The desire for "escape" is pervasive. People hide behind jobs, possessions, and gated "communities" for peace of mind. Community is now found in overhyped, though immediately forgettable, media events (remember the last episode of Seinfeld?). Two recent video releases will help you fight this impulse.

The media hype last summer targeted, ironically, The Truman Show, Peter Weir's imaginative critique of consumerism. The Truman Show is about an insurance salesman named Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) who, without realizing it, has spent his entire life inside a giant tv studio. Every second of his existence has been broadcast to a worldwide audience. He is surrounded by commercials and product placements, and his wife—actually an actress—regularly encourages him to replace old household accessories with new ones. Episodes from Truman's life are commodified and sold as videotapes to the show's fans. Meanwhile, talk shows hash out issues raised by events in Truman's life.

Truman himself is not as media-saturated as those who watch him. He is, however, living in a materialistic world defined by his conformity to what others expect of him. It slowly dawns on him that the world around him is a fake, and that everyone in his life has participated in one great lie.

The greatest liar of all is Christof (Ed Harris), the show's godlike producer. This god is not the world-redeeming creator of Christian belief but a jealous, soulless deity. Christof created the show because he wanted to experience, albeit vicariously, a blessed and perfect life. But this perfection is a fraud. And when Truman finally figures out this scheme, there is only one thing to do: escape. Truman's freedom means abandoning the false world and letting it die. ...

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