The Truman Journey

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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.”

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Tuesday Chatter: Feedback Welcome

sourcererDuring the first year I blogged here, I posted a lot of planning-type stuff and sometimes asked for reader feedback. One of the reasons I did that was because most of my social media friends were people I knew only in the blogosphere. I stopped doing it in January because one of my goals for the year was to turn Sourcerer into a seamless five-or-six-day-a-week pop culture blog.

But anyone who’s trying to build audience for creative work is wise to ask readers what they want now and then. So I’m asking for feedback on a few things today. Everyone is welcome to chime in.

  1. Comics, TV, and Movies have been the core of our content here so far. The tv/movie blogging has tended to focus on comics-based, horror, and occasionally sci-fi series. If we were going to expand our tv/movie offerings, what would you like to see?
  2. On the stand-alone photos. How many of you enjoyed those enough to stop by regularly for them? And those of you who did like them (it’s ok to be honest here) — did you typically interact with them by coming to the blog itself, or did you interact with them solely from your reader and/or on twitter?
  3. Look/feel. Anything I can do to improve your experience of this blog as a reader from a layout-design-widget standpoint?

Any other constructive feedback to help us improve the blog is welcome. We’re getting into the time of year where I do any redesign & long-term content planning that needs to be taken care of before we get back into the starting blocks for 2016.

Also, would any or you who have never contributed here before like to step aboard and join our hearty crew? If so, hit me up and we’ll work out a way to discuss it privately.

arrr, Mateys!

arrr, Mateys!

Other notes 

We’ve got a collaborative review of the Fantastic Four movie from Hannah and Melissa running tomorrow, and you don’t want to miss that. Also, I’m working on a guest post for Hannah. Not sure when it’ll be finished or when it will run, but the first draft is done.

We’re taking Thursday as an off-day for a bit. We’ve never been the strongest on Thursdays, and I’m to the point where I’m just not willing to publish our valuable, wordy content on Thursdays unless we have a glut of it, or unless we work out a specific plan for that day. If I do anything at all on Thursdays for the next little while, it’s going to be to reblog and/or do quick roundups to encourage you to visit some of our contributors & friends.

Sci-Fi Saturday: They Live!

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I didn’t intend to do one of these today, but I ended up with a little more time than I expected to have so here we go! I learned last night from my friend and sometime co-conspirator Rose that Rowdy Roddy Piper has departed this plane of existence. Now, there are very few celebrities I’d eulogize on the blog, but Roddy surely makes the cut.

When I was a kid, I absolutely loved him. I think I was drawn to him because he was so good at mixing humor in with the standard loud-mouthed professional wrestler schtick. And he had bagpipes! (I love me some bagpipes).

What I remember him most fondly for are two cheesy movies: They Live and Hell Comes To Frogtown. Hell Comes to Frogtown is a true B-Movie. They Live, I’m not sure about. It was hard to tell the difference between low-budget and just plain cheesy in those days. Either way, They Live is one of my all-time favorites.

It’s a pretty straightforward sci-fi tale in which aliens have infiltrated the planet and are able to disguise themselves as humans. They’ve taken over the media and use broadcasting and advertising to subjugate humanity via subliminal messages. There’s a resistance, of course. And they’ve developed special sunglasses that allow humans to see through the aliens’ disguises. Hi-jinks ensue.

Early on, it includes one of the most memorably ridiculous fight scenes of all time.

And later, there’s this highly-quotable moment.

They Live is quite simply one of the yummiest pieces of action/comedy produced in the 80’s. The only thing from that era I can think of that remotely compares for pure entertainment value is Big Trouble in Little China. And we have Roddy Piper to thank for it. They Live is one of those movies that really shouldn’t work, but it does. And it works almost entirely because of the casting.

R.I.P., Roddy.

Here’s a clip of him performing at the Viper Room with Public Jones. I’m not sure what that instrument he’s playing is, but it sure is a sweet track.

Review: Ant-Man

Ant-Man poster

Superheroes have been showing up on the big screen and TV for a few years now, so even if you don’t read comics you will recognise quite a few of the characters within the Marvel Universe. That said, I think many were sceptical about a superhero named ‘Ant-Man’ – I mean, it’s not the coolest superhero name in the world. But I think, after seeing this movie, Ant-Man will get a lot more love in the future. He’s funny, down to earth, and fights with everything he has to become a better father. What’s not to like? Add in the fact he’s engaging, relatable (he’s made some pretty big mistakes), and doesn’t take the whole superhero thing too seriously, and it’s all points in his favour.

So, Ant-Man – who is he? His name is Scott Lang, and in the movie he’s played by Paul Rudd, which probably helped in terms of getting people to the cinema, because Paul promises to bring the goods in terms of humour. Personally, I think it was an inspired choice, Scott Lang is hilarious in the comics, and this certainly reflected in the film. In this case, Rudd’s humour is definitely understated and, despite criticisms regarding a ‘dilution’ of his talents, I believe he hit the mark. The subtleties he brought to the role were what made it work, at least for me.

michael douglas

But, Rudd is not the only great casting choice. Michael Douglas plays Hank Pym, and he demanded attention from the very first scene. He’s utterly convincing, and adds a coolness factor all of his own. Dr. Henry (Hank) Pym is the original Ant-Man, and though you don’t need to know that to watch or even enjoy the movie, it’s worth pointing out.

In the comics Scott Lang stole the suit to save his daughter and Hank allowed him to keep it. The film puts a slightly different spin on the theme, but fundamentally they didn’t stray far from the origin story. It means there’s something for everyone, which Marvel excels at. For those not familiar with the comics, they are introduced to a unique superhero, and for fans of Ant-Man, the writers stayed true to who Scott Lang is.

Scott

He’s a former cat-burglar, an idealistic campaigner recently released from prison, and a man down on his luck. He’s divorced, is fighting for custody rights to see his daughter, and the only job he can get is at Baskin Robbins (even then he has to lie about his identity). Despite managing to get himself sucked in to Pym’s plot to protect his inventions and prevent the Pym Particles (formula which alters the size and mass of objects and living things) from being released into the world, Scott still manages to show a keen intelligence, and skills worth bringing to the table.

As for being part of the Marvel Universe; there are subtle references built in, if you’re looking for them, and an appearance from an Avenger. A scene which is particularly well done, and one of the highlights of the movie. There are other highlights, of course, and it might seem odd, but they are definitely the scenes with the ants. Yes, this is undeniably helped by the excellent special effects, but still, when you see what Scott and Hank get these little guys to do – it’s wonderful to watch.

flying ant

So, you have humour, including excellent comic timing, an engaging hero who performs miraculous feats (in human size and when he’s shrinks). Mix that in with an unconventional army, a superior cast, great special effects, and you have yourself an extremely entertaining film.

What did you think? Have you seen the movie? I’d love to hear your thoughts.