I read an article recently that discussed a mental illness that is being discovered in people where they believe they're secretly on a reality television show. They're calling it the "Truman Syndrome" after the Jim Carrey movie. This is is all well and good, but the truth is, I had this so-called "paranoid delusion" when I was just a little kid, before I'd ever heard of the movie.
Thinking back, I was such a little narcissist. My fantasy was that my entire life was being video recorded secretly by cameras all over the place. And of course, it's easy to reinforce this thought at a young age, since when you often find yourself pretending to battle Octoroks in a department store, you're bound to have some eyes on you at any given time. Now, this collection of video recordings that were being made of me were essentially being played back in real time (you can either say I had very little understand of the film making process, or that my thoughts of live streaming video were way ahead of its time) at various local movie theaters all over the country.*
I distinctly remember two memories about this thought process. One was that I was often "hamming it up" for the cameras everywhere I went. Wherever I went, in public or alone, I would assume someone somewhere was watching me, and as such, it was my job to be entertaining. I would run everywhere, just being running is infinitely more exciting to watch that walking. Plus I would get to my next scene sooner. And I would do all kinds of crazy poses at random times, poses that I knew would look bizarre to anyone who wasn't aware that I was the star of my own lifetime-length feature film.
Second, I remember when I went to sleep at night, I imagined the giant theater that was filled with audience members on the edge of their seats thinning out slowly to take care of various personal matters. Logically speaking, I couldn't expect them to not have to sit through 7-9 hours of my inactivity. Presumably they had jobs, spouses and children, all of which could be dealt with during this time. But of course, not everyone left. There were the diehards who knew at any time I could awake suddenly and do something incredibly exciting and/or hilarious. Those were my real fans.
I don't remember when I gave up the dream/delusion of grandeur. I do know that when I saw the Truman Show I kicked myself at having missed out on making my silly fantasy into a Jim Carrey vehicle. And to this day I have a tendency to be a bit more flamboyant and loud when I'm in public (much to the chagrin of my close friends) since I know there's actually a legitimate chance that anything I do while out could wind up on YouTube.*
PS: One last thought about the article - in the first sentence it references a man who went to "a federal building asking for release from the reality show he was sure was being made of his life." I don't mean to belittle someone with a legitimate mental disease, but A) what made the man choose that particular federal building of all places? Was it the post office? A police station? Where would you assume they had the paperwork? B) Hasn't he seen the movie? They wouldn't ever acknowledge it, unless of course you take your boat all the way to end of the set and wear down the possessive, controlling, dictatorial director. C) Why would you ever want to be taken off the show? Who doesn't want to be a STAR?!?
Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: with his royal highness, the Prince of Persia:
*I guess I figured I hadn't quite reached international fame yet.
*Which, while fun, would be a distant second to my true desires.