12 May 2016


The Thirteenth Thing about The Matrix

Can I get distracted or what? When I started writing my review Twelve Things about The Matrix, I had no plans to get really philosophical about the blaue Kapsel and the rote Kapsel. But these two really do take over every discussion of the film (especially in deutsch? =P), and I hadn't realised that I totally failed to say what I had actually set out to say until, well, just now.

The gruene Kueche

I'm not the only one who isn't too impressed by those pills. The Oracle, magic mirror and lovely lady, shows us the truth about the red pill very clearly: it's nothing but a glorified oatmeal cookie . . . not very different from a glorified steak. If the condition for your happiness is a red pill that you think is being kept from you, how is that any different from the condition for the same being a blue pill that is also being kept from you? Accordingly, my defense of blue pill existence is not a defense of unconsciousness, but a defense of personal accountability. The idea of the red pill has unfortunately become a way for people to blame others for their own self-inflicted problems. Yet as true as this is, it does sidestep the essential question of whether or not the Matrix truly exists.

So let's go in the other direction now and see what happens when we have some hard evidence that the Matrix is real . . .

Hard Evidence That the Matrix Is Real

Alone is even harder on Twilight than he is on The Matrix. But neither of these got anything close to the bloody beating he gave over a series of posts (Start here) to The Hunger Games, our third modern Snow White variant. I think it's clear what our resident psychiatrist's least favourite faerie tale ever is. =P Though in fairness to him, he has a point that you can't be a superhero entirely on credit . . . though you just might manage it if you have Peeta for your sugar daddy.

And again, now--yes, just now--it hits me that Peeta really does do everything for Katniss, including taking the poison and enduring the symbolic death and rebirth. And just when I thought nothing could ever induce me to read Mockingjay again . . . #TeamPeeta

Anyway, I bring up Twilight once more because the original reason I wanted to write about The Matrix was to wonder aloud why the latter is such a beloved allegory of reality while the former is such a hated spawner of memes, when they are essentially the same story. Is the culture that anti-girl?

One of the strongest criticisms of the love story in Twilight is that real boys don't act like Edward Cullen--indeed, that real boys who act like Edward Cullen should be avoided as if they were, well, vampires. I totally agree with this point. But am I also the only one who sees that it misses a whole other point? Which is that Edward Cullen isn't a normal boy; he's a real vampire. The Matrix exists. If you don't like that it also sparkles, well, take it up with reality, not with me.

Something I had to concede at the end of our previous discussion was that morality changes when you get out of the Matrix. Some things that were right turn out to be wrong; some things that were wrong turn out to be right. If massacring innocent people who just happen to be between you and someone you are determined to rescue is actually okay, then why isn't sacrificing your entire life as a normal girl so that so that you can be with an immortal lover forever also okay? (Note that the latter results in fewer deaths.) I've seen a million justifications for "taking the red pill" and living your life in the light of the truth, even if it genuinely hurts the people you love. Hey, guess what, haters? Taking the red pill is exactly what Bella Swan does.

I totally called it years ago when I said St. Lucy, virgin and martyr, is the patroness of Twilight fans. No one gets the rote Kapsel better than the virgin martyrs.

Image Source: The Oracle's kitchen


Belfry Bat said...

Red, blue, and green; for martyrdom, penance (violet is so hard to come by, isn't it?), and tempus per annum? Although, now that you mention it, "green" is also protrayed as the colour of the Matrix (when you can see it). hmmm!

Although, I do have to admit that you're not wrong when you say the excuses they give outside the Matrix are the same excuses used for sloppy warfare today, in the transchristian west anyway. (I don't pretend to understand the way modern prechristians go about explaining war, nor ... those who have completely forgotten the gospel.) I've been hung up on trying to rephrase the reply that should go in the other thread, but... this is the best I can come up with.

Enbrethiliel said...


I think the Oracle's flat is so blatantly green because green is directly opposite red on the colour wheel and therefore a kind of reversal or "reflection" of it. As is only appropriate for our magic mirror!

That the Matrix itself is green is something else for me to think about . . . Was Neo also seeing a reflection when he beheld the Smiths after his resurrection?

Itinérante said...

You know I rarely watch movies but your blog makes me really want to! Thanks! :D

Enbrethiliel said...


That's such a nice thing to say, Itinerante! Thank you. =) When you watch The Matrix, I hope you will return to join the discussion!

Brandon said...

Despite a number of problems they have, one of the nice things about the sequels -- one that is often forgotten -- is that they make the point that the red pill was also incomplete and inadequate. It was a first step into a world of higher things; the problem is in taking the first step also to be the last, because doing that only gives the illusion of solving any problems.

Enbrethiliel said...


That's the same point the Twilight sequels make!!! =D

But I do admit I give the Matrix sequels a harder time than they deserve, mostly out of habit. I should probably revisit them before Mockingjay, to be really fair. =)

Brandon said...

The Matrix sequels are the sort of thing that work better in idea than in execution -- the ideas are basically Gnostic Christianity, and Gnosticism generally seems to have some difficulty rising above impressive-sounding gibberish. Thus they were going for ingenious layers within layers, and what we really ended up with is, "What in the world is happening, and why?" It's hard to write stories about angels and demons, I suppose, even if you are cheating by disguising them in science fiction tropes.

Brandon said...

During grading today, I was watching the old Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I was amused that at one point a character offers Quaid (Schwarzenegger's character) a red pill that will help him come out of his 'delusion'. Quaid shoots him instead and goes on his merry way thinking he is a Martian secret agent -- which may or may not be true.

Enbrethiliel said...


Well spotted! Thanks for sharing!

What's interesting is that Quaid's real life isn't so bad. He gets along with his mates at the quarry, makes enough money to live comfortably, and has a beautiful wife; it's just that everyone around him waves away his sincere desire to see Mars. For it to turn out to be one big conspiracy . . . it's actually easy to draw parallels here between Quaid and men who really do feel trapped by marriage or society. If you feel that way, of course your wife is some secret agent with her own dark agenda!

Sheila said...

I think the problem with Twilight isn't the underlying fairy tale so much as that it's terribly written, that it subjugates all other plot points to the romance, and that the proposed reality smacks of wishful thinking rather than a good background for a story. You don't like the sparkly vampires, you don't take it up with *reality* -- you take it up with the *author*!

I think humans almost always want to know the truth -- the trouble is, it can be hard to tell what the truth is! If you were on an important mission to save the world, and someone intercepted you, telling you everything you were doing was a delusion and you ought to take this pill to bring you back to reality .... why would you believe them? Don't take pills offered by strangers, right? There is a Buffy episode like this (in which she thinks she is in a mental hospital only dreaming she slays vampires) and a Fringe episode (in which Olivia Dunham is trying to escape from the bad guys, but they catch up to her and mess with her mind so she thinks she is one of them). Oh, and the Star Trek episode Frame of Mind. How CAN you know which reality is real? It might not be the reality you want, and yet the characters in these shows generally are able to put that to one side because what they really want is to navigate reality, not have an easy life. (Exception for Buffy, who knows perfectly well which is reality, at first, but she doesn't want to admit it.)

But anyway, you've made a good argument against utilitarianism right here -- no one has sufficient knowledge to justify killing a bunch of innocents, because even if it were somehow justified, you couldn't possibly know that for sure. You could be delusional. You could be miscalculating your odds of success. And this was the mistake made by so many fascists and communists -- you could kill thousands in the hopes of bringing about a better tomorrow, and the better tomorrow might not arrive. In which case, even by utilitarian standards, you've just committed a terrible atrocity for which there is no justification.

Enbrethiliel said...


Here I defend Twilight not because of its literary merits (or demerits--LOL), but because it's a fantastic allegory of red pill reality. Sparkling vampires may be ridiculous in a story, but if you had HARD EVIDENCE that they exist in real life, you'd have to accept them whether you like it it not. And everyone who uses red pill terminology would arguably agree that he now accepts, on hard evidence, something he once thought was absurd and that his feelings on it just don't matter.

I don't recall that Buffy episode and haven't seen the others, but are they like The Matrix or like Total Recall when it comes to settling the issue of what really is real?

What you say about not taking pills from strangers now makes me think of Jack and the Beanstalk!