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The Matrix (1999)



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The Matrix (1999) is an iconic film—not least because it provided the jargon for the radical right in the 2010s, the “red pill” and the “blue pill”. The terms were adopted on PUA forums in the 2000s, so far as I can tell, and soon migrated to be generalised terms for any attempt to exit progressive liberalism (which is the hegemonic belief system in the West and is feminine—hence it was “the Matrix”, literally “the mater” or “the mother”, that had to be escaped).


If you remember the film, the hero, Neo, is offered a red pill and a blue pill—if he takes “the blue pill” he wakes up as if nothing happened, if he takes “the red pill” well…horrific things happen (for a start his face swallows itself). Neo takes the red pill and awakens in the pinkish amniotic gel that sustains his body—he’s intubated across his body, hooked in by sockets embedded in his flesh to the machine (a sort of parody of the chakras). The machine uses him—humanity itself—as a battery to feed upon.


It sounds like a theme for the right—you are trapped in techno-science, you need to exit the Matrix (like Ted K, perhaps); and yet the co-directors on the film, the Wachowski Brothers, later became the Wachowski Sisters (being already, so it seems, a collective entity, “the Brothers”, and not true individuals)—how can it be that the people who made this film, made several sequels, could be so entranced by “the Matrix” in actuality?


The answer is that The Matrix itself is not a film from the right—despite the way “the pills” have been appropriated (culturally) by the right. This is because when Neo wakes up from the Matrix he wakes up into hell—his body is atrophied and weak because he has never moved his limbs in physical space, his eyes can’t stand the light because he has never used them. Further, the earth outside the Matrix is a barren wasteland—since we scorched the sky in the early years of the war with the machines to dowse their solar cells (and hence the machines use man for power, bio-power).


Conditions outside the Matrix are harsh and grim—with watery porridge for breakfast, lunch, and tea. Indeed, conditions are so harsh that some humans turn traitor and sell out their fellow apes so that the machines will plug them back into the Matrix with a “rockstar” lifestyle as a reward. After all, the Matrix is “more real than real”—if the machines wipe your memory when they plug you back in then the steak you eat is as real as any steak and the woman you touch is as real as any woman.


This is inversion. In reality, to “awaken” from “the Matrix”—to liberate yourself from matter—does not mean that you plunge into “hell”. On the contrary, it means that you ascend to heaven—towards the light. The Matrix tells you that to achieve gnosis, to achieve spiritual liberation from matter, will cause you to awaken into this barren wasteland—with no, or little, high technology (it’s wasteland because there isn’t much technology in it).


So if you choose to awaken, everything will be painful and hard—the natural world is totally poisoned and inhospitable, the spiritual experience will only cause you pain.


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Indeed, the whole film is about how you need to get back into the Matrix—Neo goes back into the Matrix as a Messiah figure to save everyone, but we admire him for his total power, or almost total power, over the Matrix itself (he can manipulate walls, fly, make bullets fall to the ground—essentially carry out miracles). Still, it’s about getting back in—and “the real power” that the Messiah has amounts to “neat tricks” of the wish-fulfilment type (if only I could make myself invisible, I could sneak into the showers in the girls’ changing room…).

So “the action” is still in the Matrix—and, even outside the Matrix, the remnants of mankind still live in a high-technology city “Zion”; it’s just they went back to a save point, went back to DOS, to a point where technology is “safe” and not bent on using humans as hypnotised batteries. So, in fact, the film is not “anti-technology”—the humans in it still depend on technology to survive; and the only real miracles happen in the Matrix.

Genuine gnosis—to “leave the Matrix”, to leave matter—constitutes to move into union with the Godhead, it’s an ecstatic state; it’s not “hell”, because you don’t have technology to make life pleasant for you—rather it’s a blissful state that is not connected to the acquisitive aspect found in technology whatsoever. Implicit in The Matrix view is the attitude that life was terrible before we had what we have today, it would be awful to be a medieval peasant or a Greek hoplite—and so any “awakening” is an awakening into hell.

What’s horrific about the film is that you have two choices: total though pleasant technological enslavement, or “gnosis” which means to leave the Matrix and subsist on a scorched earth thanks to a more primitive iteration of technology—there is no escape from matter qua matter, only a movement between two arrangements of matter; and that’s because the film assumes there’s no spiritual reality.


In a parallel to the “profane right”, you can live in “the matrix” of feminism where you must be kind to women at all times—or you can “escape” through the “red pill” of evolutionary psychology and learn how to manipulate them in a scientific way; both approaches appeal to science and technology (albeit with the PUA-MGTOW axis being the more scientific in its approach)—and to move between either induces “despair”, hence the typical pessimism on the right or among those “red-pilled on women”. The idea is that you take the “red pill” and then despair at how awful reality is—“the awful truth”.


Yet genuine gnosis is “the Good News”—namely, death isn’t real and that we have spiritual guardians. To be liberated is not a burden, as The Matrix suggests it is; and, indeed, as the secular right suggests it is.


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Gnosis is not terrible at all—the ability to see the trees, the sea, and the stars is not terrible at all. Yet The Matrix thinks it is—our only hope is a lower technology to defeat a higher technology and an ability to somehow, through the techno-Messiah, Neo, to dominate the higher technology that has enslaved us. There are no miracles, except those that happen in the Matrix—in this series, techno-science is still the wonder-worker for all parties involved.

Since the Wachowski Brothers clearly think life outside the Matrix is “hell”, it’s no surprise they’re trans—they’ve transitioned into the Matrix, into the feminine. That is the place miracles happen, that is where real comfort exists—the alternative is some techno-primitivism, to pull your water up every morning from a shaduf and not just turn on a convenient faucet before you sluice your mouth out with cinnamon-scented mouthwash.


This is because the Wachowskis are faultless progressives: it should not escape your notice that the means to escape the Matrix (“the pills”) are provided by a “wise old negro”, Morpheus, and a black woman “the Oracle”—that’s because The Matrix is solid in its progressive orientation. Black people have “soul” (“the souls of black folk”) and their superior wisdom will save the white man from his delusions—the former slaves free the white man (the eternally puzzled Keanu Reeves—“Dude, what just happened?”) from his self-enslavement.


Hence the Wachowskis can only conceive that matter exists: if our world is an illusion, it’s an illusion created by a computer (“the simulation hypothesis”); and if we leave the computer simulation we’ll find life is really hard on the outside, so hard we’d prefer the exploitative simulation; and, in fact, “liberation” is just to return to a lower iteration of technology—as if we jumped back to Victorian cotton mills today and felt glad to be free from apps and smartphones (and yet also sad, in a way, because life is that much harder).

Of course, there is a way to escape matter that is not just to drop back to another arrangement of matter—there is liberation, there is gnosis. The skies are not scorched—the stars are visible. And that’s why The Matrix is not a film about “liberation from illusions” but is itself an illusion within an illusion.



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