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The Truman Show never mentions, as far as I noticed, when it takes place. There are some technologies that definitely don't exist, but none of the outside world other than extremely brief sequences is shown.

Did the creators say anything about when it takes place, or is there any indication of when it takes place in the film?

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    @motoDrizzt - The dome is fantastical, even if everything else is chillingly realistic. – Valorum Aug 16 '19 at 6:16
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    @F1Krazy - Why on Earth would we close this? It's clearly a fantasy with elements of scifi – Valorum Aug 16 '19 at 11:50
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    @closevoters this movie is definitely on-topic. There is a humongous dome built in California with the power to create thunderstorms, and its dystopian themes are also pretty science-fictiony. – Stormblessed Aug 16 '19 at 14:02
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    @Valorum Well him being in a world that seems great until he realizes someone is controlling everything—the sort of dystopia that isn’t obvious at first. – Stormblessed Aug 16 '19 at 15:00
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    @Valorum: More to the point, Truman lives in a world where corporations can legally adopt people, raise them, and then do whatever they want with them. That's dystopian as hell in my book. – Kevin Aug 16 '19 at 16:37
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1996 inside the dome. Between 1999-2029 outside the dome (and probably closer to 1999 than 2029)


Inside

All three newspapers shown in the show are dated for 1996. Since we know that Truman is literate/numerate and takes the newspaper daily, this must be the year inside the dome.

Thursday, December 12th, 1996

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The third reads Friday, December 13 and is copyrighted for 1996.

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The date on the cover of the 'Dog Fancy' magazine reads "Novmbr 96"

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And Truman's copy of SHE magazine is dated "...R, 1996"

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Outside

The date on a magazine shown outside of the show reads 1999. Since the show is in its 30th year, this gives us an upper bound of 2029 for the show to take place, given that we don't know whether the magazine was published in the show's first year or its current year.

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We also see a lunch menu in a scene that takes place outside the dome. It reads "3- 27 - 97".

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While it seems plausible that the menu has been stuck on the wall directly under the TV for a couple of years, it seems much less likely that it would be still there after 30 years, which suggests that the magazine date is roughly current.

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    I think the timeframe inside the dome is make-believe to resemble a simpler time and place, and anything brought in from the outside would be highly scrutinized with a fine comb to avoid breaking that illusion, like everything else the production team clearly does. So it would make sense that the year on the newspapers would be fake, as the newspapers themselves are fake anyway. The real year outside the dome would have to be in the future, since human civilization doesn't currently have the technological desire to make such a dome for real, let alone the social aptitude to pull it off. – Remy Lebeau Aug 16 '19 at 6:42
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    @RemyLebeau - My feeling is that some things simply can't be manufactured inside the dome (cars, for example) and maintaining a real date means that you wouldn't have any accidental foul-ups if Truman encountered a date that was anachronistic. – Valorum Aug 16 '19 at 6:44
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    @RemyLebeau - Also, the show appears to be set in an alternate reality from our own (in the present), not our future. – Valorum Aug 16 '19 at 6:46
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    I was thinking it is probably like The Matrix, taking place back in time but being much later. Good, plausible, detailed answer. – Stormblessed Aug 16 '19 at 14:04
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    @Harper - You'll note that Truman has an incredible poverty of choice of magazines. There are only about ten different ones on the newsstand, not including his newspaper, as compared to hundreds IRL. Producing newspapers and magazines with fake dates for Truman would present no more difficulty than producing them for a film. – Valorum Aug 16 '19 at 19:01
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Valorum's images show the alleged date inside the show, but I disagree with the upper bound of 2029. The real-world date could not have been more than a couple of years different.

The show made heavy use of product placement in lieu of traditional advertising. It would be unreasonably difficult to build a world that appeared to be 1996 while filling it with products that you were trying to sell to a 2029 audience. A difference of more than say 2-3 years would be enough for the product placement items to either make the world feel inconsistent, or to make it hard for viewers to believe that it's not the present day. You could fool Truman since that's all he knows, but you'd destroy the show's realism for the millions of viewers watching it (a.k.a. your revenue stream) and that realism is why the show is so popular.

If you have an isolated world in a bottle and you can script and control the people, culture, economy, weather, etc, then there's really no need to fudge the date as well. It's much more likely that the date inside the show was more or less the real date.

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    Product placements being a problem if they don't match the interior time seems to be a decent argument, but can you provide a couple of examples that wouldn't work if pitched to a substantially later audience than the setting of the show? (Like you couldn't sneak in a pitch for a new iPhone.) The only placement I really recall is the beer his "brother-in-law" brought over. – DavidW Aug 16 '19 at 21:08
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    You might note that the articles they're selling are largely timeless; Kitchen gadgets, beer, lawnmowers, takeout food, etc. I don't know what the world of 2029 will look like, but I'm willing to bet people will still eat, drink and have lawns that need mowing. – Valorum Aug 16 '19 at 21:08
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    @DavidW - In all of the "top 10 companies by TV ad spend" type lists I could find, half or more of the companies were in the automotive, technology, or telecom sectors. Those would all be difficult to product-place anachronistically, and something as expensive as the Truman Show couldn't afford to write off their largest potential advertisers. Anything fashion-related would be hard to do as well. Some products may be timeless, but companies do most of their advertising for them when they're new. – bta Aug 16 '19 at 22:16
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    Evidence from props seen on screen would suggest that the date in the real world was different from the dome world, albeit only by a few years – Valorum Aug 17 '19 at 12:39
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    @Valorum kitchen gadgets are actually a very good example - you can't put an advertisement for a 2019 smart fridge with internet connectivity or a 2019 microwave with a touchscreen interface in a 1996 environment without it being very, very weird; much less whatever will come out in 2029. Technology gets everywhere, and for kitchen gadgets the ad spending is devoted towards the new and shiny stuff that does include the latest technology, not the same-old-boring dishwashers that are still being produced. Also, 2019-2029 takeout would be ordered in an app - how do you advertise that in "1996"? – Peteris Aug 17 '19 at 20:17

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