Tuning Into: Your Life

Posted: April 15, 2009 by Sarah in POP - pop culture
Tags: , , , , , ,
Glued to the screen

Glued to the screen watching chaos ensue

 

It started with Jessica. Next was Ashlee. Then Kristin, Lauren, Whitney. Throw a little Britney and Kev into the mix and you had the sad uphill climb of television’s greatest trainwreck that America just could not. stop. watching: reality shows.

As the small screen’s lowest common denominator in terms of quality and creative thought, it’s easy for networks to pump out these shows in bulk and even easier for us to get totally and inexplicably sucked into them. But the most expensive, elaborate, deceptive yet mind-blowingly addictive reality show in history wasn’t just a mid-season replacement – it was a lifetime endeavor. Welcome to “The Truman Show.”

Jim Carrey plays good-natured but wistful Truman Burbank, who has unwittingly become the nation’s hottest reality star. Streaming live to a national audience 24 hours a day, Truman’s life has been painstakingly filmed from birth to adulthood by hidden cameras in his room, car radio, and even the mirror, which records his rather amusing morning monologues and pep talks to himself.

Total personal violation aside, thousands of die-hard fans across the country (some of whom have Truman’s face crocheted onto their pillows) tune into their favorite show as he gets married, questions if this carefully constructed small-town life is really all there is for him, and attempts to run away to Fiji to find a mysterious one-time lover. Everything unfolds under the watchful eye of the show’s sorta-creepster creator who’s spent a ridiculous amount of money building and maintaining the set in which Truman has spent the past 20-something years of his life. Um, cabin fever much?

 

Coming to you live from

Coming to you live. Literally.

As much as I love this movie and am prone to mild voyeurism myself (not in the weird sexual gratification way you learn about in Psych, just the mindless-people-watching way), one thing that always bothers me is how even though viewers seem to encourage Truman’s escape, none of them actually want to do anything about it. Does it not occur to them that maybe the only reason the producers let him stay trapped inside his make-believe bubble is because the audience watches every single minute of his life in wide-eyed fascination?

If my shameless addiction to “The Hills” and reluctant emotional investment in these sad people’s lives have taught me anything, it’s that it’s hard to turn away. Whether it’s because we think that others’ daily activities are more interesting than ours to observe, or because it gives us a bit of a thrill to be a fly on the wall (or couch potatoes glued to our screens), watching someone go through life on national television can be pretty…fun! You laugh, you cry, you moan at the insultingly obvious set-ups.

Whatever it was, Truman had his audience hooked for years, probably because he wasn’t aware of being filmed and thus exhibited raw emotion and natural reactions every time (unlike Whitney’s theatrical jaw-drop and faux-shock at all of Lauren’s uninteresting stories. OK, seriously need to stop watching this show).  Which just proves that indeed, nothing will ever beat good, hard reality – the unscripted kind.

~Sarah Hoyoon Lee

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