Food That Makes One Question Reality
by Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez
In The Truman Show (1998), Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, a man who is unaware that his life is a popular T.V. show. In the film, food is used in many instances to hint at the fact that Truman’s life is not quite what he thinks it is by being placed in the film in the form of in-show advertisements. The food that Truman eats, and all the food in Truman’s town, Seahaven, is real and yet at the same time it is being used to trick Truman into thinking his life is completely normal. Therefore food is used in The Truman Show as a metaphor for Truman’s life, a life that is completely real but at the same time not real at all.
In one of the very first scenes of the film, Truman and his best friend Marlon are hitting golf balls out on a bridge. As they are sitting there talking, Marlon turns to a camera somewhere, and holding the beer with the label visible, says “Now that’s a beer,” (10:21:00) This scene is the first time a food item is even seen in the film, and that is telling because of the nature of Truman’s reality. All the items that Truman eats have not been chosen by him, they have been put into his world in order to make money off of advertising. In this way, the Penn Pavel beer that Marlon showed off can be seen as a metaphor for Truman himself. The beer is completely real, but everything about its placement in Truman’s life is fake. Like the beer, Truman is a completely normal person. He is funny, kind, and a good person, and yet he is living in a fantasy world created especially for him. Out in the real world, Truman would still be the same person, but he is stuck in Seahaven because he is being used as a prop for the benefit of the T.V. producers.
In addition to product placement, food is used as a prop in Truman’s life. After Truman begins to realize he is in a T.V. show, he goes to visit Marlon at work. Marlon works for a company that stocks vending machines, and Truman walks in as he is working. The camera angle in this scene is interesting because it shows Truman and Marlon from the inside of the vending machine (34:47:00). The director chose this shot to illustrate the fact that Truman is always being watched, but it also sends a message about Marlon’s role in Truman’s life. Marlon is Truman’s trusted companion, yet in many instances it is Marlon that is stocking Truman’s life with events to control him. Just like in his fake job as a vending stocker, Marlon always shows up in Truman’s life when he is going out of bounds. Therefore, in the same way that Marlon stocks the vending machines with food that is not real, so does he do the same with Truman’s life.
Overall, The Truman Show uses the element of food in product placements and as props to emphasize the fact that Truman’s life is not real. All the food that is in his life is there because of product placement, and all the food items he uses are sold to consumers in the real world. The fact that the food in the show is real but also completely fake represents Truman’s life because he is merely a man that has been placed in a fake world against his will. This world is controlled by his friends and family, including his best friend Marlon who stocks vending machines, but also acts as Truman’s main manipulator.
The Truman Show. Dir. Weir, Peter, Perf. Jim Carrey and Noah Emmerich Universal Pictures, 1998.