‘Significant texts in any genre arise from specific social and cultural conditions, and while they possess an enduring relevance, they are never completely original’ Discuss this statement with detailed reference to the film ‘The Matrix’ ‘The Matrix’ is a science- fiction film directed by brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski. The film was highly appreciated and well received by both the audience and critics. ‘The Matrix offers a dystopian view of the future by exploring the relationship man has to machine.
The film experiments with the use of intertextuality to create an intricate plot where all scenes are of utmost relevance. The Matrix is a film consisting of many sub-plots, however they all eventually lead to the development of the main plot (a step-stair structure), which is that “the chosen one would save and give freedom to the people of the Matrix”. This film gained a lot of attention as it tied in with a social/ cultural issue that arose at the time – the Y2K. This was the fear that in the year 2000 (a new millennium) all of the computers would malfunction, as it may not recognise the turn of a millennium.
The Y2K supported the notion that machine will be the death of mankind, which is or can be interpreted as being the founding idea of the film ‘The Matrix’. The film ‘The Matrix’, has many significant scenes that are of social/ cultural relevance, and as a result they have assisted the audience in find an enduring relevance that they can connect to within the film. One of the most crucial scenes in the film is the one where Neo (the main character) is confronted by Morpheus, who offers him an opportunity to find out the truth that lies within the world in which they live.
But, the truth came with a consequence, if Neo were to find out the truth, there was no turning back and he would be fully immersed in the harsh reality of the Matrix. To decipher whether or not Neo wanted to find out the truth, Morpheus offers Neo two pills – red and blue. If Neo were to take the blue pill, he would continue to live like he normally would with only the illusions of the Matrix. On the other hand, the red pill would offer him the truth, the truth behind the artificial world and also reveal to him ‘the real world’ – the Matrix. Neo being a curious and courageous young man, he picks the red pill.
He is then later hooked up to a computer that would help free his mind from the artificial world of the Matrix and expose him to the real world. This scene can be interpreted as being related to the culture of drugs in our society. Drugs alter the perception of ones reality, much like Neo’s experience with the red pill. Even though Neo choosing the red pill may have been fitting for the film, it is not practical, nor is it encouraged in our society. There are many similarities between the characteristics of taking the red pill in the film and consuming drugs in general.
Some include the feeling of being trapped and the need to escape the reality known to us, the belief that there is something terribly wrong with the society or the people themselves. In the film, Morpheus quotes the following, “… Something’s wrong with the world. You don’t know what, but it’s there. Like a splinter in your mind driving you mad. ” Adherents of drugs can or may also quote the same. Many turn to illicit substances to take their minds of what is going on the in the world, especially their burdens.
The use of a substances or in this case ‘a pill/s’, was and is still regarded as being relevant to the society and as a result of this, the audience were able to connect to the idea that the red pill would alter his mindset and expose to him a different view of the world. Even though this is a science- fiction film, certain aspects of religion have been appropriated into the film, particularly Christianity. The plot does include religious (christian) characteristics, however they are portrayed through the roles of the characters- in particular Neo, Trinity, Morpheus and Cypher.
In a religious perspective, the character Neo, has been appropriated and adapted into the role of Jesus. In Christianity, Jesus was ‘the one’ who was sent to save the children of God from their sins and the satan. The film however, portrays a similar view, but with Neo, who was ‘the one’ sent to save the people of the matrix from evil and destruction. This isn’t the only characteristic that they both share, there are three obvious similarities and a subtle one as well, between Jesus and Neo in the film.
To begin with Neo’s name before he was fully immersed into the real world of the Matrix was Thomas Anderson. Thomas is the name of one of Jesus’ disciples, he is often referred to as ‘Doubting Thomas’ due to his lack of belief when the rest of the disciples informed him of Jesus’ resurrection and his presence before them. This correlates with Neo’s/Thomas Anderson’s behaviour in the film, he is seen as timid and a doubtful person, much like Thomas the apostle. Neo’s last name is Anderson, which means ‘the son of man’. This relates to christianity as Jesus was known as the ‘son of man/God’.
Overall Neo’s real name ‘Thomas Anderson can be interpreted as the doubtful son of man. Which is a true representation of his character in the film. Nevertheless, the doubtful part of his name slowly fades away as he grows more confident as the film progresses. After Neo accepts Morpheus’s proposal and takes up the red pill, he is reborn into the real world. The rebirth process consisted of Neo falling into a sewer-like place and is immersed into the water three times. This notion of being immersed into the water three times is derived from he traditional practice of a catholic baptism.
The theory behind the three times, is that the individual being baptised is being baptised in the name of God the father, the son and the holy spirit. Jesus was also baptised before he began his life proclaiming the good news. This scene may not have been as obvious to the audience as some of the other scenes, however despite that factor, it did still uphold religious relevance. Jesus resurrected from the dead and so did Neo. Jesus rose again three days after his dead and roamed around the world for forty days.
During this time he appeared to certain people to inform them about the truth of salvation and showing them the miracle of life. Neo died for a few moments in the film and was brought back to life by a kiss from trinity (a scene appropriated from the sleeping beauty). He resurrected and roamed around the Matrix, where he showed the people of the matrix about the truth about their lives, as well as proving to them that there is hope (for a new life, away from the issues concerning the Matrix). Jesus wouldn’t have been the person he was if it weren’t for God the father. For Neo, it is the same.
Morpheus is seen as the father figure and guardian to his companions, especially to Neo. The Oracle once told Morpheus that he would find ‘the one’ that would save the people of the Matrix and ever since then he had been on the look out for their saviour. After searching for ‘the one’, Morpheus believed that Thomas Anderson would be the one that would save them. He brought Thomas out of the artificial world and trained him into a capable soldier- ‘Neo’. Morpheus guided Neo to safety whenever there was trouble and provided him with the truth that he had been searching for.
He was not only a guardian for Neo, but a captain of a ship from the Matrix called the ‘Nebuchadnezzar’. They were part of a war that were caused by the humans against intelligent machines. This was due to the fact that the humans blocked the machines’ access to solar energy and as a result the machines instead rebel and harvest the humans’ bio-electricity for power. The war between the humans and the machines in the film supports the notion that machines would result in the death of mankind – a theme also brought forth by the Y2K.
Morpheus’s goal was to ensure that Neo saved them (the people of the Matrix, including himself) from the destruction was were to occur due to the wrath of the machines. Trinity, another character of utmost importance throughout the film has been appropriated into the role of the Holy Spirit. She is seen as one of the three who were necessary to conquer the Matrix, much like the Holy Trinity (God the father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit working together to defeat the satan and his works).
As well as being represented as the Holy Spirit and a mediator between Morpheus and Neo, she can also be seen as nurturing mother figure, much like the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. Trinity’s nurturing/ caring role is more subtle as she is seen as a strong and powerful figure throughout the film. Nevertheless, Trinity is regarded as the only person that Neo trusts completely, she offers him protection in times of need and nurtures him during his ‘rebirth’ into the real world.
Cypher, the Judas of the Matrix. Judas was one of Jesus’ disciples that ended up betraying him for material pleasures (money). Cypher was part of Morpheus’ crew and a friend of some sort to Neo. In the film, there is a scene where Neo looks stressed, Cypher confronts him and talks to him. He says to him “… I’ve been thinking it ever since I got here, why, oh why didn’t I take the blue pill.. ”, this phrase gives of the notion that when Cypher is faced with the harshness that comes with this truth (the life ithin the Matrix), he wishes to retreat back into the artificial world – a ‘dream’ world.
As a result of ‘being tired of everything’, he gets into contact with the agents who are working for the machines and tells them of his wants. They offer him the freedom he wants, but for a price- access to the Matrix, in which he willingly accepts (much like a deal with the devil). Cypher played a major role towards the end of the film, as he ended up murdering most of his crew members and puts Neo in a difficult situation that caused him to die.
This particular intertextual reference between the role of Judas within the bible and Cypher in the Matrix raises a prevalent issue within society- the idea of betrayal for selfish pleasures. As well as this concept of betrayal in a religious concept, it also correlates to betrayal in a worldly perception. We live in a world where betrayal is a part of the norm, so, when the issue was raised by this specific scene in the film, it was most probably to inform the audience of an unrecognised, yet relevant world issue (the loss of humanity due to a lack to trust and not being able to confide in someone).