irony involved in searching for something genuine in such a convoluted medium. the portrait he makes from magazine scraps and ads is more real than the entire TV show.

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