The Matrix: A Nihilistic Philosophy
Apologies to anyone who may read this and has previously found a calling to follow Jesus more fully through this really well done movie. It is possible to see that the producers of the movie, “The Matrix” could have allowed for a sense of turning away from sin that is in the world, to be the central theme of the movie. However, there are a few choices that they made, and one choice that will be shown here, that displays the end that they hoped to achieve.
It is the first scene of the movie that brings you into this world of fantasy, that you are hooked on from the beginning of the action. However, it is the scene where Neo is awakened by a computer screen that is somehow asking him to wake up, and that begins to explain the whole movie, even all of the movies in the Matrix trilogy. After instructing him through the text on his computer screen to follow the white rabbit, and then foretelling the knock on the door, Neo goes to get his data stash from a book. The book’s name is “Simulacra & Simulation” by Jean Baudrillard, and the chapter that is visible to the viewer, if only subliminally at first glance, is “On Nihilism”. Everything that is placed in this scene is done so for the reason of having an effect on the viewer, even if it is only meant to affect your subconscious.
To explain what is meant there, it helps to see what might happen to a viewer of this movie. After watching it, there may be a sense that something religious was happening, and this would be intentional. The name, Morpheus, is translated from the god of dreams, and the name Neo is a symbol for the new man. The first character presented is Trinity, who is made out to be a real tough bad guy character, and who is capable of amazing feats of strength and fighting ability. It is possible that as the movie goes on, all of this could be obscured by the fact that Neo was still plugged in to the Matrix when he first found the book, so it wasn’t meant to be real. However, the thing that made Morpheus come after Neo was his searching for the truth that existed outside of his reality, that seems to be indicated by this book.
If you look at nihilistic philosophy, it explains that there is no religion and that life is essentially meaningless. It was the philosophy that was used by the Russian government in order to promote more social order. This scene could be seen as a general reference to “Alice in Wonderland” and the follow the white rabbit, but there is more going on here than just a reference to illicit drug use to unplug from the world. Finally, here is the quote from the book that I found in an article about the reference used in the movie, that basically spells out the theme. “The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference. I will leave it to be considered whether there can be a romanticism, an aesthetic of the neutral therein. I don’t think so – all that remains, is the fascination for desert-like and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us.” This was taken from Jean Baudrillard’s, “Simulacra and Simulation”, and specifically from the chapter called, “On Nihilism”. (Dyer, 2014)
Many people got duped into believing in a higher message of this first movie, and were let down by the second and third movies in the trilogy. However, it is this one scene that should have been a signal to the philosophy that was to come in the next two movies. There is plenty of other evidence of this film’s attempt at furthering a nihilistic narrative. Yet, the most convincing evidence by far is the explanation of this theory to a 14 year-old, who has seen the movie too many times to count, and who immediately understood all three movies in light of this philosophical perspective. The 14 year-old is the writer’s middle son, who was initially skeptical, but after hearing out the whole argument was left with the impression that he can’t wait to get into college to be able to study film in this way.
To think that, because the book that includes a chapter on nihilism only makes a cameo appearance in one of the opening scenes of the movie, it couldn’t be the driving philosophical force behind the movie would be a mistake. It was in a book about adapting philosophy that Catherine Constable said that the producers of the Matrix made the book, “Simulacra & Simulation” by Jean Baudrillard required reading for all cast members. (Constable, 2009) The author, Jean Baudrillard, accuses the film of misrepresenting his work. However, it is clear that they were attempting to represent it, regardless of the opinion of the results by the original author.
Dyer, Jay (2014). The Matrix (1999) – Esoteric Analysis. [Web log post] Received from: https://jaysanalysis.com/2014/01/20/the-matrix-1999-esoteric-analysis/
Constable, C. (2009). Adapting philosophy : Jean Baudrillard and *The Matrix Trilogy*. Manchester, GB: Manchester University Press. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com.