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Truman Show: Ethical or Unethical?

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Truman Show: Ethical or Unethical?

Imagine a life with friendly neighbors, a town where everyone knows your name. A simple, routine life with a lovely wife and a best friend you’ve known since childhood. But what if this perfect life was a lie and the story of your life was actually a TV show? That is the life of Truman Burbank, who was born and raised on a set his entire life without any knowledge of it. So the question is asked: is Truman’s lifestyle an abuse of human rights? Two characters arise to form two sides of the argument. Christof is the creator/producer/director of “The Truman Show” and has watched over Truman since before he was born. Christof believes that his actions are justified through “love” and for the sake of Truman’s happiness. On the other hand, Sylvia is Truman’s first love, who sees the TV show as depriving Truman of his freedom and denying a chance for him to choose how he wants to live. Using Aristotle’s appeals and Burke’s pentad, the two arguments address their views of Truman’s life.

From a single issue, the two sides interpret Truman’s situation in two different lights. Burke’s pentad helps address the differing viewpoints of Christof and Sylvia, both arguing and speaking up for their beliefs on the behalf of Truman. The pentad representing Christof would look as followed:

Act: Keeping Truman safe from the real world which is a dangerous and "sick place."

Scene: Peaceful town with friendly people.

Agent: A loving producer.

Agency: Love and care for Truman.

Purpose: For Truman's "happiness" and for a show that “gives hope and joy and inspiration to millions.”

Through Christof’s pentad, it shows that Truman’s way of life is a blessing. The first few scenes of the movie display Truman’s life as wonderful, “a novelty,” according to Meryl, Truman’s wife, in her interview. There is a home that will always be there without fail, friends and family who will stick with him through thick and thin, and a pleasant town that is far from disorder and catastrophe. His town was a great place to live in, a town that centered around Truman. Christof plays on this imagery to sway Truman that this “reality” is best for him. Christof, in the last scene with Truman, uses pathos to act as a fatherly figure towards Truman. Here, Christof tells Truman that he has been watching him all his life in order to persuade him that keeping him in the dome was for his own good. By expressing that Truman is number one in his mind, Christof makes his argument stronger, which is evident in the last scene where Truman is talking to the voice of Christof. For a moment, Truman hesitates from leaving the dome, proving that Christof rhetoric influenced him in some way.

He also uses other methods and means accessible to him in order to prevent Truman from exploring and finding the truth, such as the ocean. Truman lost his father at sea when they were out boating one day, which left a traumatic memory on Truman’s life. By making the ocean his enemy, Truman is discouraged of his dream, ultimately delaying Truman from finding the truth, allowing him to adjust to his lifestyle and less likely to want to leave. Christof continues by pulling on Truman’s heartstrings, saying his life, his story is an inspiration to many, that his existence has a meaning. By appealing to Truman’s pathos, he makes it hard for Truman to want to leave and all the more reason to stay. By boosting Truman’s self-importance, Christof tries to convince him that his life was there and only there with his life-long friends and family, even if that life was a lie.

In a different light, a secure life with little worries can be seen as cruel and unethical. Sylvia sees the whole situation as manipulative and controlling, taking the freedom of one man’s life to please many. Sylvia’s pentad looks as followed:

Act: Keeping Truman in the dark and robbing him of his freedom.

Scene: A made-up setting with paid actors; a lie.

Agent: Selfish media and Christof who has a God complex.

Agency: Money, a set, Truman.

Purpose: To have a “genuine” show to keep ratings up.

Sylvia’s views contradict with Christof’s, seeing this act of confinement as unfair. She states that on moral grounds, stripping Truman of his freedom and choices is not done out the act of love but out of selfishness. She reasons that they leave Truman in the dark not to protect him from the knowing the dangerous world outside the dome but to boost ratings for the TV show. She

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