First Girl Wins
Disclaimer: I do not own Truman Show.
Sylvia sometimes wondered if she was a cliché. The small town princess who couldn't wait to get out and to become a big star in Hollywood only to fail and to turn to political activism. Putting it like that she sounded like hundreds or thousands of other people though she had always been rather under the impression that the political activism was something that the successes got into.
The first part of Sylvia's story wasn't anything special. The small town she had simultaneously loved dearly and felt smothered by and the waitress job she had taken to pay the bills while running from audition to audition could have been found in any one of the Hollywood hopefuls' pasts. The slightly less common but still hardly unique was that she had gotten her big break.
Everyone watched the Truman Show (even if they were only casual viewers who just tuned in for big events) and Sylvia was no exception. He'd actually been her first crush and she had pretended that he was her boyfriend for awhile when she was seventeen and he was fifteen. He literally had no idea that she existed but he was such a constant in her life. How could she turn down the opportunity to become a part of his world?
She was unashamed to admit that she had auditioned for the role of Truman's girlfriend. Of course, they couldn't actually force Truman to date anyone but they could certainly manipulate events to make sure that they got their desired outcomes. Besides, she felt that she was more likely to get a smaller part if she auditioned for something big than to get a huge role if she auditioned for 'girl who sat behind Truman in Spanish.'
Sylvia had lost out on the part to blonde, bratty Hannah Gill who couldn't subtly ply products to save her life and had to literally throw herself at Truman in order to get him to stop staring at Sylvia's alter-ego Lauren. Lauren had originally supposed to play a part in getting Meryl and Truman together by bulling her and having Truman leap to her defense after the pair had been 'just friends' for a few weeks but Sylvia hadn't lasted that long and it was entirely possible that even if she hadn't blurted out as much as she could that that plotline would have been reworked anyway because of one very unexpected fact.
Unlike Hannah, Sylvia actually had chemistry with Truman. Sylvia had been in Truman's presence for all of five minutes before he started checking her out and grinning like mad. She honestly hadn't known what to do – this was the big meeting with Meryl, after all – but she had always loved his smile and so she found herself smiling back. Truman remained completely oblivious to Meryl until she fell on him and the minute his back was turned, Sylvia had been dragged away by other members of the cast who hadn't even thought to grab her purse.
Cristof had been furious about the deviation but eventually conceded that it hadn't been her fault if the very teenage Truman who had no idea that he had a designated love interest had smiled her way. He dismissed it as a fluke but ordered Sylvia to keep her distance from Truman just in case. The next time she really saw him was the night of the dance when he kept ignoring the love interest he was dancing with in order to grin at Sylvia and, once again, everyone else conspired to keep the pair apart. Truman didn't even know her character's name at that point and still he found her more compelling than Hannah. That showed what the casting department knew. She might not have landed the part that she had wanted but she had effortlessly drawn Truman's attention in a way Meryl had never managed even all these years later and there was triumph in that.
Despite the fact that Sylvia hadn't gotten a chance to do more than look at him – not that she wouldn't have danced with him had he asked – she received another stern warning. She wasn't to do so much as to talk to Truman until his fascination with her faded which really just went to show how little these people understood teenage boys. Her apparent apathy and newfound air of mystery would just add to her allure.
Leaving Truman in the library when Sylvia was in it and his designated best friend and love interest had left was really not the best idea the show had ever had and it was almost inevitable what happened next. Truman immediately sought her out (and she had only cheated a little by placing her hand where he was sure to notice) and not only insisted that he wasn't interested in Meryl like that but that he would like to go out with her instead.
She wasn't really sure what she was thinking – or if she was thinking – when she confessed that she wasn't 'allowed' to talk to him. If it had been real, why in the world wouldn't she have been allowed to and who could have forbidden her? Sweet, unsuspicious Truman immediately assumed that she was worried about moving in on Meryl's territory and assured her that the blonde had no claim to him. She continued to half-heartedly rebuff him before finally coming to a decision. There was no way after Truman's refusal to take a hint she was reluctant to give that she'd stay on the show. She was never going to see him again. It was now or never.
They had gone out for pizza and then to the beach. Everyone kept staring at her and silently demanding to know what she thought she was doing whenever Truman's back was turned but she didn't care. This was the first time she'd ever spoken to Truman and he was just so…everything she thought he would be (with his entire life on film, he simply couldn't have any secrets) and she was happy. She also began to feel a strange sense of wrongness.
The script was painstakingly chosen by Cristof himself from dozens of plot ideas and it clearly called for Meryl to become Truman's girlfriend and for Sylvia's Lauren to be nasty and to make Meryl cry, thus driving her into Truman's arms. Only…it wasn't quite working out that way, was it? Truman had called Meryl a friend and he sounded like he meant it. He had sought Sylvia out more than once. This was the first time that she had ever gotten a chance to really spend time with Truman and for the first time it really hit her that Truman wasn't like them. He wasn't following a script. He might never speak to Meryl again and there was nothing anybody could do about it.
Truman was a real person and he was the only one. Even Sylvia wasn't real here, she was Lauren the liar. She had had a friend once who had discovered that she was adopted in their sophomore year of high school and melodramatically proclaimed that her whole life had been a lie. Sylvia had thought she had been exaggerating, of course, but that really seemed to fit Truman's life to a T. And why? Because the people wanted entertainment. They looked at all the mendacity that made up Seahaven and Truman's genuineness stood out all the more. Nothing was real and Truman would probably marry Meryl during sweeps month and all of a sudden it was just too much.
Sylvia knew that had by now they would have figured out a way to write her character out of the show and to remove her from Truman's presence immediately that would be at least vaguely plausible so as not to make him too suspicious and so it was now or never. She started blurting out everything she could think of but she must have been going too fast or stumbling over her thoughts because he didn't understand. She was panicking, though, because she knew that that car was going to carry her away from Truman forever and she was the only one who had ever been inclined to tell Truman the truth who had gotten anywhere near him.
In the end, she'd been dragged from his side, unceremoniously fired and banned from the set, and then forced to watch as their ruined date drove Truman into Meryl's waiting arms. Sylvia hadn't been able to bring herself to watch the wedding and to avoid it she had been forced to go visit her aunt who lived out in the country and who was always meaning to get her television set fixed. While she was there she did some thinking. She had tried to tell Truman this terrible truth that nothing around him was real, that he had no privacy, that his life was meticulously planned out for the public's amusement. That hadn't worked and Truman had seemed to put her Cassandra truth out of his mind. What now?
It would be so easy to just give up and accept that the Truman show would be running every day of Truman's life and that he would never even know. She had tried but she had failed. Truman seemed…content if not happy. She had no idea how she could even begin to reach him. Still, though, still she couldn't quite bring herself to stay quiet. Truman may have been legally adopted by a corporation when he was hours old but he was a grown man now and they were no longer his legal guardians. They said that Truman could leave whenever he wished but if that was the case why didn't he even know it wasn't real and why did they manufacture a fear of water on a supposed island?
Well, the acting thing had been kind of a bust but she was still in Hollywood so Sylvia did the only thing she could do; she started a movement to free Truman. Most people she talked to weren't unsympathetic but it had honestly never occurred to them that what they were doing to Truman was wrong. The religious groups she'd encountered were particularly helpful as they thought that whole project was immoral and an arrogant attempt by man to play God. It was true in a way; Cristof was Truman's god and he made no secret of that fact.
Slowly but steadily they were making progress until one day something pierced the masquerade in a way her warnings could not. The actor who played Truman's dead father snuck back onto the set. Since he hadn't been thrown off like Sylvia had, they weren't on the lookout for him. He had eventually been detected and thrown off but since he'd been noticed by Truman himself they were going to have to deal with that. The actors who played his mother, best friend, and wife all tried to convince him that he hadn't seen what he knew that he did but the way that everything was so perfectly coordinated to separate him from his father was something he could not overlook.
Truman tried to leave (the first place he mentioned was Fiji, the land she had supposedly moved to. Sylvia tried not to be too happy about that) and again and again he was stymied. They even resorted to pretending there was a nuclear meltdown to keep him in town. His suspicions kept growing and Hannah had a nervous breakdown and quit. Honestly, Sylvia was glad to see the back of her and it wasn't even because she still had feelings for Truman. Everyone knew that Meryl and Truman were supposed to be having a baby in the next few years. What was going to happen to that baby? Was it going to be in on the secret or was it going to be deceived like Truman was? The latter scenario seemed more likely and what kind of monster would knowingly create life for the sole purpose of enslaving it like her husband was? If their marriage was even legal given Meryl wasn't even really her name.
Tonight, it had all come to a head. Tonight, the Truman Show had stopped broadcasting for the first time in thirty years. Tonight, Truman had escaped from the cameras. Tonight, there was nothing in this world that would stop Sylvia from finding him again.
He had taken the composite photograph he had made of her with him when he escaped. He'd been thinking about her. It wasn't too late for them to see if they could turn their spark into anything real.
If her life was a cliché and that had led her to this, then Sylvia was okay with it. She had always loved it when the first girl won.