The Truman Show - Religion

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The movie, The Truman Show, can be related to religion in many ways. Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank, a 30-year-old man, whose whole life has been the plot of an acclaimed TV show. The movie shows how reality can be altered and created when confined into a small space. The movie is set in the town of Sea Haven, which is built inside a studio in Hollywood, California. Truman was born and adopted by a corporation, and that's when the show started. Throughout the movie, there are three religious points brought up, the issue of free will, God as all knowing, and the ideas of Calvin. The director has made it clear that religion plays an important role in everybody's life, and it is hard to escape from God.

Truman Burbank was born and raised in Seahaven. Seahaven was not what he truly thought it was, it was a television set.

Every person in his life was an actor, his job was not real, and his house was not truly his. The unfortunate thing was that Truman had no clue that his life was not his own. In the beginning of the movie Truman was more a Calvinist meaning everything was predestined for him.

The creator of the show, Christof, tried to play the role of creator. His name in itself is symbolic; it sounds very much like Christ. Christof watches over Truman's every move. Christof controlled Truman's life and knew what would happen next. For example, Christof has many people come in and out of Truman's life, for entertainment purposes only and this is where Christof is different from God. As creator of Truman's world, Christof controls the sun, the weather, the water, and even the behavior of Seahaven's inhabitants, but he is a total fraud. He is off from God, or "Christ-off". Unlike the benevolent God, he controls his creation with cold technology, calculation, and a disrespect of Truman's agency. Time and time again, he thwarts Truman's righteous desires and manipulates him for his own purpose. As God created the earth, Christof has created the set and all that is around him. Everything that God usually controls, like the weather, Christof controlled in his Seahaven.

Seahaven is an anagram of heaven. The world Christof has created is a paradise compared to the real world. Everything is always perfect. All the people are always happy and the weather is always warm and sunny. People perceive heaven as this perfect place, which Seahaven tries to be. When Truman is leaving, Christof gives him the choice to stay in this safe haven or leave to go the evil world. Christof has tried so hard to make Truman's world perfect and he cannot understand why he would want to leave to go live in a world, which includes evil.

One scene of the movie changes Truman's life and makes him realize what is going on around him. Truman is driving in his car and the radio station begins to break up and he hears the crewmembers of the show giving directions to the actors/actresses and stating exactly where he is. From that point on, Truman recognizes that his life is not what he thinks it is and he begins to observe how people act toward him. First, Truman begins to try to throw everyone off by not following his routine and doing things he would not normally do.

When Truman tries to go on a vacation, everyone tries to prevent him from going. Truman finally begins to understand that everyone knows something that he does not and he needs to try to figure it out. The producers did a lot to get Truman to not get curious and try and leave the island of Seahaven. They found a way to instill fear into him to stop this from occurring. Finally, he tries to escape by sailing away. This is surprising because when Truman was young Christof had him and his father go out sailing. While the two are out at sea Christof creates a storm that hurls Truman's father out of the boat, and they believe that he died at sea. Since that day Truman hasn't been able to get on a boat, or even cross a bridge above water in a car. Truman won't even leave the island when he has to go to Harbor Island for work, and he can't get himself to walk onto the ferry. After sailing for a long time, all of a sudden he hits a wall, where the set ends. Truman gets off his boat and walks up the stairs toward a door to the real world. He speaks to Christof for the first time, and he is given the choice to stay in his protected world or to go out into the unknown. Truman chooses to leave.

John Calvin, writer of 'Institutes of the Christian Religion', believes that knowing and understanding God and one's self are interrelated. Calvin claims that one can not fully understand God unless they truly know and understand themselves, and vice versa. Truman did not know himself as much as he believed he did. He was controlled by a TV show and did not even know it. Things occurred in Truman's life for entertainment purposes only, not because of natural occurrence. Truman believed that he lived a life that was truly his own, only to find out later on that it was the life that his 'creator' wanted it to be.

When Truman finally realized the life he was living was not his, he chose to try to escape from it. At this point he began to understand himself and what he truly stood for, his freedom. When he was about to leave Seahaven, he spoke with Christof or you could say he 'found' his creator. When Christof first gets to talk to Truman, when he is at the exit of the studio, he says " I am the creator...of a television show that gives hope and joy and inspiration to everybody." The pause after "I am the creator" gives this conversation the feeling of Truman talking to God, like Moses did. Once Truman found himself, he found 'his creator' and he now knew who he sincerely was.

Although Truman lives in a totally fabricated world, he is a "True-man". At one point, he asks Christof, "Is any of it real?" Christof replies, "You are." Truman is the only genuine element in this contrived television show. Like any child of God, he lives his life in the pursuit of happiness. His pain and his joy is always real, although the plots behind them are not.

Calvin also believed in predestination, which is the theory that God has a plan for everyone and everything. When one is born, God has already decided whether he or she is going to heaven or hell. Christof tried to take the role of God in Truman's life. Christof controlled almost every aspect of Truman's life. Christof already planned Truman's life out. Truman's 'creator' chose all of Truman's friends, his wife, his job and even his parents for him. Since Christof could not completely control Truman, he simply tried to manipulate his way of thought and the things around him.

Emmanuel Levinas, writer of the article 'And God Created Woman', believed that one could not keep anything private from God. One can never turn their face from God because he is always watching. Truman's life is very similar to this because he can never turn his face from Christof. There are cameras everywhere watching Truman's every move. Not only could Truman not get away from Christof, he could not get away from the audience that was watching him. When Truman tried to escape from the life that Christof has made for him, he had to set up a decoy to pretend it was he who was in the bed, but it was actually a pillow and hat. Usually the cameras are all over Truman, so if he led them to believe he was asleep, he could get away. Truman could not even walk up the stairs to leave his house; he had to dig his way out through a window in his basement. As Truman has no private life from Christof, we have no private life from God. Also, at the end of the movie, Christof says, "I know you better than you know yourself…I've been watching you your whole life" , to Truman. This is another example of how Truman could not hide from Christof, just as we cannot hide from God. No matter where you are, your creator is always watching.

According to Calvin free will is something that god has to offer if you believe in him only then will you be granted free will. Unfortunately for Truman, he did not have it until the very end of the movie. Truman's choices were always made for him. People need to make choices for themselves that are true to the heart and are not already practically planned for them. Your heart knows what is true, but if it is conditioned, how can it make the right choice? One needs the guidance of God to help them. His life was a daily routine with a few differences, which were planned out. It is impossible for one to have free will in a situation like Truman's.

Truman never chose to live the life he did, he never even knew he lived that way. When he was leaving Seahaven, Christof gave Truman the choice to stay or leave. Truman chose to leave. That moment, perfectly exemplifies a person knowing him/herself and with the guidance of something/someone, making the right decision.

The Truman Show was not only a great movie, but there were many lessons that one could learn. Truman's life was supposed to exemplify the life of every person. Fortunately for all of humankind, we do not live a fake life like Truman Burbank has. Religious beliefs and attitudes are absolutely shown throughout this film. Free will and many different beliefs about God and his role in our life are illustrated through the relationship between Truman and Christof. At the end of the movie you can see how Truman moves from a Calvinist to more of a free will condition. In the Beginning all of Truman's choices were plan out for him. Nothing he did was affected by his own choices. At the end of the movie when Truman found the truth about his life, he began to change his life making his own decisions in a free will condition. He walked up a flight of stairs and discovered a door that was labeled "exit." As he went to open the door he heard Christof's voice from above. This was Christof's first sign of being finite as he tried to convince Truman not to leave. Truman was now free and Christof's power was limited. Christof had no control over Truman, who had the freedom to walk out of the door and into the "real" world. Truman listened to Christof who explained, "There's no more truth out there than there is in the world I created for you." Truman stood there, free and waited until Christof was finished. He then, without any hesitation, opened the door to leave the only life he ever knew.

References The Truman Show. Dir. Peter Weir. Perf. Jim Carrey, Noah Emmerich, Laura Linney. Paramount. 1999.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Trans. Henry Beveridge.

London,Bonham Norton.

Levinas, Emmanuel. And God Created Woman. Ed. Melvyn New, Robert Bernasconi, Richard A. Cohen. Lubbuck: Texas Tech UP, 2001