An ideological analysis seeks to discover the system of ideas behind a body of work. There is a close connection between ideology and science fiction because science fiction is a form of art that seeks to explore ideas. Unlike fantasy, science fiction borrows on the pre-existing social, political, and technology trends. This makes science fiction films a suitable tool for exposing the ideologies that are contained in certain trends. This paper presents the ideological analysis of the 1999 science fiction film, “The Matrix.”
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“The Matrix” is a film that covers both the mainstream and science fiction film-making cultures. After its premiere, the movie was able to achieve mainstream success even though it was a science fiction film. The film is influenced by both postmodernist theories and the popular culture of its time. “The Matrix” is a film that presents a future in which human beings live through a simulated reality (The Matrix). This simulated reality is created by machines whose intention is to subdue the human population and use human being’s body heat as a source of energy. The main protagonist in “The Matrix” is Neo, a computer programmer who discovers this conspiracy and starts a revolt against the sentient machines.
The device used in “The Matrix” is used to distract people from discovering their passive existence. One of the most influential ideologists, Karl Marx, alluded to this concept where humans are distracted from seeing their future by capitalism (Shea 134). This solidifies the structure of the ideology that is contained in the film. The general idea in “The Matrix” is that an ideology can be used as a smokescreen.
The film conforms to most of the mainstream action movies’ ideological clichés. For instance, some of the fight scenes in the movie are highly exaggerated. This exaggeration is in line with other action films of this generation, including “Starship Troopers” and “Forrest Gump.” These movies were mainstream action films that adhered to the genre’s cliché. “The Matrix” acknowledges its position in the cinematic world by adhering to these trends. Some of the scenes in the film seem to pay tribute to other popular movies before it. For example, the opening rooftop was previously featured in one of the popular Hitchcock movies.
The ideology of violence in the film is presented in a very peculiar manner. Most of the fight scenes are presented in an unrealistic and artistic manner. Moreover, blood is used reservedly in the film, as most of the wounds in the film are almost bloodless. This style shows that the film does not portray violence but instead seeks to conform to the action-movie genre. Without a direct portrayal of violence, it is hard for the audience to be derailed from the main ideologies in the film. Violence is not a core ideology in this film, and over representing it would turn into a distraction. The unrealistic violent scenes in “The Matrix” are also meant to be a constant reminder of the film’s fictitious nature.
The exaggerated cinematic effects that are used in the film echo the ideology of media simulation that is commonly known as hyperrealism. The world of films is competitive, with different films trying to surpass each other’s special effects catalog, production budget, among other aspects. “The Matrix” perpetuated hyperrealism through the larger than life characters and the overuse of special effects. The main antagonist in the film is Cypher, and he seeks to improve his image by being a betrayer. The importance of image is in line with the real-world situation where people want to create or maintain an enviable image at whatever cost. The film’s audience can either relate to or abhor the hyperrealism ideology.
“The Matrix” is a delicate balance between fantasy and reality. Some characters in the film are already living a double life. For example, the film’s main character exists in both the real world and in a virtual world. This approach was probably meant to mimic how human beings are constantly living double lives. It is common for human beings to project a certain type of character to the rest of the world while they hide their real characters.
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The ideology of growth or development is synonymous with human existence. Many science fiction films propagate this ideology. The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche propagates this ideology because, according to Nietzsche, man is a force to be overcome- a superman (Nietzsche 107). “The Matrix” supports the idea of the elevation of human beings to a higher state. The film’s ending portrays the triumph of human beings against machines and the advent of a superhero. The main character in the film transforms from a person with good computer hacking skills to a hero who saves the day. The ideology of transformation appeals to many people because everyone is seeking to be elevated to a higher state in life. The idea of existence without transformation terrifies most people. For instance, most people are seeking to transform their financial, social, and career statuses to enviable levels. The film seeks to gather a sizable audience by propagating this ideology.
Another ideology propagated by this film is the ideology of individual liberty. The machines in “The Matrix” are not defeated through a collective effort but through the efforts of individuals like Neo. The agents whom Neo is fighting against are presented in an orderly manner. They are also organized, meaning the ideology propagated in the film is individual liberty against an organized or disorganized system. In one simulation scene, Neo is seen walking in the opposite direction against heavy pedestrian traffic (The Matrix). The society promotes togetherness, but it reveres those who are able to make great progress while working alone. Moreover, society lacks faith in individuals who work alone, and it always waits for them to fail. “The Matrix” captures the audience’s attention by contradicting this notion. For instance, Marxist ideologies promote change through movements, and they downplay the abilities of lone rangers (Shea 134).
The ideology contained in “The Matrix” can be described as one where nothing is real, but everything is allowed. Both the film and the characters within it are able to exist ideologically within a fictional world and at the same time go beyond ideological boundaries. The makers of this film are able to achieve a delicate balance between conforming to the ideologies of the science fiction genre and explore new ones. The film is almost two decades old, but the ideologies it projected have since been reprised in two other sequels, and they have managed to survive to this date.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, New York, NY: Mobile Reference, 2008. Print.
Shea, Robert. The Illuminatus! Trilogy, New York, NY: Random House Digital, 2010. Print.
The Matrix. Dir. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Perf. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Hugo Weaving. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1999. DVD.