REALLY Candid Camera

  Imagine that everything you ever did—every word you spoke, every act you engaged in—has been videotaped and broadcast live to the entire world. That's the premise of The Truman Show, the hit film starring Jim Carrey. The film raises profound moral and cultural questions. What happens to human dignity in today's increasingly intrusive culture? The Truman Show features a young man called Truman who was adopted at birth by a corporation. Truman lives on a gigantic island stage set that's bristling with thousands of hidden television cameras. From the day he was born, every moment of Truman's life—no matter how private—has been witnessed by millions of strangers. Everybody Truman knows—his neighbors, his colleagues at work, even his wife—are in reality paid actors. A television producer decides who Truman will meet, who his best friend will be, and even who he will marry. Millions of people eagerly listen in when Truman and his wife discuss whether or not to have a baby. In effect, Truman has been turned into a source of entertainment for the whole world. Well before you dismiss this film as bizarre fantasy, consider this: Just last week a woman gave birth to a baby live on the Internet. Another young woman named Jenny televises her own life on the Internet 24 hours a day. You can watch Jenny sleep, eat, and bathe. And when she and her boyfriend become amorous—well, you get the idea. And then there's the so-called "reality television," which features "scariest police chases" and "when animals attack?" Increasingly, our relationship to other people is that of audience to entertainer. But what happens when we treat people as mere objects of entertainment for curiosity? First, we destroy their dignity as human beings. And second, we ourselves are coarsened, rendered less human. For example, near the end of The Truman Show, Truman's life is threatened—and yet none of The Truman Show's crew members try to save him. To them, it's more important to entertain viewers than to save Truman's life. The effect on the people who have spent their lives watching Truman grow up is much the same. As a tidal wave threatens to capsize Truman's boat, a policeman turns to his buddy and says, "See what else is on." He doesn't care what happens to Truman, because Truman is no longer human. At the core of the biblical understanding of what it means to be human is the notion of personal dignity and respect for the person. In a biblical worldview, people are created in the image of God, endowed with intrinsic worth and dignity. And anything that assaults that dignity is an affront to the God who created us. When we strip away dignity and use people for our own amusement, when we invade privacy as is so easy to do today in our high tech era, we turn people into commodities. And eventually, we will loose any sense that we ourselves have value. If you and your friends go to see The Truman Show, take some time afterwards to discuss the real moral messages. What happens to human dignity when we invade privacy and exploit people for entertainment? You might even open up a good discussion of where human dignity comes from in the first place. It comes from only one place, as you and I know—from the One who created us in His very own image.


Chuck Colson


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