I guess it's about time we talk about this movie.
Elementary school can be a pretty tough time in a person’s life, because kids are both assholes and also prone to groupthink, which gives rise to a lot of pretty brutal teasing. Virtually everybody has some long-repressed memories of getting picked last in PE, or made fun of for their weight, or being followed around by classmates pretending to film them for a TV show.
Come on, you guys remember that last one, right? How kids would run up to you and say shit like, “I put a camera in your lunchbox to record you for the TV show,” or “We’re not really your friends; we’re just playing your friends on your show,” or hold up their hands like they’re holding a camera and say, “I’m a cameraman and you’re on TV!” Remember how at first it seemed kind of fun, but when it continued that way for months and months it got simultaneously less fun for you and more fun for everybody else?
None of you remember that? Seriously?
I guess that means I’m the only one here who was unlucky enough to be named Truman in 1998, when Jim Carrey decided to branch out and start taking dramatic roles.
What really bugs me isn’t that 75% of the people I meet mention The Truman Show in our first conversation; it’s the way they always phrase it: “Have you seen that movie The Truman Show?” As if in the past 15 years I still haven’t set aside two hours to watch a movie with my name in the title. Equally infuriating is how, after I wearily respond, “Yes,” the next question is almost always, “Do people ask you that all the time?”
No, you clever devil – you’re the very first one! Nobody else had ever noticed the parallel between my name and Jim Carrey’s film career until you came along. Congratulations! Here’s a cashier’s check for $11; that should be enough to buy you an extra large bottle of Go Fuck Yourself.
Recently, while browsing through Netflix, I discovered that The Truman Show is now available for instant streaming, because God forbid that movie fade from the public consciousness a little bit or something. Looking at Jim Carrey’s enormous, Joe Biden grin, I realized that the last time I’d seen The Truman Show we had to rewind the tape afterwards before returning it. Maybe all those people asking me if I’d seen The Truman Show weren’t so far off base – while I had seen the movie, I’d definitely watched it fewer times than plenty of people whose names don’t happen to be Truman.
Before starting the movie, I made sure to lock my door and turn the volume down low so that nobody would have the satisfaction of knowing what I was doing. Something about watching it felt vaguely self-serving. “Oh, I’m just going to spend the evening watching a movie about a dorky white guy named Truman with a rather distinctive hairstyle who discovers that the world revolves around him.”
In spite of all the misery The Truman Show has caused me for more than half of my life, I can’t bring myself to hate it. It’s just a really, really good movie. I can’t tell you how much I wish it wasn’t, because then people probably would have forgotten about it by now, but that’s life I guess – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes Jim Carrey plays a character with your same uncommon first name in a movie and that movie just happens to be a quirky, fascinating piece of social satire about media culture.
It also has the unusual distinction of being way more relevant now than when it came out. When The Truman Show was released the first season of Survivor was still two years away. Today probably 80% of primetime TV consists of camera crews following people around and recording their private, unflattering moments, whether those people are celebrities, athletes, former celebrities, children, people with too many children, people who were recently children who are about to have children, people with the intellect of children, and people involved in the manufacture and distribution of duck calls.
If you happen to be one of the few people who isn’t the subject of a reality TV show there are plenty of do-it-yourself options thanks to smartphones and YouTube. Hell, even if you have an old phone and no Internet access you can still count on the NSA to be an audience for your private moments.
Those kids following me around pretending to record me weren’t just being dicks; they were being dicks and accidentally predicting the future at the same time!
What this means is that it’s very possible that The Truman Show is only going to get more popular as time goes by. That’s unfortunate for me, but I guess if I have to have my name forever attached to a movie it may as well be a good one.
Truman Capps’ show would probably get worse ratings than anything on NBC.