Essay on area and country

Essay by kimmyjaneHigh School, 12th gradeA, May 2013

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In a crucial scene from Peter Weir's hit 1998 film The Truman Show, protagonist Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), after discovering that his picture-perfect suburban existence not only seems to be the stuff of TV situation comedy but in fact is so, makes a break for freedom. As Truman attempts to escape his imprisoning sound-stage suburban world under the cover of night, his omnipotent foe, the creator/director of "The Truman Show," Christof (Ed Harris), directs his minions to "cue the sun" and flood the area with sunlight, even though it is the middle of the night. A climactic moment of sorts, Christof's order-and the wee-hours sunrise that follows-makes plain the utter artificiality of Truman's universe, while at the same time highlighting the forces massed to keep Truman in his place. Read metaphorically, this sequence in Weir's film depicts suburbia not only as an artificial reconstruction of small-town America but also, more tellingly, as a landscape of imprisonment and control.

And while the conceit of The Truman Show may have been clever (if not, perhaps, entirely original-as fans of Philip K. Dick's 1959 novel Time Out of Joint might argue), its thematic message was by no means unique: indeed, American fiction and films from the past half-century that depict the suburbs have painted a consistently negative portrayal of this environment. Almost without fail, the major novels, stories, and films chronicling suburban life have envisioned suburbia as a contrived, dispiriting, and alienating place. Even today, at a time when more Americans live in the suburbs than either the city or the country, and when the success of "gated communities" and "neo-traditional" towns suggests that the process of suburbanization continues to evolve, the major current films about suburbia (The Truman Show, Gary Ross's Pleasantville, Sam Mendes's American Beauty, and Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven)...