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The Effect of Media on Our Society – the Truman Show

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A 1998 satirical film that talks about a boy named Truman that grew up in a whole “utopian” world called Seahaven, which is all controlled by the director and “Father” of Truman, Christoff. Truman’s life has been filmed and broadcasted to the world as “The Truman Show” since he was born and runs 24/7.It’s a popular reality TV show before the time reality TV shows were even introduced into our society. In a way, Truman is absolutely being used as a product of a show and has little say about it, this is also similar in the reality TV shows we have on air today. The film is also a centre of marketing, strategically placing product placement throughout the show which is a media influence to make you want to purchase more items.

If you were born in a fabricated world and grew up there, you wouldn’t question its existence or reality until much later, that is the same with Truman. The media is his life and world, it influences every part of his life, from the people he interacts with and the job he has. A scene where this is depicted well is when Truman starts wanting to get out of Seahaven, but a series of man-made obstacles and foreshadowing is put to keep Truman inside. Stuff like posters of lightning striking airplanes (so Truman doesn’t want to fly out), the planned incident of Truman’s dad drowning (so Truman grows a fear of the water and boating), and especially near the end where the source of the media, Christoff desperately tries to stop Truman by sending a barrage of rain and wind at him. Though Truman doesn’t initially notice how the media influence him, but by the end of the story, he obviously knew that the world created for him was all scripted and controlled.

In our media-influenced society, we often get used to all the commercials and advertisements strewn across newspapers, television, and the Internet that we are even subconsciously affected by them. The best example for this is Kony 2012. Simply put, using slick production and the worldwide connection of social media, the idea spread throughout the world in a matter of hours. Millions of people (mostly eager teenagers) jumped on the “Stop Kony Bandwagon”, one of them was me.

Me being still as young and uninformed as I was, I had never heard of Kony. As with how Invisible Children (organization that produced the film) portrayed Kony as the “the big bad villain”, I knew that he had to be stopped as soon as possible. I cannot say emphasize this enough, millions of people joined this movement without any prior knowledge to this man. Immediately, the next day I showed my social studies teacher (Ms.Monaghan) about the video and my other friend and I who had watched the video last night proposed we do something about it in within school. She, my teacher was turned off by how the film was portrayed using the clever trap of using an innocent kid and asking him what they should do about Kony. He replied with an obvious: “Stop him.” Nonetheless, my friend and I planned to do something like show the school the video.

24 hours later, this first time wide scale media phenomenon exploded in the world. Hundreds of Youtube video responses were made, many more messages were passed through telling one another in person, or through Facebook messages. Twitter was filled with the tweet: #StopKony2012, etcetera. Truly, our society now has evolved into a media-centric world, where one message can be sent instantaneously to someone living on the other side of the world, when 20 years ago, that would have not been conceivable.

Later on I found out that the Invisible Children film producer ran around naked across the city and got arrested. Also that the organization only sends 31% of their funds towards direct help. I felt stupid afterwards for jumping on the bandwagon so quickly without researching about the group (Another way how media affects us).

Anyway, the topic of how media influences us could take up over a hundred pages, with many differing opinions. But let’s just say that The Truman Show gave an interesting and realistic glimpse into the future of the media, perhaps even created many of the reality TV shows we have today.

Seahaven can be described as the perfect place in the world, a paradise, orderly and friendly. Though, it is all just a stage for a popular reality TV show that centers on Truman’s life. Honestly, in my opinion I think it’s sick. Using an innocent baby who knew nothing and making money off him. I really hope nothing like this in real life was to happen (though similar things like this do happen). I must go on a little tangent here, and talk about the topic of money. Honestly, we would be better off without the constraints of money, reverting back to much simpler lives like in “The Gods Must be Crazy.” I envy those people, not having to worry about the judgements of modern society, not worrying about racism, or war. They are free of many things, especially not worrying about finding a job with lots of money.

More and more, our society is focused on the thing called money. The higher-classed people are greedy (though not all), and the poorer classes are left with less power. Why? I think it’s stupid. That’s why we had the “Occupy” protests a while ago, though it was not overly impactful. Anyway, the topic of money is also much layered, and depends on many different perspectives. Basically, The Truman Show and Seahaven show how people will do almost anything for money, even using an innocent kid as a product.

Hmm… The American Dream. I am a Canadian, but let’s see what I think it is. The American Dream is having a perfect life, a perfect neighborhood, being wealthy, having nice kids, and overall living in a “utopian” world. On the surface, Seahaven is “The American Dream”, but really there’s no such thing. To me, it’s just a trend that people want to have, to escape the plain reality of our society today. Our society is nowhere near perfect and cannot be, so why try to force it to be: “The American Dream”?

The makers of the reality TV program are trying to communicate that Truman is living the American Dream. That they should buy what he buys, and use what he uses, basically a marketing scam. On top of that, Truman is used a form of entertainment, being viewed from screens at home, not even knowing he is being filmed. (Similar to the Hunger Games, where the citizens watch kids fight to the death for entertainment and bidding on who wins). It’s sick and unfair. What gives them the right to film Truman and why don’t any of the viewers do something about it? Instead of just sitting there watching the show 24/7, don’t any of them feel bad that he’s trapped there? Or do they just think he’s also just an actor and the show isn’t actually real? This leads me into my next point.

In our society today, we often see reality TV shows such as: American Idol, or Britain’s Got Talent. I want to focus a bit on Britain’s Got Talent. It is of course a show where you can audition and the judges can pick you to go on to the next rounds and eventually win a grand prize. Now of one the judges in particular, Simon Cowell (you may or may not know him), he’s pretty obnoxious and says what’s on his mind. That means embarrassing some contestants on real life television. Now, we the viewers at home might even by laughing and we forget that they are real people being filmed; it’s not just a show for our entertainment.

Next the general influence of media on us is that we often can follow and see the lives of celebrities. The thing with being famous is that paparazzi are constantly following you, and you have little to no privacy left against the whole world. Do one scandalous thing wrong (like getting pregnant or cheating on someone), and then whole world will know. It kind of sucks, which is why I don’t ever want to become overly famous. Often, the media will also twist stories into what they want just to make it more interesting, and in turn make more money for selling that article (Again, the topic of money and why it’s hurting our society). If you imagined your life as one of the celebrities, you would know what I mean when I say that media is both their burden and path to fame. An interesting story is all the press wants and they will do anything to get it (like in the Truman Show), it shows how corrupted our society is getting…

Anyway, on a lighter note, we shall talk about Christoff, the director. Depicted as a “loving Father” of Truman when he was watching him sleep and wondering what was changing in Truman, Christoff is an interesting character. I think he views himself as a God (The symbolic name of ‘Christ’off), and that he has utter control of his world. That’s why he accepts the call from Lauren and explains that Truman prefers the confines of the “cell” that is “Seahaven”. His character and attitude do change a bit throughout the story, though ultimately his only role is being the “Director” and making the show work.

Near the end of the story, Christoff is outraged that Truman is trying to defy him and sends him a brutal storm to fight off. Surprisingly, Truman did not die, and fought onwards. Christoff knew he couldn’t kill off Truman (because the viewers would be appalled and possibly that Christoff ‘loved’ and cared about Truman). The audience was shocked that Christoff even tried to kill Truman. In a final attempt, Christoff is talking to Truman through the clouds, telling him he loved him and that he shouldn’t leave (Basically pretending he’s a God). Truman (acted by Jim Carrey), kept the film funny by ending with: “In case I don’t see you later, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.” With a theatric bow, he exited through the door, and left his old life behind

Thus ending the film.

In real life, directors and press writers do twist things into their liking, such as Christoff manipulating Truman to try to keep him in Seahaven.

My conclusion is that media affects us a great deal, from commercials, to advertisements, to the Internet and social media. After learning to analyze advertising, I’ve begun to notice how much media influences our decisions. Specific commercials that air at different times to get more chance to sell (Dessert commercials after dinnertime, infomercials early in the morning and late at night, etc), how a fad on social media can lead many people to do stupid things (Ex. _____ Challenges, like the Cinnamon challenge, the Salt & Ice Cube challenge), it’s freaking ridiculous why anyone would do stuff like that. Eating a spoonful of cinnamon with no water, do you want to die? Now the people who’ve done it said they only did it for “fun”, or because it’s “cool”, or people peer pressured me into doing it. Agh…. Society is getting less intelligent about their choices.

Anyway, that’s not the point. Media influences us like it does in the Truman Show, we often buy products we see in TV shows, or products that are endorsed by a famous person. The Truman Show is a very accurate satirical film about how our world runs today. Most people are just getting brainwashed by the media, doing what other people do (This leads me to talk about my “Herd Behavior” theory.)

Humans, as an individual are highly intelligent, being able to survive and create technologies to rule the world. Humans, as a group are pretty much rendered primal and will follow the actions of others (Such as one person panicking, leading others to panic too, or maybe like kids seeing candy and everyone rushing in for it without another thought). I call this “herd behavior” because it is the same in the wild, animals in packs will usually follow the actions of the leader. Anyway, some people are like this today, jumping on the bandwagon and doing what other people do. Buying nice cars not because they need it, having plastic surgery to have themselves look like a celebrity body, being accused because you’re something different. That is the main premise of our society today. It’s honestly sad.

Anyway, this shall be the final paragraph; there have been lots of little discussions that relate to The Truman show and what I’ve learned throughout the year. Stuff like The Gods Must be Crazy, The Giver, Advertising, The Veldt, etc. All those things have broadened my horizons about our society and the future of it. So thanks for putting those things in our curriculum to learn, it has benefitted me greatly. This film was extremely effective in my opinion, getting me to think thoroughly about how media affects our world. Plus it was still an entertaining film meaning it would stick in our minds.

My gosh, over 2000 words, I’m sure this doesn’t qualify as a “short” essay, but I hoped you enjoyed reading about what thoughts I have in my mind about media, society,money, etc. They are all very complicated topics but still interesting to observe. Our world in changing, soon the old generation will be lost in the constantly flowing stream of time, and the new generation of ideas and concepts will arise. I am in the middle of it; perhaps we can change the world for the better. I shall see if stuff like The Veldt, and The Truman Show happen in the next century. It’s ironic how stuff only dreamed about in the past are coming true (Robots, hovercrafts, computers, so many things…) Sadly, the last and only essay of this year draws to an end, thanks for reading. Tune in next time.

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