The first time I saw Jim Carrey’s foray into “fantasy-comedy”, The Truman Show, I almost thought it was too crazy and too far-fetched for me to even sit through. The fact that someone’s entire life could be turned into a sitcom and into some sort of reality show was beyond my comprehension and almost seemed like a waste of my time to even consider. The fact that the broadcasting of someone’s reality could be something that could be the downfall of a person was even more far-fetched to me, because I still believed media only could be a commentary on someone’s reality… not actually someone’s reality and could not actually impact someone’s reality in any emotional or monetary way unless someone was working for a media outlet or a television show. I thought The Truman Show was just an ineffective movie that was posing as some sort of commentary. I thought The Truman Show was some 1984 esque sort of paranoia and fear-based movie disguised as a comedy and I thought this dystopian type of narrative was something that I could easily dismiss. If anything like The Truman Show was coming headfirst towards our reality, it was doing so at a snails pace, and wouldn’t be our actual world until I was long in my grave. Television was a separate world from reality, the internet was just really a figment of our imagination, and Y2K was really the only thing to worry about.
Fast-forward about a decade and a half later, The Truman Show is reality. We are all hosting our own reality shows, even if it is unwillingly or unknowingly. A good portion of our country is commentating their lives for an audience on Facebook, because it gives them enjoyment or because they believe it is a necessary habit. A good portion of our country is posting their thoughts on elections, food, and on other things they are uneducated on through writing on Twitter. A good portion of our country is documenting the most mundane and most criminal actions of their life on Snapchat. They are using Instagram to post their pictures of their adventures and their food (why does everyone do this?) they are posting memes of celebrities and assigning them insane quotes they would never consider actually saying, and they are having a collective meltdown anytime Drake breathes and anytime anyone gets lip injections. While we are not focusing our attention on one person’s life, all of our lives in a certain way have turned into a reality show that anyone can view.
There’s many positives and negatives to this development, which is usually the case with most seismic sized changes in the way we communicate with each other and the way we interact. The fact that more people have a platform to express themselves means that we get more diverse and more informed voices in our daily lives. Instead of having the same voices from the same backgrounds writing for the same newspapers in the same formulaic matter, we have more informed and more diverse commentaries on just about every issue and we have already seen the positive change that can come as a result of this. We learn more and more from these distinct voices, these distinct voices serve as a viable threat to the brainwashing narratives of the monoculture, and we understand each other more as human beings usually because of this. You could argue that the emergence of The Truman Show culture, where every human being is essentially a part of their own talk-show and is speaking their own unique opinions, allows for more distinct and unique voices to impact political and social change, and therefore is a more accurate demonstration of democracy then the culture we had where media and ordinary life where more and mostly separated. You could argue that if more voices are heard and impacting the state of their society in a rational way, that the more powerful and less diverse representatives of these people have less and less power, and in turn the people have power instead of the privileged and the corporate. If the people can control more instead of the representatives and the corporations controlling these representatives having a monopoly on opinion in our culture, then we have a more accurate democracy as a Truman Showdemocracy then as a representative Democracy or as some sort of republicanism. The internet, where voices are currency and this currency is equal spread out on social media platforms for the most part, is the most pure form of what the ignorant assume democracy is: “one voice for one person”. The equality and diversity of this voices is a more accurate representation of our people, and this reality is made possible in large-part due to our social-media driven and Truman Showculture. The multiplicity of these voices is the perfect anti-dote and perfect competition for the monoculture we were used to.
Of course, the inevitable consequence of this is that the monoculture feels threatened by this new inclusiveness and these new voices, and they try to find anyway for society to revert and find false voices and false spokesmen for their frustrations. This is a partial explanation to the Donald Trump phenomenon and why so many people have such admiration for his ability to “tell it like it is”. The mass acceleration of media and the mass accumulation of voices have given more awareness to concepts like “political correctness,” and many of the tenets of political correctness seem to be a threat to the way of life and the way of expressing speech of many of the monoculture. Suddenly what was what commonplace is now something you can be called out on, fired for, or even face social exile for. It is an entirely new world and it is frustrating and difficult to make sense out of for many who swore that the old world might have been gospel. These folks, part of the monoculture, feel not only threatened but silenced, and Donald Trump is their face for their Cold War against The Truman Show culture. He says what he wants, regardless of who it may offend and more importantly regardless of who it may offend online, and regardless of policy this is someone they want representing them. He also might be a mess of a President, but he is the perfect rival for our new culture.
Another one of the natural consequences of this culture is that an obligation to document every facet of your life in some technological form can naturally be a threat to your own welfare. Human beings are prone to make mistakes especially in their youth and now often times these human beings, especially those who may be in their youth, feel the need to take videos of themselves making these mistakes. Even though they may only intend for these videos to be seen by a select few, that trust can be broken depending on circumstance. Their trust and their obligatory need to video themselves or take pictures of themselves are the reason they decide to go through with this behavior, but many times we have seen that their trust is somewhat naive and like I mentioned earlier even more circumstantial. The problem with broadcast every facet of your life even for a small audience is that the small audience can instantly become a large audience depending on how your relationship with that smaller audiences changes. This is the reason for the “Revenge Porn” epidemic, where spurned lovers release videos of their ex’s doing sexual acts after they broken their hearts. It is the reason why screenshots of texts or embarrassing or explicit videos are leaked by “third parties” who got the explicit videos from or texts from a second party. It is the reason that many careers have been ruined, many reputations have been ruined, and many people who would have been “safe” in the monoculture where the most taboo was required to be the most hidden are now wearing the largest scarlet letters.
Something Laremy Tunsil, a star offensive tackle from Ole Miss, meant to broadcast only for a small audience was leaked out to the world ten minutes before the NFL Draft and because of this “taboo” action being leaked, Tunsil reputation was compromised and he was robbed of millions of dollars. Some background: Tunsil, a rare combination of athleticism and size at the offensive tackle position, was almost a sure-fire top-five pick before 7:47 PM on this past Thursday night. He was one of the more impressive players in the entire draft and one of the players who we were sure was going to be someone who was going to be Pro Bowler. But what we didn’t know was that a video of him smoking pot out of a gas mask would emerge. This video made Tunsil fall from a sure-fire top-five pick to the 13th pick. The video cost Tunsil $8 million dollars at the minimum and will probably cost him even more in endorsements.
It was The Truman Show taking place in front of us: the blending of our new culture that promotes an almost taboo openness with a culture that values the minimizing of distractions and the minimization of personalities; a culture that values conformity over everything else. Regardless of how many NFL players smoke marijuana, I’m guessing it is somewhere in the neighborhood of 110%, Tunsil was seen as someone who was a distraction and someone who was too much of aTruman Show for a culture stuck in the era of conformity. Even though many would argue a video of Tunsil drinking would have actually been more harmful to Tunsil and to society, Tunsil’s “taboo” behavior was broadcast to the entire world and he was punished because of it. Tusnil broke the trust in someone in the small audience he sent this video to and because of this someone in this audience exposed one of his taboo behaviors to a large audience and cost him millions of dollars and cost him his reputation. Tunsil’s video scandal perfectly shows us one of the negative aspects of Truman Show culture…. that when everything in your life is broadcast for consumption, no matter how small the number the original broadcast was intended for, your life can be instantly changed because you are prone to broadcast a mistake if everything in your life is being broadcasted. And if this mistake goes against the morals of a group in power, especially if that group in power is who you are seeking employment with, your reputation will be ruined to this group and your ability to be of high value to this group will also be compromised.
Another interesting way to view this event is the culture of the NFL versus the modern Truman Show culture that many of its athletes are participating in. The NFL corporately stands for the interests of its owners, who the NFL is supposed to represent and collectively bargain for. These owners, mainly homogenous in culture and concerned with their own profitability, are genuinely in favor of the monoculture and will be against in culture that questions or threatens this culture. This means that the NFL wants its players to broadcast as little of their lives as possible and means the NFL will view the broadcasting of some of the aspects of these athletes lives as “taboo,” and they will often label these behaviors as distractions. Even the act of speaking out against the monoculture is labeled as a “distraction,” so smoking something that is still illegal in many states and is offensive to many people in the monoculture will definitely be a “distraction”. Since distractions are to be minimized and the broadcast everything Truman Show culture is the opposite of what many NFL teams want, the Tunsil video, as harmless as many would argue it was, was the EXACT opposite of what NFL owners and executives are looking for. Since it is the exact opposite of what NFL teams are looking for, Tunsil was naturally penalized harshly despite his overwhelming talent and the conclusion that he will be a Pro Bowler.
It also shows you the NFL’s morality is conditional and it’s punishment of players is dependent on how many people can see their taboo behavior being broadcast. Tunsil, who many NFL executives and owners knew casually smoked marijuana like all of the other players in the NFL, was only “punished” when this “taboo” behavior was seen by millions. Ray Rice was not punished harshly until the video of him assaulting his wife was released into The Truman Show culture. Taboo isn’t taboo until it is subject to public opinion and public opinion isn’t in play until the taboo action enters the Truman Show culture. A distraction isn’t a distraction until it reaches the Truman Show. Why do these owners react so harshly to these distractions? Because these distractions could offend both of these cultures- the monoculture and the Truman Show culture- and because of this could impact their bottom-line, the profitability of their team if any of these members of these particular cultures strike or refuse to buy the merchandise of the players of these teams. And that is why when the Truman Showculture meets the NFL culture, the NFL often slaps down the Truman Show culture.
It was just so fascinating to see someone caught in the middle of these opposing cultures and opposing currents on live television. It was the perfect synopsis of the war going on between both cultures and the power that this new social-media based culture has… and it was played out on live television.
The Truman Show came to life during the NFL Draft and Laremy Tunsil was the new Jim Carrey.
The star of our show continued to suffer from public embarrassment after the Draft, as his broadcasts that were only intended for the smallest of audiences were once again put in front of a worldwide audience. A private texting conversation between Tunsil and one of his coaches at Ole Miss, a conversation where Tunsil asked a coach to help his mother pay a water bill, was leaked to the public. Tunsil, who wasn’t prepared to handle questions about this while he was at a press conference answering questions about his video where he was smoking pot, admitted that he did have this conversation with an Ole Miss coach about receiving benefits and that he and his family did receive benefits while he was at Ole Miss. His whole life being broadcasted in front of us, Tunsil might have put Ole Miss on probation.
The fact that Ole Miss will get punished for helping Tunsil pay some bills, while Tunsil and the football team helps make Ole Miss, the SEC, and the NCAA millions of dollars is asinine and borderline criminal to some, to others it is the way things should be. This is yet another war that seems to be between the monoculture and between the Truman Show culture, and Tunsil is exposing it to us. The monoculture would argue that Tunsil, a student-athlete, should not receive benefits that any other student-athlete would not be able to receive. The new culture would argue that Tunsil should be compensated like an employee and not like a student and should be able to have at least a stipend, that would allow for his mother to pay bills.
The notion of the student-athlete and the argument that the NCAA actually cares about the quality of the education a student receives is being further scrutinized this week with the announcement that the University of North Carolina football and basketball teams will receive virtually no punishment for their twenty-plus years of academic fraud. The NCAA says that they cannot control the way the University issues their courses or the content of those courses. Essentially saying that if a University wants to have “fake classes,” then they have every right to have as many “fake classes” as they want to have. As long as the players pass these “fake classes” and these classes are available to the general public, the NCAA has absolutely no problem with them.
Of course, even though UNC did not technically violate any NCAA rules, the notion that the NCAA does not have any rules regarding the quality of education a student receives and that they do not care if these athletes took “fake classes” that would under any other set of circumstances compromise their eligibility is mind-blowing and seems to be a direct-contradiction of their belief that their main priority is for athletes to be “student-athletes,” where their education and their importance of their education comes first and is of primary importance, it is even the main way they are being compensated for playing a sport they help generate millions of dollars for their school and their conference for. If the NCAA does not care if athletes are really students, then why are they considered student-athletes? If the NCAA does not care if athletes are receiving a quality education, how can they consider their education a great form of payment for athletes that are generating millions upon millions of dollars for them? If the NCAA does not care about the quality of education a school gives these athletes while they are in college and leaves all eligibility issues up to the college, why are they so concerned with filtering through high school test scores and determining the eligibility of high school students before they reach campus?
Derrick Rose was ruled ineligible for his one season of college because he supposedly received some assistance on a high-school test. Memphis saw a reduction in the number of scholarships it could offer for basketball players, it saw the results of what was probably the most successful season in their history vacated, and it saw the reputation of their Hall-of-Fame head coach ruined. North Carolina played players that we would probably consider ineligible for decades and they will receive no punishment. The only reason is that the NCAA doesn’t monitor the academic activities of colleges, it basically does not matter at all if the athletes in college are eligible or not. And because of this, Memphis will be penalized more than UNC, even though UNC played dozens of ineligible players to the one ineligible player at Memphis. How does that make any sense?
UNC will continued to be perceived as the gold-standard for the “student-athlete” theory when they should be the poster school for why it is a totally flawed concept. If the NCAA doesn’t monitor the academics of their colleges, they shouldn’t be considered an institution that compensates its athletes on the basis of a quality education. If the NCAA doesn’t regulate the academics of a college, they should not regulate who and who can not attend a college. If the NCAA continues to regulate who and who can not go to a college, they should be as strict with the monitoring of a students academic progress and the validity of the students education while they are in college. If the NCAA does not care about the quality of the student-athletes education while they are in college, then they should not consider the main form of compensation for these athletes to be a quality and free education. If a quality and free education is not an effective mode of compensation for these athletes, then they must be compensated in a more fair and more honest way.
If these athletes are compensated in an honest way that is outside of their education, then the NCAA shouldn’t punish Ole Miss.
But they will. Ole Miss will be put on probation, while UNC will continue to thrive. Tunsil’s reputation will be ruined, while the myth of the student athlete will persist. Tunsil will be judged for smoking pot, while other people doing things much worst will go unpunished because these actions were not part of The Truman Show, they were not broadcasted. Tunsil life unraveling in front of us was fascinating for many reasons, but it was also a fascinating reminder. For all of the change the social media culture is advocating for and for all the openness and logical thinking it is promoting, many flawed concepts and beliefs and corporations are still winning. When Tunsil’s life was broadcast for the world, he lost and his school lost. The Truman Showis here, but the results are mixed. The monoculture is still powerful.
But at least The Truman Show culture is giving it one hell of a fight.