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Applying a sociological theory to the movie ‘The Truman Show’ Essay

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Updated: Apr 8th, 2019

Movie Summary

The Truman Show is a drama film that captures the basic principles of the social structure at the beginning of life besides helping us to uncover the origin of the prevailing social interactions or socialization mechanisms in the contemporary world. The movie revolves around the life of Truman Burbank who has been in front of live cameras since before he was born without noticing.

Through hidden cameras that capture Truman’s day-to-day activities around the clock, Christof who is the executive producer intends to show the world the real emotions and behavior of Truman when exposed to various unique situations.

Here, Christof controls Truman’s life through setting up an artificial hometown in which Truman’s neighbors include the show’s crew members. Moreover, Truman’s sense of reality is obscured by the false reality created by Christof through news reports and advertisements aimed at making Truman stay at home.

Despite that Christof has succeeded to some extent in controlling some aspects of Truman’s life, there is evidence to show that Truman is capable of exploring certain truths in his social life such as falling in love outside the intended circle. Here, Truman falls in love with Sylvia despite that the producer wanted him to marry Meryl.

To break this unintended love, the producer removes Sylvia from the set but Truman continues to love her even when married to Meryl. Therefore, Sylvia forms the out-group that is set to free Truman from his false world. Subsequently, at age 30, Truman demonstrates the importance of self-consciousness in an individual’s life.

Here, Truman discovers some aspects of his life such as spotlights appearing at night (artificial darkness) and the discussions of other crew members regarding The Truman Show, which might have led him to uncover certain truths about his life. However, the producer achieves to conceal the truth by advertising that an airplane had one of its landing lights dislodged.

On the other hand, the growing skepticism in Truman leads to his marriage to Meryl breaking up since she was under intense pressure to convince him that his false life was real. Furthermore, his plans to leave Seahaven (the artificial hometown) were frustrated by different incidents such as bus breakdowns, massive traffic jams, absence of flight tickets, a nuclear meltdown, and finally a forest fire. All these events are meant to instill fear in Truman in order for the show to continue.

Moreover, Christof’s attempts to bring back Truman’s father who was supposedly dead in a fishing trip (in order to make Truman fear the water) do not bear any fruits in terms of stopping Truman from leaving the town. Instead, Truman decides to isolate himself from the crew, and one day he manages to escape using a boat. An artificial storm meant to scare him from leaving does not do much since Truman overcomes his fear of water to reach the EXIT, which marks the end of false life and the beginning of a new reality with Sylvia’s camp.

Movie Analysis

In their quest to explain the nature and attributes of the social structure, many sociologists attempt to look at the permanent association between things, which is thought to originate in the life before the evolution of any life form (Hinkle 130). Here, the sociologists note that the primordial theory attempts to explain the origin of society, which is a form of social organization with a definite structure.

As a result, since the primordial theory relates to the origin of permanent association in the society, then it follows that the primordial social structure was present before the appearance of humankind. Accordingly, the movie ‘The Truman Show’ captures the nature and characteristics of the social structure relative to the Primordial theory.

Here, just like at the beginning of the show where we meet Truman unaware of his false world, many early theorists construed the social structure from the perspective of physical and biological sciences. Thus, the social structure was treated just like any other physical structure, which resembles a machine or device used to equilibrate different forces.

Here, an organism (viewed as a structural model) is regarded to as a system of activities, which achieve interdependence through influencing one another, and thus they can adjust, adapt, and work together relative to the prevailing conditions (Hinkle 132).

This form of primordial structure and permanent association can be likened to the show’s actors and crew whose activities were aimed at controlling Truman’s life by following the producer’s instructions, and thus they did achieve to manipulate different aspects of Truman’s life.

However, the structure provided by the ancient sociologists reflects a mechanical equilibrium, which cannot exist in the contemporary social environment whereby conditions are bound to change relative to different internal and external factors (Kimmel and Aronson 33). Thus, contemporary sociology looks at the social structure as comprising of an organic equilibrium, which is characterized by openness, external factors, internal factors, accessibility, and change.

Subsequently, the modern day sociology has it that the creation of the society relies on the ability of institutions (units of the social structure) to exhibit an organic or moving equilibrium, which enables them to adjust, adapt, and change relative to both internal and external forces. This is thus the equilibrium exhibited by Truman during the 30th year of the show whereby he begins to adjust the way he used to view his life, and as a result manages to uncover certain truths in his artificial life.

Conversely, other sociologists view the contemporary social structure as consisting of variable systems (that is, organisms and societies) whose internal mechanisms allow them to attain a partial equilibrium, which cannot be perfected due to the presence of external factors (Kimmel and Aronson 34).

Here, it is worth noting that despite Truman uncovering certain truths in his false life using his own internal mechanisms, he fails to discover the whole truth since the existence of the radio and television advertisements serves to conceal the truth.

To this end, it is certain that the organic equilibrium forms the basic model through which the primordial social structure illustrated in ‘The Truman Show’ is generated. Thus, the change process associated with such moving equilibriums can only be construed as arising from the ability of the systems (individual persons) involved to make conscious choices, and exhibit some degree of intentionality.

As a result, the basic contemporary social structure should be characterized by social identity; social desires, ends, interests, objectives, and purposes; social organization or structuring; social rules and values that underlie social welfare and norms; social solidarity, integration, and cohesion; and finally, processes that enable the members of the society to adjust to various unique situations (Hinkle 135).

Relative to these features and characteristics of the society, many theorists note that the primordial social structure originates from the earliest human species, which were grouped into self-sufficient units meant to give rise to later generations exhibiting common modes of life that change with time and conditions just like Truman’s life in the show.

Thus, the primordial theory is based on the assumption that the society has an adaptive mechanism, which presents the human organisms with various opportunities and hindrances relative to the ability to satisfy their needs and wants in different situations (Hinkle 139). Thus, through persistent association with the hindrances and opportunities in the social set-up, human organisms achieve social identity.

This is true to the fact that Truman was able to construe certain things in his life that were not adding up after taking a closer look at the behaviors of other residents of Seahaven, and comparing them to the contents of the show, which was entirely about his life. Accordingly, it is a fact that social and public awareness are centered on the ability of an individual becoming aware of other people’s ideas or thoughts and vice versa.

Moreover, through coordinated interaction and understanding the needs and desires of other members of the society, an individual’s personal needs, desires, and purposes in life can be satisfied (Kimmel and Aronson 45).

This is the case when Truman defies the pre-determined external factors in the show by falling in love with an extra. Moreover, the act of removing Sylvia from the picture marks the beginning of Truman’s quest to satisfy his desires through exploring different aspects of his false life, which will eventually lead him to the point of uncovering the truth about his life.

Overall, the foregoing discussions show that a certain degree of social organization and structuring is required in order for the human members of the society to satisfy their desires, needs, and purposes through coordinated interactions and association with one another.

However, sometimes a natural conflict of interest may exist between the internal mechanisms of an individual and the external forces that comprise different opportunities and hindrances brought forth by the social surroundings. And thus, it is up to each and every member of the society to develop adaptive behaviors that fit into the pre-existing conditions, which determine whether or not one will satisfy his or her needs, desires, and purposes in life.

Works Cited

Hinkle, Roscoe C. Founding theory of American sociology, 1881-1915. USA: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 2008. Print.

Kimmel, Michael and Aronson, Amy. Sociology now. Boston: Pearson, 2009. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Applying a sociological theory to the movie ‘The Truman Show’." April 8, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/applying-a-sociological-theory-to-the-movie-the-truman-show/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Applying a sociological theory to the movie ‘The Truman Show’'. 8 April.

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