The Matrix and Its Historical Relevance

By Tommy Super


As I wrote about in a previous blog post, we watched The Matrix for my special topics class a little while back. After seeing it again and talking about the film more in class, I have found historical significance in this film’s plot that I did not before realize. After further contemplation, I have realized that this film depicts a dystopian reality that captures the complications between a strong, utopian society stricken by violence and governmental instability in 1990s America.

Terrorist threats and questionable leadership plagued America. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing and 1995 Oklahoma City bombing both worked as warnings against potential terrorism on American soil. Also, although Bill Clinton made some effective contributions during his presidency, his sex scandal caused the American public to question his leadership, his moral values and trustworthiness.

One can see then – as mixed feelings of high hopes, fear and vulnerability spread across American soil in the 90s – how The Matrix’s fake utopia hits on both positive and negative feelings in America during this time. The Matrix refers to this aspect of 1990s American culture with its depiction of “The Matrix” itself and its contrast with the dystopian apocalypse in the “real world.” In this film, the matrix world is portrayed as a grey, almost uninhabitable wasteland, where people resort to living underground, eating barely edible foods, low hygiene, a constant fear of running low on supplies and being attacked by the machines. This real world exhibits the paranoia and turmoil facing America in the 1990s.

As a seemingly normal society with a well organized business world, – where Neo, or Thomas, works a solid job at Metacortex, a software company, in a clean, well run city – “The Matrix” itself depicts a comfortable and utopic society, that imitates prosperous 1990s urban America. However, just as the 1990s plagued Americans with mixed feelings of economic prosperity and governmental vulnerability, “The Matrix,” as Morpheus explains, is merely a “system,” a computer program, meant to mock what humans would see as an ideal, safe world with “lawyers, teachers, business men, and carpenters.”

As The Matrix utopia is foiled by the hackers, or the red pill, utopian 90s America was foiled by a broken presidency, foreign threats and ultimately, a terrorist attack at the turn of the millennium that exposed this country’s blindness in a way that would change the way it viewed foreign threats for the next decade. Post 9/11 then is not only the end of the 90s as a representation of an ideal American era, but the end of our own “matrix.”

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