The Truman Show
What Happens Next?
Alexander S. Peak
26 October 2011
We all know what happens in The Truman Show, the 1998 libertarian comedic drama directed by Peter Weir and starring Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank. Truman is adopted at birth by the Omnicam Corporation. This television company records everything Truman does as he grows up, and broadcasts it all for the world to see. Eventually, at the age of twenty-nine, Truman ﬁgures out that something is not quite right with the world around him. First, a lighting ﬁxture falls from the clear blue sky. Later, rain begins to fall, oddly enough, directly on his head, cartoonishly failing to fall anywhere but his head. Later he sees a man who looks like his father, who is subsequently dragged off onto a bus by some random people. The straw that breaks the camel’s back occurs when he accidentally locates a radio frequency while driving on which people are clearly giving a play-by-play of his driving habits. After that, for the rest of the ﬁlm, Truman is on a quest to uncover the truth and to escape from his hometown of Seahaven. After tricking the crew into thinking he is sleeping, he escapes to the high seas. He eventually crashes into a wall, onto which is painted a sky. He walks along the wall until he ﬁnds a set of stairs. He ascends. At the top is a door that says “EXIT.” He opens it, and is about to walk through when the director speaks to him, and tells him about the show, the cameras, and his stardom. Christof, the director, tries to convince Truman to turn back, to stay in the world that he, Christof, had created for Truman. Truman rejects the offer, and walks through the doorway. The show’s audience cheers. The television studio ceases transmission. The end.
But…what happens next?
The movie does not explicitly say what happens next. Nor needs it. While the viewer is left to surmise what Truman, and the rest of the world, does next, some things seem rather self-explanatory. Before we begin to discuss what happens next, let us review the end of the ﬁlm once more.
Video uploaded to the Internet by YouTube user jadednex.
Truman wants to be free, and to learn as much about reality has he can. But, Truman also wants to ﬁnd a girl he met in high school, a girl whom he believes is either named Lauren Garland or Sylvia Garland. Her real name is indeed Sylvia, although her real last name is unknown to both us and Truman. How likely, therefore, is he to ﬁnd her?
Actually, very likely. Recall ﬁrst that Truman is the single most famous living human on the planet. He needs only to make a single call to Oprah Winfrey or Barbara Walters, and he will ﬁnd himself being interviewed the next day—if not the very same day. Recall, also, that Sylvia is somewhat famous herself. She is a former cast member on the biggest show on television, and because of her “stolen kiss” with Truman, is on every Best-Of collection the show has released. Moreover, she is involved in some sort of “Free Truman!” movement, of which she is probably a leading ﬁgure. In short, although she is not as famous as Truman himself, she absolutely is famous. Surely, Oprah would love the opportunity to reunite Truman and Sylvia on the air, and would obviously have the resources to do so.
Truman and Sylvia begin dating. About a year later, Truman proposes to Sylvia, who accepts. The two wed and decide to honeymoon in, you guessed it, Fiji.
Coltrane, who played Marlon, Truman’s best friend since the age of seven, was one of the few cast members that had genuine feelings for Truman. After all, Coltrane actually knew Truman as a child. The two frequently played with one another. They literally grew up with one another.
After the show ends, Coltrane tries to make contact with Truman, but at the time, Truman is so hurt by the deception that he does not want to see any of the former cast members, including Coltrane. In 2007, Coltrane tries once again to make contact. Truman decides to allow the contact to occur. The two spend a day together, golﬁng and drinking beer, and reminiscing about their experiences together. Thus begins the slow process of mending the broken friendship.
Truman slips up from time to time and calls Coltrane “Marlon.” The funny thing is, Coltrane is so used to Truman calling him “Marlon” that, even after all these years, he doesn’t even notice when Truman does it.
Elsewhere, I wrote,
In one scene, Christof’s henchmen literally chase the innocent Truman Burbank down, grab him, and tackle him to the ground. They do this entirely without his consent. Later, the crew intentionally strikes Truman’s boat multiple times with bolts of electricity, knocking Truman into the water. After he crawls back into the boat, they blow powerful gusts of air and massive waves of water at the boat with the express intent of capsizing it. Truman, in fact, nearly drowns.
Because Truman was aggressed against, and nearly killed, by the cast and crew of the show, he can easily sue the Omnicam Corporation. And, he does. The Omnicam Corp. execs realise that public sentiment is entirely in support of Truman. (Recall how everyone watching the show cheers when Truman walks through the doorway.) They realise that they have no defence. And, so, they decide to settle out of court for an undisclosed sum. Although the sum is never disclosed, tabloids readily point out that Truman Burbank, former star of The Truman Show, is now a multi-billionaire.
Uncle Sam steals a large portion of Truman’s money, because that’s what scumbags like Uncle Sam do. Unfortunately, while Truman has no difﬁculty suing the Omnicam Corp., he ﬁnds that suing Uncle Sam is far more difﬁcult. It seems the courts are rigged in Uncle Sam’s favour.
Instead of dissolving the company, the execs at Omnicam decide to turn Seahaven into a tourist attraction. People from around the world come to visit Seahaven. The company also continues to sell merchandise and the various things it sold before through its catalogues.
Christof commits suicide.
You see, Christof had convinced himself, for the last twenty-nine years, that he was an agent of benevolence. He convinced himself that Seahaven was the way the world should be, and that, by providing such a world to Truman, he was actually doing some sort of good deed. In short, he convinved himself that he was a good guy.
He had to convince himself of this lie, because he would have been unable to sleep at night without it.
When Sylvia confronted Christof and told him that Seahaven was a prison, Christof did not hesitate in regurgitating the same nonsense that he had been telling himself for the past three decades. He told Sylvia that Truman was actually free to leave at any time. He told Sylvia that Truman would honestly prefer to live in the safety of Seahaven than in the chaotic, uncertain, scary real world.
In order to live with himself, Christof had to actually believe this nonsense. Thus, Christof was living in just as much of a bubble as Truman.
When Christof talks to Truman, and encourages Truman to turn back, Christof is not trying to save the show; rather, he is trying to save his psyche. Christof knows the show is sunk at that point. After all, how many people are going to continue watching if Truman knows that the world around him is unreal? If Truman knows, then he is not much different than any of the other actors, and thus the appeal of the show is gone. Even if Truman turns around, and heads back to Seahaven, the show’s ratings will promptly sink. No, the reason Christof tries to convince Truman to not walk through that doorway is because Christof does not want to be wrong in his assessment of himself as an agent of benevolence.
Unfortunately for Christof, Truman burst Christof’s bubble of self-deception. When Truman walks through the doorway at the end of the ﬁlm, we see a smile completely disappear from Christof’s face. While the average moviegoer might simply assume Christof was thinking, at that moment, about the show coming to an end, I believe he was thinking about his recent exchange with Sylvia. When Truman walks through the doorway, Christof can no longer lie to himself. Reality sets it. Sylvia was right, after all: Seahaven was a prison. Worse yet, for Christof, he realises that he was the warden. He realises at that moment that he was holding captive a man who would rather be free.
Christof is overcome with grief. “How could I have done this to an innocent man?” he thinks to himself. “What a monster I’ve been!” Christof leaves behind a suicide note, in which he begs for Truman’s forgiveness.
Growing up, Truman wanted to be an explorer. Now, as a multi-billionaire adult, he has the time and the resources to travel. He and sylvia visit many exotic locations together. They see the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes, and Niagara Falls. They visit Paris, Hawaii, and Japan. They even embark on the adventure of parenthood. The child, of course, is conceived off camera.
Upon his triumphant exit from Seahaven, Truman becomes a hero and an inspiration to libertarians across the world. In 2004, some libertarians in the states try to draft him as the presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party. Thus, the race for the nomination becomes a four-way race between Truman Burbank, Michael Badnarik, Aaron Russo, and Gary Nolan. But, Truman makes it clear that he is not interested in running, and the nomination eventually goes to Michael Badnarik.
That same year, Truman is interviewed by the libertarian John Stossel for 20/20. This is the ﬁrst interview that Truman has done in years, given that he has tried to live a fairly private life since his departure from Seahaven. The question of Truman’s political orientation comes up in the course of the interview. Truman explains that he does not like political labels, and prefers to call himself an independent. But, he admits, he likes libertarianism. “If my experience with The Truman Show has taught me anything, it is the huge importance of truth, freedom, and especially self-ownership. Therefore, if I had to call myself by some political label—and thank Heavens I do not have to—‘libertarian’ is the label I would prefer.”
In 2010, Truman, who still deeply values the pursuit of truth, becomes a donor to WikiLeaks.
The woman who played Meryl Burbank, Hannah Gill, takes many years to relax following her departure from the show. Having made quite a bit of money playing Truman’s wife, and having had little time to spend any of it until the age of thirty, she could retire comfortably. The reason she had spent so little of her fortune previously is because she was constantly working. In playing Truman’s wife, she had to be on set virtually every day, even when sick. But now, with the show out of the way, she can relax, and does so—for about a decade.
Eventually, in 2008, she tries her hand once again at acting, but because she is not generally regarded as a good actress, not many roles open up for her.