Remember Jim Carrey in The Truman Show?
For months after seeing it at my friend’s 10th birthday, I was ridiculously suspicious of my surroundings. Was my mom really changing the battery on the smoke detector, or was she adjusting the hidden camera? Had the entire free world seen Becca and me pretending our Barbies were having sex? I remember having a very grave conversation with my 8 year old brother about my misgivings toward the dining room chandelier. The movie puts you on edge, because, if you’re like me, you hate the idea of your life being run by something outside of you and you hate the idea of being kept ignorant.
Sometimes, looking back, I feel like I did kind of grow up like little Truman. Not in the sense that I was adopted by a media corporation as an infant or that my mom was hired actress, but that decisions were made for me, my environment was strictly monitored, even fabricated. Remember the lengths the producers went to when Truman tried to leave the “island”? They set dogs on him, collapsed the bridge, drowned his father. They did everything in their power to keep him in his world, and my parents did everything they could to keep me in a purely Christian world. If I tried to venture into the secular realm, I was cut off and offered a Christian alternative.
I remember when my best friend Jared secretly bought the Backstreet Boys Millennium album. We kept it hidden in his room because neither of us was allowed to listen to secular music. I actually don’t think we listened to it for the first month or so, we were so nervous, we just took it out and admired how white their shoes and smiles were, occasionally gushing about how happy we were that Brian recovered from his heart surgery. Jared’s mom found the CD and threw it away and we both cried and listened bitterly to the Carmen’s RIOT that she bought him as a consolation gift.
I pendulate between feeling upset at being so sheltered, so boxed in by my Christian bubble, and being thankful for parents who just wanted me to feel safe. Do you remember when Truman finally sets his mind to escaping and sails literally into the edge of his world? The producer of the show, who has seen him grow from a baby and has designed the only world Truman has ever known, comes over the loudspeaker and tries to convince him to stay. He asks Truman not to be angry, but thankful because he was only trying to protect him from the cruelty of the world outside. He created a safe space for Truman to live and grow. I know my parents are not these sinister psychologists doing experiments on me by controlling my environment…they love me so much they tried to keep me in a world where I could roam freely. A world where joy and hope had a fighting chance. I don’t blame them, but as I get older and think about my own kids, I’m plagued with the question of when should this end? At what point does the Christian culture stop being safety and start crippling us? We have to live in the real world at some point- when should our parents start preparing us for that?
In my seventh grade science class, we were each given a caterpillar. We fed it this weird goop and eventually, they all wove themselves into little cocoons and we waited for them to emerge as butterflies. I have an embarrassing phobia toward moths and this makes me wary of butterflies, but this didn’t stand in the way of my overachieving nature. I wanted my butterfly to come out first, so when the cocoons started shaking and pulsing, I put a little slice in the side of mine, to help the little guy along. My butterfly came out limp and sickly and died soon after. Mrs. Bishop judged me through her bifocals and patiently explained that a butterfly needs to struggle out of the cocoon in order to develop the muscles to actually fly. Of course I denied helping my cocoon in any way, but I still feel a little flutter of guilt deep in my ribcage when I think about that little butterfly. I was just trying to help, but I killed it. When Truman actually escaped his island, when I finally made it out of the Christian bubble, stepped out blinking into the blinding reality of life, my question is, were we protected or crippled? Should we be fed reality in little jars like baby food? Or simply thrust into the water, learning to swim out of necessity?