The Truman Show was a 1998 sci-fi film directed by Peter Weir that starred Jim Carrey in his first of many non-comedic roles. Its central character Truman Burbank, despite being a charismatic and lovable guy, isn’t every man with no remarkable qualities or character traits.
Unfortunately for Truman, he has unknowingly spent his entire life living in a television studio. His every action is broadcast live to the whole world. All of his friends, neighbors, and every stranger he has ever met is an actors on the Truman Show, of which he is the star.
Truman, after developing a desire to see more of the world, senses something is a miss when at every turn, he is prevented from leaving his small town in a series of highly improbable events and begins to discover that his world is staged.
After the revelation, he has faced with the movie’s central question of what is real and whether truth is worth risking everything for. Now let’s talk about the dark meaning behind The Truman Show’s Ending.
The Truman Show Explained
Truman’s awakening to the reality of his situation and his journey out of the studio parallels Plato’s Allegory of The Cave. For those unfamiliar, the Greek philosopher Plato’s Allegory posits that life is like being chained up in a cave, forced to watch shadows move across the wall.
The people chained our prisoners, who have been in the cavern since birth and who have no knowledge of the world outside of The Cave. They are chained in such a way that they cannot turn away from The Cave wall, and behind them is a burning fire which people carrying objects occasionally pass in front of. Their shadows are cast upon The Cave wall, to which the prisoners call out the objects by name.
And this way, the prisoners who are completely ignorant of any sort of outside world believe that the shadows they see are the objects in their fullest form. They are completely unaware that all they see is a shadowy imitation of something tangible.
Truman, who was born on the set of the Truman Show, is living in Plato’s Cave, the nine to the five-desk job he goes to work at each day might appear real to him, but in reality, it’s just an imitation of one. His relationship with the townsfolk might seem genuine, but they are actors imitating kindness.
Truman’s brotherhood with his closest childhood friend may feel true, but he’s an actor that’s been lying to Truman’s face his entire life. His marriage to his wife may resemble something like married life, but that, too, is a shallow imitation of what real love is. For his entire life, Truman has been inside The Cave watching mere shadows but never seeing the things casting them.
Truman Breaks Out Of The Set
The allegory continues when one day, one of the prisoner’s shackles gives out under his weight, and he is set free. He moves on, following a faint light at the end of the tunnel, and emerges from the mouth of The Cave. At first, he’s blinded by the intense light of the sun and cannot see anything. But his eyes soon adjust, and he is able to witness the world in its fullness.
After he has sufficiently experienced life outside, the man returns to The Cave and tells the remaining prisoners about the wonders of the world. However, they refuse to listen, mock him for sounding foolish, and violently resist any attempts at being freed themselves. In their ignorance, they choose to remain living in their confinement and refuse to step away from the shadows with which they are comfortable.
Trumans interaction with Sylvia is the moment the shackles break, and it happens completely spontaneously. Despite the showrunner’s forced love interest in his life, he still chases after Sylvia. The only reason is that perhaps there’s something about the way she acts that he detects as wholly different or authentic and compares to the determined behavior of everyone else.
This would mean that, perhaps rather poetically, that love, as spontaneous and unpredictable as it is, cannot be successfully controlled or mimicked. In Truman’s world, this spark of love is the only thing that has ever been real.
After Sylvia’s warnings that things may not be as they appear, Truman begins to see the cracks in the world around him. He outsmarts the show’s producers and sails off to find the outside world. He has to this point, confronted and recognized that his closest friends, his wife, and everyone he has ever known was simply imitating human relationships.
Christoph Is Like A God On Truman’s World
When Truman reaches the edge of the sea, he is challenged by a voice that emits from the heavens above. If everything in the Truman Show is a shadow of something real, then the show’s director is an imitation of God. Christoph, his name literally meaning Christ, is portrayed as a perverse father figure that has determined the course of Truman’s life from birth to adulthood.
Christoph smiles at events that he has orchestrated to happen the Truman and fondly strokes Truman sleeping image, which is only the shadow of the real Truman. Christoph is omnipresent and omnipotent.
His network of cameras always locks Truman and frames him wherever he is at all times. He determines the movements of every person in Truman’s life and has full control over the rain and wind and even that day and night cycle itself.
Christoph does not believe that Truman has the will to leave the show. He believes that, like the prisoners who choose to stay in The Cave with their shadows, Truman will ultimately choose to stay on the show, as it’s all he knows. He says, “Ultimately, Truman prefers his cell.”
The Truman Show Ending Explained
At the end of The Truman Show, the path ahead is presented as a door leading to a dark void. Frightening and uncertain, unscripted and unsure. The possibilities for what lies beyond our endless. Back home, however, Truman knows the exact routine of every moment of every day.
Of course, Truman ultimately chooses to leave the confines of The Cave, and that’s the last we see of him. We never see his long-awaited reunion with Sylvia, but it’s fitting.
Throughout the entire movie, we, the audience, have watched Truman from the perspective of the cameras placed around the studio. In a sense, we are the audience that is invading Truman’s privacy. We are the audience. The director is violating someone’s life in order to satisfy. And when Truman chooses to leave the studio, he is choosing to no longer be an object for our amusement.
So what Truman does when he leaves the show is no longer our business. And with that, Truman has left The Cave. If there’s one way to label the Truman Show, it would be prophetic. The movie depicts a dystopian world where reality television has tried to become as real as real life. This premise has almost certainly taken place in our world.
How Does The Truman Show Reflect Our Real Life?
Over the last two decades, the rise of the Internet has created a wholly new form of media that is unlike anything before it. People have slowly begun to turn away from the stage to television and cable networks and move to online entertainment. Why? Well, for the same reason, the Truman Show became a hit.
Social media’s enticing function is that it offers us a way to capture and present both the most ordinary and spectacular moments of our own real lives to a great number of people. In effect, social media has allowed us all to be like Truman, the stars of our own shows. The problem here occurs when attempting to separate the edited, Video perfect version of yourself from who you really are.
Many of the actors on the Truman Show were unable to make a distinction between their private lives and their work lives because they spent so much time pretending to be someone else. When Truman began to act out of his intended order, they experienced a crisis of identity. If everything you do is an act for an audience, is there any room left for there to be a real you? Is it even possible to be authentic?
This issue is behind the not-too-uncommon narcissistic personalities of Internet celebrities and social media influencers. And it is something all of us who enjoy watching our posts gather likes will have to wrestle with to some degree.
On the other hand, the Internet has obviously done a lot of good, and these social media platforms have connected people and provided business opportunities to a great number of people that wouldn’t exist without it. I suppose the solution is in moderation and perspective. It’s fine to be an actor on a show, but less so if we believe the show to be our real lives.