Thursday, August 07, 2003
Neo in The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix: Reloaded, Re-Decoded

Propaganda and the Freedom to Believe

Metaphilm’s theologian in virtual residence takes another crack at interpreting Reloaded. Can you free your mind if the Matrix is really your own desire for salvation?

By Tommy Viola ::: philms ::: (27) Comments ::: Read the whole thing

Comments

1

Tommy Viola takes the origal critique of the brothers to a new level and he is dead on. We have been scammed by two brilliant marketers named Wachowski.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07 Aug 03 at 01:51 AM
2

I don’t like the idea that I am not in control.  Unfortunately, I am only here to do what I am meant to do, and I know this because I am meant to know this.  When do tickets go on sale for the next film?  Guess I will go watch the Animatrix while I wait and try to figure this stuff out.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07 Aug 03 at 02:46 AM
3

So the point is…the Wachowski Bros don’t have to make Neo into Aslan, they just need to be respectful of Aslan?

It’s more than a little silly to get uptight because someone registers incredulity toward all salvation narratives and transcendence in general. This isn’t exactly radical stuff anymore. The theologians have all been there long ago, and the folks concerned about increasing the number of the saved should provoke incredulity since they look more and more like any other materialist cult.

Posted by Dan Knauss on 07 Aug 03 at 07:45 PM
4

So basically this is an apology for the first one. It is as devoid of new ideas as many claim ‘Reloaded’ was. The point everyone has thus far failed to grasp is that the truth is not always, or ever, this brilliant epiphany that takes you on a ride through transcendantal spaces and finally into the realm of ultimate enlightenment. Most of the time, the truth is simply that: the truth. It is up to you what you do with it. Also, as I said in the discussion over at the brothers’ interpretation: there are three stages to every question: what, why, where. ‘The Matrix’ answered ‘What is the Matrix’. All ‘Reloaded’ was supposed to be was the answer to ‘Why does the Matrix exist?’, it did that, rather eloquantly, I think. And ‘Revolutions’ has but one “responsibility” inherant in it: to answer “Where is the Matrix?” Or rather explain the relationship between The Matrix, the world of Zion, and the real world. It’s so easy to expect more than is there when the first step is so huge.

By the way, Echo, I like that. We are here to do what we are meant to do, and we know this is is true because we are meant to it. Nice.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07 Aug 03 at 08:39 PM
5

I appreciate the job this essay did in expanding upon and explaining the ideas in the previou one.  I have to agree with Dan, though—if this is what the WB’s were saying in the second film, it isn’t very original or even very new.  It’s actually, well, cliche.  Since they make no claim to be Christian, why the expectations?

But I think the premise is still flawed. While the thesis is credible, we really don’t know that Neo won’t be a savior of sorts until after the third film is released. And is this really what was being said in the second film?  In some ways, I agree, all bets were off in the second film since the Oracle was discovered to work for the system.  That makes all the prophecies, well, questionable, since they were designed to get Neo to the Mainframe and integrate with it. 

But at the same time Neo is still unquestionably a remarkably gifted person and at the end we see his abilities extend beyond what has been recognized as part of the Matrix so far.  What does this mean?

Remember the scene in the first movie where Neo first met the Oracle?  She told him to watch out for the vase, Neo knocked it over, and then she said that what would really bake his noodle later on is the question, “Would you have knocked it over if I hadn’t said anything?”  I think the Oracle intuitive abilities really give her the power of self fulfilling prophecies.  If Neo really does defeat the computers at the end of the third film, then the film’s thesis is that mechanisms of control are ultimately self defeating.  And Neo, of course, would still be a savior.

I think the reality is that the thesis suggested by this article and the previous one exists in the films _alongside of_ salvation narratives, not in place of it. 

Just making the WBs very confused people.

I won’t know for sure, though, till the third film.

Jim

Posted by Jim Rovira on 08 Aug 03 at 10:01 AM
6

The thesis of the film was obvious, to me, as I left the theater. Fate versus free-will. Maybe Neo wouldn’t have broken the vase if the Oracle hadn’t said anything, but did the Oracle have the option to say anything else? Causality brings a new idea into it: my actions will invariably cause a chain reaction that you can’t fight. The Architect said, in a round-about way, that the people in Zion were the 1% of humanity that didn’t accept the programming of the Matrix because that is simply the way they are. Neo is comprised of left-over elements from the rest of the program, he isn’t actually human, he’s a program, an anomaly within the system. Much like Smith and French-curses guy. His purpose is to destroy the Matrix, the inherant purpose of all renegade elements, the Oracle and the Architect did what they did in order to make him deny his purpose, as they had with the previous anomalies. This doesn’t make them evil, just trying to survive. By choosing to save Trinity, Neo was actually giving into his purpose, his destiny, his fate, instead of denying it. Smith wanted to prevent Neo from entering the Architect’s domain in order to rob him of his purpose, by denying him the choice. It was Trinity’s fate to fall and die, that’s the only way Neo could’ve had the dreams, and that’s how the Oracle could’ve known. Perhaps, in the first, it was Neo’s fate to break the vase and she said “Don’t worry about the vase.” in order to establish a level of percieved power.

Now, recall the discussion in the bowels of Zion between Neo and Anthony Zerbe. The difference between a useful machine and a dangerous machine was the humans’ ability to turn it off. When we have the choice to turn it on and off, it is good, but when we reliquish that control (metaphorically relinquish control of our own destinies, relinquish choice) they become dangerous.

This idea is all over ‘Reloaded’: the scene in Zion when Neo and Trinity get out of the elevator and there are people offering Neo sacrifices; the scene with Persephone in the bathroom; and, of course, the infamous last scene with the sentinels. Am I the only one who sees this?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08 Aug 03 at 02:26 PM
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More thoughts:

Here’s a question for the savior discussion: is someone a savior because they choose to save you or because you choose to be saved by them? Think about it, Jesus is the savior of Christians and Jews, without question, but is he the savior of those who would go to Hell? According the Christian theology, salvation from eternity in Hell is acquired by belief in and acceptance of Jesus (that’s really abstract, I know, but I think it’s an idea that is fairly clear to the general populace), so is Jesus the Savior of the world if the world rejects him? In turn, can Neo be the savior of humanity (those in the Matrix, because the freed-minds have already been saved) simply by his own choice or does he have to convince them to join him. If Neo destroys the Matrix, forcing humanity into the real-world (set aside the ’ is Zion in the real world?’ debate for a minute) is he any better than the Matrix?

On a completely differant, inconsequencial angle that keeps coming back to me as I read these posts about the link between ‘The Matrix’ and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’: Wouldn’t Monica Bellucci be really good as the White Witch?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08 Aug 03 at 02:27 PM
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Red pill—

I think you’re not allowing for limitations in perspective.  Of course _all_ human beings are just “part of the program” from the point of view of the Architect—does that mean we have to buy it?  And consequently, does that mean Neo isn’t human too, then? 

Remember the primary reality set up in the first film was the machines needed to use humans as a power source because sunlight was blocked from the fact of the earth.  So there would have to be “real humans” somewhere—if that story is fiction and Zion is in the Matrix, why have a Matrix at all?  Why not just kill all the humans and quit bothering?  I think the thesis you keep insisting upon creates more problems than it solves, unless the WBs do some serious dancing around difficulties in the third film.

So I think you’re missing a few things when you say this:

“The Architect said, in a round-about way,that the people in Zion were the 1% of humanity that didn’t accept the programming of the Matrix because that is simply the way they are. Neo is comprised of left-over elements from the rest of the program, he isn’t actually human, he’s a
program, an anomaly within the system.”

Yes, Neo is an anomaly in relationship to the system, and the voice of the system understands him in that way.  Does that mean he can’t have any other existence? 

RE salvation and Christianity:

There’s a passage in one of Paul’s epistles that says “Christ is the savior of all men, especially those who believe.”  Many interpret that to mean the forgiveness for every single human being who has ever lived or ever will live was secured by Christ on the cross.  We only participate, or receive the benefits of, that forgiveness when we’ve united ourselves to Christ by faith.  So Christ is everyone’s savior, even for those who reject him as savior.  Those who reject him, though, won’t have an unwanted salvation forced upon them.

Jim

Posted by Jim Rovira on 08 Aug 03 at 02:51 PM
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Jim,
Of course there are real humans, somewhere. I’m just doubting that Neo is one of them. And think about it logically: if you have a 1% of humanity that doesn’t accept the Matrix (a staggering number of people, if you think about it), wouldn’t you give them an alternative, in order to keep them in the powerplant? Zion is as much a part of the Matrix as the Heart O’ the City hotel, how else would the Architect have the power to recreate it after it was destroyed? Also, this fits into the Savior debate. Jesus had the body of a man and was susceptible to the same needs, desires, etc. of a man. However, he was still the direct descendant of God, he had the genetics of Mary, but the mind of God. Hence, he was not entirely human. This is the same with Neo, he has the same body as Trinity, Morpheus, or Zee (the sister of Tank and Dozer), but he is not a power plant, like they are. He is an anomaly, created by the system, that is why it is he who sees the Architect, not Morpheus or Trinity. The Oracle may have ‘made up’ the prophesy, but that doesn’t mean that there is no ‘One’. The Architect makes reference to the ‘One’, though not in those terms.

One thing you must always keep in mind while taking in fiction is that it takes place in a world completely separate to your own. Thus, the person who made up the story is the God of that world and the laws of physics, human thought, and existance conform to that person’s desires for them. We tend to value fiction that closely resembles our own world, however, it remains completely unreasonable to expect a piece of fiction (especially Science-Fiction) to be in compliance at all, much less completely, with your own world view. The Wachowski Brothers are trying to communicate a series of ideas to us, if there are some holes in the complete picture as far as certain logistics which may or may not have anything to do with the idea exist, sua culpa, let it slide. Nobody rags on Homer for having Achilles’ death blow come to his ankle when it would be extremely diffacult for someone to die from a blow to the ankle. All I’m saying is: try to see this movie from the perspective of the Wachowski Brothers. Only through the eyes of its creator can a creation be fully understood.

I am sorry if that seems disrespectful, but this a very personnal subject for me.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08 Aug 03 at 08:54 PM
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(continued from above)
You said:

“Zion is as much a part of the Matrix as the Heart O’ the City hotel, how else would the Architect have the power to recreate it after it was destroyed?” 

This is a factual error.  The Architect did not say -he- recreated Zion.  He offered to allow Neo to leave with, I think, 24 women and 7 men and -they- could start another Zion.

Now, about Christ—orthodox Christian belief is that Christ was simultaneously fully God and fully human.  It’s not like his physical body was a shell of some kind and his spirit/mind was from God.  That’s actually a very old heresy—I don’t recall the name.  Christ had a fully human mind, fully human body, fully human spirit/soul, but wedded to that human spirit/soul was the second person of the trinity, the Logos.  Calvin, in his _Institutes_, called this a “hypostatic union,” asserting that Christ had a dual nature, both human and Divine.  So this doesn’t really work with your thesis about Neo. 

I don’t know, of course, how well versed the WBs are in traditional Christian theology.  I don’t think the film really gives us enough about Neo’s nature for them to need to know much, though.  Neo is human with special capabilities and is expected to function in some kind of savior role.  If they really follow through with the Christ imagery, he’ll die (well, he already did and already resurrected…but that wasn’t the end of the story).  So I’m really not sure where the WBs are going with their soteriology—or even if they’re going to continue to have one, as this latest Matrix article asked.  By having Neo die and resurrect in the first film, the WBs are already going beyond the standard Christ story in the second and third by having him remain and active, present agent.

Jim

Posted by Jim Rovira on 08 Aug 03 at 10:25 PM
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No no no, on a number of points.

First, you misunderstand me completely if you think I’m reading the film in a way that complies with a “world view” of my own.  You should read the piece I’ve written for the two films myself, if you have the time:

http://www.riverwestcurrents.org/2003/June/000695.html

There’s a link from that short review to a full length scholarly article I’ve written as well.  I try to be descriptive of the issues raised by the films without remaking them in my own image.  I see both very influenced by Baudrillard, and while I respect his writing I’m hardly a follower of his.

But this is beside the point.  It’s a very big mistake to think the meaning of any work is primarily determined by authorial intent.  The films don’t mean, in other words, “what the WB’s intend it to mean,” only that, or even mainly that.  Once they put a story out there it takes on a life of its own.  They don’t own the language or imagery they use to construct meaning—they borrow it, in fact, from a number of religions, fictional sources, and philosophical sources that are very easily identified, in most cases.  So the film’s meaning didn’t originate with them and it certainly doesn’t end with them.

This statement from you, though, pre-supposes that your reading of the film is the same as the WB’s.  Do you have a specific reason to believe that, or are you just convinced you’re right, so you assume that it must be the case? I think the latter, in which case you need to at least be open to the possibility that you may be mistaken.  In previous discussions I’ve conceded what you said as a possibility, saying we’d just have to wait for the third film to know for sure.  You sound very sure about it, though, so I think you’re overstating your case.  I’m not saying you don’t have a point, or that what you say isn’t a possibility, just that there’s no way to be sure about it yet, and that there are problems with what you suggest as well.

Jim
(continued below)

Posted by Jim Rovira on 08 Aug 03 at 10:26 PM
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Now, I do want to add this:

When you suggest that “Zion is as much a part of the Matrix as a good old power plant,” I think this is certainly true in some ways but untrue in others.

If you’re suggesting that it’s a virtual world of some sort, then I disagree.

If you’re saying its presence is the product of the system of control, but it does have a physical existence independent of the mainframe, then I agree to an extent. 

Again, it’s all in point of view.  To the Computers Zion is just a system anomaly.  To the human beings, though, it’s an independent counterculture. 

Why do you think the machines are right about this and the humans wrong?  How do you know at this point?

More below—

Jim

Posted by Jim Rovira on 08 Aug 03 at 10:31 PM
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As regards my personnal interpretation, I try to see the film through their eyes. I’ve read interviews and such that pertain to the Matrix and their thoughts and feelings. I do not presume to have their full thinking on it, but I do know that the Wachowskis have said “good fiction asks the big questions”. So I look for the big question in the film and their thesis to it. To be very clear, I believe that ‘Reloaded’ is a question about fate and free-will, anything else I say is simply counter-point to what other people are saying. I believe that the ‘fate v. free-will’ debate has roots, or at least affect, in theological debates, but I do not believe that there is any inherant theological debate within ‘The Matrix’ or its sequels. As to my ‘overstating my case’, when in a discussion I simply cannot take seriously anyone who talks in only ‘possibilities’ and ‘liklihoods’. I am well aware that I cannot speak with any particular authority about ‘The Matrix’, I can however speak very authoritatively about my opinions and I assumed that it was a given that we are speaking in opinions, thus making reiderations about the fact that we are speaking in opinions seemed like a waste of time.

My points about seeing the film through the Wachowski’s eyes came from your comments which seem completely unconcerned with the Wachowski’s intent. I must disagree with your statement: “It’s a very big mistake to think the meaning of any work is primarily determined by authorial intent.” I believe that a film can communicate more than it was intended to, but not ‘mean’. ‘Reloaded’ communicated a great deal to me, including the relationship between socialism and communism, but the film does not mean the struggle of capitolism versus communism. A lot of people read the Chronicles of Narnia as a Christian metaphor, but that isn’t what it meant. C.S. Lewis’ own interviews say that he was simply writing fantasy stories. Because of his ‘Sense of Life’, as Ayn Rand would say, Christian morality and a certain amount of symbolism snuck in. But C.S. Lewis was very frustrated that nobody saw the books for what they were: pure fantasy for children.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08 Aug 03 at 11:19 PM
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I believe that Zion was created as a computer simulation to satisfy the minds that didn’t accept the original program. And the Architect’s speech certainly doesn’t contradict that. However, I think that the Sentinels and the Machines that fight Zion are just another part of the simulation in order to maintain control. But, as I said before, that is entirely a question for ‘Revolutions’.

As for Jesus, I’m a born and raised Conservative Christian (Non-Demoninational), and I know that Jesus existed simultaneously as God and man in equal proportions. Whether his body was man and mind was God, or some other balancing of the two, I don’t know for sure. Although, I’m willing to bet that the true relationship is such that the human mind can’t actually understand it. But I still hold that Neo is as much a computer program as Agent Smith and the Oracle. I am convinced of this because it explains everything. I am going to agree, though, that Neo probably will die at the end of ‘Revolutions’, it seems only logical.

And regardless of meaning, communicated ideas, or any other thing along those lines: I found ‘Reloaded’ extremely entertaining and I had a lot of fun watching it. I think this may color our debate. You, as far as I can tell, didn’t like ‘Reloaded’. I think you expected it to leap higher than ‘The matrix’, but instead, it look a left at a slight incline. Unfortunately, I don’t think any movie could be more of a mind-blower than the original ‘Matrix’. You may, however, want to see ‘Dark City’. The thing is overflowing with philosophy. Even the ending, which ticked me off, was fitting with the build-up. Anyway…

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08 Aug 03 at 11:40 PM
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I’m still not really clear how Neo being a computer program “explains everything.”  I think it may be possible to come up with a coherent reading of the film that explains this idea, but it really only works if the world we take as the “real world” is also a simulation - remember that whole thing where he “woke up” in the first movie.

If you assume that, though, you create a whole bunch of problems, such as…why bother? Why have these people wake up to just another segment of the Matrix?  Why not just kill them?  Some real escape must be possible—some place where the computer isn’t in control—but the assumption that Neo is a computer program makes this impossible.  The thesis causes more problems than it solves.

You don’t really understand my expectations of “Reloaded.”  I didn’t have any.  I also thought it was a very entertaining film and saw it more than once.  The car chase scene is certainly among the best filmed, if not the best filmed, and the fight scenes hardly disappoint either.  That doesn’t mean I’m not critical, though.  I didn’t expect the second film to “leap over” the first film.  But comparing the two, it is much less dense philosophically—and even on the level of plot—than the first film.  In previous comments I partially chalked this up to it being a middle movie, for good or bad. 

So I don’t think my opinion of the film really has anything to do with our disagreement.  It’s certainly irrelevant to your thesis.

Jim

PS I’d agree that Christ’s nature is far more complicated than we can imagine or express, but to the extent that orthodoxy has been defined we should try to understand it.  It’s never a matter of any proportion between humanity and divinity—it’s always fully both.

Posted by Jim Rovira on 09 Aug 03 at 12:55 AM
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I’m still not clear on why you believe that Neo being a computer program makes it impossible for there to be a world where the machines do not exist.

Truth: 99% of humans accept the Matrix program if given a choice between it and ‘The Real World’, even one they aren’t aware of. (Recall the scene from ‘The Matrix’ when Neo has that little pow-wow with his boss.)
Truth: Neo has abilities nside the Matrix that no one else can touch. (i.e. “The Superman thing”)
Truth: At the end of ‘Reloaded’, Neo disabled a pack of Sentinels by sheer will in ‘The Real World’.

If we assume that Zion exists in the real world, than Neo must be as human as Trinity and Morpheus, because a computer program cannot exist outside of a computer.
However, we must remember that the Architect said: “Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the Matrix. You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which, despite my sincerest efforts, I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision.”
This makes Neo sound like a program. But the Architect also says that Neo is human. But now the Architect has made Neo sound like both program and human. If we assume that Zion exists in ‘the real world’, then we can also assume that the Architect considers all humans as programs, just programs with differant purposes. If we assume that Zion is part of the Matrix (created to satisfy the 1% of humanity that didn’t accept the regular Matrix program so that they don’t have to be killed and thus their body heat remains accessible to the machines), than Neo is simultaneously Human and Program, much the same way Jesus was Human and God. But this does not make freedom from the Matrix impossible, just a lot harder. It is also possible that what we refer to as “The Matrx” is the sixth version of ‘The Matrix’, which the Architect refers to, and that the world of Zion is the remains of Matrix 5. Three possibilities, and as I’ve said before, I believe that ‘Revolutions’ answers that question, making it an irrelevent discussion at this point.

I think that the reason ‘Reloaded’ was less philosophical is that there was so much already established. The plot of ‘The Matrix’ was Cypher betraying Morpheus and Neo and Trinity rescuing him. ‘Reloaded’ was about rescuing the Keymaker.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09 Aug 03 at 04:47 PM
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A moral question based on that ever so cool freeway scene. It was brought up by the love of my life in specific reference to the lobby scene in ‘The Matrix’, but it is the same question. There were a lot of explosions and car crashes on the freeway, inevitably a lot of people were injured and most likely killed, not to mention the collateral damage. How do you justify that? Sure the matrix world isn’t real, but it is inhabited by real people. Real people, people who had no intentions in regards to Morpheus, Trinity and the Keymaker, were killed and those who weren’t are going to have a really diffacult time explaining what happened to their insurance company. Also the opening scene (which happened for real later on) where all of those security guards were killed. That’s families who now don’t have fathers, possibly incomes. What makes the lives of freed-minds more important than those of un-freed minds? Are they less human? That’s something I’ve wondered about, the question of the sanctity of life in ‘The Matrix’ films.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09 Aug 03 at 04:58 PM
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Red:

Thanks, I understand where you’re coming from a lot better now.

First,

“I’m still not clear on why you believe that Neo being a computer program makes it impossible for there to be a world
where the machines do not exist.”

I didn’t say anything about there being a world where “machines do not exist.”  I said there had to be a segment of the real world where the computer was not in complete control—which as the films have led us to believe, is our current, physical world decimated by wars and still very much populated with machines.

“Truth: 99% of humans accept the Matrix program if given a choice between it and ‘The Real World’, even one they aren’t
aware of. (Recall the scene from ‘The Matrix’ when Neo has that little pow-wow with his boss.)”

That wasn’t what the Architect said.  He said that humans just needed to be given a choice, even an artificial one.  It doesn’t have to be a specific choice to accept the Matrix over the real world, just a choice of any kind.  Given that choice, they are more able to accept the programmed reality of the Matrix as the real world.

“Truth: Neo has abilities nside the Matrix that no one else can touch. (i.e. “The Superman thing”)”

Yep.

“Truth: At the end of ‘Reloaded’, Neo disabled a pack of Sentinels by sheer will in ‘The Real World’.”

Yep.  That is problematic for what I’m saying.  It needs explanation, and I think was intended to need explanation since it was placed at the end of the film.  I suspect it’ll have something to do with Agent Smith having a conscious existence outside the Matrix, and with Neo having met the Architect.  But these are just guesses.

“It is also possible that what we refer to as “The Matrx” is the sixth version of ‘The Matrix’, which the Architect
refers to, and that the world of Zion is the remains of Matrix 5.”

You’re confusing different versions of the Matrix with different versions of Zion.  There were previous versions of the Matrix that were colossal failures. We don’t know how many.  The Oracle was created and a stable version of the Matrix was developed with her input. This stable version of the Matrix had a 1% flaw, though—1% of those trapped within it kept waking up, rejecting the program.  These people, 5 previous times, have banded together and created Zion, which has been destroyed 5 previous times.  But the Matrix itself wasn’t destroyed and recreated with it, just Zion.

Jim    

Posted by Jim Rovira on 09 Aug 03 at 07:36 PM
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Red Pill said:

“If we assume that Zion exists in the real world, than Neo must be as human as Trinity and Morpheus, because a computer
program cannot exist outside of a computer.”

Yep, that’s the assumption I’ve been working with.  I think you still may be working with an idea of “proportional” humanity—that to the degree you’re a program, you’re less human.  Everyone trapped within the Matrix is fully human.  While in the Matrix, their consciousness takes on the characteristics of a computer program and their physical existence helps a computer(s) survive.  They are fully human, but are _serving the functions_ of a computer program and a power source.  The one doesn’t detract from the other at all. 

“However, we must remember that the Architect said: “Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation
inherent to the programming of the Matrix. You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which, despite my sincerest efforts, I
have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision.”
This makes Neo sound like a program. But the Architect also says that Neo is human. But now the Architect has made
Neo sound like both program and human.”

You’re confusing yourself :).  Yes, Neo is both program and human. Everyone attached to the Matrix in any way is both program and human.  Fully both. One role doesn’t interfere with the other—and you have to see the “program” part of human existence as a role that humans play in the Matrix, not a thing that they become.  Remember, their minds are hardwired into the Matrix, so that humans’ physical, biological minds are extensions of a vast computer program.

Neo, as The One, has a special meaning/function to the computers outside of his direct connection to the Matrix.  He represents the very nature of the anomaly that gives rise to Zion time after time after time.  That’s why the Architect wants him to integrate with the mainframe, so the computers can integrate that particular anomaly into their programming and gain that much more control.

Jim

more below.

Posted by Jim Rovira on 09 Aug 03 at 07:44 PM
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This is a question I’ve been struggling with since the first film:

“What makes the lives of freed-minds more important than those of un-freed minds? Are they less human? That’s something I’ve wondered about, the question of the sanctity of life in ‘The Matrix’ films.”

In the first film those whose minds were free were known as “terrorists.”  Neo learned that Agents can inhabit anyone trapped within the Matrix at any time, so every person was a potential Agent and could potentially become very dangerous.  Thus, they once alerted to their presence, they had to be killed. 

But that doesn’t make the killing right.  The reasoning seems to proceed from the notion that killing a few people is alright if we free a whole lot more.  It also proceeds from the notion that the people aligned with Zion are “at war” with the Matrix, and those caught within the Matrix are all possible combantants.  This is very much terrorist reasoning—even women and children shopping in a mall are seen as “just” targets for Palestinian terrorism, for example. 

This is all very disturbing.  The quesion is…do they really have a choice?

Jim

Posted by Jim Rovira on 09 Aug 03 at 07:48 PM
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I have disagreements with your statements on the Matrix/Zion relationship, but we won’t make any progress until ‘Revolutions’ comes out, so I’m not going to pursue the point any further, at this time.

I have absolutely no qualms with acing agents, and in the context of a battle between a freed-mind and an agent, I can give a certain level of forgiveness for collateral damage and civilian casualties. But the free-way scene, where the freed-minds are just running from the agents (and the Twins), that stuff begs some serious questions. But it’s actually the scenes with the security guards is most troubling. In both films, a lot of security guards are killed so that the freed-minds can have free access to the building. The scenes, especially in the first, are very exciting, but the casualties are not under the direct orders of the agents. This isn’t like the Vietnam war where the women and children were directly part of the war effort, this is a hidden war, very few people know about it. If I have one complaint with the Wachowski’s story-telling is that they copped out on some really tense scenes of the freed-minds sneaking in, avoiding the security guards, to have nicely choreographed, but otherwise unspectacular fight scenes.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09 Aug 03 at 10:43 PM
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Honestly…I had problems with that very thing the first time I saw the first film.  I tried working it out a couple different ways…but couldn’t.  It doesn’t work.  Kill innocent eople to free innocent people?  It doesn’t work—for any reason other than well choreographed, cool fight scenes. 

Jim

Posted by Jim Rovira on 17 Aug 03 at 11:47 PM
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Is double posting allowed - anyway, while insightful and illuminating neither this interpretation nor the previous one makes enough of the tripartite structure of the whole ‘piece’.  One of the things Read’s original metaphilm review pointed out was that the Matrix 1 was an attempt to do a philosophical disquisition in the mode of an action flick.  If we carry this insight on, one of the basic structures of much philosophical discourse is it comes in three parts: thesis, antithesis and then synthesis.  If it works for Aquinas and Hegel, why not the brothers Wachowski?

Thus Matrix 1 posed the question (albeit in an overly Gnostic form for my tastes) of whether there really is a supersensory world outside or beyond this one, a world which intrudes upon our reality: real and imagined.  Reloaded sets up the antithesis: there is no supersensory world – only a material universe from which there is no exit or salvation, we must make of it what we will.  The crucial scene is Neo’s conversation with the Architect – this both proposes the antithesis and presents the options within that argument.  These options come in the form of the two doors Neo has to choose between, which are in effect a choice between two forms of Darwinism/materialistic determinism: if there is no supersensory dimension then the choice is between a Richard Dawkins ‘Selfish Gene’ type view in which Neo opts to perpetuate his genes as the dominant ones in the human species or we have a Steve Jones-type argument in which even though we live in a closed material system love/altruism and freedom of choice are still a possibility.

I await Matrix: Revolutions to see what the synthesis will be – the final scene of Matrix: Reloaded is ambiguous.  Anyway, all of this is to say I don’t think it’s a ‘bait and switch’ – perhaps the Matrix is still holding to its original direction…we shall soon see.

Luke

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 31 Oct 03 at 08:08 PM
24

I’ve been hearing different people talk about the Gnosticism of the Matrix films, but I’m not quite convinced.

The first film posits a material world as the “real” world, and the mental world as the illusory world.  The is the mirror image of Gnosticism.  Escape from the illusory means contact with genuine physicality, rather than interaction with a virtual physicality.

The conversation with the Architect at the end of the second film did nothing to interrogate or question this structure.  He even offered to let Neo “leave” with 24 women and 7 men if he would only integrate his unique insights into the Mainframe.  This once again implies an escape from the mental illusion into a real physicality.

However, the second film did question the premises of the first film by undermining the salvation narrative set up in the first film.  It doesn’t do that by saying, or even implying that Zion is part of the Matrix and Neo and his buddies are just programs.  It does this by locating the origin of the salvation narrative provided by the first film in the machine world—it was delivered to the liberated humans by the Oracle, who turns out to have been working for the machines all along.

The undermining of the “given” salvation narrative, however, still doesn’t undermine Neo’s function as savior.  The salvation he will be able to offer (if he isn’t defeated) will be one that is self directed, rather than one provided by a predetermined narrative.  I think what’s being set up is a humanistic, individualist “salvation” that will be made possible via a compromise with the Mainframe made necessary to defeat Agent Smith, the antiChrist figure who threatens both the Matrix and the human world. 

We will see. It’s still possible, of course, that Zion really is part of the matrix.  But this is a cheap out.  It doesn’t solve the problem of transcendence, because the machines still came from somewhere and a material world still exists.  It would be a drastic failure of the WB’s imagination.

Entirely within the realm of possibility, but one I’m willing to forestall for the moment.

Jim

Posted by Jim Rovira on 31 Oct 03 at 10:38 PM
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Personnally I’m a little disapointed by how narrow the discussion on the Salvation narrative has been. I think that the narative set up in ‘The Matrix’ is intact completely at the end of ‘Reloaded’. The question is: what are we being saved from?

Most people just assume that a salvation narrative must be directly linked to Jesus. What is far more likely is Socrates, or even Martin Luther. If we assume that Neo is Jesus, why is he dating the Trinity? Jesus is ‘God the Son’, part of the Trinity. This is where the Martin Luther theory first makes sense. Through the guiding and support of Trinity, and she is the one that leads him to Morpheus, Neo accepts his destiny as a warrior trying to save the MINDS of people (the soul never comes up in Matrix mythos). The romantic connection between Trinity and Neo is also supported: the Bible repeatedly refers to God as a Groom coming to claim his bride. Okay, so the sexes are backwards, whoopty-smeg.

But I think that Socrates is a far more likely candidate for Neo’s metaphorical ancestor. Think about it, the Oracle tells Morpheus that he will find the One. Morpheus tells Neo that he is the One and Neo doesn’t believe it, so he sets out to prove that he isn’t by rescuing Morpheus, but only succeeds in proving that he is the One. Then, in Reloaded, he (unwillingly) takes on a protege, Kid. Kid revears Neo as his savior and so on…
Okay, replace ‘Morpheus’ with ‘Chaerephon’, ‘Neo’ with ‘Socrates’, ‘Kid’ with ‘Plato’ and you’ve got a pretty close match. The romantic sub-plot could be a signification of Socrates’ rejection of Greek religion (though it’s unlikely Socrates was a Christian, some scholars, including C.S. Lewis, believe that he had some connection to it). All of the leather, kung fu, and techno-rock is the standard Hollywood gloss.

What can easily be mistaken for Gnosticism may be, in fact, simple Biblical nihilism: Then shall the dust return to the Earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity. (Eccl. 11:7-8) Basically: nothing a human can do will last, and is therefore meaningless; the only things that last are created by God, and thus are all that matter. By Christian tradition, only the human soul will go to heaven to live forever. Hence, our bodies are meaningless and only our soul matters. That’s not Gnosticism, but superficially, it’s an easy mistake.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01 Nov 03 at 06:04 AM

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