We’re on the cusp of the release of the long-awaited fourth Matrix film, Matrix: Resurrections. I can’t say I know what that means in terms of what this film is going to be but I don’t exactly have high expectations. The Matrix is essentially a perfect film with a clear beginning, middle and end. It’s a film about learning the nature of the system and coming to terms with why it should be fought in the first place. It’s a story of radicalization and the film ends with the character complexly breaking and transcending the limitations that the system places on him.
So making a sequel to that kind of story is going to be a fraught exercise. The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revelations didn’t have a clear sense of how to be their own stories. In the end, the Wachowskis came up with a story about the nature of how a system reacts to rebellion, namely by integrating rebellion into the nature of the system and making it a predictable factor that can be easily countered. That’s a clever bit of satire and actually serves as a fascinating review of the entire concept of fighting the system. The system may need to be fought like the government in 1984 it’s so much larger than that it’s already 10 steps ahead of you. There is nothing outside of the total state.
Alas, that’s an irony that the Wachowskis themselves don’t seem terribly tuned into. Much like their beloved Rage Against the Machine songs that line the soundtracks of every one of these movies, Wachowskis don’t particularly see the irony of where the true machine lies in society. The Matrix that the Wachowskis are fighting is the shallowness of 1990s conformity culture. They wanted to fight against sexual repression, corporations and the concept of normativity itself.
When other political groups started using the symbolism of The Matrix to represent awakening from the Shalina‘s of their time do Wachowskis lashed out violently against it. When Ivanka Trump and Elon Musk both said they wanted to “Take the Red Pill”, Lilly Wachowski replied simply with “F*ck both of you”.
This fundamentally speaks to the nature of The Matrix as an allegory in the first place. Compare it to its clearest mythological analog in Plato‘s “allegory of the cave”, wherein a man is tied to a wall and sees reality as a set of shadows playing on a wall. When he breaks free of his binders he claims to a cave seeing light and eventually emerges in the real world where he comes to understand that the puppets we’re just a shadow version of the real world.
The concept of “The Red Pill” functions exactly the same way as the light in Plato’s allegory. It’s the source of a greater, truer world that we only see in shadows when we lack the means of discernment. The philosopher’s job is to crawl their way out of the cave and to live in the light of truth, just as Neo escapes the Matrix and learns to fight back against it with the help of Morphius.
Like the red pill in The Matrix, Plato‘s cave is a very mythopoetic and broad allegory. There are many cages in life and many artificial hierarchies and systems that feel arbitrary to us that we don’t understand. It is for this reason that something like the red pill can be used in contacts as broad as anti-capitalism to anti-progressivism. It’s why a libertarian socialist like Elon Musk can use it as readily as a fascistic white nationalist like Richard Spenser. Both men believe they’ve discovered the true source of light and they’re crawling towards it. Both men believe that they’ve discovered the way that the system works and they’re eager to challenge it.
At the same time, there are cages that we feel comfortable in. There are boots we feel comfortable licking. There are masters in gods we are happy to subjugate ourselves to. For the Wachowskis, they are servants of transgression, radical liberation, and nonconformity but these are the old gods. As such they’re not very elastic or flexible as time changes around them. Their gods are anti-gods, jealous gods, and their sacraments are every bit as binding as the old gods before them.
As the god of progressivism marches and drags all of western civilization into despotism, war, and poverty, Lana Wachowski stands with an opportunity to actually say something about the nature of power and how it’s changing. They could recognize, as they did in Matrix Reloaded, that the machines are multifaceted. They could realize that they’re comfortable in their materialistic cage. They could realize they’re trapped in a leftist echo chamber that reinforces new forms of tyranny and hatred. They could see the way that woke capitalism is warping culture and destroying people’s lives. Maybe the writer who wrote about the complexity of fighting the system could have something nuances to say about Antifa violence or whether certain forms of violence aren’t appropriate. Maybe she should *GASP* criticize her own ideas?
Alas, I do not think they’re willing to actually take a bite at the real machines that sign their paychecks. If they were really fighting the machines, they wouldn’t be working for Hollywood…