Premiering in 1999, Lana and Lily Wachowski’s film The Matrix was quite the impactful way to end the 20th century. The idea of reality being only a simulation with people of intelligent AI has had a profound effect on the genre of science fiction. It also begs the question: Is The Matrix Real? Are the events depicted in the movie something we can connect to the real world? To answer this question, we would need to review the events, plot twists, and characters in the movie and connect them to the world today. However, this would mean spoiling the movie for first time viewers. Therefore, we decided to review specific quotes from the movie rather than the events that took place. Here are a few:
“The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from”: This quote, uttered by the villain Agent Smith, depicts the troubles and obstacles that humans must endure. These struggles take us further away from a utopian society, or a perfect society. In fact, this quote insinuates that the perfect world does not exist and that it is only a desire. In order to wake up from this dream, mankind needs to accept the terms of reality. In today’s society especially, this quote holds absolutely true. Between the riots in the streets, police brutality against colored people, and lack of respect for immigrants, America is far from living in a Utopian society. Even if this chaos does cease completely, there are always ways of improving a society. Unemployment, for example, will always be an issue as the economy cannot sustain jobs for this many people. Due to the state of the world, a Utopian society will never be an actual thing and humans must wake up from this illusion.
“To deny our own impulses is to deny the only thing that makes us human”: This quote was stated by a crew member on the Zion hovercraft named Mouse. The quote implies that one’s own desires and impulses is the only aspect that makes us different from machines. Neglecting them means we are truly robots and that we have no meaning. Looking at this view from the psychologist Sigmund Freud, we learn that impulse is an aspect that has been with male humans since birth. According to Freud, “It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father”. In other words, because our mother is the first female person that young boys meet, they begin to develop an impulse for intercourse with their own mother! (note that this concept only applies towards male species) As such, the young child becomes jealous of the father and wishes to kick him out of the child’s life. This desire, however, gets suppressed by the superego in later years, but the principle behind it shows that impulse has been with us since we were born! That being said, impulses are certainly not the only thing that makes us human. Other aspects that separate us from machines are sympathy, love, and stress. Because machines are programmed for a specific task, they cannot develop feelings nor can they feel sympathetic, in love, or angry at someone. Therefore, this quote does not apply to the real world, though we can’t help but respect the emphasis the movie placed on our impulse and desires.
“Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony”: What makes the terrorist Morpheus’s quote so ironic is that, even though it is believed that humans and machines are distinct from each other, humans have relied so heavily on machines to do our thinking that we may as well consider humans and machines one and the same. It is as if we have rejected our own brain to processes our thoughts and duties and, instead, accepted the ever growing field of technology. Schools, for example, are shifting away from learning multiplication by hand and are rather telling students to use a calculator to solve multiplication equations. Supermarkets are also moving away from cashiers and, instead, relying on self checkout machines to pay for our goods. At this rate, the fate and future of society will be solely looking at machines and, as such, human expression will dwindle away and it would be considered ironic to claim that humans are different from machines. Thus, this quote also holds true to today’s society and shows how ahead of its time The Matrix was in predicting the future.
“What do All Men with Power Want? More Power”: Stated by the wisest character in the movie, The Oracle, this quote implies that nobody can be truly pleased with their life. Even the richest person in the world will still demand more money and, even then, they are still not satisfied. The same could be said in terms of government. Our current President Donald Trump is a man with a lust for greed and praise for his “achievements”. Even with millions of people at his rallies cheering him on, it’s still not enough for him. Now, he is denying the result of the 2020 election so that he can gain more power. When it comes to power, reputation and respect, people simply do not understand their limitations and they will not stop demanding power until they gain total control and then some. This has led to numerous dictatorships and people frightened for their life. With great power comes great responsibility, but this quote, along with the events in the world today, show that people have debunked this notion completely. We should be happy with what we have because humans do not understand its value until it is confiscated.
“Ever have that feeling when you’re not sure if you’re awake or dreaming?”: This quote, said by the main character Neo, presents a connection between dreams and reality, which is the main idea behind The Matrix. Sometimes, dreams can be so realistic that we don’t realize we are dreaming until we wake up thinking “Woah, that was a dream?!” To analyze this quote further, let’s look towards Sigmund Freud again. According to Freud, “dream content seems like a transcript of the dream thoughts into another mode of expression, whose characters and syntactic laws it is our business to discover by comparing the original and the translation.” In other words, dreams and reality have strong meaning behind them as they are reminiscent of events in our past. It is our job for the conscious mind to look into the unconscious mind and understand the meaning behind our dreams and connect them to the real world. This connection explains why we have that feeling when we’re unsure if we’re awake or dreaming. Neo’s depiction, therefore, should definitely be applied to humans today so that we can gain a stronger meaning about ourselves.
“That’s how it is with people. Nobody cares how it works as long as it works”: In a way, Councillor Hermann’s quote may present the idea that humans are uncaring about each other, which is true especially seeing as we cannot trust anybody. However, the quote can also reflect the idea of greed and desire. For example, when someone orders a bed from a mattress store, the manufacturer of the bed does not care about making the mattress feel special as long as the job is done. After all, the manufacturer is not the one who is using the bed, so what do they care if the bed is not unique? In other words, people will only makes things work better if it benefits them; otherwise, there is no incentive. This shows greed in terms of the marketplace and how people do not care how something works for the customer as long as it works in general. Therefore, this quote is related to today’s society for two reasons: first, it shows that even our closest friends cannot always be trusted and second, it shows competition and greed that has swept the world today.
“The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. A prison for your mind”: This description, again from Morpheus, provides the viewer with a general summary of what The Matrix truly means. The metaphor of “A prison for your mind” shows that humans have been “locked up” all their lives and will understand the truth of life. In today’s world of capitalism and consumerism, there are many things that distract us from this truth such as different forms of entertainment (television, Internet, concerts, movies, etc.). The media encourages us to attend these events and supplies society with anti depressant drugs to make us “feel happier”. However, in terms of The Matrix, is it really just ways to blind us from the truth? Do these forms of entertainment truly mean anything? Is there really a parallel universe that depicts reality for what it truly is? These are the questions that The Matrix seeks to answer.
To answer the question, “Are We Really Living in The Matrix?” the answer is quite ambiguous. Because humans are unaware if another universe truly exists, the truth of reality may never be revealed. While humans may be seen different from robots at the moment, as technology advances, can the same be said in the future? Most of the quotes, however, can be applied to today’s society and perhaps scientists should look towards this movie in their future discoveries. Perhaps we are, indeed, living in The Matrix.