The Truman Show Effect

Remember the movie The Truman Show? It starred Jim Carrey and Laura Linney. The movie was actually filmed near my hometown, at Seaside, Florida. But anyway, in the movie the main character, Truman Burbank, lives and works and seems happy in his life. After all, it is idyllic in the truest sense. It is safe and predictable and…fake. A soap-opera-style television show has been constructed around Truman’s life, but only he believes it is real. His wife, his neighbors, his friends and co-workers are part of the set and the players in this show that the rest of the world watches incessantly. At some point Truman begins to discover feelings that he has never had before and begins to question the reality of his world. Before he discovers that he is, indeed, part of a sham, he develops a curiosity about the outside world and with that a desire to explore beyond the borders he’s always known. A clue that there was more literally drops out of the sky. A spotlight that had been part of the fake night sky starscape, falls to the ground near where Truman is standing and with his discovery comes a thirst for what was “out there.” It was at that point in the movie that I could relate to his character the most. My borders had always been rather fixed but I figured there was something past them.

Our black and white TV was sort of a window to the world, I guess, albeit grainy and gray and portraying real people as eight inches tall. But for a time I was satisfied with that. Ed Sullivan, live from New York City, brought us excerpts and actors from the latest Broadway shows. And the Beatles. Jackie Gleason, live from Miami, brought us comedians and musical guests we had only heard about. Red Skelton, live from Hollywood, showed the best of the rest. And it was just fine. Still, my image of the rest of the world wasn’t true. It was small and gray.

The turning point for me, and I guess the onslaught of my angst, came the year I turned 10.  My dad had delivered to our house “on approval” from the local appliance dealer a color television set. Daddy had always wanted to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as it may have looked in person. Big and in color. The loaner TV would be a keeper if the day after Thanksgiving my dad was satisfied that he had seen the floats and the bands and the high-kicking Rockettes in almost their real-live glory. Apparently, the parade experiment was a success for we kept the TV for many years. Of course, we still had to change the channels with a knob attached to the console and change the antenna direction with another knob attached to a small black box that sat on top of the TV.

But my chase must have begun there for from that point on I was certain there was more out there that I hadn’t experienced and I wanted to see it. I was hoping that “out there” wouldn’t contain even the minor flaws of my reality and everything would be perfect. The chase began. And until recently I figured that I was alone in that never-ending pursuit of the ideal. Now, I realize that most, maybe all, people have a longing for something more than their present lives produce.

(Next: The Real Bimini)

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