Sunday, February 10, 2008
The Truman Show and Foucault's "Panopticism"
On the outside, both texts present situations of being watched. Truman's entire life is a television show, while Panopticism was developed to encourage correct behavior through the perceived knowledge of always being watched. This, then, is the chief difference between the scenarios presented in the texts. Truman has no knowledge of his status, though, as the film progresses, he begins to suspect something is not right. Interestingly, in the end, Truman bids farewell to his fantasy world in a guise very much like an actor. This could be an attempt to maintain the facade for just a bit longer, and, in so doing, this might also act as the sole linking thread between Foucault and The Truman Show. In Panopticism, subjects' behaviors are corrected through being forced into a very public display of their lives. This was intened to teach everyone from misbehaving schoolchildren to imprisoned criminals correct action (224-230). While The Truman Show, as the show within the film, might be intended to be a rather large and lengthy case study of human behavior taken from an ignorant and innocent subject, the complete lack of knowledge on Truman's part drives a wedge between the texts. He acts naturally, not apprehensively, because he does not know he is being watched. Therefore, nothing is proven in terms of the panoptic experiment. In fact, once Truman's fears are confirmed, he begins evading cameras whenever he can. This, then, leads up to the final scene aforementioned that acts as the singular linking thread between the texts.