Theatre of/or Truth

Maaike Bleeker


The famous scene near the end of The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998), when Truman’s boat hits the wall of the television studio that has been his life’s scenery, is a moment of truth. Fans throughout the world hold their breath, glued to their television sets. Will Truman finally discover that his life has been no more than theatre? Will he break free from his world of shadows to enter the real world, outside the studio? ‘Come on Truman, you can do it!’ When he finally takes a bow and steps outside, his fans cheer with delight, ‘he made it!’ Which is, actually, a rather surprising response, given the fact that his discovery means the end of the TV show that has been important to this same audience for many years. A show, furthermore, that thrived upon Truman’s carefully kept ignorance, a condition enforced upon him, for their pleasure. Nevertheless, the audience celebrates Truman’s discovery as a triumph. The Truman Show, argues Slavoj Zizek (2002), is the ultimate paranoiac fantasy of an individual who suddenly starts to suspect that the world he is living in is a fake, a spectacle in which everyone around him are in fact the actors and extras in a gigantic broadcast. The ending reads as the promise that there is a real world ‘out there’ after all, and that this real world is theirs.

Full Text:



Buck-Morss, Susan. Thinking Past Terror. Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left. (London and New York: Verso, 2003).

Bury, Stephen. Interface (New York et al.: Bantam Books, 1994).

Davis, Tracy. ‘Theatricality and Civil Society’ in Tracy Davis and Thomas Postlewait. Theatricality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 127-155.

Freedman, Barbara. Staging the Gaze. Postmodernism, Psychoanalysis, and Shakespearean Comedy (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991).

Fried, Michael. Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1980).

Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual. Movement, Affect, Sensation (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002).

Silverman, Kaja. Male Subjectivity at the Margins (New York and London: Routledge, 1992). Weber, Samuel. Theatricality as Medium (New York: Fordham University Press, 2004).

Zizek, Slavoj. Welcome to the Desert of the Real! Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates (London and New York: Verso, 2002).


Fahrenheit 9/11. Directed by Michael Moore. Dog Eat Dog Films, 2004.

The Truman Show. Directed by Peter Weir, 1998


Everybody for Berlusconi. Created by Betontanc (Slovenia) & Jong Hollandia (the Netherlands), 2004.

Guantanamo Bay, the Musical. Directed by Peter Misotten. Toneelacademie Maastricht in collaboration with the Filmfabriek, 2004

Lecture on Lecture with Actress. Created by Barbara Visser, 2004.


  • There are currently no refbacks.