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The Truman Show and Pattern Recognition: A Comparison Between the Film and Novel



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     The use of films, newspapers, magazines, and radio has been perfected as a means to convey ideas, promote politicians, and persuade consumers into buying products or services. The media industry knows how to target and manipulate the public through methods scientifically developed.

    Advertising is undoubtedly the largest division of the media industry because of the revenue it generates. Propaganda and social control play roles that are equally influential as advertising even though they deliver a less tangible reward than money. The logos of hundreds of corporations are easily recognizable to most citizens and this fact alone demonstrates how effective they have been with their marketing methods. The newspapers and broadcast news repeat, repeat, and repeat the desired message or point of view they wish the viewers to adopt.

    The media bombards the public with bits of information carefully tailored to have the optimum effect whether its purpose is selling a pair of shoes or assuring the public that the worst of the economic downturn is behind us and it is starting to rebound. The mass distribution and exportation of ideas has been recognized as a powerful tool since the first printing press. The advent of instantaneous communication at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries is when the weapons of mass-media could be aimed at an unprecedented number of people. Starting with the radio, technology has steadily developed more complex and efficient means of mass communication such as movies, television, and the internet.

    The result has been the creation of two competing realities: the daily, real lives of ordinary citizens and the artificial reality that has emerged from the massive yet exquisitely precise mechanisms of the mass-media.Two stories, one is a book, the other a film, serve to illustrate how influential modern mass-media is on our daily lives. Realities are virtually created or superimposed over our real lives through the techniques used by those who control or have access to the devices of modern mass communication. In the movie The Truman Show (1998), the main character portrayed by Jim Carey is living in a world that is nothing more than an elaborate series of stage props with hidden cameras everywhere because he is the star of a long running reality show.

    He has no knowledge that every person he has known his entire life are actors on the popular television show. The second story is the book Pattern Recognition (2003) by William Gibson. The main character is Cayce Pollard, a consultant on the effectiveness of corporate logos. Pollard is uniquely qualified for this career because she is strangely sensitive to corporate logos.

    She is so sensitive, in fact, that she reacts as if she had hay fever or some other type of auto-immune reaction to allergens. She is thrust into a situation where she is manipulated into locating the maker of some film clips circulating on the web so that any potential for marketing can be extracted. The novel and the movie present worlds that are constructed, at least partially, from the commercialization and marketing of every conceivable item and service and the tools of persuasion conveyed through mass-media. In both worlds, the media is preeminent and certain human qualities are exploited to perpetuate an endless cycle of marketing and consumption.

     The driving force in both worlds is the marketing of products, entertainment and services to the population. In The Truman Show, Truman Burbank has been living an existence solely for the entertainment of the television audience without consideration for his rights as a human. The success of the show far outweighs any trauma Truman may sustain. Even when the director of the number one hit show is confronted by an angry viewer who charges that Truman’s life is no different from a prisoner, he dismisses this assertion incredulously.

    Truman literally lives the life of a human gerbil in a transparent terrarium and has the social status of a goldfish . In the future/present world depicted in Pattern Recognition, the main character, Cayce, is an advertising consultant who has allergic reactions to certain corporate logos, especially the Michelin Man. The author obviously wishes to emphasize how the world he has created in his novel has been conquered by the subtle methods utilized by corporate marketing and advertising. Cayce’s aversion to industry logos must have been the result of a non-stop mantra of logos chanted by the high priests of corporate advertisements carried by the invisible waves of  radio and television to the great masses of people.

    More frighteningly, this is arguably a very accurate description of the modern world. The parallels of the respective worlds of The Truman Show and Pattern Recognition are a warning from the writers about the power of the information carried by the mass-media can truly shape and alter our perceptions of reality.Both fictional worlds are dominated by media systems that feed off their manipulation public in order to assure the continuity and the expansion of the market, increasing the number of customers and the need for more advertising and marketing, ad infinitude. Pattern Recognition is propensity of humans to find patterns in the information processed by the brain.

    This is a double-edged sword because overzealous neurological processes can mistakenly find patterns in otherwise meaningless data when, in reality, there are no patterns. An irony arising from the general enthusiasm to make a profit from anything and everything is presented in Pattern Recognition. Early in the book, Cayce has traveled to London where she has been hired by a shoe company to help them make a good choice for a new logo design. Around this time, a posting of some mysterious film clips has become phenomenally popular and  generated a near-cult following.

    Several web sites and chat-rooms have popped up to discuss the origins of the  mysterious video clips, known collectively as “The Footage.” Cayce has had a keen interest in  “The Footage” and has participated in online discussions relating to it. To her surprise, the head of the London firm that has hired her asks her to discover who the creator of The Footage is so they might acquire it and use it for their own marketing purposes. The quest for The Footage requires some country hopping through Asia and endangers her own welfare.

    The irony is that The Footage is nothing more than a few frames taken from a security camera. The importance and value placed on The Footage was based on false assumptions and conjecture. The Footage is representative of who knows how many other trends and successes within popular culture that  gain notoriety  simply because a person or small number of persons deem it to be “cool” or whatever. They may  possibly be an influential celebrity, a complete nobody, or media pundit.

    The media will grab on to these short-lived fashions or video clips…whatever form they take and propel these trivial little tidbits to superstar heights.

    The power of television, the internet, and wireless communications are influential enough to make some chewing gum on the bottom of somebody’s shoe be revered as a king-if the right person gives a nod of approval to the next trendy saying, clothing trend, or viral video of some kid talking to his father on his way home from the dentist while still under the influence of Novocaine. The audience in The Truman Show also manipulated through the cruel switch-ups, the coordinated traffic jams to prevent his escape from Sea-Haven, and the shuffling of characters to keep them in suspense to make sure they return for the next episode thus preserving the media machine in an endless, vicious cycle.Both stories convey a message of warning about the power of the advertising industry and the media to shape our ideas and perceptions. These warnings are not intended for us to prevent this unchecked power from gaining a foothold in our future society: they are a wake-up call to the fact that it has been here for quite some time.

    It is very difficult to measure the impact from the advertising and marketing industry has on society. It is almost impossible to quantify how much  people are swayed by the arsenal of subliminal ads and all the other ways consumers are targeted  so they will buy a certain brand. I have an instinctive feeling that it is much more than many would care to contemplate.;

    The Truman Show and Pattern Recognition: A Comparison Between the Film and Novel. (2017, Mar 12). Retrieved from

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