The Truman Journey

Video

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is the star of the Truman Show. When Truman is a baby, Christof (Ed Harris) somehow buys him. He is placed in a fictional town, Seahaven, and surrounded with actors. Christof broadcasts every minute of Truman’s life. And Truman has no idea his friends and family are paid actors. So that’s terrifying.

Truman only begins to discover the truth when a lamp, labeled with the name of a star, falls from the artificial sky one day. After that he notices things, like everyone knows his name, he has never left Seahaven, and his wife will act like she’s in an infomercial and try to shill products. When the entire town turns against him, refusing to let him leave, Truman escapes the only way he can: by sailing across Seahaven’s body of water to the edge of the world. There he bumps into the horizon, finds an EXIT door, and escapes into the real world. It’s like Under the Dome, if Stephen King wasn’t a horror writer.

truman

Life celebrated a baby sold by its parent to television executives.

A couple things about this movie jump out at me.The audience has to be most of the planet, because the show’s overhead must be huge; Christof enclosed the entire town in an arcology dome, and has a weather control device (something most supervillains have to put on lay-a-way). The governments of the world must not exist, or are so corrupt that “money over everything” is official policy. And the cast, crew, and audience must absolutely believe that Truman has a good life, because it only takes one defector to ruin the show.

At the end of the movie, Christof tries to drown Truman, preferring a magnificent death to Truman’s escape. When Truman survives, Christof claims Truman brings people hope and inspiration. He even asks Truman to stay. Something Truman does provides the world with enough satisfaction to justify all this.

My first thought was nuclear apocalypse, because the world must be some twisted ruin for people to think Truman’s life is acceptable. It would also explain the dome; perhaps Christof has fenced off a healthy area of the planet and is selling dreams of what life used to be to a devastated population.

The audience doesn’t really fit the Mad Max marauder type, though. There are old people, fat security guards, and a nice bar. The world looks okay. But these people still watch Truman, each day, as he toils through life, despite the fact that they apparently have normal lives themselves. Reality television is a form of escapism too; most rely on a gimmick (The Biggest Loser) or the antics of people filmed in just the right way to make them seem terrible (literally any contest-style reality show). All Truman does is live a normal life.

Philip K. Dick wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which became Blade Runner, which became the reason Ridley Scott still has a career. In the story, humans live on a ruined earth. Most of the animals are dead, so people try to raise personal livestock, or if they can’t afford it, “electric” simulacra. The protagonist, Deckard, has an electric sheep, and fears people will find out (it’s a social no-no). He takes a job to hunt down androids capable of nearly perfectly simulating human beings. They lack empathy, however, and a complicated test can reveal them.

It’s left out of the movie, but the book also shows that people are capable of “dialing” their emotions. Deckard avoids a fight with his wife by choosing a more pleasant mood. He also regularly logs into a simulation of a tormented figure rolling a stone eternally up a hill. Living with near-human androids has degraded human perception of reality, so they have to engage in something “real” to maintain their empathy and humanity. But, they are still living a lie, in denial of what humanity actually means.

The Truman Show serves the same purpose. Truman is the suffering saint; his lack of reality, and the life he suffers, makes the pale lives of the audience seem bright and real in comparison. No matter what their day was like, the audience can dial into Truman and adjust their emotions according to his life.

Truman’s world might be very close to ours, but it’s suffered something that makes engaging in life through Truman more acceptable than really living – he’s both sheep and shepherd, cared for by the audience and leading them through what life ought to be. And at the same time, he’s contemptible, because they can watch him poop and he doesn’t know.

I see two arguments about what happens after the ending. Truman abandons Seahaven, sails to freedom after nearly drowning in Christof’s artificial storm, and finds his world is truly false when he bumps into the “sky.” He leaves with his usual greeting: “In case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.”

Truman doesn’t curse or even seem to hate Christof. And the audience loves it. The ending is a montage of cheers and people flipping out. He’s provided their comfort for thirty years, and now Truman’s victory is the audience’s victory. As the chosen one, he led them through the hero’s journey to a heroic “ending.”

Truman is an artificially selected chosen one, however, not picked by fate. Christof had to know Truman would grow into a perfectly average (Jim Carrey-ish) adult, with no mental or physical problems, because anything else would have ruined his show. Truman’s revelations about his life, and by extension the audience’s lives, don’t have the same impact as a “real” chosen one. The audience watches him discover them, and they cheer like they’re watching football game.

The chosen one is an excuse for why “ONE MAN” can make a difference. Truman might not even be able to integrate into society, since he’s never actually lived in it, just in the television version. His life has as much to do with reality as Leave it to Beaver has to do with the actual 1950s.

We all wish (as the audience that watches Truman does) that we could be that one special person, chosen by destiny (or Ed Harris — close enough) to… do something. Other than be born, live as our birth and means dictate, then die. We need the chosen one myth, it keeps us from losing our minds in the vast, uncaring cosmos.

Truman shows that a chosen one is the avatar for the pointlessness of the audience’s lives, not a bringer of light and reason. Once he is gone, taking the inspiration and hope the audience relies on, we really only have two options: abandon the myth and try to find or make meaning in life, or, as the security guards say, “See what else is on.”

Advertisements

Blogging A to Z Day 16: N is for Neptune (Poseidon)

I’m sure you’re familiar with Greek and Roman mythology, or you’d at least recognise the crazy-eyed, snake-haired monster with killer looks (that’s Medusa by the way!) The Greek Olympians are an intriguing, incestuous bunch of immortals, and I find them highly entertaining. So here’s a crazy idea, let’s treat them like the celebrities they no doubt were, and give them five-minutes of fame (or in this case a profile).

DEITY PROFILE:

Neptune, also known as Poseidon, is a power-hungry sea god, with a habit of losing his temper. Since his Greek publicity team tend to be the most influential (most resources follow Poseidon’s adventures), we’ll be deferring to them.

Poseidon is one of the twelve great Olympians, and a descendent of the Titans. He has the ability to generate savage sea storms, summon sea monsters and cause landslides and floods. He is considered by many as second in command to Zeus.

Greek Name Poseidon
Best Known for/Powers: Carries a trident (three pronged spear), which has many uses; such as summoning water (springs) from the earth, or generating sea storms. Poseidon has the power to shapeshift into any animal or mortal he chooses. Some of his more famous transformations are the horse, and ram.
General Opinion/Personal life: He has a reputation for being a violent god, one best avoided if possible. He answers only to Zeus and even then, his brother cannot always rein him in. He is feared by all, especially seafarers.
Appearance:

by Jinjorz (Deviant Art): Digital Art/Drawings & Paintings/Fantasy ©2010-2015 Jinjorz

by Jinjorz (Deviant Art): Digital Art/Drawings & Paintings/Fantasy ©2010-2015 Jinjorz

Tall, with a long flowing beard – he is rarely without his trident.
Siblings: Zeus; Hera; Hades; Demeter; Hestia
Spouse: Amphitrite
Other Associations: Like his brother, Zeus, Poseidon has taken many lovers – here are a few of his better known conquests:

Aethra: after leaving Aegeus’ bed (ruler of Athens), Aethra was approached by Poseidon and the pair made love (opinions vary on whether this was consensual).

Amymone: one of the fifty daughters of King Danaus. Poseidon rescued her from a satyr and as a reward he courted Amymone himself.

Demeter: his sister. Demeter transformed herself into a mare to escape Poseidon’s advances. This did not put him off though – he transformed into a stallion and mated with her in a pasture (they were both still in horse form).

Iphimedia: unhappily married to Poseidon’s son. Driven by her love for Poseidon, she set out to lure him – walking along the edge of the sea and stopping by the water to gain his attention. Their union resulted in two sons.

Medusa: a Gorgon (with snakes for hair and a stare that could turn anyone into stone). Some believe Medusa was once very beautiful and caught Poseidon’s eye. He approached her in one of Athena’s temples and they made love. This was unacceptable to the virgin goddess Athena, so she turned Medusa into a horrifying creature as punishment (she also told Perseus how to slay Medusa).

Theophane: very beautiful young girl with many suitors. Poseidon stole her away and took her to an island. When her suitors followed, Poseidon turned her into a sheep, along with everyone else on the island. He then turned himself into a ram and mated with Theophane while they both held their animal form.

Thoosa: daughter of Phorcys (a son of Gaia). Not much is known about this love affair.

Children: (With Amphitrite): Benthesicyme; Rhode; Triton.

(With Aethra): Theseus (some say Aegeus is the father).

(With Amymone): Nauplius.

(With Demeter): Desponia; Arion.

(With Iphimedia): Giants – Ephialtes; Otus (some say Iphimedia isn’t the biological mother).

(With Medusa): Chrysaor; Pegasus.

(With Theophane): a son who was never named – ram with a fleece of gold.

(With Thoosa): Polyphemus (Cyclops).

Enemies: There is considerable animosity between Poseidon and Athena. Here are just some of their disagreements:

Though Poseidon is god of the sea, Athena brought the art of shipbuilding to mortals (he blames her for brining man to the seas).

Poseidon is the god of horses and though there is some contention about whether he created or tamed them, Athena angered him further when she brought the bridle to mortals.

They fought for possession of the city Athens – Poseidon struck the ground at Acropolis with his trident and created a spring, and Athena planted an olive tree. Zeus interceded and though there are differing views on how the battle was decided, the fact remains, Athena won.

Poseidon has lost quite a few battles when it comes to city patronage. He was defeated when coming up against Dionysus (for Naxos); Apollo (for Delphi); Athena – again (for Troezen); Hera (for Argos), and Zeus (for Aegina).

Poseidon is the divine enemy of Odysseus because he blinded his son, Polyphemus. Poseidon is said to have shipwrecked Odysseus and delayed his return home to Ithaca for ten years.

He sent a bull from the sea to destroy a man named Hippolytus.

Trivia: His power extends beyond the sea to both lakes and freshwater springs. Some say he also controls the rivers (though rivers have their own, lesser deities.

Even though he has power over the sea, this is not enough for Poseidon – he believes he deserves more. His greed led him to challenge Zeus for power, but the plan failed.Poseidon believes he can heighten his standing by attaining the most patron cities, and does whatever he can to gain favour in as many cities as possible.

At Corinth, the Greeks celebrate one of the greatest athletics competitions in Poseidon’s honour.

Poseidon and Apollo were forced to help Laomedon, the king of Troy, to build walls around his city – as punishment for participating in the uprising against Zeus. They were to be compensated, but Laomedon refused, even though it took a full year to build. As revenge, Apollo sent a great plague to the city and Poseidon sent a sea monster. Though Apollo was satisfied with this, Poseidon wasn’t – he later sided with the Greeks in their battle against Troy (or at least until it suited him to change sides). He made it hard for everyone during the Trojan War.

A softer side: Poseidon is capable of kindness. Some of his acts include:

Allowing twin brothers Castor and Pollux a bit of his power – the ability to calm the seas. He also named them protectors of sailors (giving away some of his glory).

When Ino and her son Melicertes threw themselves into the sea, Poseidon took pity on them and turned them into sea deities.

He also gives away horses as a gift to those he favours.

References: The Everything Classical Mythology Book, by Lesley Bolton; The British Museum Pocket Dictionary of Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses, by Richard Wolf, and 30-Second Mythology, edited by Robert A. Segal.

Myth and Science – The Comics of Jonathan Hickman

There were some comics recommendations I left out recently. Marvel comics, which are awesome. Independent comics, which are brilliant. Comics, by Jonathan Hickman.

I think Jonathan Hickman has really risen to prominence recently, has become incredibly prolific. I don’t know if it’s that he’s finally gotten the chance to write stories he’s been sitting on, or what, but he has a number of great ongoing series coming out right now.

Once I figured out who he was and tracked his stories, I have started to see some story similarities, some ways that he thinks about the world. And I love it. He focuses on science, on the far edges of it, the possibilities – especially quantum mechanics and alternate realities. He focuses on mythology, on stories of creation, on stories of the end times. So let me present his comics by these themes, and at the end, some more reading possibilities, ones I haven’t gotten to yet but want to!

Universal Creation and Universal Destruction

The great idea was expansion. And it started with two men. One was life. And one was death.

From Avengers #3 by Jonathan Hickman

From Avengers #3 by Jonathan Hickman

Avengers is about heroes – is about saving the Earth, and then it expands to saving a lot of worlds. They start with a concept: expansion. The threats are getting bigger, so the team needs to get bigger too. Not that they need everyone all the time. So they have a base roster – the Avengers from the film. Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and of course Iron Man and Captain America. Then they have a ton of other heroes – ones who are pretty well known, and others who are less known, or new, or new iterations. 

So Hickman takes the time to introduce the new heroes, as well as the new villains he has crafted. And he ties it all back to his new villains, to universal-level threats. To the story he is telling of how the Marvel Universe began, about the first race, the Builders. And about the systems they have built.

From Avengers #3 by Jonathan Hickman

From Avengers #3 by Jonathan Hickman

In New Avengers, Hickman is telling the opposite story. About universal destruction. About the end of not just one universe, but all universes. The New Avengers keep this a secret, and prepare to do whatever it takes to defend the Earth. Iron Man is the only one on both teams – the only one who sees all the threats. 

These are great comics to read together. Getting to see the parallels between these two stories, to see the opposite stories happening.

The left is from Avengers - the right is from New Avengers. Also on http://comparativegeeks.tumblr.com/

The left is from Avengers – the right is from New Avengers.
Also on http://comparativegeeks.tumblr.com/

One was life, and one was death. Continue reading

What do private detectives, samurai, and gunslingers have in common?

by William Hohmeister

I don’t need to tell you folks I love myths. But I want to explain something peculiar about myths that make me love them. Each myth has a whole set of historical, religious, and cultural assumptions behind it.

Those things create the myth, which represents the whole set better than a simple list could; it’s why Jesus spoke in parables, why Nietzsche wrote Thus Spake Zarathustra, and why C.S. Lewis replaced Jesus with a much more awesome lion. Myths create stories around the beliefs we already hold and communicate those beliefs to the next generation.

The lone wanderer myth has a strange history in the United States. In Japan he’s called the Samurai. In America he’s the cowboy, the gunslinger, and the private detective. Each character fulfills the mythic role, but in a different way. This leads to a strange series of homages/ripoffs between American and Japanese creators:

Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammet is adapted into Yojimbo, by Akira Kurosawa.

Yojimbo, by Akira Kurosawa is adapted into A Fistful of Dollars, by Sergio Leone.

Continue reading