Critical Reading of The Matrix

By: Gus Hoff

“The question is, which pill would you choose?” Before answering, think of what the pills truly represent. The blue pill? Which brings back an old yet satisfying original life. Or the red pill? That will bring a new opening into the mind and universe. Most viewers see this famous question as a simple blue or red choice. However once looked at from a “professor’s” point of view, intertextuality and politics and allusions and symbolism shine through the magnifying glass of reading and listening in between the lines. It is obvious that viewing the Matrix “like a professor” enhances and deepens an audience’s understanding by showing intertextuality, political views, and symbolism in the film.

Intertextuality in literature, especially in The Matrix, makes the film more understandable and comprehensible for the average viewer. Adding popular images and story plots into a complex movie, makes the film deeper and richer, because “fairy tales…belong to the one big story.”(Foster 55)  Almost everyone has seen or read or heard about some version of Alice in Wonderland, which was mentioned two times throughout the film. If this piece of intertextuality was not used, the viewer may not have grasped the idea that Neo is in a new dimension and world than he ever was in before. Also in the movie itself a scene shows Neo, who was then dead, be resurrected by a passionate kiss of love from Trinity. (Wachowski) This is obviously a mention of Sleeping Beauty, where Princess Aurora can only be awoken from a kiss of true love from Prince Phillip. In using this basic fairy tale, the film can connect with the pathos inside the viewers from their younger remembrances of love to their now more realistic views of love. Looking for intertextuality in The Matrix, further enhances the understanding of the plot and enriches better messages throughout the movie.

Politics is and always will be in every piece of literature, including The Matrix, therefore understanding that politics show hidden meanings of actions is instrumental in fully comprehending the plot. Most characters are often political figures as “the role of the individual is always politically charged.” (Foster 118) For example some could argue that Morpheus is almost seen as the president and commander in chief of the matrix world. While seeing him as the head of office in his matrix, it justifies some decisions and actions taken by Morpheus; including selfless and leadership tendencies. Also throughout the entire movie itself it describes the matrix as a vast control center of the world and the things within it, while only a select view are truly free from the control. (Wachowski) The matrix could be seen as a form of overpowered government, which is definitely political. Because of this new insight given by the lense of a “professor,” it is easy to recognize the purpose of Morpheus’s team and the way they view the world beneath them.

Symbolism is everywhere in The Matrix, and when shown, it reveals special messages or hints on what is happening in the story. When there is a symbol in a piece of literature, it, “suggests a connection to the most basic and primitive elements in our natures.”(Foster 107) For example in the movie, a deja vu occurs which shows that there is a glitch in the matrix. However the deja vu is a repeating black cat, which is commonly known as bad luck. In realizing this, the viewer is able to make an inference in the future of Morpheus’s team. To add to that point, in the final scene of the movie the song “Wake Up” by notoriously political band Rage Against The Machine plays. (Wachowski) In playing this song, the director implies that Neo is now “awoken” and is the “one,” which would not be as concrete if that symbol was not included in the movie.

Viewing the Matrix “like a professor” enhances and deepens an audience’s understanding by showing intertextuality, political views, and symbolism in the film. Without realizing it readers and viewers constantly see these three things in literature, and don’t benefit from the benefits they provide. So now use the magnifying glass to see that the letters of Neo also spell one, or that superman also uses telephone booths to become his hero, or even that the movie uses pods as a way to store people like the government stores us; To either read in between the lines, or just read the lines themselves.

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