by guest writer Sarah Callen
The Truman Show is a familiar story that follows a man named Truman (Jim Carrey) who discovers that he is the star of his own reality television show. From his birth, he has unknowingly been part of the lives of millions of people. A few weeks before his 30th birthday, things begin to unravel and his entire world is rocked.
I recently rewatched this movie and it is truly incredible. Honestly, I don’t think that it gets nearly enough credit. It’s incredibly well-written—every single thing was right on time and there isn’t a moment of lazy writing. The directing and performances are also spot-on. Everything works together to create a world and message that is still shockingly relevant today, over 20 years after the film’s release.
Upon this latest viewing, I was particularly fascinated by Christof (Ed Harris), the director of this entire operation. He is responsible for coming up with the idea and crafting the world that Truman has been living in his entire life. As I watched this story unfold before my eyes and I saw more of Christof’s character, I felt empathy for him.
As the movie’s primary antagonist, I didn’t expect to relate to him as much as I did. Whenever I watch a film, I want to connect with the main protagonist—the hero—as they navigate through the murky waters of the story. But I couldn’t help but connect with the mastermind director who relishes pulling the strings, controlling the utopia he has created.
I related to him because I do that all the time. Obviously, I am not running an entire town and manipulating a man into staying there—I’m not that crazy. But in little ways, throughout my day, I seek to control. Like Christof, if I’m not careful, I can develop a severe god-complex. I can see myself as the savior of it all and the one who should be in charge of everything.
But the more I’ve thought about Christof and my own tendencies, I’ve realized that my desire to be in control ends up with me being controlling.
At the climax of the film, Truman conquers his fear of the water and begins sailing away from the life he has known. In response, Christof begins yelling instructions to the production team, desperate to stop Truman from leaving. As he barks orders, it’s clear that the others disagree with what he’s doing. Christof’s instructions could lead to Truman’s death. But he doesn’t care in that moment. He has lost control and doesn’t care who he hurts in the process of trying to regain it.
I have felt like that before, in those moments when things are just spiraling out of control; when the perfect plans that I have created and envisioned for my life are crumbling before my eyes. And when people who should listen to me refuse to do what I’ve asked them to do. The world doesn’t look as I believe it should—my dreams of utopia come crashing down.
And it’s in those moments when I am grateful that God isn’t that way at all. While in complete control, God is not controlling.
Rewatching The Truman Show made me realize my own tendencies. In my pursuit of being novel or influential or successful, I can cut corners and become controlling, which only leads to hurting myself, others, and the very thing I’m working on. When things begin to slip out of my grasp, it’s tempting to try and manipulate a person or a system to my favor, as Christof did. But that’s not how Jesus lived.
I don’t have to worry about God controlling me—we have been given free will for a reason. God gives us the choice to come to Him and it’s our joy to accept the invitation. Jesus is never going to manipulate me into serving or loving Him; God is not abusive. He doesn’t have a small ego and isn’t motivated by pride or insecurity.
Instead, we are welcomed with love and grace. God doesn’t want to keep us isolated and stuck, but longs to spend time with us. He’s not actively controlling the world to keep us separated; God actively pursues us.
While I can be consumed with a god-complex like Christof, I’m grateful that Jesus is perfect, holy, and loving. I’m thankful that He is in control but is not controlling. God’s goodness is unending and He is worthy of all our praise.