Entertainment Marketing 101
It’s not a story. It’s not a philosophy. It’s a global marketing experiment that’s all about control. And George Orwell saw it coming.
Pretty cool, Read (?). Really like the chart.
I would say most of the exposition took place in the first film, so the second and third films needed very little plot development. The conclusion was inevitable—force vs. force only leads to mutual destruction. There needed to be a detente between machine world and human world to defeat Agent Smith, otherwise real, absolute, total control would finally be achieved the only way possible: allowing only one consciousness to exist.
The questioning between appearance/reality so much a part of the first film was never the point of any of the films. This is why a resolution that made Zion part of the Matrix was such nonsense. The real point was, as you intimate, an exposition on control issues. Force vs. force only leads to no resolution or mutual destruction. The detente between machines/humans is the only way for real survival to be possible. So I see a coherent narrative structure from beginning to end. And ultimately, Neo did save the day.
Here’s my take on it:
to say that the first movie targeted judeo-christians is in itself a very limited veiw point. the movie is very buddhist in nature and i believe that through the course of the three movies (which do in fact flow logically) neo transforms from a normal person to a buddha and then denies his buddhahood and becomes a christ figure (by chosing the love of trinity of his duty as a buddha to go to the source). The third movie is neo fulfilling his duties as the messiah, not only saving himself, but liberating all mankind. to say the movies lacked a unifying structure is a very uninformed statement. also claiming that it is simply a marketing ploy is way off. the attempts to have most cultures and religious philosophies represented were not tacked on to make it sell, as you see to suggest. they were in fact the ponit of the movie, as the characters, all coming from different philosophical view points, struggle with the situation they are in and apply their ideals appropriately. it is the tale of neo discovering his philosophy, and becoming the representation of a philosophy that eventually saves mankind.
oh..and i apologize for my typing/spelling, i type fast and am not one for proof reading.
I think it’s a very serious mistake to completely, or even primarily, align The Matrix with any single philosophical or religious tradition. Yes, it does draw from Buddhism, but it does draw from Christianity, Greek myth, Alice in Wonderland, Plato, and more.
Neo dies and raises to life, has superhuman (supernatural?) powers within the Matrix (and even outside at the end), and even “ascends into the heavens” at the end of the first film. If you don’t see the immediate parallels to Christianity—and this that this is Buddhist all—you’re being overly dogmatic in your reading. Dogmatic Buddhism is just as blinding, you know, as dogmatic anythingism.
I agree with you that the narrative structure is more coherent across the three films than Read seemed willing to allow, but at the same time this doesn’t invalidate his other points about marketing and control. Neither does anything I said in my previous comment. We need to think in multivocal terms when approaching the Matrix, rather than singlar terms, since it’s really manipulating a generic system of signs that find representation across many different religious traditions. So you accurately see Buddhism, others accurately see Christianity, others accurately see Jewish mysticism, and if we had more posters here we’d see accurate parallels to Sufism, Zoroastrianism, Cartesian philosophy, Godel, etc.
i apologize for my aparent one sidedness in my comment. upon reading it again it does seem, as you put it, dogmatcialy buddhist when referencing the first film. this was not my intentions. certainly there are many parallels and references to many other things in the movie. however, in my in analysis of the movie (along with both christian and buddhist scholars) has lead me to believe the first movie is MORE buddhist than it is anything else. i simply meant to point that out to those who only see the christian aspect of the movie. in no way did i mean to infer that it was SOLEY buddhist. thank you for calling me out on my apparent mistake.
i still believe that my first statement stands as a valid however. reeds claims that
gotta love it when you accidentally send too early….
read seems to claim that the movie was made to simply target many audiences…that things were added for simply that reason. i believe that they were not tacked on, but like i said in my first post, were the point of the movie.
Ok, I see what you’re saying more now, Jay.
It’s really hard to quantify what religious philosophy is “more” apparent in the first film than others.
I would say the tension between reality and appearance in the first film, which is much more prominent in Buddhist than Christian thought (although it does exist in Christian thought as well, esp. the NT), was abandoned in the second and third films.
If you pay close attention, this tension was only emphasized by either Morpheus or the Agents while within the Matrix. There was only one point, in any of the films, that a dichotomy was set up between reality and appearance outside the Matrix. That was only in the case of Agent Smith’s appropriation of a human body, and even this this wasn’t really significant except to advance the plot a little in the second film (foiled the human counterattack), and at the end of the third film.
Except for this one point, the material world is idealized as the “unquestionably real” world in all three films; even though the first film interrogates this question deeply, it never approaches it in relationship to the world outside the Matrix. One hypothesis—that Zion was part of the Matrix—would have made the films more about this ontological questioning. But the WBs chose not to go in that direction.
I think that the real message of the films is about control. This is made painfully apparent by the Architect’s speech at the end of the second film, and the final plot outcome—a cessation of the power struggle between machines and humans that would inevitably lead to the end of both—also reinforces this emphasis. The ontological questioning between appearance and reality in the first film was just a tool to interrogate control issues.
This is made even more apparent when you study the Baudrillard source material for the first film. Appearances are set up as a mechanism of control, according to Baudrillard. I go into detail about this in my link below.
So far as the marketing angle goes, it’s unquestionably there. I just finished watching the “extras” attached in a separate DVD to the Matrix Reloaded DVD, and many of them are basically infomercials for the third film, the video game, or the Animatrix. On top of this, Samsung has built a “matrix phone” and used Matrix themes to advertise a flat screen TV and their camera phone—all this is not to mention the gatorade-like drink that uses Matrix themes for marketing. Cadillac gave the WBs prototypes of their 2003 sedan and SUV for the second film—the cars used in the freeway chase scene.
Funny that the bad guys’ car was an SUV :).
Anyway, I don’t think there are too many associations that can be said to be “wrong” or “irrelevant” to the films. I think it’s a mistake to define the films primarily in terms of any of these associations. We know they drew from comics, from Baudrillard, from a few other philosophical books (don’t remember all the titles…there were at least two more), from Cornell West. Mostly, in fact, from some derivation of critical theory. All this points to commentary on social controls.
Unfortunately, the Critical Theory tradition doesn’t do much about emancipation. It’s usually only critique. The WBs had to draw from religious traditions for their symbols/language of emancipation. This, to me, is important commentary on the future role of religion in society, even the technogeek society out of which the WBs came.
Fun chart but for the rest i think that the multiracial-cultural-religious- aspects of the trilogy are based on efforts to be inclusive rather than exclusive and to reflect the acces to other ways of thinking, behaving and believing, a characteristic of postmodernism (for the last forty years other artistic expressions have gone in this same direction).
The marketing is one aspect of the phenomenom but it’s not the trilogy (actually the first Matrix came out pretty unannaunced) and certainly doesn’t take anything away from this great piece of philm.
As for the trilogy being inconclusive, I totally disagree. The story is coherent and complete. The critics’ bashing the sequels only reflects the usual resistance to the not so obvious narratives and there’s always people that find it cool to bash this kind of phenomenom.
While I agree that marketing was really important in the making of this movies, I think, or at least wish to think, that it has to do mainly with the budget spent on making them and the need to recover that movie, and obviously for the studio, to make profit. But I don’t think that’s all that was taken into consideration nor that it was a deliberate effort to cash in from each corner of the world, that sounds way to Illuminate to me.
In any given case, the religious references are present in the three movies, sometimes being mixed. The perfect example is Christ and Buddha, Neo is both and is obviously demonastrated in the first and third movie, with Neo finding his strenght inside him but also dying and resurrecting in the first one and then looking with his mind, being blinded, but also dying to save all in the third, And to that you can add gnosticism, greek mythology, philosophy from plato-descartes to kiekergaard/sartre-like existentialism (smith) and usual free will vs determinism debates (merovignian, oracle, counselor hamman). There are also mathematical references and homage to other movies.
But anyway, like I said, marketing can’t be denied.
Read: You nailed it again. Read the article in “Wired” to see just how screwed up Larry Wachowsky has become in the process of tasting money, sex and power. There is a good reason why priests are required to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Larry W is a living testament to these corruptive powers which are so clearly attacked in the first film. He and Andy appear to be the latest victims of the demons they warned against in the trilogy: Pitiful, puny humans that have lost control and themselves.
Hi Jia. I read the article in Wired a couple of weeks ago so i don’t remember it all that well but i don’t see what L. W. life’s has to do with the first or any movie.
First of all, the figure of the Author as part of the art work is dead (intentional falacy). The Literary theorist, formalist, structuralist and poststructuralist etc., already dealt with that perception.
Secondly, if you’re talking about the rumors that L.W. likes to dress in women’s clothing and has a known dominatrix as girlfriend i don’t see anything contradictory between that and the original Matrix. Actually, breaking the molds of sexual roles or so called “normal sexual behavior” is very brave and rebellious. In relation to what the movie portrays, traditional sexual roles are what the Matrix offers and if you disobey and behave differently you’re more human than the rest. I’m pretty sure that all this partying and different sexual manifestations were happening in Zion.
There were three “dance club” scenes in the entire trilogy.
The first and third films’ dance club scenes took place in S&M clubs—the first film’s scene was shot in an actual S&M club in Australia. The people you see are real clients.
The second film had a dance club scene in the “real world,” in Zion. This was the total opposite of S&M—complete liberation, rather than bondage and restraint, were the norm. People both have single partners (Neo and Trinity) in monogamous relationships, and they trade partners freely.
At any rate, the S&M stuff was all associated with the machine world. A sexual trope for control once again. The sexual images of liberation were all associated with Zion.
I Like. I think i was a little reactionary with my previuos comment and i was speaking more of our own matrix but your comment put us back in perspective.
Now that i think about it makes perfect sense; bondage inside the Matrix and more libertine sex in zion.
Would it be that the ones doing S&M inside the Matrix (willfully submitting to the will of others who at the same time are unconsciously submitted by the machines), are more aware of the irony of control. Why did Trinity chose an S&M club to have her first encounter with Neo?
It seems that underground, edgier, marginal lifestyles are more aware of the control issue than mainstream society. There’s little reason for a white christian heterosexual male living in the US to question reality, while for a marginalized individual it seems much more probable.
Either way, celibacy is not justified in any way.
“Would it be that the ones doing S&M inside the Matrix (willfully submitting to the will of others who at the same time are
unconsciously submitted by the machines), are more aware of the irony of control. Why did Trinity chose an S&M club to have
her first encounter with Neo?
It seems that underground, edgier, marginal lifestyles are more aware of the control issue than mainstream society. There’s little
reason for a white christian heterosexual male living in the US to question reality, while for a marginalized individual it seems
much more probable.”
I’m not able to speculate on Trinity’s motive. Neo was led there by a guy attached to a little group of people he’d sold underground software to. Trinity’s speech to Neo, though, was a propos to their environment, if I remember right. It may have been a good visual illustration of Neo’s current state.
I wouldn’t say that people into S&M are more in tune to control issues than a “white Christian heterosexual male,” though. They’ve sexualized their control issues, that’s all. So what? Not everyone feels that need. That doesn’t mean they don’t understand control, though. How control issues are handled by a “white Christian heterosexual male” is largely dependent upon the type of Christianity he’s associated with. My experience has been that control issues are usually defined along authority/responsibility lines—the guy would see himself as being under some authorities and as an authority in other circumstances. Christianity, though, especially the brands that emphasize the NT, tends to emphasize a reality/appearance distinction, and the apocalyptic tradition in Christianity is the ancient basis for modern deconstruction of societal control mechanisms.
I think you’re probably right about that an S&M practitioner could be aware or unaware of control issues as anybody else but, even if he is not aware of it, he’s questioning that control. I think it’s not about understanding control but about questioning control and the structure that provides control. To me it’s all about the questioning (it is what drive us) and our willingess to disobey.
I apologize for my lack of care when making certain generalizations. They are as weak as any generalization is. That been said, certainly the late works of theory have emerged more from the “marginalized” than from more conventional mainstream society and it is not without reason (also the beginings of christianity). I think the movie is very aware of that and it’s essential to the movie.
I agree with you that christianity is praticed in many different ways but i wasn’t trying to be that specific. I was talking about christians in a more historic-political sense and who as a geopolitical group certainly are very powerful and are pretty much in control (if that’s even possible). As nations and societies they guard most of the doors and they have most of the keys.
About your comments that “the apocalyptic tradition in Christianity is the ancient basis for modern deconstruction of societal control mechanisms”, i haven’t studied anything much, much less the bible, if you could enlighten me i would appreciate it. As far as i knew, the apocalyptic tradition is not original from the bible.
Yeah, I think we see history a bit differently. But this—
“I think it’s not about understanding control but about questioning control and the structure that provides control. To me it’s all about the questioning (it is what drive us) and our willingess to disobey.”
We’re definitely on the same page there if you mean that’s what the movie is about.
My impression of S&M is not that it’s about questioning control, it’s about making a fetish out of control—sexualizing it, almost worshipping it, making it your all in all. So S&M, while it does challenge traditional sexual mores, simply reinforces control mechanisms even more than traditional sexual relationships. At least the “white Christian male’s wife” could have a headache some nights, you know? :)
I see, in the Hebrew Scriptures, the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and I think Zecharaiah (among others) as being foundational works of social criticism. In the Christian NT, of course the book of Revelation and parts of the Gospel accounts develop this tradition.
I’m not sure what is much older than these documents in the western tradition. The Critical Theory tradition out of which the WBs drew so many of their themes is a descendent (of sorts) of German Idealism (via Kant and Hegel), which in their own ways are secularizations of German Protestantism. The only people that got away from this were the egoists—Stirner, Nietzche. Schopenhauer influenced N. and was in turn influenced (sort of) by the Vedas, but he was already going in that direction because of his study of Kant. You don’t really see much reference to Vedic literature in English letters until…don’t know…16th, 17th century.
It’s a typical Marxist line that the church is running things in collusion with the corrupt state, but I think we’re in a post-Christian society now. There’s a dim humanist Christian consciousness pervading some of our moral judgments. That’s it, though.
The only two plotting here are you and me. It is just a fact that some groups or societies are identified as part of certain religious-cultural tradition. That’s what i meant and i regret having mentioned it because it has kind of derailed the process but my question/point was about the importance of the element of “marginalism” (for the lack of more specific vocabulary on my part) present in the movie via S&M clubs but certainly notable in other aspects of it, also present in certain theorist.
Nietzsche owns the 20 century (ironically i think he died 1900). Either way, i was refering to posterior theorist like Foucault, Derrida, Barthes, Fanon, Cornell West, Spivack, Levi-Strauss etc. I think the element of “marginalism” is present in all of them.
Your point on that certain books of the bible containing social criticism constitutes them as “basis for modern deconstruction of societal control ” seems a bit farfetched, but it’s the new millenium so go for it.
Very stimulating pseudo-talking to you. I just realized i have spent most of this week thinking about S&M. Thanks.
I appreciate that you were making a point about marginalism. I think it’s pretty complicated, though. The S&M club in the third film was the Merovingian’s hangout. Since they’re associated with this powerful figure, are they marginalized? But wait…the Merovingian is an exile from the machine world, right? So he’s a marginalized figure in relationship to the machines. But wait…he’s always holding all the cards when the humans come to him. He had the Keymaker and controlled access to the Train Station where Neo was stuck. So the humans are marginalized figures in relationship to the Merovingian, and certainly, by and large, in relationship to the Matrix. The machines make all the rules and control all the doors in and out of it.
So who’s marginalizing whom? Where does the deviant sexuality fit into this?
“Your point on that certain books of the bible containing social criticism constitutes them as “basis for modern deconstruction of societal control ” seems a bit farfetched, but it’s the new millenium so go for it.”
Read Daniel and Revelation in any good English translation then get back with me. It’s more far fetched to deny the influence, honestly, especially since it has its roots (largely) in 18th and 19th century German idealism, which is unquestionably a derivation from German protestantism.
What’s even worse, though, is that influential members of these schools even offered the same critique. Adorno’s critique of Heidegger’s existentialism in _The Jargon of Authenticity_ essentially says that the jargon, having been abstracted from Christian speech and having removed God, has left a power vacuum that the Nazis were able to fill.
Max Stirner’s critique of Marxism is that Marx simply substituted the State for God—otherwise, the whole this is similar to religious structures.
I knew it. For some reason i edited my last posting and left this part out but now it seems neccessary:
“Don’t bother validating your point because i’m not that interested in following you along those lines, it’s highly debatable and i would need to go over a lot of stuff to do you justice.”
but my invitation still stands, Go for it!
Regarding your view of the S&M in the film, that’s one way to put it. Another way is:
“Hmm i feel weird. I think i’m different, i feel different from people at work. I think there’s something wrong with this picture. Maybe i need to go to an S&M club, where all these also weird, different, beautiful people, clients of mine, bend the rules of sexuality and play with the roles of power and control, to find my path as the one. I’m kind of shy so i’ll wait for someone to make contact. Then this beautiful woman, dressed in black latex comes…...”
Things have changed. All the weird beautiful people now are in this other club, hell, where a power addicted program with a lot of personality, good taste and who thinks is the devil runs the show. Even Seraph, who guards that which is most important, used to be a regular here. Once again, the girl in black latex plays a very exciting russian roulettte (the only way it could be in this place) that leads her to the one. In the meantime, the weird, beautiful people keep dancing, bending and twisting before Agent Smith comes and uniforms them all. The only thing that can save us from the terrible, infinitely reproductive cold virus of sameness is the one.
A few holes in this theory. My favorite is the claim that revolutions does not focus on Jesus/christianity. Neo was literally crucified in the movie.
You mean the last scene, where he was jacked in by the Mainframe to fight Agent Smith? Was his body in a crucifix position at the end? I may have missed that…
I was refering to the marketing layout chart in the article.
No, not sarcasm. I was being stupid.
Very clever comment on your part :)
Wait—when you said that Neo was literally crucified in the last movie—THAT’S what I was asking about. Did you mean near the end, when he was plugged in to fight ex-Agent Smith?
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