Truman Burbank, Jim Carrey’s lead character in The Truman Show, thinks he’s just another guy in a picturesque, postcard town, but he’s not. Rather, he’s the focal point of a rolling reality show. The film, from 1998, is fiction, but this week’s The New Yorker features an interesting article by Andrew Marantz that offers a contraction to the film — whereas there are people who live their lives believing they’re coerced into reading from a script for a show they don’t remember anything about.
Psychiatrist Joel Gold offers us his findings in a New Yorker video, having observed patients at the Bellevue Hospital in New York who have this so-called Truman Show Delusion, and it’s not as simple as watching the movie and believing that’s your life — like it would be, let’s say, easy to believe after watching Scream that there is a murderer in your closet.
Gold says these people he’d observed believe that their families aren’t their real families. Or they are their real families, only they’re reading from a script, kind of like what both Laura Linney and Noah Emmerich do in the film as the wife and the best friend. He says they’re suffering from a “delusion of control,” in this case meaning the person in the director’s chair controlling their life.
The story, as it turns out, is much more about how technology is affecting childhood, teenage, etc. development and how it contributes to people who suffer these delusions specifically. While I wont ramble on about this technology and that technology, I think it’s interesting, from a film level, to think about the fact that there are people out there who actually believe this to be true to life.
I’m likely a little screwed up, too, because of all the news I watched at probably too young an age (see: any kidnapping case ever), but it’s not like I think I’m the subject of a TV show. I might think I’m being watched sometimes, but that’s not the same thing. I could be laying in bed with my back to the door and I’ll think something is about to come through that door so I’ll compulsively turn my head to double check.
I could be on Facebook at work, but I think I need to get off of it because I think my boss is watching me, and if I learned one thing from high school it was that you get in trouble if you’re on Facebook in class. The teacher yells at you and that is one memory forever burnt into my brain.
On a broader scale, it’s just interesting to think about what impressions movies have made on us. Gold argues that simply seeing The Truman Show isn’t going to make you believe it, but to a certain extent it has an effect. The same goes for my Scream example above. Look at yourself. What movies have made an impact on the way you go about living life?
The New Yorker piece is really a good read, if you’re into how technology effects us. For now, I think it’s best to let the experts be the experts and not try to take this post any further than the most basic Scream reference.
For the record, I wore the Scream mask for Halloween one year. Everybody was doing it.