To many Christians who viewed The Truman Show, the message was clearly anti-religion and perhaps even anti-Christian. Christian screenwriter and author Brian Godawa, for example, concluded that the message behind The Truman Show was “submission to God leads to slavery.”[i] If this sounds like a paranoid reading of the film, consider some of the details (remember, everything noticeable in a film matters!).

  • The director of the show is named Christof (“Christ-Off” or “of Christ”?) who of calls himself the Creator and acts like God by controlling the world speaking invisibly from the sky (“Cue the sun!” cf. Gen. 1:3 and 14-15).
  • The star of the show, Truman, is the “firstborn” (to the studio), feeds 5,000 (cameras), walks on water, undergoes a baptism, crosses a stormy sea in a boat, takes up a crucifixion position, resurrects, and ascends into the sky.
  • The challenge to Truman’s ignorance begins when a studio light “star”  named “Sirius 9 Canus Major” (aka “the morning star”) falls from heaven (see Isa. 14:12-14!) which leads the first man to seek knowledge – some of which he gets from his “first woman” (Sylvia, whose name is associated with trees).

There is simply too much biblical imagery here to ignore, especially considering that the film’s story could have been told without any of these Christian “Easter eggs” thrown in. Given the shape of the narrative and the use of such obviously intentional “symbolism,” it seems that Godawa’s analysis could be spot on.

Other Christian reviewers disagree, however. Steven Greydanus notes that although “the imagery of the film’s final act is suggestive [of] an anti-religious parable about rejecting God . . . a fleeting climactic prayer to the real God offered on Truman’s behalf suggests that the target is not God, but his presumptuous imitators.”[ii] Another reviewer, Mark Shea, brings this theme out even more, pointing out that the one praying, Sylvia, had an original show name of Lauren (a name meaning “guardian spirit”), and wears rosary-like beads on her wrist. Truman’s means of escaping the fake world of Christof is to sail on a boat (an ancient symbol of the Church) named the Santa Maria (St. Mary)! Thus, Shea concludes that The Truman Show is “highly amenable to the Catholic hope of Heaven. For it is, after all, Jesus who condemns ‘the god of this world’ and assures us there is a reality which is larger than what we see around us.”[iii]

So which is it? Is The Truman Show a brilliantly subversive film attacking religion and the sovereignty of God, or is it rather celebrating the true God’s gift of human freedom in its criticism of those who would take his place?

The rest of this new chapter in The Message Behind the Movie is coming soon!

[i] Brian Godawa, Hollywood Worldviews (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2002), 52.

[ii] Steven Greydanus, “The Truman Show

[iii] Mark Shea, “A Catholic Look at The Truman Show