When thinking about ethics in pop culture, the first idea that came to mind was The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, here is the trailer! The protagonist, Truman, is the world’s first true reality TV star who has been filmed since birth in an artificial studio world built just for him. Everyone he has ever known is an actor, every interaction he has ever had is fake, and he is the only one who doesn’t know the truth. Even the environment itself is controlled by the director, Christoff, who manipulates everything from traffic to the weather in order to get higher ratings. The staff (comprised of studio employees, technical directors and actors) go along willingly with every one of Christoff’s demands in his attempt to play God. Despite the fact that what is going on is clearly wrong, everyone being paid to work on the program goes along willingly (with the exception of Truman’s love interest as a young man who tries to tell him the truth). They abandon any shroud of ethical thought and listen to the orders of their leader.
In the film, Christoff has a responsibility to the network heads to get them the highest ratings possible, and also must provide a compelling program for his audience. He does whatever he possibly can in order to achieve these goals, but neglects the fact that he has completely ruined Truman’s life. I think that this is very relevant to the recent discussions we have had about Apple, Nike, and all corporations that negatively impact the lives of stakeholders. Employees develop a sense of complacency and willingly neglect that their companies’ actions are hurting others. They will do so even when the evidence is right in front of their eyes (ex. unfavorable working conditions at Foxconn going unnoticed, or actors participating in 30+ years of Truman’s artificial life). When business is booming like it has for Apple or for The Truman Show, people can suspend any sense of ethics or responsibility to stakeholders. I believe that this film demonstrates how employees need to think ethically for themselves to prevent a huge negative impact on stakeholders, whether it be an individual like Truman or the entire workforce in the Foxconn factory.
- Sky1 plans Truman Show-style series following families for a year (guardian.co.uk)
- Considering The Truman Show In The Age Of The Kardashians (thoughtcatalog.com)
- Why Philosophy? #1 (or how The Truman Show changed my life) (irishyouthphilosophy.wordpress.com)
- The Truman Show (thecarton.net)