The Truman Show and Mental Illness in the Media

Essay details

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

The film The Truman Show, makes audiences more aware of modern problems surrounding mass media relating to mental illness by using a variety of film techniques. This is a parody film that touches on many aspects self-reflexivity, product placement, and the seemingly perfect suburban lifestyle, but the film also develops a strong view of Truman’s mental health surrounded by the media around him that can be focused on more deeply. By looking at the deceptively perfect setting Truman is placed in, the idea that everyone and everything revolves around Truman in the world he lives in, and the overall effect of social media in today’s modern world, we can look deeper into Truman’s perception of reality within The Truman Show, and how it relates to our everyday issues surrounding mental health and the mass social media audience.

Essay due? We'll write it for you!

Any subject

Min. 3-hour delivery

Pay if satisfied

Get your price

The Truman Show labels itself as a parody film, and we can see many examples of how this film expresses itself in that way. The first aspect is the noticeable self-reflexivity, within the production of the show. There are many sequences in which we see fans of The Truman Show all over world watching as the show airs live. Some of them also have merchandise that they have purchased from the show such as pillows, t-shirts, pins, etc. This part of the film is emphasizing how much investment people really do have in their favourite television shows, and what happens outside of the filming. Since this story essentially has two layers of filming, we are able to see almost a behind the scenes look at what goes on while making a television show, and the responses that people have to it. This makes us reflect on how we adapt to shows and the way in which we consume them, and all forms of media. There is also a variety of product placement within the show that is almost painfully obvious. The emphasis that goes into the products they’re trying to sell to their viewers is so hard to watch and makes us think ‘who would ever fall for that?’, but we do. This is a huge part of parody film that is very reflective in the way that we can see how obvious the placement is, and yet it happens so often in our everyday lives through all platforms of social media, we can’t even recognize it clearly anymore. Finally, the seemingly perfect world that Truman is living in, is supposed to be this perfect simulated world that society should want to live in, but this society however cannot be sustained let alone satisfy the members of this community due to the lack of variation, and the little amount of change to someone’s everyday life. “Like anything else in America these days, this concept of fantasyland is controlled by the media; indeed, in “The Truman Story,” Christof takes advantage of the media’s power to motivate and control to present not only Truman as a human spectacle, but Truman’s surroundings as a conceptual utopia that asks the audience to re-evaluate their own surroundings.” (Kates, 94). As Kates mentions here the setting is meant to make the audience question their current living situation. Obviously they aren’t living in a “perfect” community like Truman is perceived to be, but how heavily is their community influenced by media and how is this controlling them? This transitions into my next segment on the impact of social media and mental health that we can look at through The Truman Show.

The premise of The Truman Show is all about the Big Brother effect, that someone is always watching your every move. Taken quite literally that’s exactly what Christof is doing to Truman. He has been with him since his birth when the studio adopted him, and has watched him grow up in the controlled environment that he created. “Of course, the form of psychological sadistic abuse Truman has had to endure throughout since birth – extreme not because patently obvious to him but, quite the opposite, because concealed through such skillful technological manipulation – would not be a typical scenario for adolescent development.” (Brearley and Sabbadini, 435). As mentioned here by Brearley and Sabbadini, the abuse that Truman has been through is mainly due to the secrecy and the choices that have been made for him without his consent. The idea of ‘How’s it going to end?’ is a motif throughout the whole movie. When will he find out the truth? The entire town that he is living in has been keeping him clueless for almost 30 years, and nobody seems to think that anything is wrong with that except for a few characters that we are shown, such as Sylvia. In today’s society the social media that we tap into every day is essentially doing the same thing. We log in and see whatever the latest news is and we believe it all. There are articles fabricated all the time and how are we supposed to know what is fact and what is just fake information that somebody else want us to know? When will we find out the truth? If we believe this is our reality will it ever be revealed to us? This also makes us think about how this effects our everyday lives. It effects the decisions we make, the people we like, the clothes we buy, almost everything. The amount of media and information in the world that we receive daily has a huge impact on our lives, that most people don’t even realize the extent of.

Another point we can look at is the correlation between mental illness and social media. “Given his realisation that the world he lives in is counterfeit, Truman begins to sound like a patient with mental illness. He has the ‘‘idea of reference’’ that ‘‘[t]he radio starts following me along, talking about everything I’m doing’’. He expresses the ‘‘paranoid’’ ideas that he is ‘‘definitely being followed’’ and that he is ‘‘being set up for something’’; he has the ‘‘grandiose’’ notion that ‘‘the whole world revolves around [him] somehow’’. In order to keep the show going at all costs, the actors tell him that he is imagining these things-that he is, in effect, mentally ill.” (Gold, 456). Since this production is so successful commercially, Christof is willing to do anything in order to keep Truman entrapped in his fictional reality, including making him think he is mentally ill, as mentioned by Gold. In today’s society we can see this so prominently occurring with the multiple platforms of social media that are available. We believe we can have those 15 minutes of fame if we post a funny YouTube video, or post a really good picture on Instagram. People become obsessed over the idea that they could be known globally, and then become depressed or mentally unstable when it doesn’t happen or it doesn’t have the outcome they wanted. The mental strain that comes along with social media is something that a lot of the older generation doesn’t understand, just because it wasn’t as much heavily integrated into their everyday lives. As much good that can come from social media, and the connections that we can make through it, there is also this opposite effect that takes a toll on our mental health. In the case of Truman, the world around him is making him believe that he is going crazy, because of the accusations he’s making. He thinks the world revolves around him and he’s part of a bigger idea, much like someone who has a viral post and becomes globally known. Except in this case, Truman is right. All Truman wants is to live a normal live with someone he’s always to be with in the ‘real’ world, which we can only assume will be impossible because of how famous he’s become in the real world. Everyone who watched the show, which seemed to be a very big population, will know who he is and he never be able to incorporate naturally into the real world. So not only has Christof kept him inside this ‘simulation’ for almost 30 years, but he’s also ruined his chances for a normal life once he finally did realize the truth.

Truman’s perception of reality begins with Seahaven, as this is the only reality he has ever known. We can analyze reality in The Truman Show by using the four phases of the image from Jean Baudillard, and also analyze the idea of the hyper reality. The initial perception is that Truman believes he’s living in the real world. Why wouldn’t he? It’s all he’s ever know, born and raised in the community of Seahaven, and why should he question everything he has ever known? The next level of perception is Christof’s, the cast, and the audience of The Truman Show. They are aware that Truman lives in fake reality, and that he is deceived as to what is actually happening. In today’s modern world of social media perhaps we could see owners of corporations with this perception. They have power over what kind of information is put out and perhaps they see the working class or just everyday people as us living in a world that they have created for us, without us questioning how much of it is the truth. The next level of perception is once Truman finds out that his reality in fact is not real, and he never makes it out into the outside world and therefore he is left with no reality. “Though the film figures Truman's struggle with a media-constructed reality as a sublime struggle with nature, the outcomes, and the moral valence of the two struggles are not the same.” (Hammett, 79). The struggle that Truman faces throughout the film is as Hammett says ‘media-constructed’, and even at the end of the film his struggle is never fully resolved because even though he escapes this fake reality he still has no idea who he is. In today’s society perhaps we will never escape from the blanket reality that has put on us because we never really realize that it has happened. This brings us to the last phase, that we believe The Truman Show is just a movie, and we overlook the idea of a simulacrum. We believe our world is more real than how Seahaven is being portrayed, but our world is so heavily constructed by media that we don’t even realize how much of a simulacrum we are actually living in. Truman is living in a hyperreal, which is a reality that does not have an origin (Baudrillard, 2). This idea of a hyperreal is incorporated into our everyday lives more than we would think, and it is almost like we are just as blind as Truman is in the beginning of the film, and our minds have been trained to except this reality without question.

Another point that can be related back to Baudrillard, is the idea of binary oppositions that make up the signifier and the signified. Within The Truman Show we can analyze the oppositions of many things as the entire film is made up of them, but very obviously in the sense that we are able to spot them very easily while watching the film. “I will argue that the film ultimately moves to problematize the binary oppositions (i.e. cinema/television, disruption/stability, reality/simulation and outside/inside) that seem to structure it.” (Knox, 2010). Knox mentions here the many oppositions throughout the theme of the film and how the film is depicting the issues with them, and trying to give a solution to Truman as getting him out of the hyperreal. In today’s society we can really start to assess the media that is being fed into our everyday lives. The amounts of ‘reality T.V.’ that is aired and streamed all over the world is incredible, but the thing with ‘reality T.V.’ is that it’s not real! The shows are planned out, scripted, shot and reshot for better reactions or better angles, etc. We watch these shows and believe that this is someone’s reality and we begin to set false standards for ourselves. By consuming all these shows we start to think about how boring or how lame our own lives are and we strive to be something that is completely unattainable or just unrealistic at all. This kind of mindset is also a factor contributing to the mental health of our society. The standards that can never be met and the disappointment when that happens deteriorates our self-esteem and we begin to wonder why we can’t achieve what others can. Again the mental strain that comes along with social media really takes a toll on our everyday lives, and our mental wellbeing.

By looking at The Truman Show as a parody film, we can see how certain elements make the audience more aware of the mass consumption of media, and the effects that this can have on our mental health. Truman lives in a deceptively perfect setting that is meant to appeal to audiences that they would want to live in. However, when we watch more and more we see that this kind of environment would never satisfy an average person and we are so glad it’s just a film. What we fail to consider is how much of our community is made up of social media and the effect this has on us without even acknowledging it. Truman’s obsession that everything revolves around him is seen as a mental disorder, yet in today’s society we are obsessed with the idea of becoming famous or having that 15 minutes of fame from social media. Ultimately these elements of The Truman Show speak truth about our everyday lives and how much social media if effecting us. The strain that it applies to our mental health is becoming more and more of an issue as the involvement with social media becomes tighter with everyone around the world. The Truman Show does a great job of making audiences question the media involvement and as a parody film succeeds in making the masses aware of such issues.

Get quality help now

Prof Essil

Verified writer

Proficient in: Movies

4.8 (1570 reviews)
“Really responsive and extremely fast delivery! I have already hired her twice!”

+75 relevant experts are online

More The Truman Show Related Essays

banner clock
Clock is ticking and inspiration doesn't come?
We`ll do boring work for you. No plagiarism guarantee. Deadline from 3 hours.

We use cookies to offer you the best experience. By continuing, we’ll assume you agree with our Cookies policy.