Saturday, November 6, 2010

Christoff's Control: Truman, Kirk, and The Water Phobia

In my last post, I talked about how the movie “The Truman Show” is Molinist in its theological outlook---in the sense that, although “God” (Christoff) controls the world in which Truman leaves, Truman “is free to leave at any time...if his was more than a vague ambition...if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, then there’s nothing we could do to prevent him” (words of Christoff to Sylvia on the radio talk show). Although the life of Truman is predetermined, he still “freely chooses” to live in it. As Christoff says, “Ultimately, Truman prefers his cell.”
In this post, my task is to discuss more about how Christoff controls the world in which Truman lives. If the things I’ve yet to mention in the last few posts have not convinced you, I think the things I mention in this post will.
First, Christoff plays on Truman’s fear of water. Truman is sent for a business deal to Whales Park, which required him to take the ferry across the river.

Truman goes to the harbor, pays for a return ticket back, and then walks the plank down to the plank’s edge where the ferry is waiting. While walking down the plank, Truman looks to his right and sees a sunken boat in water. He is so afraid of drowning (the boat is drowning) that he decides to walk back to the harbor booth where he paid for the ticket. The ferry men ask, “Sir, can we help you?” Truman replies, “I’m fine. You guys go ahead.” He turns around and goes back to his car.
Now, to show Christoff’s manipulation, I must discuss Truman’s fear of the water. When Christoff appears before a television interviewer, he states the following:
“As Truman grew up, we were forced to find ways to keep him on the island.”

The first example was to deny him the opportunity for exploration. The screen then shows a younger Truman telling the teacher that he wanted to be “an the great Magellan.” His teacher’s response? “You’re too late; there’s nothing left to explore.” Next, as an older child, Christoff and his crew used rottweilers to force Truman to stay on the island, barking and scaring him off from escaping by way of the bridge. Last but not least, Christoff decided to drown Truman’s father, Kirk, at sea. Truman and his father went sailing in the sea, and one night, the weather took a turn for the worst. Kirk wanted them to go back but Truman encouraged his father to go forward. While out at sea, Christoff and his crew made it look as if Kirk drowned in the water. Since the water was the only way to escape from Seahaven (Christoff’s dream world), drowning Kirk in the water would scare Truman from ever wanting to enter the water again. As a result, Christoff easily scared Truman away from leaving the island, while making Truman feel as though he was truly responsible for his father’s death.
Truman himself felt guilty for what he believed was the death of his dad. However, it was really Christoff behind the scenes who was determining every little event of the script. Christoff noted that when Kirk found out he was “written out of the script,” he was not happy, “which explains why he broke back onto the set.” Christoff reveals here that Kirk made his way back on to the set by sheer wit (not that Christoff designed it). One day, after Truman buys a fashion magazine and heads to work, he notices a somewhat poor, helpless man who looks like his father (Kirk). Truman stops in his tracks, turns around, and watches as his dad removes his cap to reveal his identity.

As he does so, two people (a man and a woman) see his father, run to the man, and haul him off. Truman then runs after them, knocking his papers out of his briefcase to chase after the pair and his father. Eventually, the two haulers take his dad onto a bus and the bus pulls off, leaving Truman in the street alone...while the rest of Seahaven acts as if nothing happened.
Truman decides to approach his mother about what he saw. He says, “I think I saw dad dressed as a homeless man.” He asked her did his father have any other brothers, to which she responded “Truman, you know that your dad was an only you.” In her eyes, what’s wrong with Truman is that “you’re just feeling bad because of what happened, you sailing off into that storm...but I’ve never blamed you Truman, and I don’t blame you now.” The words of Truman’s mother indicate that what bothers Truman most is his sense of “blameworthiness” and responsibility. He feels guilty for what happened out at sea. And the worst part is that his “mother” (who really is just an actress) is in on the scheme with everyone else to make him feel responsible for a death that never happened!! It’s all manipulation, all part of the game. Even in the case where the “Kirk invasion” was never planned, it fits perfectly into the manipulation whereby Truman attaches his water phobia to his guilt (images of Kirk drowning), to the man who looks like his father, which then drives him to his mother (who is sure to plant the stinging word of “blame” in his ear).
The Kirk invasion is just one of a few invasions made by those outside of the cast who simply wanna warn Truman that he is living inside a fake world. When Truman was a child, a man came out of a present box at Christmas announcing that “it’s television” (telling Truman that he’s being televised). As an adult, Truman is reading a newspaper one day when all of a sudden, a man in a black parachuting outfit comes down to the ground with a sign plastered to his chest: “Truman, you’re on TV.” It seems however, that, no matter how much outsiders try to warn Truman and help him escape, Christoff always manages to eliminate them with people on the street who are constantly watching everyone who even gets close to Truman. So Christoff doesn’t want Truman to know the truth: and yet, he can claim that Truman can escape at any time. How does this work? How can Truman escape if he possesses no knowledge that he is living life as a “prisoner,” not as a “performer” like the rest of the cast?
What about Kirk? Since he really didn’t die off the show, what happens to him? On the interview of the Truman show, the interviewer asks Christoff, “How will you explain his 22-year absence?” Christoff replies, “Amnesia,” to which the interviewer says, “Brilliant.”
I intended to demonstrate Christoff’s control over Truman; and it can be clearly seen. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Christoff, in making it seem that Truman killed his father, is manipulating Truman’s emotions and thoughts and is playing with his heart and mind. Christoff’s control here is beyond just controlling his’s also about controlling the part of him that cannot be seen. Eventually, Kirk will re-enter the show...but how? For that, you’ll have to tune in next time to see Christoff’s dramatic write-in of Kirk’s return.

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