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Film / The Truman Show

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"We've become bored with watching actors give us phony emotions. We're tired of pyrotechnics and special effects. While the world he inhabits is, in some respects, counterfeit, there's nothing fake about Truman himself. No scripts. No cue cards. It isn't always Shakespeare, but it's genuine. It's a life."
Christof, the very first lines of the film

The Truman Show is a 1998 sci-fi comedy-drama film directed by Peter Weir, written by Andrew Niccol, and starring Jim Carrey, and is widely considered one of the best movies of all three's careers.

Truman Burbank (Carrey), a well-liked small-town insurance salesman, lives a seemingly idyllic life, but is discontented. He still pines for a girl he fell in love with in college but who disappeared abruptly, and he is dealing with a strong wanderlust even though everything in his life seems to dissuade him from travel. Strange things have also been happening in his town: what looks like a spotlight marked with the name of a star falls out of the air right in front of him, his car radio picks up a broadcast which appears to be tracking his movements, and everything from his beautiful house, to his beautiful wife (Laura Linney), to even his loyal best friend (Noah Emmerich) seems somewhat... artificial.

In reality, since before his birth, Truman has been the unsuspecting star of a globally successful Reality Show called The Truman Show, in which every minute of every day of his life is filmed and broadcast live, overseen by the show's fanatical and obsessive creator/producer/director Christof (Ed Harris). While Truman has no idea about the level of deception everyone goes through to keep him in the dark, that changes soon enough.

When he bumps into a mysterious hobo who looks almost identical to his dead father, Truman begins to suffer a paranoid breakdown and sets out to fully investigate his environment. However, everyone around him tries in desperation to stop him from discovering the truth… or worse, a way out.

Out of the many different reactions to the film, "what a good idea" seemed to top the list, at least with television executives. After Truman came out in 1998, the first series of Big Brother debuted in 1999, and Survivor premiered in 2000. Those initial "reality" shows seemed like a shocking idea at the time — but the people in charge ended up on the "right" side of history, as Reality TV of all kinds has captured a huge portion of the television viewing audience of later generations. On the other hand, the people in those shows volunteer. (Usually.) Also in 2000 came The Sims, which could also be described as The Truman Show: The Video Game.

A rare promotional video for the movie, which aired on Nick @ Nite, can be seen here. It was filmed as a Documentary Episode and features in-universe interviews with the cast and crew.

This film provides examples of:

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  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Possibly, depending on when Truman was born (otherwise, it would be something of an Alternate History). The scale of the Seahaven dome seems to support this.
  • Abusive Parents: Poor Truman. Literally everyone even resembling a parent in his life had no problem with him unknowingly being filmed for his entire life.
  • Acting for Two: In-universe, when the actor who originally played his father shows up on the set again as a homeless man.
  • Actor Leaves, Character Dies: Happens In-Universe with Truman's father. Due to a dispute by the actor, Truman's father is made to drown, which instills a lifelong fear of water in Truman. When he inexplicably returns, the producers Hand Wave it by claiming it was "amnesia".
  • An Aesop:
    • No one should exist just for the entertainment of others. Their desires and struggles matter, and treating them as nothing but entertainment is monstrous.
    • A fairly subtle one for the Show Within a Show — while Truman and his buddy Marlon are golfing near the island's edge, Marlon mentions how he'd "kill for a desk job", bemoaning his fate as a guy who restocks vending machines. During a flashback to their high school years, Marlon is shown trying to convince Truman not to study and go out for a beer instead. Do well in school, kids.
    • Word of God on the DVD extras suggested an alternate possible Aesop: that we all come to a point when we have to decide whether to stay in our familiar, comfortable delusions or move forward into the unknown of reality, and when this happens we must not listen to that little disembodied voice telling us we can't leave.invoked
  • All There in the Manual:
    • A companion book containing the complete screenplay was presented as an in-universe companion to the show itself, containing background information on both the "actors" around Truman and the audience members cut to throughout the movie. (The guy in the bathroom died when he accidentally knocked his TV into the water, for one.)
    • In-Universe: Christof had a documentary where he videotaped the plight of the homeless, as he felt showing the world what hardship they had to go through would inspire people to help them. This documentary is what inspired him to create a world that would protect someone (Truman) throughout his life.
    • The Nick @ Nite promotional featurette for the film is presented as an in-universe documentary and also goes into details about the fictional cast and their lives around Truman. Notably, it explains a fair bit about Marlon (Truman's friend) — in the film, he's shown as being generally callous and dismissive of Truman (with a few hints that he might be regretful to see what's happening), whereas the featurette makes it clear that he's taken to drinking because he was lured into the project at a young age by his parents and has no visible recourse to leave the project. More notably, a deleted scene suggests that he is so regretful over the experience that he allows Truman to escape, even though he glimpses him heading out of town during the final act.
    • The name of the corporation that built the dome and produces the show is only named in the teaser trailer as "Omnicam".
  • And the Fandom Rejoiced: In-Universe. Everyone cheers for Truman when he finally leaves the show, and the lie that was his life by extension.
  • Anthropic Principle: For the premise to work, it would violate countless laws including that of human rights in real life, hence in-story they are presumably not be an issue or at least exempted for the case of a reality show. Not only that, this masquerade requires a gigantic crew and cast revolving around Truman, with everyone's behavior being so predictable, doing their job perfectly at all times, and the security so wonderful that for decades no employee, actor, or intruder would successfully expose the truth to Truman. This has been addressed a couple times across the movie, but it remains a highly improbable premise.
  • Anti-Villain: Christof. He cares deeply for Truman, seeing him as shielded from everyday life's drudgery, malcontent, struggles, and plain ol' shit happening, and feels that Truman sends a message to the rest of the world — that they're not alone in their struggle with life.
  • Arranged Friendship: Every person in Truman's life, from family to potential love interests to friends, was pre-arranged and selected by producers. In a documentary about the fictional show's production, Marlon's actor describes it as his mom telling him that he should go over there to a little boy and be his friend.
  • Arranged Marriage: Truman's marriage to Meryl is secretly this, as the people in charge of the show deliberately set up their first meeting, dating, etc. Truman only thinks he freely chose to marry her.
  • Artificial Atmospheric Actions:
    • Truman only begins to notice when he starts suspecting things, like when he notices that there's a lady on a red bicycle, a man carrying flowers, and a Volkswagen Beetle with a dented fender passing by his house at the exact same time over and over all morning long, as if on a loop.
    • "Dog Fancy, please." A LOT of people seem to like Dog Fancy magazine...
  • Artistic License – Cars: Truman's Ford Taurus is a Frankenstein of option configurations you couldn't actually get in Real Life at the time of most of the filming. Truman's Taurus has the body, interior and trim of a 1997 Taurus GL, judging by the color, the exterior lights and the seat fabric, but it is badged as a higher-spec Taurus LX (as seen when he backs out of the driveway during his first escape attempt) and has a dual exhaust with circular tips pointing downwards, indicating that it has the 24 valve Duratec V6 engine, which was only available on the LX model. It also has the front fascia from the high performance SHO model, but painted in a color that was only available on the GL and LX trims. It suddenly has the chrome rims from a production 1997 LX model when Truman tries to cross the bridge and one quick shot of the car's stereo shows the upgraded stereo with automatic climate control that you would find on a production LX, while all other interior shots show the base stereo with manual, rotary HVAC controls you would find on a production GL.
    • When Ford gave the Taurus a mid-cycle refresh for 1998, the G and GL trims were dropped, the GL trim was rebadged as the LX trim, the upgraded 24 valve Duratec V6 became an optional extra on the base LX trim and all models got a more aggressive front fascia that closely resembled the one used on the SHO model. It's possible that the Taurus provided for filming was a prototype 1998 model and the SHO front fascia was there because the new front fascia design wasn't yet finalized and/or Ford was considering putting the SHO front fascia on all models at the time as a possible cost saving measure. A production 1997 LX model would then be utilized for the stunt driving over the bridge so as not to risk damaging the prototype Taurus.
    • Justified as In-Universe, the Taurus was likely a specially modified model provided for use on the film set, including being outfitted with multiple cameras hidden inside it to film Truman and any passengers who would be riding along with him. All the automobiles that the characters are meant to meaningfully interact with are Ford Motor Company products - Marlon drives a brand new 1997 Ford Ranger and all the taxis are 1997 Ford Taurus GLs, suggesting that they were another one of the companies utilizing The Truman Show for product placement.
  • Artistic License – Film Production: The Truman Show does have the wonky camera angles, lack of/awkward use of camera movement, inappropriately close or far-away shots, etc, that you'd expect as a live show captured with hidden cameras. What's less realistic is the sound. All the dialogue on the hidden cameras is very clean and clear, as though caught on a high-end unidirectional mic from a couple of feet away, including the scenes on the beach (beaches being notoriously awful places to record sound even under ideal conditions, usually requiring some degree of ADR for dialogue to even be comprehensible). At one point it's suggested that certain passers-by are concealing little shotgun mics on their person, but it's a Hand Wave at best.
  • Aside Glance: During various attempts to shoehorn in Product Placement.
  • Asimov's Three Kinds of Science Fiction: The film ranks on the Adventure category. The invention is an environment-mimicking dome that hosts a small town-scaled filming set. How it came to be is never explained, just that it exists 20 Minutes into the Future and is used to trick a person into believing his life is real when, in truth, it's a staged Reality Show. The movie doesn't make a point of how the existence of such advanced biodomes would impact society nor how much of a Crapsack World it must be to allow such an immoral show to be produced. Instead, it focuses on the titular character's journey of realizing his life is a simulation and escaping from it.
  • As You Know: In the middle of the film, the introduction to the TruTalk special gives away in detail what the viewers could only assume before.
    1.7 billion were there for his birth. 220 countries tuned in for his first step. The world stood still for that stolen kiss. And as he grew, so did the technology. An entire human life recorded on an intricate network of hidden cameras and broadcasted live and unedited 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to an audience around the globe. Coming to you now from Seahaven Island, enclosed in the largest studio ever constructed and, along with the Great Wall of China, one of the only two man-made structures visible from space, now in its thirtieth great year ... it's The Truman Show!
  • Audience Reactions: In-Universe — the movie occasionally cuts to members of the public watching the show and (most likely) mirroring the viewer. Especially so when Christof tries to drown Truman with an intense localized storm, before a cut to the balding bathtub fan shows him clinging to his shower curtain and shouting for Truman to hold on.
  • Audience? What Audience?: An interesting case, given that it's Played for DramaMeryl choosing to perform a Product Placement pitch while Truman is having an emotional breakdown completely shocks him, with him looking confused around and directly her asking "Who are you talking to?!" It's what proves to him that she's also in on it, and it's possibly the clue that gives him the nature of what the people around him are in on.
  • Author Powers: Christof has the science-fiction equivalent. When he gets desperate enough, he turns night into day and summons a tempest to stop Truman's escape.
  • Author's Saving Throw: invoked After Truman begins to rebel more and more against the illusion, Christof is forced to write his father back into the show just to try and keep him from asking questions. But the contrived way Christof pulls it off only makes Truman more paranoid. Lampshaded subtly in the interview scene where Christof is asked how he plans to explain the 20-year absence of the character. Christof is quiet briefly before awkwardly announcing, "Amnesia," to which the ass-kissing interviewer replies, "Genius."
  • Awful Wedded Life: An unusual example. In-universe Truman and Meryl's marriage is intended to be an idyllic romance, but in practice their relationship is devoid of any mutual connection, chemistry or bond. Beyond obviously not genuinely loving Truman, Meryl's limited acting range means her attempt at portraying a loving wife fall completely flat, something Truman catches onto. Even the audience in the real world doesn't seem to be convinced.
  • Back from the Dead: Christof decides to re-introduce Truman's father in a bid to keep Truman from breaking free of the show.
  • Bad "Bad Acting":
    • A lot of the actors on the show aren't actually that great at their 'parts'. The extras passing through flub their lines, the regulars are only mediocre in their emotional displays with Truman, and for a reality show, they're absolutely terrible at improvising, and all too often have their lines fed directly to them.
    • Another case is Truman himself during the last iteration of his daily routine before his escape. He's pretty clearly going through the motions so as to not tip anyone off that he's about to make a break for it. It goes to show how little anyone understands Truman like they think they do that they don't immediately pick up on this.
      "You never had a camera inside my head!"
  • Bad Liar: Almost every attempt to convince Truman that he's just imagining things and that everything's normal backfires through either poor attempts at covering up or, alternatively, overly-coordinated Contrived Coincidences.
  • Bathos: The climax to the scene in which Truman figures out that Meryl is in on whatever has control of his life. The camera angles and lighting as the door opens and Truman attempts to take a defensive stance are right out of a horror movie as the killer closes in on their next victim, brandishing a weapon... but Truman is holding a three-in-one kitchen tool, the "incoming murderer" is Marlon, and the "brandished weapon" is a six-pack of beer. It's both comical in its composition and subtly menacing (beyond just the layout, there's the fact that the person coming in is about to harm Truman... just not physically).
  • Big Damn Reunion: The director deliberately invokes this "in-universe" by having Truman reunite with his long lost father, in order to make Truman stay and also give the show's ratings a boost. Turns out it had the opposite effect as Truman makes his escape the next night, likely having found the reunion too contrived to be real.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: In-Universe example: when Truman is having a heated argument with Meryl, she suddenly decides to do a plug for Mococoa (a hot cocoa mix). Truman responds thusly:
"What the Hell are you talking about? Who are you talking to?.. What does this have to do with anything?"
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Christof shouts down his assistant Chloe, who pleads with him over trying to drown Truman.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In the background of the scene where Truman's dad is being taken away, two arcs display the words "unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno", Latin for "One for All, All for One". Truman exists for the rest of the world's entertainment, and all of Seahaven exists for Truman. Perhaps better, Truman exists for the rest of the world's entertainment while that world cheers him on, resulting in some surprisingly accurate French and Japanese to represent the world at large.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Nearly everyone in on the show's gimmick is playing along in duping Truman while pretending to be a well meaning friend or family member. Done literally with the Big Friendly Dog, Pluto that Truman fearfully greeted each morning, which converts into a vicious search hound when Truman attempts to escape.
  • Bittersweet Ending: By and large on the sweet end of the spectrum: Truman reaches the edge of the world and then chooses to leave, to live his life for real on the outside of a set as the world watches and cheers him on. However, the last moments of the movie add a rather cynical edge to it, as we see that some of the viewers of the show immediately get bored after he leaves and ask what else is on, giving the implication that the viewers even at the end were really only invested in Truman as one might be invested in the series finale of a show they really like. Once the show is over, they quickly move on to something else for entertainment with little true concern for Truman, the real person.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • When Christof informs Sylvia that Truman could leave his reality if he really wanted to. Eventually he does, but the number of obstacles placed in his way show that it's not something Christof wants to 'let' happen.
    • In the same call, he dismisses Truman as having "vague ambitions" when it's clear to anyone watching that Truman is absolutely obsessed with leaving and desperate to get in touch with Sylvia again that it literally dominates his every waking thought.
    • Marlon trying to assuage Truman's fears by telling him that if everyone was "in on it", then Marlon would have to be too, and the very last thing he would ever do is lie to Truman. ...Meanwhile, this is intercut with Christof directly feeding those lines to Marlon's actor through a headset.
  • Bookends:
    • It begins with a star falling from the sky, and ends with a star rising up into the sky.
    • Truman's very first line in the movie is when he greets his neighbors; "Good morning! And in case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night!" At the very end of the movie, before leaving the studio forever, he tells Christof, "In case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening...and good night."
  • Border Patrol:
    • We see an Angry Guard Dog barking at Truman (as a kid) when he was trying to get out of his world's boundaries.
    • When Truman later tries to drive out of Seahaven, the local police stop him and deliver him back to his house.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Louis Coltrane (the in-movie name of the actor playing Marlon) breaks the fourth wall when he speaks into the camera and to Christof ("He's gone!"), causing the latter to cut the show's transmission.
    • As well as Truman's wife when Truman becomes suspicious and holds a dangerous kitchen gadget to her neck and she screams to the camera "DO SOMETHING!"
    • Truman himself does this late in the film when, after one of his 'routines' to the camera in his bathroom mirror, he leans in and whispers "That one's for free." It's subtle enough to slip past the crew members watching, but he makes his break for freedom not long after.
  • Brick Joke: Meryl chastises Truman for trying to keep an old, beat-up lawnmower in good shape and instead replace it with an Elk Rotary model. He's shown using it near the end of the movie.
  • Broken Bridge: When Truman tries to escape, a series of increasingly unlikely obstacles (up to a faked nuclear incident) are contrived to bar his way. In fact, any method off the island is a broken bridge for Truman, including a literal one.
  • Broken Masquerade: Truman starts noticing a variety of unusual things, such as an actors' break room hidden behind an elevator.
  • The Cameo:
    • Composer Philip Glass appears as one of the keyboard artists providing the live music as the show is filmed. If that weren't enough, many of Glass' previous work can be heard in the film, including The Anthem from Powaqqatsi and Opening from Mishima A Life In Four Chapters.
    • Visual Effects Supervisor Michael McAllister gets a cameo, too — he's the construction worker on the girder of the Truman Show studio dome, who can be glimpsed when the camera does a dramatic pull-back out the studio and past the Hollywood sign in front of it.
  • Catchphrase: "Good morning. Oh, and in case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening, and good night."
  • Closed Circle: For a massive set for a reality show with only one real person, Truman Burbank, with the creators deliberately Railroading ways so Truman could spend his entire life in the fictitious Seahaven set. Or that was the idea at least...
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: Louis says this word-for-word after Truman goes missing.
  • Complexity Addiction: The obstacles thrown in Truman's path are almost laughably overcomplicated. When he goes to see his wife at the hospital, he's briefly stopped by a nurse, but once she leaves and he tails her, a group of wheelchair users and an aide pushing a shelf of chemicals are what are inserted in his path rather than, say, a security guard, or just having the nurse double-back to talk to him again. When he later takes Meryl on a forced drive, he's met with an instant traffic jam and all the occurrences from the bridge onward, rather than a police officer stopping him for reckless driving and endangerment.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: The show is so iconic that its many fans, some of whom have grown up watching Truman, are unbothered by its implications. Truman himself has been led to believe that the world beyond cozy Seahaven is far more dangerous than it is, conditioning which arguably backfires by desensitizing him to the idea that, for instance, flying constitutes a near-suicidal hazard (look at how unhesitatingly he attempts to book a flight despite the scary posters on prominent display in the travel agency).
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • The writers will set these up to keep Truman along the path they want him to follow (e.g. a shallowly sunken boat when he's about to board a ferry to invoke his hydrophobia). Of course, when these start building up, Truman starts figuring stuff out...
    • It's also thanks to this that everything starts to unravel: Truman spends his entire life seemingly unaware that he's in a completely controlled environment, then one morning a studio light marked as a star falls out of the sky right in front of him. That night there's an unprecedented rain malfunction. Then he sees his dead father. Then his car radio accidentally picks up the frequency used by the people tracking his movements. Then he manages to walk in on crew members during a set change. Basically, the movie chronicles the week that the entire Truman Show facade suddenly goes wrong all at once.
  • Control Freak: Christof is utterly convinced that he knows what's best for Truman and determined to rule every aspect of his life.
  • Conveniently Empty Roads: When Truman Burbank suspects that his life isn't entirely real, one of the clues that further stokes his paranoia is how traffic seems to follow plot convenience rather than logic. Most notably, when Truman announces his intention to leave town by car, he finds the road to the only bridge off the island is blocked by completely standstill traffic. So he announces he's changed his mind, and he starts to drive home — then abruptly makes another U-turn and finds the same road is now completely clear.
    Truman: Look, Meryl! Same road, no cars. It's magic! Hahaha!
  • Crapsaccharine World: Truman's hometown, where everyone's happy and nice and pretty. However, it's wholly fake, and everybody psychologically messes with Truman to stop him realizing that...
  • Crapsack World: A Cracked article sums it up nicely...
    Think about how many laws have to not exist in that universe for this show to happen. It's apparently legal for a person or corporation to imprison a person, as long as you feed him. It's legal to film and record someone without his knowledge. It's legal to defraud a person out of literally every possible thing he could have in his life, from a real marriage to a real career. If it can be done to Truman, it can be done to anyone, including you. It's as much an "anything goes" society as The Road Warrior.
    • To sum it up even more, recall that the backstory points out Truman is the first person to be adopted and legally owned by a corporation. The operative word there is "first".
  • Crash-Into Hello: Subverted. Meryl, the woman who was picked to be Truman's love interest, falls on top of him, but he falls in love with a girl who is sitting on the lawn a little ways away. Meryl was obviously instructed to do this quickly, once the powers that be realized Truman was falling for the wrong woman.
  • Crazy-Prepared: When Truman tries to drive off the island, they throw a ridiculous number of illogical occurrences to keep him from escaping. First they attempt to block the exit using a bunch of drivers feigning a traffic jam. Then after he outsmarts that trap, there's a bridge that exploits his fear of water. Then after he exploits a way around that trap, they throw a forest fire at him, which he happily drives through without a second thought. Then finally they manage to stop him using a fake power plant leak, which he attempts to run around but is caught by the guards. That's not even getting into all the other ways they try to keep him off.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: When Truman makes his final break for freedom, Christof goes so far as trying to kill him in a special effects storm rather than let him escape. When the seas calm, Truman is hanging half off the boat with his arms outstretched.
  • Cue the Sun: Trope Namer, quoted from Christof. But not actually an example.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: The ability to create an artificial enclosed environment has applications beyond making a complex reality show: countries with water shortages would pay through the nose for an environment that could create rain, wind, and storms with the simple click of a touch screen. Not to mention the ability to create self-sustaining space habitats.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Truman's quarrel with Meryl and his ultimate divorce is what finally puts him completely over the edge, and what plants the seeds in his mind about his readiness to escape. The producers try to snap him out of it by bringing his father back, but despite what he makes it appear as, it just makes him even more certain of his suspicions. This is slightly subverted as he does recover from it, but in the end it's only because he decided the fake life wasn't worth living anymore and it was time to move onto a real one.
  • Determinator: Even Christof recognizes one important truth to keeping Truman in the illusion. If he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, not out of some vague curiosity, there would be nothing they could do to stop him.
  • Did Not Die That Way: Truman was led to believe his father had drowned when he was a child. He later reappeared to the adult Truman.
  • Didn't Think This Through: One of the ways they keep Truman from leaving town is by faking the drowning death of his father and encouraging the ensuing fear of water. They later bring the character back after he's started to suspect what's going on, accidentally breaking him of that fear. The sheer contrivance of it also shatters Truman's last vestiges of suspension of disbelief.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • To instill a fear of water in Truman, they made him believe his father died in a boating accident when he was a kid. Truman didn't see him again until he was thirty.
    • Truman's biological father is never mentioned.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The creator of the show is named Christof.
    • During the final scene Truman is walking along "the sky", but from the viewer's vantage point it seems that he is walking on the water.
    • It goes even further in the very next scene, where Christof talks to Truman through a speaker, his voice echoing and even coming from a ray of light behind the clouds: "I am the creator [long, conspicuous mid-sentence pause] of a television show..."
    • Similarly "Cue the sun!" is reminiscent of "Let there be light."
    • The hole he digs to escape his house is directly imitating the "rough climb to enlightenment" that exists in the cave in Plato's "The Allegory of the cave."
    • The whole finale can be a big metaphor for Truman's "death". He meets his maker after sailing vicious waters, gets some closure on his life, and exits his "world" through a door on the sky section.
    • The staircase painted to blend into the sky background that Truman ascends to reach the outside world can be seen as a Staircase to Heaven.
    • Truman and Christof's dynamic is extremely similar to that of an abusive parent or partner and their victim. Christof insists on controlling every aspect of Truman's life, frightens him against ever going against his wishes, makes him believe he would never be able to survive on his own, gaslights him on a regular basis and denies him any real freedom while vehemently insisting and honestly believing it's for his own good as well as lashing out violently when he feels betrayed or Truman goes against Christof's wishes. His final plea for Truman to stay is eerily similar to an abuser trying to get their victim to stay and offering to turn over a new leaf, sincerely caring about their victims but only on their own terms.
  • Domed Hometown: The town's actually a major dome built in Hollywood — it's famous for being able to be seen from space.
  • Door-Closes Ending: A variation. The in-universe show ends with a shot of Truman walking up a staircase and through the door that leads off the set and into reality. This isn't the last shot of the film, as it's followed by scenes of other characters reacting to the end of the show — but it is the last the real audience, as well as the in-universe audience, sees of Truman. Once he goes through the door, Truman gets to live the rest of his life without anyone watching.
  • Dramatic Irony: Following Truman crossing the Despair Event Horizon when he loses his "marriage", he and Marlon have a small heart-to-heart about Truman's suspicions. During the conversation, Marlon makes the claim that "the very last thing I'd ever do is lie to you"... just at the same moment that we witness Christof remotely feeding these exact lines to Marlon's actor.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: It's implied that Marlon drinks heavily because of the guilt he feels over pretending to be Truman's best friend while constantly lying to him.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Truman goes through so much for the sake of must-see TV, but he eventually overcomes his fear of water and successfully escapes the studio to live life on his own terms.
  • Easy Amnesia: Parodied. It's Christof's plan to explain away what happened to Truman's father.
  • Ending by Ascending: The film ends with Truman finding a staircase that leads up into the sky and/or Real Life, and leaving — after taking his final bows, of course.
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • An extreme in-universe example as Truman's entire life was this. Everyone he knew (his parents, best friend, wife, boss, the townspeople, etc.) was a paid actor being fed lines, but Truman himself was the only one genuinely reacting to events in his life not knowing they were all fake and engineered to entertain the outside world.
    • Also in-universe. Part of the way Truman figures out something is wrong is when he starts acting wildly out-of-character and none of the actors improvise well at all to his behavior, especially his wife.
    • And the poor sap whose leg the actors were "scheduled to amputate" barely escaped it thanks to a security guard.
  • Enhance Button: Shows up when Truman executes his "escape plan", when Christof and the control room director are analyzing footage of Truman supposedly sleeping.
  • Eternal Equinox: The fabricated town where Truman resides is implied to have a constant, instant day/night cycle even if the seasons are simulated.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: After several hours of unsuccessfully searching for Truman, Christof quietly watches his crew run around in a futile manner, then it hits him:
    Christof: We're not watching the sea.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • When Christof decides to capsize the sailboat Truman is on and adamant to rather drown than turn back, the producers demand to stop this and the technician flat-out refuses to fulfill the order. Christof puts the weather settings on his own, to the protest of the entire room.
    • While the theatrical cut only hints on it, the cut scenes make it clear Marlon feels nothing but disgust over the cynical exploiting of Truman and ultimately even helps him escape by turning a blind eye after spotting him.
    • It's directly stated that the show-within-the-movie never actually shows any of Truman's sexual activities: they switch to a different camera pointed away from him and play music so you can't hear it either. Presumably other things like shots of him in the shower or on the toilet also use discretion angles so the audience doesn't actually see any hardcore nudity. It's debatable, however, whether Christof himself chooses to do this, or if he only gives the reality show essentially a "PG-13 rating" because he's required to, due to various broadcasting laws. Christof does say he's hoping to orchestrate "the world's first on-air conception" between Truman and Meryl (or her replacement), leaving one to wonder what he actually intended to broadcast.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The story takes place over five days - it begins on Day 10,909 and ends on Day 10,913 of Truman's life.
  • Fake Town: Since Truman lives inside a giant television studio, it's no surprise that many buildings are revealed to be nothing but empty facades.
  • Faking Engine Trouble: There is a scene where Truman tries to leave the town on a bus. However, the driver crunches the gear box to make the excuse that the bus is not working, so Truman cannot leave town. Though it's possible that the bus driver, being just an actor, genuinely doesn't know how to drive a stick shift. Later lampshaded when the same actor is shown as the captain of a ferry (which he also doesn't know how to operate).
    "Man, I'm just a bus driver!"
  • Fiction Isn't Fair: Seriously, Truman was basically a slave his whole life. Completely unaware of his privacy being violated and never informed even after reaching the age when he would have to sign several forms to give his consent and there's no indication that he ever gets paid for them filming his life. They do mention that he was legally adopted by a corporation, but adopting a child means also allowing the child contact with the outside world. While corporations can't adopt children, all parents are obliged to care for them, which doesn't include this and they can be removed from their care. Along with that, he's raped via fraud by being put in a relationship with a woman who's really an actress, then nearly murdered when he escapes at the end. While there is a group fighting for Truman's rights, realistically the show would have been shut down from the get go by the government.
  • Former Child Star: According to the script book, the woman playing Truman's wife took on the role shortly after she became one of these.
  • Fourth Wall Psych: In an in-universe example, Truman starts talking to himself through the bathroom mirror, and the production crew starts wondering if he's really aware of the camera that's hidden behind it. They're eventually reassured that he isn't when Truman starts drawing on the mirror with soap and goofing around. And then he casually says "That one's for free".
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Just before Truman tries escaping the town via the bridge, there's a very brief overhead shot of his car idling in front of it. Next to it is a sign that says "You Are Now Leaving Seahaven Island! Are You Sure It's A Good Idea?" There are all kinds of similarly manipulative things seen throughout the movie, but that was one of the more subtle examples.

  • Gaslighting: Truman's entire life was this. Especially notable, though, is how Meryl and Marlon tend to chalk his increasing suspicions up to him having a mentally unbalanced episode — which is the entire definition of "gaslighting".
  • Gilded Cage: Truman lives a rather comfortable life in the dome, he works a cushy job as an insurance agent, is married to a beautiful wife, lives in a beautiful house, and drives a nice car. However, as the star of the show it's necessary for him to stay on the island where the show takes place, which is accomplished through: having Truman be traumatized into having aqua-phobia by seeing his father drown; at school, when he said he wanted to be an explorer, his teacher said there's no point since there was no place left to explore; he visited a travel agency that discourages travel; when he tried to make a run for it he's prevented from doing so by a traffic jam, a forest fire, and a nuclear accident. At the end Truman uses a sailboat to escape, which Christof tries to stop with a storm, but stops before Truman drowns. However as Truman is about to exit the set, Christof tries to talk him into staying for the sake of the cast and crew, with the implication that all will be forgiven and he can go back to his old life, but it doesn't work.
  • God Is Evil: Played with; the director is the metaphorical "God" of Seahaven and hardly has Truman's interests at heart, but it's hardly as black-and-white as him being "evil".
  • Gut Feeling: Christof (correctly) believes Truman is up to something when the latter spends the night in his basement, something the on-duty camera directors didn't think much of.
  • Heaven Above: The massive control room where Christof manages the entire world Truman knows is located in the sky, covered by a fake sun during the day and a fake moon during the night. This is one of many elements that makes it clear Christof is usurping God's role in controlling so much of Truman's reality. In case the association is too subtle, the movie ends with Truman talking to Christof, "the creator," by looking straight into the sunny sky.
  • Heel Realization: When Christof sends a man-made storm to try to capsize Truman's boat, his bosses get hit by the realization first, telling Christof to stop, lest his actions turn to murder. At first, Christof defends himself by saying Truman was born on live television, implying that Truman is subhuman. When he realizes that Truman won't stop, he finally gives in, ending the storm and letting him go.
  • Heroic BSoD: When Truman finally completes his ocean voyage at the end by crashing into the outer wall of the studio, and he has the dawning horror that all of his worst fears about his situation are true.
  • Hero's Muse: Truman's motivation for leaving Seahaven and going to "Fiji", he longs to see Sylvia again. He was only with her for one day and night, yet manages to make a photographic mosaic of her face from women's magazines, much to the watching Sylvia's joy.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Christof never actually hires anybody who knows how to pilot a ferry, since he thought Truman would always be too afraid to actually ride it, and if he did, they'd just feign the ferry being non-functional similar to the bus driver scene. This comes back to bite him in the film's climax.
  • Hollywood Law: As this is set somewhere in America, the entire premise of having a show where the star spends his entire life being made into what is essentially a dancing monkey for the entertainment of others violates more laws than anyone can count. Then again, considering how much money must go into this show, one imagines bribery playing a part.
  • Hypocrite: Christof in a lot of ways, but one notable way is when he admits he likes his privacy, when for not one moment of Truman's life has he been allowed any privacy himself. He also claims the show is realistic, but when Truman really falls for an extra after dancing with her, Christof basically forces him into the relationship with the pre-chosen actress. Then, he labels the real world as a sick place full of lies and deceit, yet his whole operation is horrifically depraved on so many levels.
  • Immoral Reality Show: The entire conceit of the movie is that Truman, an apparently ordinary dude living in a small seaside town, is being watched by an audience 24/7, and that everyone around him is really an actor who's being paid to keep him in the dark. Basically, a man's whole life has been completely stolen for the amusement of millions of viewers.
  • I Never Told You My Name: What gives away the cop who stops Truman at the edge of "town" — he used Truman's name, despite having never met him before or being shown ID.
  • Insistent Terminology: In the mockumentary opening of the film, Louis/Marlon insists that Truman's world isn't "fake," just controlled.
  • Ironic Echo: "In case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night" at the end of the film.
  • Irony: Christof says it's a reality show, but the moment any hint of reality starts getting in, it's wiped out, and if Truman's life hadn't been so tightly controlled he might have worked it all out years ago.
  • ISO-Standard Urban Groceries: Truman's wife is seen carrying some early on in the movie.
  • Is That the Best You Can Do?: When Christof is throwing tsunami-like waters at a fleeing Truman, who manages to endure and keep sailing, Truman looks at the sky and screams the trope title, then follows it up with the ultimate Determinator line: "YOU'RE GONNA HAVE TO...KIIIIILL MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
  • It's All About Me: Many of the actors and actresses playing Truman's friends and family feel and act this way. The main characters only caring with how much of a personal fortune they gross from the show's success, while Truman the star has nothing. Many hate and resent what they consider to be "spending too much time" with Truman. When they were kids, Truman begged 'his best friend' Marlon to spend one night camping with him (cause that's what kids do). Marlon went off "sick for a month" after that. Also, at one point, Truman himself gets accused of this when he starts to suspect what's going on — despite him being clearly unhappy with the prospect.
  • Jerkass: A special note must be given to all the actors playing Truman's friends and family, especially the ones playing his parents — it's baffling that any human being could play the part of Truman's parents, spouse, or friend for all his life and not begin to form any genuine attachment to him at all, but rather just keep lying to him. Louis Coltrane (Marlon's in-universe actor) may be an exception, as there are several hints left in — and deleted scenes making it more explicit — that he genuinely feels bad about it, despite having been there for much of the show as Truman's best friend. (In fact, one deleted and possibly unfilmed scene has Louis come through for Truman at a crucial moment, as a way of redemption.)
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: His "father" played a big role in traumatizing a very young Truman and giving him a phobia of water that followed him all the way to adulthood by "drowning". We see that he was very upset over doing so... but only because it meant he had to be written out of the show.
  • Jumping the Shark: The Truman Show, in-universe. The producers decide to bring Truman's dad back from the dead in order to stop him from trying to escape Seahaven. But it is such a Contrived Coincidence that even Truman catches on.
  • Karma Houdini: Other than having Truman leave and presumably having to cancel the show, Christof doesn't face any punishment for holding Truman prisoner and manipulating him all his life. Or attempted murder. Unless likewise, seeing Truman exit through the door, leaving the studio, and thus, ending the show completely, was enough for Christof to get more than what he bargained for.
  • Kick the Dog: Truman is basically forced to handle an insurance case that involves using the ferry to get there, despite his serious aquaphobia. He can't handle the water, and strategically placed sunken boat, and bails. We later learn that no one knows how to operate the ferries anyway, so the whole thing was only to cause Truman emotional pain for ratings.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Christof, in a sense. He fits in the father-figure role quite well, being the one in charge of the day-to-day operation of everything in Seahaven, and he tries to micromanage Truman's life, down to picking out Truman's spouse.
  • Last Day of Normalcy: On day 10,909, both Truman, the show's cast and crew, and the (In-Universe) audience woke up to just a typical day, with the exception of the "plane" that lost a part. After that, Truman starts to notice strange things happening to him, such as: him believing a homeless man was his thought to be deceased father; receiving radio signals that sound like instructions to follow him around; walking into a break area after using the wrong elevator; noticing a pattern of people who roam the neighborhood at certain intervals; finally, his father does in fact return, having had suffered from years of amnesia. This eventually comes a head on day 10,913 when Hannah Gill, the actress playing Meryl, launches into a commercial for hot cocoa, instead of having a serious conversation with her husband while he was having a nervous break down). Truman enacts his escape plan, which causes Christof to cut the live transmission for the first time, creating a media frenzy and eventually leading to the show's cancellation when Truman manages to leave.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: A classic case. Truman is the star of his own reality show, and he's the only one who doesn't know it. Everyone he's ever met has been an actor paid to keep the secret and the town he lives in is a massive set.
  • Long-Runners: In-universe. The show has been running continuously since before Truman was born (almost 30 years).
  • Love at First Sight: Truman for Sylvia, despite his friend's attempts to distract him with trumpet playing and his planned future wife's Crash-Into Hello.
  • Lying Finger Cross: Truman's wife doing this covertly in their wedding picture is what tips him off to the Masquerade. Later, when Truman's wife is leaving for work, he said "Cross my fingers for you", which briefly made her nervous.
  • Mad Artist: Christof is this on a truly grand scale. It'd be easy to say he's in it for the money, but he's not — he treats Seahaven as a genuine artistic statement.
  • Manchild: Downplayed version with Truman's toy-chest in the basement, which makes sense, as he's never been allowed to grow as a person.
  • Massive Multiplayer Scam: Everyone but Truman knows that his entire town, which he has never left since birth, is really an elaborate film set populated by actors. His parents, his teachers, his best friend, his wife —all actors in a reality TV show.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Aside from those detailed under Spotting the Thread, Sylvia's wall at home has pictures of four cast members that she's approached in an attempt to reach Truman. Marlon was the only one she couldn't get close to, and she seems to think that he'd be the best bet (supported by a few Deleted Scenes).
  • Meaningful Echo: "In case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Truman Burbank — Burbank because that's where Seahaven really is, and Truman as in "True man", because Truman is the only "real" person in Seahaven.
    • "Christ"of, as well as Moses and Roman, the two network executives, and one of Christof's assistants is named Simeon.
    • The principal characters also have names seemingly inspired by notable actors (Marlon, Meryl, etc.).
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Walter Moore, the guy who plays Truman's father, tries to sneak back in the set so he can rejoin the show. Finally, Christof allows for a reunion to happen, allowing him to get back in the show. Unfortunately for the cast and crew, this leads to Truman finally figuring everything out and he escapes Seahaven the next day, so Walter doesn't get anything out of it in the end.
  • Meet Cute: Invoked. They seemed to be trying for it a second time, after the actress playing his wife has enough and leaves the show.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Invoked in-universe. In addition to the rampant product placement, everything on the show from the clothes the people wear to the houses they live in are for sale.
  • Messianic Archetype: Truman himself is one, if the "walking-on-water" shot, the references to Moses and the Romans, and the conversation with his creator in the heavens, and the discussion of bringing "hope to millions" didn't give it away.
  • Metafictional Title: In-Universe, The Truman Show is the name of the fictional Reality Show about the life of Truman.
  • Mixed Metaphor: Truman locks the car with Meryl in it and says they should go to Fiji right now. "Let's go right now. Early bird gathers no moss. Rolling stone catches the worm, right?"
  • Mood Whiplash: Played for Drama. As Truman's growing paranoia is starting to give way to a full-on emotional breakdown for him, Meryl tells him that he's "not well". Truman accuses her of hating him, and after she retorts with "that's not true", her next action is pulling off another Product Placement, complete with her ecstatic sales pitch voice. This ends up being the last straw for Truman on his and Meryl's relationship.
  • Never Found the Body: Truman's reason for holding out hope that his father is still alive. More subtly, it could be to keep Truman from ever getting closure, thus keeping him traumatized and afraid of water. The real reason, of course, being that the actor playing his father is still alive.
  • Never Needs Sharpening: Meryl quotes this trope word for word in one of her Product Placement pitches. According to her, the Chef's Pal "never needs sharpening". The reliability of the Chef's Pal is unknown as the next time we see it, Meryl's brandishing it against Truman during their argument and then it's never brought up again.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer focused on minor scenes in order to make it out to be the kind of outrageously wacky comedy Carrey was known for.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Many friends and relatives of Truman are played by actors that despise him, or at least don't particularly care about him and are quite happy to get famous off exploiting him. Except for Marlon, who's both Nice Character and Nice Actor who feels guilty for lying to Truman.
  • Nice Guy: Truman. It's part of his appeal to the show's fanatical audience - he's got a dorky, goodhearted sense of humor and is very sweet to everyone. Unfortunately, he's a Stepford Smiler, and as the Masquerade slowly crumbles, so does his demeanor.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Christof brings Truman's father back to life, causing him to lose his fear of water and sail to freedom that day.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: When Truman tells his wife that he noticed a lady on a red bicycle, a man carrying flowers, and a Volkswagen Beetle with a dented fender has been going around the block repeatedly on a loop in that exact order, she tries to change the subject (possibly being told to). He angrily yells at her for not listening to a word he says.
  • Oh, Crap!: The actors and crew have this reaction when whenever Truman does something out of the ordinary.
  • Ominous Fog: During the reunion between Truman and his father, Christof tells his staff to go easy on the fog.
  • Only One Name: Christof is never referred to as having a surname.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • So serious that Christof demands to be notified if Truman starts showing any abnormal behavior.
    • For most of the movie, Meryl's actor is a dramatic case of Bad "Bad Acting", with her Stepford Smiler traits painting her as very artificial and only in it for the money. However, prior to her departure from the show, she completely breaks out of that and shows genuine signs of anxiety and fear, and unlike all previous cases where she was pretty clearly pretending, this time it's clear that it's completely real.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Natascha McElhone (Lauren/Sylvia) slips into her native British accent when Sylvia is on the phone with Christof. She also does this when she's about to be taken away, so this is likely an In-Universe case.
  • The Outside World: We mostly get shots of this only to see the extremely (one might say unhealthily) devoted viewers, Sylvia, or Christof and his underlings. Truman enters it at the end of the movie.
  • Painting the Medium: Whenever the camera is shot through a fisheye lens, we know that we're seeing the scene from the viewpoint of one of the 5,000 hidden cameras. For shots impossible for those cameras to capture, a normal lens is used.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Invoked. In Real Life, there is a variant of paranoid schizophrenia now named "Truman syndrome", in which the patient believes that their lives are actually a television show. This may be the best and most controversial example of Defictionalization ever.
  • Parental Abandonment: Truman was an unwanted baby, "sold" or "sacrificed" for the project. Additionally, the man who he thought was his father was killed.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Truman tries this with his car radio, and it starts broadcasting the walkie talkie conversations of crew members who are tracking him.
  • Personal Rain Cloud: This is Truman's second major hint that something isn't right — he gets a 1-meter-wide downpour on his head that follows him around a bit before the rest of the sky opens up.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • The moment where Christof strokes the large screen showing the sleeping Truman does suggest that Christof, in his warped and Control Freaky way, does genuinely love and care for Truman as a father.
    • Marlon has a number of these moments, all of which were cut from the final version of the movie. One notable instance had him quietly help Truman escape by looking the other way after finding him during the search.
    • Christof does the same thing at the very end, when he talks to Truman for the first time.
  • Platonic Cave: Where the "cave" is the set to a television show.
    Mike Michaelson: Christof, let me ask you, why do you think that Truman has never come close to discovering the true nature of his world until now?
    Christof: We accept the reality of the world with which we're presented. It's as simple as that.
  • Product Placement: In-universe. Since the show doesn't have actual commercials (it airs 24/7), everything Truman uses is paid for by corporate sponsors and people in Truman's life will give elaborate sales pitches of items used in their daily lives. The first instance has Truman get shoved against a placard for "Free-range Kaiser Chicken" by a set of twins via overzealous greeting, to ensure the placard remains in the shot. This ultimately leads to Truman's "divorce" when the actress playing his wife does this at the wrong time. The closest equivalent to a conventional ad shown in the movie is a short scene of Truman silently drinking his morning coffee while a scrolling text at the bottom of the screen extols the virtues of that particular brand of coffee he's currently drinking.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Truman's morning commutes are invariably accompanied by Mozart; either the concluding Rondo alla Turca from Piano Sonata No. 11 or the first movement of his Horn Concerto No. 1. His memories of his short-lived romance with Lauren/Sylvia, meanwhile, feature the second movement from Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1. This is presumably an In-Universe situation of the Truman Show not being able to afford the rights to any music.
  • Pull the Thread: Once Truman starts reacting to his early suspicions, further attempts by the TV crew to repair the illusion begin backfiring, each one mandating it be covered up in turn...
  • Put on a Bus:
    • In-universe, Sylvia was written out of the show to keep Truman from learning the truth.
    • Truman's father is removed to cause his fear of water, but he's so determined to return, even managing to break into the show, that the show decides to basically pay him off by writing him back in.
  • Questionable Consent: Even overlooking the fact that Truman is unaware he's being monitored 24/7 (though Christof at least does the very minor decency of not airing anything NSFW), his sex life with his wife is dubiously consensual. He's consenting to sex with Meryl — who doesn't exist. It's not just a simple name change, either; Hannah, unlike her character, dislikes Truman and only sticks around for the paycheck. She is an entirely different person, pretending to be the one Truman thinks he married, making him essentially unable to consent to anything with her. Made even worse that it is heavily implied that Meryl was the woman chosen by the producers to end up with Truman, with the film crew setting up meet cutes between the two of them, and removing any woman from the show that Truman may develop actual feelings for.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: In a symbolic sense, since Truman has no knowledge he's the star on a 24/7 television set he's forbidden to know about or leave, he's fighting against an all-powerful force/entity and its angels that want to keep him there, unaware that it's a human director and his crew. Going so far as to call its bluff. The ultimate snub takes place when Truman rejects his creator's 'creation', for the void of nothingness, the great unknown, beyond the exit door.
  • Rail Roading: Truman's predetermined wife. In fact, his predetermined life.
  • Reality Show: This is the premise of the film. See Immoral Reality Show above for a more in-depth description.
  • Red Alert: During the nuclear power plant "accident", a man can be heard announcing "This is a red alert!"
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: They created a self-contained biodome that perfectly mimics weather and sky. Alas, it's the only one in existence ("Along with the Great Wall of China the only man-made object visible from space")...and it's used for a TV show. Especially since the show's been running for 30 years, meaning this was in place back in 1968. Can you imagine how many wealthy people would be lining up to have their own private climate-controlled dome over their mansion? Although considering the scope of The Truman Show, it's entirely possible that other domes exist on a smaller scale.
  • Retro Universe: Downplayed. Despite the appearance of late-90s era cars, many of the fashion trends of Seahaven's inhabitants as well as the overall atmosphere of the town feel like it's set before 1970. Perhaps invoked by the creators to put Truman in a "simpler", ideal time period.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Specifically, the scene on the bridge with Truman and Marlon, after Truman and Meryl have their big falling-out. Once you know where the proceedings go from here, you can see exactly when Truman realizes that Marlon, his last ally, isn't going to help him, and he has to figure this all out by himself. And it adds an extra layer of sadness to the subsequent "reunion" with his "father."
  • Ridiculously Average Guy: The fact that Truman is nice in an ordinary way seems to be part of his appeal to the viewers in-universe.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: At the beginning of the movie, Truman correctly believes that his marriage is a disaster and that his wife hates him. But he thinks it's just because of normal personal problems, and not because his wife is literally just an actress who's only been pretending to love him the whole time (and not even doing a very good job).
  • Rousseau Was Right:
    • Despite all the manipulations in his life, Truman remained curious and longing for adventure. He even overcomes his fear of water, sails to the edge of the studio, and walks out the door. "You never had a camera in my head," indeed.
    • Throughout the film, the audiences have been shown easily eating up the blatant and disgusting emotional manipulation that Cristof serves up, seemingly as a Take That! at TV audiences. When Truman makes his escape attempt and then leaves the show forever, they are all cheering him on. They don't care about the show, they care about Truman.
  • Satellite Love Interest: In-universe, Meryl doesn't really love Truman and is only acting the part of his love interest. At one point, he even asks her "Why do you want a baby with me? You can't stand me." After she leaves the show, the studio seems ready to set up a second relationship in the form of a hot new co-worker named Vivien.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Not actually shown on film, but the security guards comment on it.
    Flat-top Guard: You never see anything, anyway. They always turn the camera, and play music, and... you know, the wind blows in and the curtains move, and you don't see anything.
  • Show Within a Show: Or rather, Reality Show within a Show - even if one as scripted as possible to ensure the protagonist stands in place.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: After going on at length about the perks of being in Seahaven, Christof is perturbed by Truman's prolonged silence.
    Christof: Well, say something, goddammit! You're on television! You're live to the whole world!
    (Reaction Shot-filled pause)
  • Sleeping Dummy: How Truman's escape begins. He starts sleeping in the basement, and — having gotten some idea of where the cameras are — slips out, leaving an inflatable snowman under a blanket with a recording of himself fake-snoring.
  • Small, Secluded World: Most of the movie takes place in a small society that is extremely secluded from the outside world, although the main character is unaware of this.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: From the Trope Namer Jim Carrey before he named the trope in Bruce Almighty.
  • Spotting the Thread: Here are some of the things that cue Truman into the artificial nature of his world.
    • There's a point where he observes that a lady on a red bike, a man with flowers, and a vintage Volkswagen Beetle with a dented fender, go around the block, over and over again, and always in the exact same order at the exact same time.
    • During the "Nuclear Meltdown" encountered during his escape attempt, his reaction to a complete stranger (a police officer, who he has never met before, didn't tell his name, or show any ID) uttering "You're welcome, Truman."
    • The writers worked the falling spotlight into a falling piece of an airplane, fitting it into their narrative of Truman's phobia concerning flight.
    • One day when Truman is driving into work, his radio starts picking up interference and he notices that it's narrating everything he's doing (which the radio show host handwaves as being interference from a police scanner).
    • Instead of going to work one day, Truman decides to wander aimlessly through town and observe everyone. No matter what he does, nobody seems to even want to look in his direction. He sees one man staring at him in the distance, who then runs off as soon as he sees Truman looking back.
    • During this impromptu town tour, he decides to walk into a building unannounced and quickly squeezes his way into the elevator... only to see what looks like a crafts room on a film set looking back at him.
    • During a heated argument with Meryl which ends with him holding a kitchen gadget to her neck, she yells "do something" at the camera.
    • His father shows up on the set dressed as a homeless man and is grabbed and shuttled away into a bus. Everyone dismisses it, but then the crisis is "solved" by writing his father back into the show and explained as "amnesia." Considering Truman makes his big break not long afterwards, it's very likely he didn't buy it.
    • Almost immediately after Meryl leaves him and is taken off the show, Truman's workplace suddenly gains a very attractive new employee named Vivien who his coworker even makes a big deal of introducing him to and assigning her to the cubicle right next to Truman's.
    • In a deleted scene, Truman gives his sandwich to a man in a wheelchair, and two days later he notices the same man jogging like he's in perfect health. He's even wearing the same shoes.
  • Stalker Shrine: A very strangely justified example. Normally Truman's habit of ripping out parts of women from magazine pages to reconstitute an image of Sylvia hidden in the back of Meryl's photo frame would come across as incredibly creepy and stalkerish. Of course, Truman is trying to remember a woman he fell for based on decade-old memories after the crew awkwardly forced Sylvia out of his life, so it makes more sense.
  • Stepford Smiler:
    • Truman's wife, Meryl. It's creepy as heck. Laura Linney studied 50s Sears Catalogs in order to play this role.
    • Truman himself is obviously quietly dissatisfied with his life quite early on in the movie.
    • Most of the town has shades of this, particularly the twins and the neighbor across the street. Marlon is the only one who feels natural (likely because he's the only one who empathizes with Truman), and as a result Truman continues to trust in him when he grows suspicious.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Invoked in that Seahaven's designed to be unreal.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • The entire plot is started by this trope. A show of this scale has an absolutely massive amount of moving parts and small mistakes such as props and equipment failing, patterns showing up in everyday events or the same actors showing up in different roles can be dismissed as odd events once or twice but as the evidence piles up, Truman begins to notice that there is something seriously off about his life.
    • Upon finding out that Truman has gotten on a small boat and escaped to the sea, Christoff immediately orders several actors to get onto the ferry and intercept him. This plan immediately falls apart when the actors point out that they are just that, actors, and none of them actually know how to pilot the ferry.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Enforced. Vivien looks the same, dresses the same, and has the same hair as Meryl. She also has a resemblance to Sylvia, probably in an attempt to make Truman more attracted to her than he was to Meryl.
  • Symbolic Baptism: Water plays a huge role in the film, marking Truman's conflicting fear of and desire for freedom. It's only by passing through the ocean and storm that he ultimately escapes the show.
  • Tempting Fate: Christof almost mocks Sylvia during their phone call by stating that Truman could leave at any time "if it was more than a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined". Sylvia banks on the latter happening, and she's proven right.
  • Theme Naming: Fittingly for a town populated entirely by actors, the characters and places in Seahaven are named after famous film stars — Meryl (Streep), Marlon (Brando), Lauren (Bacall) (last name (Judy) Garland), Kirk (Douglas), Angela (Lansbury), Spencer (Tracy), Vivien (Leigh), Errol (Flynn), (Orson) Welles Park, (James) Stewart Street, (Burt) Lancaster Square, (John, Ethel, and Lionel) Barrymore Street, etc. And, to put the cherry on top, "(Truman) Burbank," like the town in California with all the film studios.
  • Throwing Out the Script: This is one of the things that first cues Truman in that everything is not as it seems. Once he starts breaking out of his carefully planned routine and doing unexpected things, those around him are indecisive and confused, trying to get him back on track, because they're actors attempting to stick to a script and aren't good enough to ad-lib when Truman starts throwing curveballs. He also weaponizes this against them because he knows what they're expecting, and they freeze up when he throws it back in their faces.
  • Thunder = Downpour:
    • When Truman is sitting on the beach reminiscing, there is a clap of thunder and it begins to rain, but only where he is sitting. He walks three feet before turning around in shock to see the small column of rain as it follows him.
    • Taken to the extreme in the climax, when Christof, out of desperation, turns a sailing-away Truman's sunny skies immediately into this trope; when Truman hogties himself to the sailboat to keep himself aboard, Christof cranks it up into a perfect storm.
  • Token Minority: There are three black people in Seahaven. It's a husband, wife, and their child, who live right across the street from Truman.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: One of the rare examples where the viewer is already in on it when the film opens, though the extent of how much is slowly revealed to the audience along with Truman.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: It was originally supposed to actually be a twist, but the filmmakers decided a situation with Dramatic Irony was better. The trailers, posters, and even the name make it obvious. Despite this, Roger Ebert (being a critic, and thus treated to a screening before the advertising began) had the chance to see it without being spoiled, and complained about the advertising revealing the twist. The advertising even showed the final sequence of the movie, when Truman and Christof finally speak to each other. The effect is therefore downplayed, but can still present; the fact that Truman lives in a television show isn't exactly kept secret from the audience throughout the movie, but it's still well into the movie before it's fully confirmed and we see exactly the extent to which Truman's life is artificial.
  • "Truman Show" Plot: Trope Namer. He does a pretty good job figuring it out.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The film essentially encapsulated the idea of the Reality Show and then deconstructed it before it became popular. For all the trappings of reality the show and its creators try to give it, it's still plotted and only has an illusion of choice. The show's popularity is also portrayed in a negative manner as the show has exploited Truman for profit ever since his birth.
  • Utopia: Christof thinks that he's created one in Seahaven, but he's hopelessly deluded.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: What Christof's motivation is for creating this artificial world for Truman — it's his chance to give someone "a normal life" away from the Crapsack World he lives in. But, again, he's hopelessly deluded.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Towards the end, Christof and by extension the show, begins to lose it quite rapidly. When Truman attempts to escape, Christof starts doing things that would be impossible to explain away to Truman, like turning the moon into a searchlight and having the entire town look for him. Once Christof finds Truman, he tries to get him to turn back via an artificial storm that keeps ramping up in intensity. And when even that doesn't work, Christof gets on a loudspeaker and gives up the ghost that Truman is right, Christof gives one last plea for Truman to stick around, claiming there’s nothing else better in the world than here. However, Truman turns and smiles for the camera, then tells everyone “Good afternoon, good evening and good night” before giving a theatrical bow and walking out. After that happens, Christof slumps down in his chair, defeated.
  • Voodoo Shark: invoked In-Universe. The attempts the crew makes to cover up the fact that Truman is in a reality show only raise more suspicions from Truman than it does satisfy them.
    • At the beginning of the film, a labeled stage light falls from the sky. The morning radio news broadcast Hand Waves this as airplane parts falling from the sky. In what universe do we attach stage lights to airplanes?
    • When Truman, his mother, and Meryl are looking through their photo album, they see a childhood photo of Truman and his family visiting an (obviously fake) Mt. Rushmore. Truman questions why it looks so small, to which Truman's mother quickly turns the page and tells Truman that things always do when you look back. That doesn't explain why Mt. Rushmore looks like a stage prop in the photo.
    • On his morning commute, Truman picks up a strange radio broadcast following his every movement. When the producers realize he's listening in, they hastily switch frequencies, producing an ear-piercing high-pitched frequency that stops all of the actors dead in their tracks for a moment as they wince in pain before resuming their daily routines like nothing happened. The (intended) radio announcer shrugs this off as a stray police radio frequency, but why would they follow Truman around?
    • Truman encounters a homeless person who looks exactly like his deceased (In-Universe) father, as it turns out the actor who played him snuck back on set disguised as a homeless man. Before they can talk however, a bunch of random strangers forcefully carry him away from Truman and onto a bus that quickly hightails it out of the scene as the man screams Truman's name. The next day, the morning paper plays off the incident as Seahaven cracking down on the homeless population, but ethics aside, wouldn't that be a job for the police and not a bunch of random civilians going out of their way to shove homeless people onto a bus? When Truman tries to recount the incident to his "mother", she writes him off as imagining things. Later the showrunners are forced to Retcon this as him actually being Truman's father, albeit with amnesia as he is written back into the show.
    • While breaking his usual routine, Truman pops into an office building unannounced and tries to board the (prop) elevator, which is hiding a green room behind it. Despite two pretend security guards' efforts to divert his attention, Truman catches an actress in the act of entering the green room, to which the crew members hastily re-erect the prop elevator walls as the guards literally throw Truman out of the building. All the while Truman demands to know what's happening, only for the guards to Hand Wave that they're "remodeling", which doesn't explain away the breakroom positioned directly behind the elevator.
    • Later in the film, they showrunners either don't even bother explaining away the increasing amount of inconsistencies anymore or they blame them on Truman going insane, such as:
  • The Wall Around the World: The enormous set of the show. Which Truman breaks through with his boat near the very end of the film.
  • Was It All a Lie?: When Truman finally does get to speak to Christof, he has only three questions for him — "Who are you?", "And who am I?", and "Was nothing real?"
  • We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: After Marlon discovers that Truman has escaped from his house, Christof orders the crew to cut the transmission for the first time ever. Audiences worldwide are left in shock watching a title board. When an executive complains to Christof he wryly notes the graphic is drawing their highest-ever ratings as people wait to find out what's happened.
  • Weather-Control Machine: Christof and his technicians have total control over the weather in Seahaven. There seems to be some element of concealed mechanical sprinklers involved, but the incredible sunsets, clouds, and storm he creates at sea seem to imply the use of much more advanced atmospheric technology that can truly create weather... unless of course it's all holograms, IMAX projectors, and wind machines.
  • Weird Moon: The director's observation platform is behind the false moon. Also, the shadowing of the moon rarely corresponds to the position of the "sun", a cosmic and cosmetic mistake — but Truman of course has never seen the real moon or the real sun.
  • Wham Episode:
    • In-show example, when Truman is overcome with paranoia and flips out on his wife, and in the same night, he re-unites with his father who was previously written off.
    • And, ultimately, there's the show's Grand Finale, when Truman finally leaves the set.
    • The montage at the beginning of "TruTalk" reveals some past Wham Episodes including Truman's birth, Truman's first steps, Truman running off with Sylvia, and Truman's wedding to Meryl.
  • Wham Line:
  • What Could Have Been: An In-Universe example in a deleted scene reveals that had Truman not realized what was going on, Christof and network execs were going to broadcast the main show and its Spin-Off on a two-channel format; the main show would continue follow Truman while the spin-off followed his unborn child, repeating the cycle all over again, with duplicate coverage when both are in the same room together. Then when Truman dies, Louis speculates the show will revert to the single channel format.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Truman's entire life has been a lie. His parents are actors. His teachers were actors. The insurance company he worked for was fake. The customers were all actors. His friends and classmates were all actors. On top of all that, effectively an entire country's population was devoted to the "show" that was Truman's "reality." One can bet things are not going to go well for any of them after the credits roll.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Sylvia's phone call to Christof:
    Sylvia: Hi Christof, I'd just like to say one thing. You're a liar and a manipulator and what you've done to Truman is sick!
    Christof: I have given the chance for Truman to lead a normal life. The world, the place you live in, is the sick place. Seahaven is the way the world should be.
    Sylvia: He's not a performer, he's a prisoner. Look at him, look at what you've done to him!
  • The Whole World Is Watching: The movie bases its whole plot on an audience of people watching everything the titular character does, but Truman's ultimately successful escape attempt in particular is considered absolutely must-see TV, and we see frequent shows of the huge crowds and wide variety of people on the edge of their seat watching it.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: To keep Truman from escaping, he was engineered to have a fear of water, because the town he lives in is on an island. Ironically, when Truman makes his escape, he goes by sea since it's the last place anyone would expect for him to go to. Indeed Christof and his staff don't figure it out long until after Truman has a head start on them. Another, less traumatic example is with Truman's interaction with dogs. He's initially shown to be mildly afraid of his neighbor's dalmatian, and his degree of apprehension is shown to be a result of an Angry Guard Dog used as one of the earlier deterrents from leaving Seahaven. Another one of the hints of his imminent escape is when he feigns fear of the dalmatian — he's no longer afraid at all of the dog.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Truman technically does "destroy" his world.
  • World Limited to the Plot: Deconstructed — the movie has two plotlines that eventually merge. The "inner" plotline suffers heavily from World Limited to the Plot, but the "outer" plotline reveals that the manipulation of Truman's life (rather than bad storytelling) causes this.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Inside the artificial Seahaven set, stories like "Crackdown On Homeless" are front-page news. Justified because the existence of news subjects more severe and/or newsworthy (wars, politics, actual crime) would either defeat the point of Christof's idealized world he wants to present to Truman or in case of something positive like new fictional scientific breakthroughs (new medical treatments, communication technology, etc), there's always a risk that they're something Truman would be interested in or benefit from, forcing Christof to spend additional resources to explain away why he's not allowed access to them for little to no real benefit. In this case, it also helps explain to Truman why he saw a homeless man resembling his supposedly dead father (the same actor came back onto the set unauthorized for contact with him) being wrestled off the street.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Whenever Truman ends up going Off the Rails from whatever it was Christof wanted to happen, Christof acts quickly to engineer events that not only get him back on track, but also at the same time spin the unexpected events into an interesting plot point. When Hannah/Meryl quits the show after Truman breaks down, Christof decides to fix it by bringing in a new love interest — who is, of course, just another actress.
  • You Are Not Alone: In-universe, part of Christof's motivation for the entire Truman project: giving people a chance to see someone like them struggling and making it through life like they are. It's also part of the reason why the show is massively popular. During the ending, Christof begs Truman to go back to the project for this reason.
  • You Look Familiar: In-Universe. Truman notices certain people reappear at various times in seemingly different roles. In a deleted scene, he gives a meatball sub to a man in a wheelchair, then later sees the same man jogging along.

"In case I don't see ya', good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight!"


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Truman Show


There's That Dented Beetle!

In "The Truman Show," Truman realizes that the traffic and pedestrian patterns in his world are all carefully orchestrated, running on a loop, just one of many signs cluing him in that to the staged nature of his world.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

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