Abstract: Peter Weir's The Truman Show (1998) has been studied as an example of Debord's theory of the spectacle; as such, many theorists have shown how Truman is a commodified object constructed for "entertainment" for the masses, also noting how we ourselves are complicit in the consumption of media that dehumanize. In this essay, the author argues that, while a decided exemplar of postmodernism's "society of the spectacle," the film is also a corporealization of poststructuralist Michel Foucault's (Discipline) concept of the panopticon, illustrating how a consideration of social spaces (mental, medical, penal, laboral, educational) yields a fuller understanding of Truman's predicament as (un)knowing prisoner/performer. Through an analysis of power, ideology, hegemony, and whiteness as they are re-presented in The Truman Show , we can more thoroughly articulate Truman's condition as a panoptic object who is regulated and hegemonized under the watchful eyes of a Master—himself synecdochic of Authority, Reason, and Truth—and those of a voracious public. The result is an indeterminate, postmodern, dystopian vision of mediated masses and the power apparatuses they/we wield through the act of watching .
Utopian Studies – Penn State University Press
Published: Apr 17, 2011
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