#039;Joe Shmo,#039; it makes you think

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2003

I remember thinking "wow," as I stared in awe at Jim Carey's performance in The Truman Show after renting the film nearly five years ago. I never thought Carey would do anything other than his tight-casted humor he portrayed in a number of previous films. Honestly, who knew he could do drama? So, I stand corrected, and it happens to be one of my favorite films to date. As great as I thought the movie was, however, I was more than just a little skeptical about a situation like that ever occurring. Now I think I will stand corrected on that notion, too.

Last Tuesday night I, along with countless other viewers, tuned in to "Joe Shmo," a TV-reality series set up much too eerily like Truman. Like the character Truman, the butt of this show's joke is watched 24 hours a day. Everyone on the show is an actor, except for him. The relationships he forms with the characters are all fake, and I can't think of a worse joke to play on someone. He develops trust from his interaction, and the worst feeling in the world is to lose a friend's trust (I know, believe me).

Last season, a group of money-hungry women were deceived on "Joe Millionaire," but this show goes even further. "Shmo" is a cruel, elaborate practical joke on an average working man (hence, the title). What did he do to deserve this treatment? Well, in the end, maybe it won't be that bad. He'll turn into a celebrity, or at least have 15 minutes of fame, like Joe Millionaire. But at what cost? A laughing stock of an entire nation, because one producer knows it will get high ratings?

I know I don't care enough about fame to have myself taped every waking hour, or to submit myself to the kind of humility Joe will be going through. All fun and games? Not when a TV producer, who also happens to be one of the actors, becomes one of the best con-artists I have ever witnessed. But I guess it's not against the law, because Joe isn't conned out of money, just dignity. I would feel worse about losing that than green-colored pieces of paper, though.

Shows like "The Real World" were televised at the time of the release of Truman. But I assumed it would be premature and falling down a slippery-slope to say the next step would be to have an entire world "created" from birth and have every move a person makes caught on camera.

It's not his entire life on camera, but it is a portion of his life. Since it's not real, wouldn't he want that portion back? I would.

I think back to the part in The Truman Show, where our protagonist finds out his life is a lie. He struggles to escape, to break out of the confines of the "created world." Needless to say, it will be interesting to know how Joe will react when his world is also a lie. Which is why I will be watching, I suppose.

One of the best classes I took in college was Film Analysis. My favorite section of the class was our in-depth discussion of films with a subtle commentary on the viewer, such as Rear Window and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. The films comment on the audience's need to be spies, or to view someone else's life. The protagonist in Hitchcock's classic is much like the audience, because he spies on people across the street through his window (the window for the viewers would be the camera). Perhaps, the social commentary is less subtle in Videotape, when the camera is turned on the director, who symbolizes the audience. The point? How would you like to be taped, or to have millions spy on you?