Seaside as an artificial environment

Seaside is a small resort community on the Gulf coast of Florida. It is widely recognized as the iconic example of new urbanist design. And it also served as the major location for the filming of the 1998 movie The Truman Show. This is now noted on the official Seaside website.

In the movie, the title character, played by Jim Carrey, has been raised and lives, unbeknowst to him, in a community inside a dome that serves as the set for a television show. The other people he interacts with are actors. All of Truman’s activities are broadcast live on television, 24 hours a day. During the movie, Truman longs to travel (which of course had to be discouraged and prevented) and becomes increasingly suspicious. At the end, he breaks out, leaves the television set, and exits to the real world.

For the movie, Seaside is being used as a set for the production of the television broadcast of the “Truman Show.” It is clearly an artificial world in which the title character is trapped. Special effects (computer-generated) were used to make some of the buildings in downtown Seaside taller. The Wikipedia article on the movie, citing a book on special effects, said that a special effects supervisor said that “these digital models did not have to look as detailed and weathered as they normally would in a film because of the artificial look of the entire town.”

The (mostly part-time) residents of Seasie may have had conflicted ideas about The Truman Show and Seaside’s role in the movie. The official Seaside website currently has a one-sentence mention that it was the primary filming location for the movie on the “About SEASIDE” page. It also includes the acknowledgement on the “School” page that the building of the school was made possible by the donation of the location fees from the filming of the movie. It seems as if this was included more to credit the donations rather than to provide information on the place of Seaside in the movie.

I used the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive to look at the treatment of The Truman Show on the Seaside website over time. The movie was filmed in Seaside in about 1997. I found no references to the movie on the website in 1997. There were no archives for 1998. Starting in 1999, the acknowledgement of the contribution of the location fees was included on the “School” page, which has probably continued uninterrupted to the present. (For a few years around 2005 to 2007, not all links appeared on the Flash display on the archived home pages, so I wasn’t able to confirm for those years.)

As far as I could tell, no other references to the movie appeared on the website until 2013. The current design of the website was introduced in late 2011, but it did not have the “About Seaside” page currently noting the movie. The home page of the website is illustrated with multiple small images portrayed as postage stamps, each with a Seaside-related image, “SEASIDE” printed prominently across the bottom, and frequently a large “30” accompanied by “Years” in small type in an upper corner. The latter is obviously intended to both commemorate the 30th anniversary of Seaside and to mimic the postage amount on stamps.

A curious development occurred in mid–2013. A “stamp” appeared that included a small, sillhouette image depeciting the key scene near the end of the movie when Truman walks up a long stairs to an exit door that he takes out of the set into the real world. The world “TRUMAN” is printed down one side of the stamp. This remained on the home page through the middle of 2014, when it was removed. Following this, the “About SEASIDE” page was added to the website with the reference to The Truman Show and has remained there ever since. The one sentence statement is curious, saying “The holiday town was also the primary filming location of the classic movie ‘The Truman Show.’” I am not sure what is intended with the reference to “the holiday town,” unless it is intended to somehow convey that the portrayal of Seaside as an artificial environment in the movies is not the “real” Seaside.


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