Inverse Recommends

A Reality Show Satire Became One of the Most Prescient Movies Ever

This 1998 movie predicted so much about 2023 society — and blockbusters.

Paramount Pictures
Inverse Recommends

Before Barbie was the movie event of 2023, it was simply a mysterious toy movie. Our only glimpse as to what Greta Gerwig was going to do with the iconic doll was a leaked Letterboxd list called “Watch for Barbie” that was purported to be on Margot Robbie’s burner account. The list included The Young Girls of Rochefort, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Splash, Puberty Blues, and The Truman Show.

At first, it was just a rumor, but then Greta Gerwig revealed the 33 movies that influenced her direction of Barbie — including almost all of these — basically confirming the list was real. But one of these movies isn’t just great inspiration for Barbie. It’s one of the most concise satires of current media ever made.

The Truman Show, directed by Peter Weir, is probably the most utopian dystopian story in existence. The film follows Truman (Jim Carrey), a normal man with a normal job in a normal town. However, his life is anything but normal: he’s actually the center of a global reality show phenomenon that has followed Truman since his birth.

Truman’s life is constantly being filmed, manipulated, and written. This leads to hilarious moments like Truman’s wife slipping product placement into their conversations, but also heartbreaking flashbacks to a young Truman falling for an extra, not his written-in love interest. It’s this forbidden love that finally motivates Truman to escape his life, but he just can’t seem to. The showrunner of the series, Christof (Ed Harris), observes from a giant artificial moon, carefully trying to play damage control and keep the show going.

The magic of Truman Show is a constant push-pull between Andrew Niccol’s script, which weaves in-universe elements of Truman’s world and the outside world in a seamless dance, and Jim Carrey’s rubber-face talents as a man experiencing the joys and sorrows of suburban life. There are very few actors who can communicate existentialism while still keeping an artificial smile, and Carrey is right up there.

The artifice of The Truman Show is what makes it so entertaining — and thought-provoking.

Paramount Pictures

The Truman Show is equally a movie about reality TV, which was just a burgeoning genre in 1998 but now dominates pop culture, and what it means to be a human. If everything we do is manipulated by outside forces, is it really your own life? It’s an intense kind of gaslighting that even inspired some psychologists to coin “Truman Show delusion,” a psychological delusion that one’s life is being documented in a reality show.

In 2023, an era that’s survived Kardashians, a 90 Day Fiancé cinematic universe, and The Rehearsal, the hot take of “reality TV is kind of a messed up concept” may seem somewhat lukewarm, but it’s more about taking control of your own life, from changing a pre-arranged narrative into something that suits your dreams and facing fears no matter how warped they become.

As humans, we are naturally curious, and often in the entertainment world, that can veer into something more malicious. The Truman Show posits this is a way that doesn’t make you feel guilty for watching, but instead leaves you wondering just where the line between vertité and voyeurism really lies.

The Truman Show is now streaming on Prime Video.

Related Tags