Dark City and The Truman Show: Surveillance and the Destabilization of Identity

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Both released in 1998, the films Dark City and The Truman Show offer very different science-fictional responses to the late twentieth century concern of constant surveillance, as CCTV began to proliferate across modern cities. The Truman Show predicts the rise of Big Brother (the TV show), with constant surveillance acting as a form of entertainment for the masses. Dark City is more overtly science-fictional, set in an environment mimicking film noir but run by aliens. It also depicts John Rawls’ “Veil of Ignorance” as an experiment run on an entire city, with the aliens rewriting the inhabitants’ pasts, social status and identities in order to understand how humanity works. This paper looks at how these two films depict the surveillance of the (sub)urban environment as a way of manipulating and shaping its inhabitants, and how these depictions parallel society at the end of the 20th Century.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFilm Criticism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2019


  • Film criticism
  • Cultural Geography
  • Reality Television
  • surveillance
  • Science Fiction


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