As I write this I am watching one of the best and most ground breaking films that has been made in recent years, ‘The Truman Show’ (1998). For those of you that have never seen it before (and if you haven’t, I highly recommend you do, it is an amazing film, not one to be missed!), the film tells the story of Truman Burbank, played by Jim Carrey in what I personally consider his best role ever, and how he comes to find that his idyllic and paradise like life is actually a reality television programme, entitled The Truman Show, with the main focus of said programme being he himself. Everything around him is fake; his wife, his home, his neighbours, his job, his family, his friends, even the town that he lives in is one massive studio. It is as I have already said a superbly made film, definitely one of a kind, but at the same time as this it is extremely moving. The scene where Truman finds out that his whole life has basically been one massive lie after being adopted at birth by a television company due to being an unwanted pregnancy by his birth mother is probably one of the most moving moments in a film ever created. At the time when the film was released in cinemas across the world in 1998, there was not really a reality television presence on our television screens, so for audiences at the time of seeing this film finding out that every single tiny detail of the protagonists life, with no privacy whatsoever, would have come as a shock at the time. Isn’t it funny, that fifteen years later, we are, to some extent, living in a world where programmes like this are common place.
Of course, programmes such as Big Brother, which was first aired in 2000, just two years after ‘The Truman Show’ was released in cinemas, are not as extreme as what the films focal character has to endure, but the fact that a number of ‘contestants’ for however long a period of time are subjected to having their lives recorded and aired to the general public, even though this is on a voluntary basis and in one specific location rather than out in the ‘real world’, but there are definite similarities between that world and the one that Truman experiences in the film. It really does make you question the issue of privacy, and how the boundaries of each individuals private lives is being pushed as numerous companies bring in new reality formats to find out about certain individuals inside and out. Basically, how far is too far?
Many people over the years have criticied reality programmes like Big Brother for making entertainment out of the intricacies of peoples lives; confessions from their past, emotional trauma, arguments, lack of everyday essentials, making a fool of themselves, it’s all been done on reality programmes, and while many of those who have succumb to this do it on a voluntary basis, does it make it right as they fall victim to the laughs and gossip of the rest of the general public. Reality formats have now even reached the point of celebrities opting to take part in such programmes in order to boost their image and presence in the public eye, and in more recent years with the likes of ‘The Only Way is Essex’ and ‘Made in Chelsea’ airing on our television screens creating a scripted reality world for audiences to absorb themselves into have all brought new dimensions to this format of television programmes. It does make you question what boundaries will they go past next. First, they break the privacy boundaries of individuals having them audition and take part in month long programmes in their own world apart from the world outside of the house they live in with any number of complete strangers, then they go that step further to have celebrities to take part in this reality world and reveal all about their lives to us non-celebrity folk, and now even those of no status at all are being catapulted into the limelight through having their ‘real lives’ over exaggerated and scripted to provide weekly entertainment for our television screens. There seems to be no such thing as boundaries when it comes to the idea of reality television.
Where the creators of these reality programmes will go next I do not know, nobody does. They come back every few years with a new groundbreaking idea that brings something fresh and new for us to view. Let’s just hope that maybe they will never go beyond the boundaries that are so obviously broken in ‘The Truman Show’. Maybe they will learn from the mistakes of the fictional producer of the film and not go to the extremes that he went to in order to create ‘good television’.