Essays about The Matrix
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Reader "trogdor" writes:
The revolutions full trailer is available from the official site. It brings the following analysis:
Sunday, September 28, 2003
I've been very distracted by the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, but I will get back to posting here in the next few days. --Tom
Monday, September 22, 2003
Comments seem to be broken on this site again.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
[Editor's note: reader "AgentShaolin" submitted this story, which is his edit of a post written by "RapidRabbit" on a forum at thelastfreecity. I added the hyperlinks. The relationship of the Matrix to Joseph Cambpell's structure has been discussed before, but this article does it a little differently, and adds Reloaded into the mix. -- Tom]
I've just read this book: The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell (first published in 1948). It contains the same basic formula that the book Writer's Journey (by Christopher Vogler) has, but only the mythological aspects of the journey are more profoundly discussed (which has turned out to be a good thing!).
I'll try to describe below the different steps the Matrix trilogy has, according to the book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I'm afraid the translation back to English (which is not my mother language) may be a little bit erratic in grammar, and with addition to that, the concepts may seem irrelevant to those who have not read the book themselves. However, what struck me most about the book was that the Matrix films seem to be almost a visual blueprint of the book so far! So, If any of you have the time, please read all the way to the bottom (I'll cover Revolutions too!):
The first Matrix film showed the Hero's journey from beginning to end, but now that there is to be a trilogy, the first film is only the first of the three chapters, which together form the Hero's journey again - only on a larger scale.
Basically, there are two different stories about the Hero: the Hero either captures the bride (life giving force) who is being held as a prisoner by the monster Father (who is the King of the world), or goes and sees his own Father who he has never known. The Matrix trilogy may be a mixture of both of these stories, but as everything in Matrix philosophy concentrates on recycling the loopy birth of a universe (the biggest theme of myths ever), the latter seems to be more the case; I'm talking about the 'ultimate tragedy', in which the son has to win his own (mother and) father, and he becomes the life-giving King/God of the universe himself, probably at the expense of his own life.
Myth: When King stops seeing his kingdom's success as the bliss from Oneness (a superior existence behind the cosmos, 'the source' that has pity on humanity), he's no longer a messenger between two worlds of life and supernatural. Because of his own selfishness, now the King is able to see human factors of reality only (birth, life, death); the very idea that has kept the community together before (i.e. Oneness creates life and pities humanity) has been lost. Only forced power, tyranny, keeps the community together now.
The monster Father/King (e.g. Architect) wants to preserve his power by making things stay as they are (by reloading the system over and over again), but the Hero (Neo) fights for tomorrow, for what is to come, not for what there already is. In the end of the story the Hero, being one with the Oneness, creates a new beginning for the universe/mankind. The monster Architect’s / King's ultimate fate is to be let down by betrayal.
So, the Hero must kill the tyrannical side of the Father, and set free the forces (of him) that keep the universe going. (Both the Hero and the Father ultimately know this is how it is to be, but they won't share that information to anybody else).
So to make it short: Architect - bad, Neo - good, Neo will win over the Architect.
Chapter One: Departure (The Matrix)
1) CALL TO ADVENTURE (the signs of the calling)
Neo gets unplugged.
2) REFUSAL OF THE CALL (it's insane to run away from God)
Neo denies the truth of being a slave human battery to the Matrix. (But then he revisits Matrix and sees it differently; his preceding life in it had been empty and without a reason to live, actually).
3) SUPERNATURAL AID (help from unexpected sources for the journey)
Meeting the Oracle.
4) CROSSING THE FIRST THRESHOLD
Neo goes back to Matrix to save Morpheus, even after Oracle has told him he’s not the One (he is self destructive, ready to die, Neo’s life doesn’t mean anything to Neo anymore).
5) IN THE BELLY OF THE WHALE (switching to the empire of night)
"There is a force controlling the door of the threshold, the force swallows the Hero and, for a moment, it seems the Hero dies, but..."
...but Neo beats Smith and is reborn without any ties to the life he had lived before. His material self has now been left behind, the same manner as a snake peeling off its skin. Why?
Because now the Hero has been reborn to the task of initiation he’s bound to face in chapter two; with rebirth the gods have now made sure Neo is committed for the job.
By the way, the agents, Smiths, the Sentinels and the machines are tools by which the Architect governs his kingdom. They also function as the gatekeepers, guardians of the Oneness, as well as obstacles the Hero has to face in order to convince the gods he has a brave and noble heart.
Trinity is some kind of a 'life-force' giving Neo constantly the reason to maintain his will to go ahead along the unknown path. She is kind of 'other half of Neo'.
Morpheus is Neo's best friend and a guide. The Oracle, well, is an oracle.
Of course any of these personas may have different functions along the different steps of the journey, but this is how I get the basic picture so far, before Revolutions.
Chapter Two: Initiation (The Matrix Reloaded)
1) ROAD OF TRIALS (the dangerous side of gods)
Now the Hero is in some kind of a dream world where forms are strangely distorted and unspecified. He receives secret help from his allies. His path is blessed with a strange kind of good will, though. He has to fight against monsters.
Neo fights the three Agents.
Neo fights Seraph to gain the access to the Oracle / backdoors.
The Oracle instructs where Neo is to take his future steps.
Hundreds of Smith clones try to kill Neo. Neo feels like dying during the Burly Brawl.
2) MEETING WITH THE GODDESS (how to feel like a happy child again) - Persephone
The Goddess is the queen of the world. She is the mother, sister, lover, and bride. She is the life-giving force of the world; she is both birth and death (Mother's womb is soil; sky is the Father). The Goddess knows everything there is to know of the world; the Hero, on the other hand, is the one who is going to know it all, eventually.
The Goddess is both inviting and frightening at the same time; she may never be greater than the Hero, but she can promise more things than the Hero is capable of understanding at the moment. She seduces him to break from all the chains that are currently holding him back. She prepares him to meet the ultimate sensation still ahead of him. (Chances are, if the Hero is able to accept the Goddess the way she is, able to give her attention and able to trust her, the Hero may become the king of the universe the Goddess has once created.)
The Hero is in need of something, and in reward, the Goddess will give the things he needs, but may require a kiss, even a marriage.
Meet the Merovingian and Persephone, who form an apparently unsatisfying union. Together they (might) represent the two sides of one single Mother / Goddess.
Persephone is to shelter the Keymaker, both Mero and Pers are to study if Neo has a humble heart enough (The Merovingian was once like Neo - the other part of self; only knowledge made him selfish). Neo gets the hold of keys to access the 'Father's house' (with the aid of the Keymaker). Only with one condition, though:
3) FEMALE TEMPTRESS
Thus the female Goddess seduces the Hero to take the Father's place, but in order to reach his life beyond material matters, the Hero must get a grip of himself and move onwards.
...Persephone's kiss. Trinity may represent the will of the gods by being the "jealous daughter against her mother", Trin's motive is to get Neo go on to the Father's house. But to access the house, the freeway battle is there to make things almost impossible. And there are the Agents to watch over the access to the Father's house.
4) WITH THE FATHER
Mother and Father are basically two different persons of one single parent. A monstrous figure of a beastly Father is the Hero's own self-image of the Father. The Hero should believe the Father is actually with overwhelming mercy, and so the figure of monster would disappear.
But now the Hero must compete with the Father, in order to gain the ruler of the universe. At best, the Hero may take the initiative role in his own hands, instead of the initiating Father, in order to initiate to a higher being.
How can the Hero untie the knot that limits his existence to this ordinary world only? The Father gives a glimpse of the Source (!), and for a moment the Hero sees his Father's face and so they are even with each other. And thus the Hero sees the world of pain no more, but an eternal and blissful place instead where the Oneness appears.
The Architect challenges Neo to question his existence by telling this all has happened five times before; Neo should be able to do that (initiation, reloading the system) by himself. But it must be done by Father's orders.
5) APOTHESIS (becoming God himself)
Instead of cleaning his own heart, a piggoter would try to clean the world, but with a noble heart, the Hero has reached the Source of Oneness and the bliss from Oneness is that the Oneness has pity on humanity. Now the Hero is facing Oneness beyond his own community, including Mother and Father, who represent all of the living. The peace within Oneness is the SOURCE. Oneness is one with both good and evil. The Hero is the One that is looking for the One in Oneness; like in a mirror, he sees his own face.
Reloading the Matrix is not the initiation, despite the fact that the Architect suggests it should be. But, at the same time, the Architect doesn't lie to Neo either (not as far as I know); Neo chooses the left door, and the Architect also knows that this is also a possibility. But, at the same time, Neo gets something special from the Oneness above the Architect (from the darkness, space, whatever; Oneness doesn’t show its powers to ordinary people, ever), and “steals” that power in front of the Architect’s eyes. It may be that Architect doesn’t know that yet, though.
If Neo had acted like the Architect had wished, he would have reloaded the (merciless) system. But, as Neo's heart is noble enough to save a single life over thousands, he has reached the Oneness with his nobility, and because Oneness has pity on humanity, Neo's path has now already been covered by the plans of the Oneness instead of the Architect. But of course, the Oneness doesn't show its plans, nor does Oneness tell its plans to Neo. Nor are the viewers of the film shown the presence of Oneness.
6) THE ULTIMATE BLESSING
The gods (Mother, Father) are the guardians of the elixir the Oneness has. The ultimate blessing is to live in paradise, in which the elixir never ends. This elixir is immortality in each human.
Neo saves Trinity's life by making her heart beat again. (Chills down the spine...)
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the fun part!
Chapter Three: Return (The Matrix Revolutions)
1) REFUSAL OF THE RETURN (denying the world)
After the divine meeting with Oneness, some types of heroes go back and want to spend the rest of their time as a loner in the desert or mountains, instead of fulfilling the task they are to accomplish.
One story tells: a King helps the gods in wars and as a prize for that, tired as the King is, he wishes to have eternal sleep in a cave where he should not to be disturbed: if he is to be awakened, every person waking him, after seeing his eyes, dies. One day he is awakened though, and the person to awaken him, dies because of the King's gaze. Then the King takes a look at another young man, and because of the gaze, the young man transforms into his Saviour, God, Father. The Hero asks to be one with the Saviour. He is then invited to come back from his cave, but after seeing that people had grown smaller and smaller along centuries, he loses his will to live with them. He chooses mountains and meditating instead, and thus he spends his time being one with the Saviour.
Just a thought: Neo's eyes are blindfolded because of his deathly gaze, which will get a resolution at some point in Revolutions
As Neo stops the Sentinel (with his eyes) at the end of Reloaded, the Father and other gods learn that Neo has a special gift no one - not even the gods - possess. Bad news travel fast.
(Refusal of the return actually doesn't make sense here in any other way, and was mainly a side note in the book too.)
2) THE MAGIC ESCAPE
The gods don't like that the elixir (immortality in this case) has been stolen (they know it has been stolen by know). The Hero escapes the gods, and during the battle, he does things that affect his surroundings, so that there will be legends for centuries to come about the surroundings / events / appearances he has affected; the Hero now has the touch of God.
Could be that Trinity may still have a long life ahead of her or she could become a legend of how she was (the first to be) saved by Neo. Also funny things may occur.
3) RESCUE FROM WITHIN
The Hero maybe captive to the guardians of the Father, because Hero has been caught running away from the Father's house with stolen powers. Thus sometimes the hero must receive help from outside in order to come back from his supernatural journey / house. The people from the present world come to save him.
Club Hel, anyone? Trinity and Morph save Neo from the grip of the Merovingian and Persephone?
Now, on his way back, the Hero knows that at some point down the line, he has to convince the rest of his own people he has a hold of something that stops the suffering. He must expose the self-destroying elixir to others, but he is thought to be crazy by reason, people will be against him. But that moment of truth unfolding will come...
4) CROSSING THE THRESHOLD OF COMING BACK - resurrection (back to ordinary world)
The Hero has to enter the ordinary world now, which, in fact, also contains presence of Oneness, though it cannot be seen. The Hero is to study this dual reality, but he has to face the reality of the ordinary world, too. The Hero's duty is to combine these two worlds.
This Machine city could be “the stage of duality”, in which these two worlds meet. Also Neo and Smith's confrontation comes to mind... Somehow I see the Machine City the final frontier of the war.
5) MASTER OF THE TWO WORLDS
The Hero knows he has brought something special to ordinary world, which he has gained from Oneness. He can go in and out of the two worlds freely. As the time is getting short and a lot of people have switched to the monster Father's side, the trusted/close friend of the Hero looses his belief they can win the conflict. The Hero makes a revelation to his closest friend, a revelation of which may be of divine and ugly appearance. So the friend gains faith in his mission again.
Zion people are fighting the sentinels, but some of the people might have switched to the machines' side. For whatever reason, I don't know, of course, but Lock is the commander of the army and does not believe in the prophecy. Most likely he will switch sides.
As I see it: Neo's duty is to convince the Zion people that the end will come, but their lives won't stop when they die. They will start a new world, and their upcoming lives will create it. At the deepest time of despair, Neo shows some kind of magic coming from him, which assures the Zion people (or at least Morpheus) to face their death, or even confront the monster Father.
The Superbrawl fight may be the central part where the tyranny of the Architect ends. Usually some kind of a flaw in the monster King's ruling system (the core?) makes his castle collapse; at least he will face a deception, which causes the end of his era. There also seems to be importance in the fact that Neo knows the Architect’s secret (whatever that is), and by revealing that secret, he wins over the Architect.
6) FREEDOM TO LIVE (the nature of the highest blessing)
The monster King/Father may be thrown off by power of Hero's own people, by making his people act like the Hero does in the ordinary world.
The Hero may have some time left before he dies, but in the end, the Hero must die, and the Hero must accept that easily. The Hero has had two different perspectives of life, the ordinary world and the dream world; the visible and the invisible, and after his death these both perspectives unite in his figure.
The Hero's ultimate task is to make people let go of obsession to take care of the results of their actions (which is the opposite of the Architect’s methods). When the time is right, the Hero uses (some of) the pulse of the first Big Bang of the universe and moves life forward; now people leave the results in the hands of God, and they are saved from death. After his death, the Hero is just asleep or might be appearing in a different form (so that nobody recognizes him) among the rest of us.
The lesson the dead Hero has left for the people behind his time is: The Hero of yesterday is always to become the selfish tyrant King of tomorrow, if he won't crucify or sacrifice himself for the sake of the rest of the people - have mercy on everyone in the universe, in other words) himself today.
Though my thought may seem a little bit messy... I think I may have gotten at least some parts right... thoughts, anyone?
Saturday, September 13, 2003
A reader who identifies himself as "Not a Wachowski Brother" writes:
[. . .] the real question, why is the matrix? Morpheus tells us that it's a system of control. He believes that it was built by the machines to harness the power of humans. He knows this because the Zion archive told him when he watched the Animatrix DVD. The Zion archive was recorded by his ancestors. No doubt a persecuted bunch of rebels who rejected the matrix in preference of the truth: that all of humanity is held in a computer simulation. Why?
Is the Matrix the ultimate high-density urban planning project? An efficient way to keep all the humans from using up too many resources, while replacing horizontal sprawl with the vertical housing units designed by the machines? And is it thus an advantage for humans to live like this, with the population in the future so high that this is the only sensible way to manage it?
Consider the advantages of the Matrix as an urban planning strategy. Since humans never leave their pods, commuting time is reduced to zero, with a corresponding reduction in air pollution; a system of roads is no longer necessary. Most of the resources the humans consume are merely the pretend resources within the simulation. And most humans are happy with this solution, except for the rebels of Zion. Seen this way, The Matrix is an allegory for conflict over zoning laws.
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
A reader asks:
I ran across your website and was wondering if you happen to know what the
I don't know, but maybe one of the other readers does. If you know, please leave a comment.
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
In Program, two characters have a debate, then a battle over whether to reject the truth and go back into the Matrix. In the end the character who does not want to go back triumphs, but then we learn that the whole thing was just a training program, "a test." What is the point of this episode, besides looking cool artistically? We've already heard the same basic "shoulda taken the blue pill, put me back in" patter from Cypher in The Matrix, so what does this story really add to the Matrix universe?
I think Program exists to show us a simulation run by humans, to influence or "reprogram" other humans ("a training program"). Matriculated shows us a simulation run by humans to influence machines. Machines run the "main" Matrix, of course, to influence (or mislead) humans. The only combination missing from this would be a simulation run by machines for machines.
But maybe the main Matrix does both -- fooling both humans and some AIs. Could there be programs in the Matrix who do not realize they are programs? Well, some of the theories floating around argue that Neo and friends are programs too, but I'm thinking along slightly different lines this time. Was there a time when Merovingian or the Oracle did not know they were programs? How did they find out?
Monday, September 08, 2003
Q. How much money do you make from this blog? Is it easy to make a living from blogging?
A. Well, let's see, let me get out of my Matrix Essays hot tub on the deck of my Matrix Essays yacht and walk down to the accounting department so they can get me that figure. Oh, here it is: so far I have not made any money at all from this site.
Heck, if I wanted to have even a shred of a slim chance of making any money from this, I would not blog about The Matrix, I would blog about some topic that a lot more people on the Internet are interested in, like sex with animals. I kid you not, one of the most common types of searches that hits my Iron Monkey blog is from goofballs searching for content about people having sex with monkeys, content I do not have and never will have.
Luckily, I'm not in this for money or fame, I'm really doing this in order to trick people into reading and writing poetry.
Sunday, September 07, 2003
This is not Matrix-related, but a friend of mine runs the H.P. Lovecraft film festival. I went last year and enjoyed it. Check it out if you're in Portland.
Also, if anyone has any theories about Lovecraftian references in The Matrix, I'd like to hear them.
From Brad's blog (excerpt):
I thought you'd like to know that there is a blog site called The Matrix Essays where your daughter could post her thoughts on how the Wachowsky brothers have altered her view of preschool. That is, if she's not too busy watching South Park.
Maybe when programs do things they're not supposed to do, humans in the Matrix explain it away with stories of werewolves or ghosts. But what are Joe and Jane Q. Public in the Matrix thinking when Neo keeps buzzing past overhead, and moments later there are huge explosions nearby? Why isn't there a panic? Some black-clad sunglasses-wearing goth priest punk looking guy flies around over the city and nobody notices? No media frenzy? There wasn't even one reaction shot of pedestrians looking up and saying, "what the hell was that?"
And what about the fallout from Smith's behavior? Every person he (or any agent) takes over would generate a missing-persons report, right? And there would be hundreds of those in a day . . . the same day that a guy is flying around overhead, and agents are jumping around on the rooftops of cars on the freeway causing a multi-vehicle pileup, and trucks and buildings are exploding, and a guy is spotted on an off-ramp carrying a samurai sword, and there is a mysterious blackout?
I think the citizens of the Matrix are a bit jaded to not react to all this, but then again, it is supposedly 1999 in the Matrix, so they are all distracted by the dot-com boom. They are not outside in the sunshine looking up at the sky, they are huddled in windowless rooms, frantically buying shares in Pets.com on margin.
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Somethingawful presents Glitches in the Matrix. (Link sent in by Marcelle.) I like the surfing spoof on the second page, and the TMNT spoof on the third page.
Reader David Chao writes:
I'm not sure if the crosswalks have a meaning. They could symbolize control over the flow of information. Images of crosswalks always remind me of the large crosswalks in Japan, especially the one in Shibuya.
Monday, September 01, 2003
Peter's site about the Matrix has a list of books about the Matrix, Matrix links, and articles.
It's time to announce the winners of the Matrix Limericks Contest. Thanks to everyone who participated!
The plug on the back of my head
fills me with sorrow and dread
The goddamn thing itches
and scares off the bitches
before I can get them in bed.
There once was a gal called the Oracle
Whose questions were merely rhetorical
Her pie a la mode
Could contain crucial code
If eating is indeed metaphorical.
"The Sentinels come!" so they said.
"But the One can ensure we're not dead!"
Yes, I live down in Zion,
And I need a shoulder to cry on.
For I have now seen the One...
.... and it's Ted.
by Michael E. Lopez, Esq.
When Trinity got back to Zion
It's clear she was desperately tryin'
To get laid in the lift,
So she groped and she kissed
And was ready to shag like a lion!
With my leather and shades, I'm so slick
I can jump and can chop and can kick
But despite how I'm dressed
The usher isn't impressed
I'm too young to get into this flick.
I protect that which matters most
A program just like the twin ghosts
Seraph is my name
And fighting is my game
But I must stop before I’m toast.
There was a young rebel named Cypher
Who looked nothing like Michelle Pfeiffer
He sold out his crew
For a pod full of goo
Just for a steak one could die fer.
by eukodol, last line revised by spaghetti.
In the September, 2003 issue of Premiere, Libby Gelman-Waxner opines on The Matrix:
I really liked the first Matrix movie because it was incoherent on a deeply appealing level. It was a conspiracy-theory wet dream about a future where machines run the world, and the humans are enslaved in an alternate virtual reality. Lots of people, especially graduate students and 11-year-olds, took this movie very seriously, as if at any moment our Cuisinarts and ice makers might rise up, hypnotize us, and plug our brains into some all-powerful PlayStation 3.