I wonder why Carrey made so few smart films.
Besides all the VFX paraphernalia and cult following, one of the biggest The Matrix’s (Wachowski Brothers, 1999) achievement was putting a lot of teenagers to read. Yeah, amazingly as it sounds, a lot of instant fans of the movie (including myself) were dragged to cyberpunk genre books, like William Gibson’s Neuromancer (highly recommended) and one little philosophical treatise from the 80’s: Simulacra and Simulation, by Jean Baudrillard.
Quoting Wikipedia, Simulacra and Simulation is most known for its discussion of images, signs, and how they relate to contemporaneity. It’s said that the Wachowski brothers required all the cast from The Matrix to read the book as an essential piece to understand the script’s motivation.
Teenagers reading (no matter what they were reading) inspired by a science-fiction cult movie full of guns and leather costumes.
So, why the fuck is there a quote from Jim Carrey in The Truman Show (Peter Weir,1998) as the title of this post?
Because Baudrillard himself heavily criticized The Matrix interpretation of Simulacra and Simulation as a misunderstanding of the core ideas of his writing. In other words: The Wachowski brothers didn’t get it. Not even close.
On the other hand, even when it isn’t entirely related to Simulacra and Simulation either, The Truman Show is closer to the general ideas and questionings of Baudrillard’s work that The Matrix unsuccesfully tried to portray.
While Neo & Co. were fighting black-suited anthropomorphic pieces of software, Christof (Ed Harris) was directing a life-long reality show about Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), who was imprisoned in a massive set since his birth, and his life was the main plot of the biggest TV show ever made by mankind (The Truman Show). All that with Truman not knowing shit about it.
What movie has the creepiest plot until now?.
I’m not assuming you didn’t watch The Truman Show. It was a big hit back in 1998. But it so happens that the film is not regarded widely as a deep drama, and in my opinion, one of the best science fiction movies in existence.
The Matrix interpretation of simulation was dead-seriously literal. The movie depicts an apocaliptic, ciberpunk and violently cheesy not-near future when humans were trying to scape from a computer generated reality built by machines.
The Truman Show interpretation of simulation was a critical statement about society’s entertainment consumption and what reality means to those who produced the media we consumed, and those who comsume it; all that done by using a plot depicting a kind of TV shows that actually became a major phenomena just after the release of the film, as Truman Show itself did in the movie.
I insist, what movie has the creepiest plot by now?. Hint: Snooki is part of the answer.
I read Braudillard work back in 2000, and I consider myself just a philosphy enthusiast, but even back then I found both Wachowski’s interpretation and Braudillard’s book at least questionable. The first one due to the point I’ve just made, and the second because Braudillard writing is obscure and hard to understand due to his prose (which is one of the general critics of Braudillard’s work anyway). I wouldn’t be surprise if The Matrix interpretation was a result of the Wachowski brothers having a bad time trying to unlock Braudillard’s ideas and saying: fuck this shit!, this doesn’t make sense anyway, our movie shouldn’t make it either.
Watch The Truman Show whether you have or haven’t seen it yet. It is a big deal to me regarding game design today.
Alternate Rality Games fascinate me in a way so few subjects in life do.
Braudillard work is not (not even close) the only – nor the best- philosophical work about how imagery, signs, rituals and myths and how they influence and change our perception of reality. Actually, as you may remember by now, reality is a philosophical discussion which tracks back to Plato’s Cave. I just find Simulacra and Simulation as a good start from the pop-culture point of view. That is, if you managed yourself to start thinking about Carrey’s extremely irritating, gentle personality in The Truman Show, and stop thinking about Carrie-Anne Moss and her tight leather suit in The Matrix.
I’m not pretending here to be all philosophical and such. I’m not interested in what reality is because there is a much interesting matter here: how reality can be changed through game design. Which is a big deal by the way.
There is a lot of work on that, and actually now I’ve found myself working on the matter from the anthropological point of view with the aid of an antropologist friend. All blurry right now, but very interesting.
Consider this post as a little introduction to that work I’m on, and to ARG game design and how reality can be changed (and actually, has been changed) due to their influence.