The Truman Show
Sociology can be defined as a study of origins and development of institutions and organizations of human society. Sociology is also a social science about different methods of critical analysis and empirical investigations that can be used to build knowledge about social human activities, functions, and structures. Many sociologists are driven by the goal to conduct research to refine understanding of social processes theoretically. Others seek to base their research on social policies and human welfare. Sociology is based on social theories, and some questions we need to ask ourselves are how different do we think our cultures are from others or do we judge other cultures as inferior? As we observe the social world, we need to use contemporary social theories to explain what happens in our day-to-day life as things that happen to us either personally or as a whole are linked together to social relations (Bruce et al, 2010).
Characters live in through the use of concepts of sociology such as culture socialization, sexuality, race, and classical and modern sociological theories. The Truman Show is a film directed in 1998 by Peter Weir and written by Andrew Niccol. It is a satirical comedy drama with Jim Carrey as one of the cast, who plays Truman Burbank, who embarks on a mission to discover truth about his life after becoming suspicious of his perceived reality. Truman is a normal man, who lives happily in peaceful small beautiful town called Seaheven. Truman has a nice wife, a good job, and everything that one could wish for. He lives happily until he starts to think or rather suspect he is living a fake life. What Truman does not know is that his life is a focus of a television reality show, which has been airing since his birth. He is the star of the show and every actor in his life goes by the script. He notices that every bit of his life is getting repetitive and decides to find out the truth at all costs. Gradually, Truman becomes wise and discovers his origin (Bruce et al, 2010).
Classical sociological theories are said to be theories of great ambition and scope. They are said to have originated in Europe in the early 19th and 20th centuries. These theories have their roots in the culture of that period due to classical sociological theorist such as Karl Max and Max Weber. The ideas of these theorists are only referred to as classics because to date modern sociologists apply them as they are very important in dealing with social related issues. Theory developed during the time of social disorders and chaos that had occurred as a result of revolutions brought in by French Revolution. Sociologists search for new ways to transform and return order to the society that had been traumatized by the changes in politics after the war. The revolution war saw many people move to urban cities that favored industries from rural area where they had earlier relied on agriculture. This migration to cities came with social evils and problems that caught attention of sociologists. Socialism ensured equal distribution of wealth as it had emerged as an alternative version of workers’ paradise (Harrington, 2005).
Capitalism was stamped down as socialism was supported by many theorists. Many sociologists came from a religious background and had better understanding of religion and morality in the modern world. An example of a classical social theory is British sociology. Three conflicting sources shaped this sociology: political economy, social evolution, and ameliorism. British sociologists had a goal of providing government with facts why market economy was the source of order integration and harmony of the society. They provided government with information about reasons for the falling economy, paying special attention poverty. Ameliorism is the desire of an individual to solve social issues through making reforms on a personal level. British sociologists could not trace the source of poverty in the whole society, thus concluded that it lied in individual himself. British sociologist Herbert Spencer believed that the society was growing progressively and should be left to do so at its own pace. He had the idea that social institutions adapted positively and progressively to their social environment and that the unfit societies should be left to die off contributing to the adaptive improvement of the world as a whole. Classical sociological theories are still very important to modern sociologists as the latter seek to reinterpret them and apply them in contemporary life situations. For example, in the film the Truman Show, Truman can be sociologically described as an individual living in a perfectly normal society where he adapts to the life created for him since his birth (Bell, 2008).
Modern social theories cannot be totally separated from classical social theories. Modern social theories are a continuation of classical theories. They include western maxims theory and feminist theory. Feminist theory focuses on women oppression, genders’ nature, and women emancipation. Feminist theorists focus on the issue of equality between men and women politically and socially. According to every society, everything has to do with men, and men themselves are held at higher regards than women. Men, therefore, are a group with social power and always seek to maintain their social privileges over women. The feminist theory offers a view of the world from a less popular and more disadvantaged group point of view. Feminist social theory can be divided into three parts or waves that make exceptional contributions to feminist social theorizing. The first feminist wave describes women as people. The second wave has its roots in socialism and is characterized with viewing women as coherent social people sharing a common experience. They are understood as being nurturing, peaceful, and cooperative people who suffer from sex oppression and patriarchy. They share common features as a group such as social reproduction and domestic labor. Women are said to be unified in experiencing gender oppression, and this unison forms a basis for political emancipations. Through one single voice women could get represented in their struggle against patriarchy. The third wave is concerned with consciousness rising group. This means that if women got to share a common experience, then they would realize that they share mutual oppression. In this way women can understand that all oppressions against them are usually widely shared and are part of a patriarchal structure (Bruce et al, 2010).
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According to Dorothy Smith, a feminist theorist, women have shared the experience of being dominated by men. She argues that women have always been left out of knowledge production both as actors and knower’s. Traditionally, sociology has been organized around men in terms of their experience and positions. Men have always been the subjects and women have been ignored. For example, in the film The Truman Show, the plot revolves around the life of Truman, the main character, who happens to be a man. Everything in the film covers his life. The film writer is biased as he could have used two characters a woman and a man. The woman Meryl Burbank, who appears in the film plays the role of a wife of Truman. Her role is to play Truman’s wife and give birth to a child with him. Smith is interested in feminist sociology that will provide women with an account of social reality to shape their lives. She is interested in a sociology that will retain the presence of an active individual. Dorothy Smith focuses her ideas on the actualities of people’s lives and shows how they are influenced by social relations outside their particular worlds. Truman’s life is influenced by people set in the world created for him. Everything he views as reality is actually presented to him by the reality show producers. Christof, the show’s producer, has manipulated Truman’s emotions and human behavior by creating certain situations such as making the town in a dome. He is able to keep him from discovering true reality of his false identity (Bruce et al, 2010).
Sociology covers a variety of concepts, for example, culture, sexuality, race, and socialization. Culture is the way of life of a particular group of people, their environment comprising of all their materials that have been passed from one generation to the next. Culture of a people is also made up of morals, beliefs, knowledge, laws, customs, and arts together with other habits that define the group. Cultures consist of patterns passed explicitly or implicitly. For a particular behavior to be transmitted or acquired, the group needs to have knowledge and ideas about artifacts that revolve around them. With relation to The Truman Show, the environment presented to Jim Carrey is made to appear real. He is natural in an environment that has all basic necessities of a real life. These facts manipulate his perceptions of reality. Starting from his wife to his best friend Marlon, Truman has been living a television show series life, which he himself cannot distinguish from reality. His relationship with the cast is truly human and natural. Truman’s quest to discover his true origin shows cultural characteristics of human beings to try attain self-actualization and discover their true selves. His environment is also governed by laws and technology. He shares common institutions found in every culture in the world, which include education, work, healthcare, and, most importantly, the family (Harrington, 2005).
Another concept of sociology is socialization, which refers to the unconscious process by which newborn babies get to learn beliefs, values, rules, and regulations that their society relays on. Child internalizes these elements through cognitive, affective, and evaluative learning processes. Socialization establishes emotional links between the newborn and the society. An individual becomes equipped with skills to perform his duties in the society through socialization. Family is the most important medium of socialization in a society, although in this new era education institutions become better agents of socialization. Truman fits perfectly in the environment created for him by the television show as he is raised like a normal child. Everything unusual was hidden from him. He socializes with his best friend Marlon.
Sexuality as a sociological concept refers to gender distinctions. Differences exist between boy s and girls. From birth they influence how the two are treated. In different cultures boys are given more freedom and are treated with roughness, while girls are treated more gently. This has led to emergence of feminist school of thought that seeks to understand the position of women in the community and improve the society. Truman being a male character is handled roughly by the producer of the reality show. He is subjected to conditions that aim to suppress his quest for discovering his origin. The producer Christof kills Truman’s father on a fishing trip to instill fear of water in the boy (Harrington, 2005).
Conclusively, this paper explored how sociological concepts of culture, sexuality, and socialization have been employed in the film The Truman Show, and how modern and classical theories of socialization can be used to analyze the film. At the end of the film, Truman discovers his true identity and leaves the world he had known behind. Sociology and culture are intertwined and allow human beings to understand concepts of life sociology and the big role they play (Bell, 2008).