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On Infiltration of Escapism – A Brief Comment on the Truman Show

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Abstract: The Truman Show1 deserves spectacular appreciation for its unique approach—intercutting shots between program of Truman and “real life” footage of the director and spectators. The specialty of presentation sufficiently lays out Escapism in Post-Modernism layer by layer. Followed a brief introduction about the intercutting approach in this movies and Escapism, this paper concentrates on the cause, manifestation and influence of Escapism from the shifting angles of view: Truman, director and spectators. Then it draws a summarization that Escapism has overall infiltrated into human’s life. Key words: The Truman Show, Escapism, shifting angles of view, intercutting, Post-Modernism

The Truman Show, as a typical milestone of the movie industry, puts other traditional genres in the shadow by intercutting the real-time documentary between program of Truman and “real life” of the spectators and director. Firstly, the movie chiefly centralizes on the Truman Burbank’s angle of view. The protagonist, whose entire life is broadcasted in a hugely popular 24-hour-a-day TV series, is gradually aware that his existence is captured by concealed cameras and tries his best to get away from the authoritative domination. Secondly, the movie alternately intercuts the shot to the angle of view of spectators, who are keeping a watchful eye on Truman’s every particular gesture and behavior for escaping from the perceived unpleasant aspects of daily life. Thirdly, the movie shifts the scene to director’s angle of view. It reveals that his motivation of creating the cheerful community of Seahaven(a materialization of “paradise”) is to run away from the hypocrisy and complexity of the world outside.

In short, whatever angle of view the movie sets out, it gives embodiment of Escapism all the time and all the way. As for Escapism3, it is a mental diversion or tendency to seek distraction and relief from banal reality in the era of Post-Modernism4. Although different reference books provide different illustrations, several characteristics are endorsed. For one thing, Escapism is regarded as an inherent expression of Post-Modernism, for urbanization, industrialization and technological existences have removed people from their biologically normal natures and the rigors of daily life. For another thing, it is unilateral to assert that escapism carries an extreme and negative connotation, suggesting escapists are depraved or sorrowful. In fact, escapism also indicates optimistic significance for positive escapists with an inability or unwillingness to connect with the world meaningfully. Related with this movie, three kinds of Escapism, namely, Truman’s positive Escapism, director’s extreme Escapism and spectators’ negative Escapism have been infiltrating into human’s life.

The cause, manifestation and influence of will be analyzed in detail. From Truman’s angle of view, Escapism is endowed with the property of positiveness and has done a great favor to obtain freedom. First of all, his Escapism originates from his consciousness of being controlled and the conspiracies of life. As we know, he has grown up and lived in a fake town getting along with actors. The town is enclosed in a giant dome with high-tech simulations of sun and sky, in which the rain and wind are productions of the special effects. In the beginning, he knows nothing that the rest of humanity watches him in a 24-hour-a-day reality programming. Fortunately, he gradually figures out that his surroundings are full of staged scenes and events. Hence, His intention to escape is put into practice as an adequate dynamic and driving force to convert the bound situation and obtain the precious freedom. Above all, his positive Escapism provides the ample motivation to flee the fake and hold the authentic life in his arms.

It is his positive Escapism that makes him come up against both his own fears of water and the obstacles put in his way by the producer-director who has made billions of traps in a stage set and playing a God role in his life. From director’s angle of view, Christof’s extreme Escapism has buried his humanity and conscience, which seed in his collapse in essence. In the beginning, his Escapism stems from his despair towards degenerate modern society. today’s affluent societies are in danger of becoming rotten and hypocritical environments under the impact of urbanization, industrialization and technological existences etc. In the movie, Christof shows his hopelessness towards reality several times. Therefore, his Escapism is put into effect as a passageway to reject and isolate from the reality, As we can say, he chooses an extreme way to create the lifelike simulations and story lines from the high-tech facsimile of a sun that benevolently beams down on Truman to the mock sincerity of the actors who Truman mistakenly believes is his family and friend. All that he has done embodies his abnormal and freak Escapism from reality.

In sum up, Christof’s extreme Escapism leads to his deformity of personality and final breakdown. From spectators’ angle of view, it is the negative Escapism that gives rise to their crazed behavior of being addictive in peeping Truman’s life immorally. Firstly, spectators’ negative Escapism derivates from their desires of getting out of the unpleasant sufferings pessimistically. As we can observe, although the fans may live very normal lives— having children, relationships and regular jobs, they spend their regular time escaping into an idealized world and lose their own mind in the made-up show. As Truman’s fate rises and falls, the spectators’ emotion fluctuates fiercely. They are devoted enough to throw themselves into the series and treat themselves as actors. Consequently, spectators who get excessively involved as fans of Truman show are pursuing an unhealthy level of escapism.

The negative Escapism masquerades as a better anesthesia than exploring the hard truths of this world. As a result, negative Escapism leads to symptoms of mental illness such as dependence on media and peeping. In brief, after analyzing the brilliantly-conceived satire, we can easily draw the conclusion that the intercutting shots between program of Truman and “real life” of the director and spectators fully demonstrates Escapism has overall infiltrated into human’s life. Truman certifies positive Escapism can play a effective role in fulfilling dream. Director’s Escapism makes him run away from the absurdity extremely. proper Spectators’ Escapism leads them to turn down to engage in the true world negatively.

1. The Truman Show is a 1998 American comedy-drama film directed by Peter Weir and written by Andrew Niccol. The film chronicles the life and evading of Truman Burbank, who discovers he is constrained in a reality-feigned soap opera, televising to billions by live transmission. 2. As evidence, here are two quotations of Christof’s lines. The one say, “I have given Truman a chance to live a normal life. The world. the place you live in is the sick place. Seahaven is the way the world should be.” The other says, “There’s no more truth out there than there is in the world I created for you. Same lies.

The same deceit. But in my world, you have nothing to fear. 3. This definition is cited from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. 4. Post-Modernism is a style and concept in the art, architecture and criticism dating from the late 20th century, which represents a departure from modernism and has at its heart a general distrust of grand theories and ideologies as well as o problematical relationship with any notion of art.( cited from the Oxford English Reference Dictionary) 5. The Longman Advanced American Dictionary defines it as “reaction or activities that help you forget about bad or boring things for a short time”. The Advanced Oxford Dictionary defines it as “an activity, a form of entertainment that helps you avoid or forget unpleasant things.”


(1). English movie “the Truman Show” at http://www.youku.com (2). Comments on media and psychological interpretation of the theme of the Truman show at: http://www.wikipedia.org/ (3). The Meaning of The Truman Show,at: http://www.imdb.com

(4). The script of The Truman Show at http://group.mtime.com/ (5). Busch, Anita M, “New Truman villain: Harris”, Variety. (6). Turna, Kenneth “The Truman Show”, Los Angeles Times

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