Monday, March 15, 2010

The Matrix = 96%! Suck on that!

After many sleepless nights I was finally able to turn in my Matrix paper on 3-10-2010. I thought that mofo would never be finished but I did it and made this assignment my bitch!

Violence in Popular Culture: The Matrix

One of the most famous songs by The Beatles states, “All you need is love,” this motto is no longer shown in popular films and media, but is instead labeled a cliché and used in “chick flicks” and Barney episodes. However, one film in the late 1990s had a clever way of displaying the message amongst Kung-Fu and gun slinging. The Matrix, a film that follows a man that finds out he’s the one to save the world, has a hidden message of unconditional love. Despite the protagonist being unsure of himself and the people around him, he realizes that he would eventually have to sacrifice himself out of love, much like the story of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Although this message of love is only one of many in this ground-breaking film, it is the last and ending message of the film’s trilogy. The violence in this film over powers the message in the beginning and forces the reader to focus on the obvious battle of real vs. unreal, while the protagonist/hero becomes less violent towards the end. Aristotle’s “Poetics” explains how humans relate to “real” and “unreal” by imitating relatable influences. Most of American culture stems from inherited ideologies and easily accessible pop culture influences. When comparing Aristotle to American culture, The Matrix alludes that the violence that has happened in the movie and in society is a result of the imitation of media’s pop culture influences on the American people.

In the film, the Matrix is explained as a “dream world” created to control human minds while the humans are being used as energy for the Machines who rule the Matrix. Everything that the humans experienced was an artificial life implanted in their minds by the Machines to be perceived as “real”. But what is real? The question asked and answered by the character Morpheus says, ”If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, taste and see, then “real” is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” Morpheus’ speech about what is “real” can be translated into what is “cool” or “un-cool” according to America’s pop culture. In America, whatever makes the most money is usually seen as cool. American Culture is heavily influenced by pop culture’s main outlet, Hollywood films. Films are considered a main outlet because of their ability to reach a larger audience that others (radio, television, print, etc.) cannot. For years after its original theatrical release, The Matrix was seen as cool. The slick black leather clothing, special effects, and the philosophies behind The Matrix were repeatedly replicated by the people and the media. However, not everything in The Matrix was meant to be duplicated.

The famous office lobby scene of The Matrix is said to be one of many alleged influences behind the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado; an event that happened just twenty-one days after the movie’s release. On April 20, 1999, two Columbine students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, entered their high school and began firing at students and teachers. This event could have been a copycat of the scene in which, Neo, the protagonist, and his partner, Trinity, enter the lobby of an office building and begin shooting and killing security guards and police officers. The Columbine massacre left 13 dead and 24 injured. The instigators of this heinous act, wore long black trench coats, and carried black duffle bags just like the characters Trinity and Neo. However, unlike the characters in the film, Harris and Klebold’s reasons behind killing and injuring their classmates are unknown. That piece of information died with them when they ended the massacre by taking their own lives. If the boys’ influence behind the massacre were inspired by the shoot out scene in The Matrix, then they were painfully misinformed.

In 2002 Keanu Reeves, the actor who plays Neo, describes the trilogy as being about birth, life, and death. In this aspect, the first of the trilogy, The Matrix, would be about birth and will follow the simple layout of boy lost, boy found, boy becomes man, and man saves the world. This layout is also similar to many religious messiahs, but closest to the story of Jesus Christ. According to The Bible, Christ was born the son of God, and His mission on Earth was to save the lives of all mankind. In doing so, Christ tried many endeavors to spread the word of His Father, but failed against the powerful hold the Devil had over the wayward people. The Devil’s power was strong enough to influence a kingdom, whose main focus was to stop Christ’s teachings by killing Him and ending His mission. When Christ knew that the word of His Father was not enough to save mankind, he sacrificed himself for the cause.

Neo, however, was not born the son of God, but created by The Architect, the creator of the Matrix. This slight difference in the story is insignificant to the comparison, but necessary for the film according to the rules of encoding a film, the process in which a film is constructed to develop meaning, which is stated in the book “America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies”. This maneuver is to make the message behind the film minimal to avoid becoming “too preachy”. If the message of love and anti-war was forced into reader’s psyche, The Matrix probably would have been too much to handle for certain readers in the audience. When the message is ejected subliminally, then the reader can feel at ease with what he or she just visually ingested.

Neo’s biblical comparisons start in the Matrix with him as Thomas A. Anderson. Anderson is a lonely computer hacker with no real ambition. He does not believe in himself and has no real social life outside of work or his small apartment. His attitude toward life and himself reflect that of Thomas the Doubtful or The Twin, depending on the edition of the Bible. In the gospel of John 13:34-35, Thomas was the only Apostle who did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He told the other Apostles that he did not believe them, and he would not believe them until he saw and touched Christ for himself. In The Matrix, Anderson is told of his importance and upcoming danger by Trinity, but does not understand what she means. Later in an attempt to escape the danger Trinity spoke of, he is told by Morpheus, via cell phone, that his only way to escape is to risk his life by climbing out of an office window and go down the side of a building in a device used by window washers. During this moment Anderson mumbles to himself, “What did I do? I’m nobody. I haven’t done anything. I’m going to die”. This self-doubt in Anderson stays with him but ends with the help of Morpheus, who tells him, “Don’t think you are. Believe you are”. With the demise of his self-doubt, Thomas A. Anderson becomes Neo once he believes he is the One to save the world.

Throughout the trilogy, Neo fights The Agents on his mission to save the world. This is no doubt a similarity to good vs. evil. The Agents are the evil and they try to stop the rebels (Neo, Morpheus, Trinity, and the crew of The Nebuchadnezzar), much like the Devil. In one instance, The Agents try to offer a new life to Neo if he joined them and turn over information on Morpheus. Although the Devil did not ask Jesus Christ for information on God, the Devil did offer Christ food and water while He fasted for forty days and forty nights. In the Bible this is the story of how Christ resisted temptation, and temptation was surely resisted by Neo when he turned The Agents’ offer down. However, The Agents’ temptation was not so easy for everyone to resist.

Judas Iscariot takes the form of Cypher, a fellow rebel and crew member on The Nebuchadnezzar, a hovercraft ran by Morpheus. Like Iscariot in the gospel of Matthew 26:14, Cypher turned over information on Neo and Morpheus for a new life as a financially stable man of importance. Shortly after this agreement between the evil and the betrayer, Neo is told of a challenge to save himself or Morpheus, who would eventually give his life to save Neo. The choice given to Neo, like the choice given to Christ, was decided with the help of the heart. According to the Bible, Jesus realized His mission would end with His death, and knew that one of His Apostles would betray Him and contribute to His death. In The Matrix, it is not explained to Neo that Cypher is the one responsible for the eventual death of either him or Morpheus, but it is explained the he would have to make a choice on which one of them will die.

With Morpheus captured, Neo decides to go back into the Matrix to save him. Although he opted to go alone, his partner Trinity makes it clear that he will not go alone and that she will go with him. Trinity not only shares the name of the Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), she also has mysterious powers that allow her to revive Neo after he is killed by Agent Smith after he saves Morpheus from the Matrix. With the help of Trinity, Neo believes he is stronger and no longer needs guns to fight The Agents or to save the world. In the third installment, The Matrix Revolutions, Neo also believes that without Trinity he will die. However, while traveling to fight Agent Smith, Trinity is injured. Moments before dying, Trinity tells Neo that she believes he can defeat Agent Smith without her and she has always believed in him even when he has continued to doubt himself.

The Matrix Revolutions is about the end of a war, the end of control, and the death of a hero. Neo finally saves the world like it had been predicted two films earlier. Neo uses his specialty in Shaolin Kung Fu martial arts against Agent Smith, but is constantly over powered by him. In the end Neo looks defeated while Agent Smith boasts. It is in this moment where Neo realizes what he must do to stop his rival. Neo stops fighting. The moment Neo stops fighting he becomes more powerful. Agent Smith is defeated by Neo’s ability to go into his body and destroy his program. After beating Agent Smith the world is safe again. However, Neo is no longer seen. It is insinuated that he, like Jesus, can be resurrected, but without his heart, Trinity, he has no reason to live.

In the end Neo saved the world for his love of Trinity, and his dedication to responsibility for the people in the real world and the Matrix. The use of violence in The Matrix trilogy was merely a maneuver to bring in an audience. However, the message of the film is undeniable. The Matrix, with all of its flare, would have been a dense film without the inevitable influences of the Bible, as well as other religious messiahs’ philosophies. The main philosophy of love holds true no matter what time it was spoken, written, sung, or acted upon. Although, it may take a while for America’s pop culture to decode the message of The Matrix, it will undoubtedly know that love is the ultimate message.