Reality, Media and the Role of Human Nature in the Truman Show and the Matrix

Humanity always had an urge to control what they see in the environment. They wanted to be in charge of the nature firstly and they managed that generally by creating tools, from a pointed stick to a death trap for animals. This urge to control needed to find new targets throughout its lifetime for the nature had already been conquered. Mankind’s motivation to own and manipulate its surroundings led to the inevitable: conquest of other societies. They used newly made machines in their wars; invention of steel, firearms, airplanes and missiles all occurred because of this expansionist urge of control.

Wars were bloody but effective ways of control; however, anyone can claim that the physical wars are not the way to control and conquer the contemporary world, but a new and more vicious but less apparent way has been introduced to us in the last century: media. As mankind developed many ways to overcome the vicious webs of control throughout the history, the only thing that can stand up against media’s manipulative behaviors is the intriguing nature of men.

Media has severe control mechanisms on people, and it can be easily said that media is the biggest influence on our lives today. Imitated and therefore stereotyped lives have gained importance. The machines and media have done this hand in hand. By developing technological advancements, media started to become more and more widespread. Mass media’s creation can only be possible with technology and machinery. The movies The Truman Show and The Matrix brought a new critical and almost prophetical perspective to new technological mass media, and its manipulative behavior.

Both movies deal with virtual reality and a world of dreams and lies, and both of them give their message quite similarly: with the help of a well-known allegory. The allegory is nothing but Plato’s cave. In his book The Republic, he has a conversation with Socrates about an imaginary scene that a group of people who lived chained in a cave throughout their lives, facing a wall. The people watch shadows on the wall created by things passing from the entrance of the cave, and the forms are attributed to these shadows.

According to Plato, the shadows are the only and utmost reality that prisoners can ever see. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and understands therefore that the shadows on the wall are not elemental reality at all, as he can now perceive the true form of reality rather than the shadows seen by the prisoners (Adam 56). Like Plato’s cave metaphor, the residents in The Matrix (which is purportedly our world) only watch the shadows of the authentic reality.

It is not the cave anymore, but an artificial womb, and the shadows are just dreams created by a computer program by machines. Neo, (an anagram of “one”) hacks the system of slavery in this dream world, where people dream a permanent so-called reality. Neo here is a prophet, a messenger who will warn and save people from eternal trickery. On the other hand, in The Truman Show, the lead character, Truman Burbank does not grow to be a prophet or a messenger but an ordinary human being who wants to live a real life with real emotions. He is a man who has been deceived by an artificial life in a TV studio.

The movie portrays Truman’s discovery that a world outside his “bubble” exists; a world that the movie suggests is more “real,” free from the manipulations of Christof, the show’s producer, whose name may also represent a biblical Antichrist if one thinks of the name as Christ-off. If Truman could only get outside the bubble, outside the manipulation of Christof, he could desire authenticity, find his true love, and live a real, unmediated life. The movie ends with Truman leaving the dome, refusing the safe yet empty fantasy world offered by the producer.

The Truman Show has been universally interpreted as an allegory of the false influence of the media upon our lives. According to a website devoted to the movie, “It is a story that reveals an essential truth about what is happening to society in the 20th century, . . . (i. e. ) how the media and corporations have begun to surround us with a universe of illusions” (Sanes). From this perspective, Truman Burbank is a “true man,” an everyman, who can represent each one of us; however, with effects of media, the consumerist habits, with advertisements in Truman’s world created authenticity-aware media pawns, such as Truman’s wife and friends.

Similarly, the consumerist media created its own reality-aware betrayers in the world of Matrix like Cypher, who knows that the Matrix is not the real world, but still wants to be in it, as long as he forgets everything about reality. People all over the world are content with their lives just like Cypher; the intriguing nature of mankind is not really determining their future, for they are “happy” to live in chains. That’s how both movies persuade their ideas on the audience.

The intriguing and curious self of mankind embodied in Neo and Truman. That symbolic embodiment also leads them to an epiphany. Neo has long suspected that the world is deceitful, and he questions reality, reaching the authentic reality with the help of a man who calls himself Morpheus. Morpheus in Greek mythology is the master of dreams, which means a lot Neo refers to Morpheus as he has “woken” him up. The feeling that something is wrong with life itself also urges Truman Burbank to investigate, which eventually leads to his freedom.

The only difference between these two movies in regard to the extent of reality is that the figure of omnipotent creator or guide differs. Morpheus guides Neo to his way of reaching reality whereas the figure of Christof tries to imprison Truman in an eternal lie. That can be understood that the benevolent and malevolent selves of “God” divided in two in The Matrix, while the machines try to imprison all humans for their own reign, Morpheus tries to save them. All in all, both movies are about sinister media manipulation and the virtual reality in our own world.

But both the protagonists succeed in their aims through the values of human nature, curiosity, love and freedom. However some of us and some of the characters would willingly choose an imprisoned life to make our own lives easier, As Ursula K. LeGuin said in her novel, The Earthsea, “Would you want to stop the tides or to ease the seas to save only one wave, to save yourself? Would you sacrifice your hand’s skill, your heart’s desire and your mind’s hunger to buy your own safety? Absolutely not, if you are a “true-man” or “the one”. Works Cited Adam, James. The Republic of Plato. 1902. 2nd Ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963. Sanes, Ken. Truman as Archetype. Transparencynow. com. 1996-2001. 29 July 2004. . The Matrix. Dir. Brothers Wachowski. Perf. Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburn. 1999. DVD. Warner Bros. , Village Roadshow. The Truman Show. Dir. Peter Weir. Perf. Jim Carrey and Ed Harris. 1998. DVD. Paramount Pictures.