[Article of Interest] “Truman Show” Delusion Becoming More Common
By Anna North
Nicholas Marzano believes he’s the subject of a secret reality show, and everyone in his town of Hillside, Illinois is in on it. He’s suing HBO in federal court for, in his words, “filming and broadcasting a hidden camera reality show depicting the day-to-day activities of plaintiff” without his consent. His suit, filed in April, alleges that HBO has hidden cameras throughout his home, installed controlling devices in his car, enlisted the help of local police, and recruited actors to portray “attorneys, government and law enforcement officials, physicians, employers, prospective employers, family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers,” all so that their show about his life can continue. Marzano also says HBO is keeping him from getting a job or paying his bills, so that he will be forced to remain on the show.
He appears to be a perfect example of what psychiatrist brothers Joel and Ian Gold describe, in a paper published this week in the journal Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, as “Truman Show” delusion — sufferers believe they are “the ‘star’ of a reality television show secretly broadcasting their daily life, much like the main character in Peter Weir’s film The Truman Show. Between the movie’s 1998 release and 2006, they saw five patients with the delusion, and news reports from around the world since then have turned up even more disturbing cases. With the increasing popularity of YouTube and reality TV, the Golds think the disorder is on the rise. “Truman Show” delusion may be the early 21st century’s paranoia du jour.
Gold and Gold, who first popularized the term “Truman Show” delusion in 2008, also cite several media reports of the affliction. In 2007, a Florida psychiatrist named William Johns III kidnapped a child in New York and choked the child’s mother — ABC reported that, according to friends, Johns had said he had to go to New York to “get out of ‘The Truman Show’.”
And in 2009, an Australian man named Antony Waterlow murdered his father and sister, believing they were part of a “world wide game” to kill him or force him to commit suicide. Waterlow told a psychiatrist that “computers were accessing his brain through brainwaves and satellites” and that “his family was screening his life on the internet for the world to watch, akin to the film The Truman Show.”