Mass Surveillance And Mass Paranoia In The Truman Show

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Mass surveillance has been a topic of discussion since the creation of the internet. Questions regarding morals of ethics and privacy have been raised, due to the public uncovering details about its prevalence in our everyday lives. Mass Surveillance is the monitoring of the internet and phone communications of large numbers of people, sometimes even entire countries. The knowledge of these prying eyes has triggered cases of paranoia amongst certain individuals, seriously impacting their lives. “The Truman Show” is a 1998 satirical science-fiction directed by Peter Weir. The film revolves around Truman Burbank, who is an unsuspecting the star of a reality show, broadcasted live across the globe. From his first steps as a baby, Truman had spent his life inside a giant dome, created specifically to deceive him into believing that it was a peaceful beachside town known as Seahaven. Little did he know that the entire town was a film set, and his closest friends and family were paid actors. The satire directly foreshadows the increasing amount of paranoia regarding mass surveillance. This essay will reflect on the various ways on how “The Truman Show” foreshadowed the prevalence of mass surveillance, how the film furthered paranoia regarding mass surveillance and how the film inspired the syndrome known as “The Truman Show Delusion”.

The prevalence of surveillance is growing over time in modern society. In 2018, the NSA reported to have stored more than 534 million records of phone calls and text messages from American telecommunications providers such as AT&T and Verizon (Savage, 2018). This number increased more than three times than what was collected in 2016, proving the increasing presence of mass surveillance on modern society. Throughout ‘The Truman Show’ there is a large amount of surveillance taking place on Truman, hinting that in the future, our lives would slowly become more exposed to more surveillance. In several ways, the satire was successful in foreshadowing the increased amount of surveillance in our everyday lives. The use of hidden cameras is evident throughout the film, some hidden in ingenious places such as behind Truman’s car radio. Throughout the film, the fish-eye lens is used heavily giving the impression that Truman is trapped. This technique was especially used in the scene where Truman was about to enter the ferry to do the job over the water. As the submerged boat came into view, Truman was especially frightened. The fish-eye lens was used effectively to depict his emotions. The overarching actors that manipulate Truman into making certain decisions such as Meryl, were mostly set higher than Truman, also giving the audience the impression that he was trapped. Through the use of techniques such as these, Weir was able to illustrate his point Scenes such as these in “The Truman Show” (Weir, 1998), where Christof, the director films Truman unknowingly, reflect on modern society, where surveillance and reality tv are common norms amongst individuals. In various ways, “The Truman Show” was successful in foreshadowing the abundance of surveillance in modern society.

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Mass surveillance now plays a large role in modern society. This rise of surveillance has made people become increasingly paranoid. It has almost become a trend for individuals to fear the government, businesses and agencies watching our everyday lives. Throughout history, there have been different degrees of paranoia relating to surveillance. During the 1940s people believed that Japan was controlling people through radio waves. In the 1970s the CIA was said to have planted computer chips in individual’s brains. Now, due to evidence acquired from people such as Snowden, there is a widespread fear of surveillance through television, cameras and the internet. One contributor to the increased paranoia is The Truman Show, where Truman is depicted to be a victim of the fullest extent of surveillance. His privacy is invaded through the use of hidden cameras and fake actors, all in the purpose of manipulating him for the audience’s entertainment. To illustrate his point successfully, Peter Weir researched and implemented various camera angles and techniques. EVIDENCE FOR POINT HERE Through ‘The Truman Show’, modern society has been influenced to some extent, into the mass paranoia it inhibits regarding to surveillance.

While influencing mass paranoia regarding surveillance, “The Truman Show” has also introduced a delusion known as ‘The Truman Show syndrome.’ This delusion was coined after a number of individuals grew suspicious of their surroundings, believing that they were the centrepiece on a film set, much like Truman in Seahaven. Joel Gold and his brother Ian Gold, both professors of psychiatry are considered to hold the most knowledge on the delusion, recording over a hundred cases regarding it. Through their research, many unique cases took place, where individuals went to immeasurable lengths to escape their perceived set. Some reported cases include one patient, who made great effort in travelling to New York City after 9/11 in order to make sure that the reported terrorist attacks were not a plot twist in his perceived personal show, while another individual ‘escaped’ from his show by travelling to a federal building. As there are not many resources in researching this delusion, it can not be confirmed the exact number of individuals affected by this delusion globally. One of the objectives Weir had in mind while creating the film was to cause the audience to ponder about the possibilities of their entire lives being scripted. Through certain flaws in the film set, such as radio malfunctions, Sylvia’s warnings and the spotlight falling from the “aircraft”, the idea that Truman’s surrounding were fake was implanted in his head, leading him to the discoveries of his world. Individuals affected by the Truman show syndrome would most likely draw on these aspects of the film, inhibiting paranoia regarding everyday activities of other individuals. Through the different ideas the film presents, the film is able to influence certain viewers to extents such as the Truman Show Syndrome.

The Truman Show has proved to be a multi-dimensional satire which dwells into theme of mass surveillance. Language is used in various modes in The Truman show to foreshadow the different levels of paranoia inhibited in modern society and also inspire the ‘Truman show delusion’. By analysing the film, an individual is able to dwell into the various ways Weir illustrates his ideas through the use of different film techniques. Throughout this essay, the multiple ways the show foreshadowed the prevalence of mass surveillance in modern society was explored, through the use of clever framing techniques and hidden cameras. Along with the foreshadowing of the prevalence of mass surveillance different ways how the film had furthered paranoia relating to mass surveillance was also explored. Finally, the delusion known as “The Truman Show Syndrome” was elaborated upon, relating to certain cases of the syndrome affecting individuals.


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