The Matrix Reloaded

Xenon Zi-Neng Yuan wenhuadageming at
Mon May 12 14:21:26 MDT 2003

At 09:44 AM 5/12/2003 -0400, you wrote:
>yes, the Matrix Reloads ... i hated the first movie.
>les schaffer

hope i'm not stepping on too many toes here, as i'm new to the list and am
still relatively young.  but i would like to respectfully differ, because i
don't see the reason to have to "hate" the matrix so categorically (if i'm
interpreting your comment correctly).  it - i'm referring to the original
film, not the upcoming sequels - has many many problems, but c'mon, this is

also, the newyorker review by gopnik that louis proyect seems a bit
disjointed and seems to focus too much on the wachowski brothers' sources
of inspiration and actual motivations.

i'm a little pressed for time right now, so i'm not going to explain all my
opinions on the matter, but a somewhat older friend and comrade of mine was
debating the value of "the matrix" online with some anarchists (who tend to
much prefer the misogynist, quasi-fascist "fight club") and thus wrapped up
much more succinctly several of my own conclusions about the movie:

(start quote)

"There is a propensity on the left to respond to popular culture in a very
either/or manner. Either it is ripe with subversive content OR its about
commodifying rebllion and thereby passifying us.

"This is just too simplistic. Popular culture is an arena of struggle, but,
like most such arenas in this society, under normal circumstances the
possibilities for going beyond a certain point are highly constrained.

"The dictates of the market and the tastes of producers mean that Hollywood
isn't going to make really revolutionary movies (except possibly in the
context of a revolutionary situation in which the constraints come loose).
At the same time popular hunger for resistance and revolt mean that there
is money to be made making movies that speak to those impulses. Generally
these are constructed according to certain accepted conventions (heroic
individual takes on corruption of an otherwise legitimate institution).

"There is a tension between these two tendencies that creates cracks in
which artists are sometimes able to advance messages that go outside the
range of "acceptable discourse." These instances are rare and frequently
fail to satisfy the demands of ideological purists.

"This seems to be the case with The Matrix. The messianic content of the
movie is undeniable. So is its critique of alienation and its basically
anti-systemic message of resistance and revolt. The way I see it is that we
live in a media saturated environment. A movie like the Matrix, in addition
to being a gas to watch, opens up possibilities for discussions with people
about the nature of the system and what it will take to change it. Those
opportunities in my view outweigh the deficiencies of the movie.

"A few things should be said about the messianic content of the movie.
First, it isn't nearly so objectionable if you recognize the importance of
revolutionary leadership. Second, it effectively employs Christian
symbolism that resonates for millions of people in this society in the
service of a pretty radical critique of capitalism. In this respect it is
not that different from the message of Liberation Theology which I would
argue has played an overwhelmingly progressive role in struggles in Latin
America. The liberatory message of Exodus, for example, is a staple of
political discourse in Zapatista communities, much as it has been in the
Black community.

"There is of course a deeper question about the place of the heroic
individual protagonist in movies. Does this reflect simply the
individualist values of capitalist culture or rather a more universal logic
of good storytelling? I tend to think some of both.

"At the end of the day I think the attempts to analyze the movie simply in
terms of its objective content are inadequate. The real question is how do
other people read it and what do they do with that reading. We have to be
real about this and not let our criticism get ahead of how the thing is
actually playing out. I know a lot of activists and organizers who got a
big charge out of The Matrix and felt that some of their most basic values
and insights were validated by it. I don't think any of them came away from
the movie convinced that we needed to find "The One" though I did have some
good conversations about the contradictions between leadership and
democracy in organizations and movements. I certainly don't know anybody
who reduced their level of activism because of any renewed faith in Hollywood.

"Having some points of reference within the popular culture is valuable.
Its valuable as a tool for talking with people and its good for our morale.
I go to the movies to unwind. It usually demands that I suspend a lot of my
commitments in order to enjoy myself. Its nice to go to a movie that does a
lot less of that and seems to actually uphold some things that are rarely
said in any sort of mass context.

"Take the red pill!"

(end quote)

also, there are undeniable idealistic and individualistic tendencies in the
movie, but that doesn't mean one can't extract some solid materialistic
analysis from it either.  it also addresses the issues of military chain of
command and structure in a resistance movement.  i'm by no stretch of the
imagination a fan of the sectarian group MIM (maoist internationalist
movement), but their "maoist movie review" of "the matrix" has IMHO some
insightful points on this

fire away with comments and criticism.  i'd like to hear what others think.

x. yuan

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