When it came out in 1998, the Jim Carrey-led “The Truman Show” was ahead of its time in its depiction of the exploitative powers of reality television. But the film may have unintentionally achieved another big milestone: It’s the perfect film about lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming refers to a state of dreaming in which the dreamer becomes aware that he’s dreaming. Armed with this knowledge, he can then manipulate the dreaming world as he sees fit. One study suggests that 60 percent of people have had at least one lucid dream in their lives. However, to gain command of the skill on a regular basis requires quite a bit of practice (and is the subject of much debate).
But according to lucid dreaming expert Robert Waggoner, author of amongst other books “Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self,” “The Truman Show” shows a person becoming increasingly aware that he’s living a staged reality. As such, it's something all aspiring lucid dreamers should study.
“It's a great metaphor about lucid dreaming,” says Waggoner. “Throughout the [film], Truman is realizing that something’s wrong here. He can’t quite put it together until the end of the movie, and that’s when he wakes up and realizes that things are wrong, and that’s what occurs in a lucid dream.
“You have these little clues in the dream state that something’s not right, until finally you wake up and go, ‘Wait a second, this is a dream,’” Waggoner adds.
In the film, Truman sees a TV camera plummet from the sky and he accidently overhears a conversation between two producers, which help "wake" him up to the dreamlike state of his existence. Lucid dreamers, similarly, train themselves to recognize signs that they are awake and signs that they are dreaming.
“What I like about [the film] is that Truman is kind of like the true man,” Waggoner says. “The true man is trying to wake up, but society or industry has conspired against him. And so oftentimes, that’s what lucid dreaming is like. We go through five or six dreams each night, and never question the nature of our experience, even when it’s fantastic.“
Waggoner adds that the film, at its heart, is about examining the assumptions and coming to the realization that things are not what they seem.
"That's what brings about lucid dreaming — the critical awareness, where you go 'Wait a second, this can't be true. This must be a dream,'" he says. "That's what I love about 'The Truman Show'"