Media Manipulation In The Truman Show

In our current society, the media plays an enormous role in shaping what we read, hear and watch. Media control/manipulation is the exploitation of the difference between perception and reality. It is the use of media to make people do or think things they otherwise world not. In the Truman Show, media control is a prevalent theme employed to influence the actions and emotions of Truman, the television audience and the film audience. The Truman also explores values regarding basic human rights by employing the theme of surveillance and privacy. Privacy can be defined as the freedom from unauthorised intrusion or surveillance from the public.

Truman’s life is surveilled 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with over 5000 cameras’ watching his every move. Truman is stripped of his right to privacy and freedom from surveillance as his life is televised to millions of viewers, who are tricked into believing that Truman is living the ‘American dream’. This is representative of the control the media has over its unsuspecting audience. The ignorance of the television audience reflects our acceptance of society’s invasion of people privacy.

In the long shot of Truman walking towards the staircase, he is very tiny in comparison to the rest of the screen. This shot along with non-diegetic music of strings, symbolically representing the loss of importance Truman will have in the real world compared to Seahaven, in which he is the main focus. The shot framed by faded black circle, implying that Truman is being surveilled and that we the film audience are invading his privacy by secretly watching him through a lens. Just like a prisoner under surveillance, the camera follows Truman as he ascends the stairs, implying that Truman is constrained in the idealistic world created by Christoff.

The contrasts between the beginning and end of the film are imperative in depicting the theme of manipulation. The wide shot of the clouds and shinning sun along with Christof’s booming voice invokes the comparison of Christof to some kind of god which is representative of Christof’s initial control and manipulation of Truman’s actions at the beginning of the film. The cross cut to a medium close-up shot of Truman looking up to the voice as the sky open’s up, and the low angle close-up shot of Christof’s face peering down at Truman creates a feeling of hierarchy, which adds to the analogy of Christof’s godly nature and emphasises the power he holds over Truman as his ‘creator’.

Contrastingly, Truman’s actions at the end of the film are not manipulated but are rather genuine as he makes his first real choice by mustering the courage to leave the façade presented to him by Christof. This is represented through the high angle close-up shot of Truman’s back to the camera, which symbolises him turning his back on all that he knows. Christof attempts to stop Truman from leaving his world by telling him that there’s no more truth out there than there is in the world he has created for him. With his back turned to the camera, Truman replies, “you never had a camera in my head.” Meaning that upon all the power Christof had as the creator of the television show, he never had control over Truman’s thoughts. This further reinforces the fact that even though Truman’s every move was surveilled, he had one place he could maintain his privacy, which is his mind.

The emotive language in “I was watching when you were born. I was watching when you took your first step” by Christof is used to emotionally manipulate both the television and film audience to evoke feelings of empathy and persuade Truman him to stay. First person and repetition of ‘I’ can be seen as Christof’s reinforcement of his authority over Truman. Indifferent to Christof’s attempt make him stay, Truman turns to face the camera in a close-up shot and repeats his famous line one last time but with a different meaning, which symbolises the true end of his life in Seahaven and Christof’s loss of the power he once held over Truman.

The dialogue “what else is on? Yeah let’s see what else is on” in the cross cut to the security guards after Truman’s dramatic exit symbolises the overconsumption of media and television many people experience today. Although the guards were completely immersed in the show like the rest of the television audience, once it was over, they moved on to watched something else.

In conclusion, the director of the Truman show is able to depict the themes of media manipulation and control, surveillance, and privacy and its effects on the Truman and the television audience through various cinematic techniques. 

07 July 2022
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