Over life is a reality television show broadcasted to

Over the course of this critical analysis I will go into depth about two
aspects of Hollywood Cinema that contribute towards my chosen film, Peter
Weir’s The Truman Show. I am
conducting research from past readings and film texts that will help me look
into the genre of the film. I will also look at and analyze the actor, and star
of The Truman Show, Jim Carrey and
how he is a relevant example of Dyer’s ‘Theory of Stardom’1,
on which I will go into more detail later on. 
The Truman Show is 1998 black comedy film written by Andrew Niccol. It
centres around Truman, an insurance salesman/adjuster who discovers that his
entire life is a reality television show broadcasted to millions across the
world. ‘The Truman Show’ did
exceptionally well at the box office, earning over $125m from its $60m budget2.

It was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actor and
Best Director3.

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It also earned Star, Jim Carrey a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama. I
believe that ‘The Truman Show’ will be a relevant film to look at in regards to
Genre and Star Study. With reasons being that it has a much deeper meaning that
on its surface and that how Jim Carrey played a dissimilar character than what
audiences were used to, with him gathering a reputation in the early 1990s for
playing over the top, exaggerated roles in box office smashes like Dumb and Dumber and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (both 1994).



Genre in ‘The
Truman Show’

Film genres are used to put films into categorizes based, mostly, on the
plot. However, they also take setting, style and certain characters into
consideration. In the book Hollywood
Cinema Richard Maltby explains how ‘the variations of plot, characterization,
or setting in each imitation inflect the audience’s generic expectations by
introducing new elements or transgressing old ones’4.

The Truman Show is classed as a black comedy. The Truman Show, on the surface, would appear to be another comedy
film that stars Jim Carrey. However, the film holds a much deeper meaning if
you explore the certain ideological points and plot of this 1998 blockbuster.


Media and the power it possesses to manipulate the world is an
ideological point to consider throughout The
Truman Show, due to the fact that the character of Truman’s whole life is
being broadcasted around the world to millions all controlled by an antagonistic
director, who is almost like some sort of God figure to Truman. It is clear to
see that ‘The Truman Show’ has the subject of religion and Christianity
throughout. The character of Christof, an obvious reference, uses his constant
presence and power to be completely in control of Truman from birth to present
day, all for the sake of getting more people around the world to watch his
reality television show. Director Peter Weir shows the viewer how it is not
only protagonist Truman who is trapped. The viewers are also trapped, their
eyes are glued to the screen, they are addicted to watching Truman everyday of
his fake life. What’s also distressing is the fact that the viewers do not seem
to mind that Truman is a slave trapped and forced to live the life that
creator, Christof, chooses.


Going back to the fact that The
Truman Show is a black comedy film pushed out the target audience of it.

With it being both a Comedy and a Drama, fans of both genres would watch it.

That is if a film’s genre will decide what type of audience will view it. Steve
Neale states ‘Hollywood’s generic regime performs two inter-related functions:
i) to guarantee meanings and pleasures for audiences ii) to offset the
considerable economic risks of industrial film production by providing
cognitive collateral against innovation and difference.’5
Neale believes genre is both down to the audience and the economical risks of
the production. So, The Truman Show
being a black comedy would be less of an economic risk as audiences are used to
seeing Jim Carrey in comedic roles. Neale again argues that pleasure is derived
from ‘repetition and difference.’ Therefore, linking to the dramedy genre of
the Truman Show, audiences would feel safe watching Carrey in a comedic film
but would also be intrigued with him playing a more serious role because it is
not as slapstick as. The studio has therefore satisfied the viewer but have
also grossed a lot of money due to the genre, $125m to be exact.


Weir constantly questions the
audience and continues to poke fun at the consumer. The Truman Show is very much a post-modern film. Furthermore, there
is a certain idea
involving post-modernism which is a belief in the need to question the outside
world because it is shaped by things we cannot control. The whole premise of
the show starring Truman and his journey to question and eventually escape the
controlled world in which he lives. In reality, the controlled world that we
inhabit is controlled not by one man named Christof, but rather social norms
and ideology. The media and the impact of it is constant throughout. Weir
parodies consumer culture by mocking product placement in many occurrences in
the film. Most notably when Truman’s wife Meryl starts offering him Cocoa from
the ‘Mountains of Namibia’6
where she literally reads the product description from a script. This is the
first time we see Truman actually question the stupidity and ridiculousness of
consumer culture in modern day society, which is key throughout the duration of
The Truman Show.


Star Study on Jim
Carrey (Truman Burbank in The Truman Show)


In 1990 Jim Carrey was appearing in In
Living Color (1990-1994) a
low-budget sketch comedy series7.

Before that he was a stand-up comedian in his home country of Canada. By 1994
he was seen as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood after starring in three
massively successful blockbusters. These films were The Mask which made $120m at the Box Office8.

Dumb and Dumber starring alongside
Jeff Daniels, which grossed close to $250m9.

The last of the trio that made his career was Ace Ventura: Pet Detective making around $107m10.

All of these films spawned sequels and cemented Carrey’s place in Hollywood
history as one of the biggest starts of all time. Jim Carrey is an example of
‘Dyer’s Theory of Stardom’11.

He created his own persona and image to sell to an audience.


In the Majority of Carrey’s films, he plays eccentric and outspoken
characters from this viewers and fans then believe that Jim Carrey is like that
as well, due to the characters he portrays in his movies. In the book ‘Film Stars:
Hollywood and Beyond’, Andrew Willis states ‘Recognition of a favourite performer
clearly increases the ostenstiveness of their performance signs.’ Willis then
states ‘The idiolect of the star – the reoccurring elements of their
performance that they carry from role to role – operate, for those who
recognize them, as ostensive inter-textual signifiers, offering the return of
familiar pleasures’12.

This is why when the first trailer13
and images were released for The Truman
Show it was met with a mixed reaction. It seemed like Jim Carrey was not
playing his regular, stereotypical character, it looked like Carrey was playing
a more serious role, something audiences had not witnessed before. However, the
first trailer did include a few of Carrey’s recognizable traits which included
his signature, eccentric facial expressions. Which meant audiences were able to
relate to this character of Truman to his previous characters in his previous
films. Including his traits in the trailer was a marketing strategy to sell the
film to audiences. If the distributors released a trailer with the more serious
elements of the film it would not have been as well received because of the
lack of the Jim Carrey persona that audiences had grown to love over the
previous few years.  The Truman Show did receive mass critical acclaim14,
even though it was first met with a mixed reaction. Audiences had become so
engulfed in Carrey’s common mannerisms that they shocked and confused to why he
was playing a somewhat different role.  Furthermore, we can link the change in comedy
film Carrey was in to the star reception he received. Audiences had grown a to
him starring in slapstick comedies, especially after his rise in 199415.

The Truman Show was still a comedy.

However, this time it was more of a black comedy with more serious elements.


The poster of a movie is a very big selling point. In most of his films,
Carrey is front and centre. He is the selling point of movie; he will earn the
certain company the most money by just having his face on the poster. The
posters for his films all show Carrey’s persona. Whether it being him pulling
an odd facial expression or him standing in a certain way16.

Audiences can look at the poster and feel comforted and safe by the fact that
Carrey is playing his usual self in the film. 
So, the poster of The Truman Show would have gripped the audience as his
expression is cheerful, what they are used to. Carrey’s name was also the only
name on the poster17,
not Ed Harris or Laura Linney, who were both big actors as well. Therefore, the
studio must have known that Carrey was the main selling point and using one of
his common facial expressions would make the audiences assume he’s playing the
same role. Jim Carrey’s star image has been constructed over time, throughout
his career. His image was made by film posters, performances in films, the
press and sometimes tabloid newspapers and magazines18.

Before The Truman Show’s release in
1998, the cast did a press tour. Furthermore, Jim Carrey would do the
interviews on his own19,
rather than doing interviews with his co-stars such as Ed Harris or possibly
director Peter Weir. Interviewers always wanted Jim Carrey more than any other
the other actors to talk about the The
Truman Show because he was the star in the film and in Hollywood at the




To conclude, dark comedy The
Truman Show showed Jim Carrey in a much more different role to one that
audiences around the world were used to. He moved away from the slapstick genre
and projected himself into a more serious role as Truman Burbank but still kept
his recognizable Carrey traits to the delight of the audience. The Truman Show also showed how much of
a star Carrey was at the time. With him being the only one included on the
poster for the film and the only name printed at the top20.

As previously mentioned, Carrey fits perfectly into Dyer’s ‘Theory of Stardom’21
as he created his own persona to earn him more success in the long run.


I mentioned how the power of the media was constant throughout The Truman Show and how much of an
impact it is having to modern day society. It shows the lengths people will go
to achieve success and to earn money. The subject of Christianity is
noticeable, tying in with Truman’s desire to escape and rebel against whoever
is in charge of him, that being Christof.  The
Truman Show was Jim Carrey’s first time in a more serious role that set a
path for him to do more serious roles in the future, examples being The Man on the Moon22
where he played controversial comedian Andy Kaufman and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind23
starring alongside Kate Winslet. Therefore, this has shown that his star image
has changed over time with him now avoiding the limelight and focusing more on
projects outside of Hollywood, yet still remaining one of Hollywood’s biggest



Dyer, Richard. 1998. Stars. (London: BFI Publishing)

Box Office Mojo. (1998). http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=trumanshow.htm 

Internet Movie Database. (1998). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120382/awards?ref_=tt_aw.


Maltby, Richard. 1995. Hollywood Cinema. (Victoria, Oxford and
Malden: Blackwell Publishing).


Nelmes, Jill. 2012. Introduction to Film
Studies. Page 197. (London: Routledge)

Movieclips. (2011). The Truman Show (5/9) Movie CLIP – Do
Something! (1998) HD. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U4-KZSoe6g. Accessed 7 December 2018

Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098830/?ref_=nv_sr_1.


Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=mask.htm

Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=dumbanddumber.htm


Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=aceventura.htm

Dyer, Richard. 1998. Stars. (London: BFI Publishing)

Willis, Andrew. 2004. Film Stars: Hollywood and Beyond. (Manchester:
Manchester University Press)

YouTube Movies. (2012). The Truman Show – Trailer. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loTIzXAS7v4
Accessed 8 December 2017

Rotten Tomatoes: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/truman_show/

Uproxx (2014).

What Jim Carrey Accomplished In 1994 May Never Be Repeated. Available at: http://uproxx.com/movies/what-jim-carrey-accomplished-in-1994-may-never-be-repeated/. Accessed 9 December 2017

 All Posters: http://www.allposters.co.uk/-st/Jim-Carrey-Films-Posters_c790_.htm

IMP Awards: http://www.impawards.com/1998/truman_show_ver1.html

18  Time Magazine: http://img.timeinc.net/time/magazine/archive/covers/1998/1101980601_400.jpg


FilMagicians. (2017).  Jim Carrey talks Ace Ventura, The Cable Guy,
The Truman Show & Andy Kaufman. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_HXKKD8DgM.

Accessed at December 8 2017

IMP Awards: http://www.impawards.com/1998/truman_show_ver1.html

Dyer, Richard. 1998. Stars. (London: BFI Publishing)

Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0125664/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338013/?ref_=nv_sr_1