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The myth of ‘The Matrix’: misogyny, men, mediocrity | Cultspiracy

One fish, two fish, red pill, blue pill. Oh, sorry, that’s not how it goes. 

Out of all the ways in which “The Matrix” has manifested itself into popular culture decades later, the original impulse of the movie seems to be lost. Written by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, two transgender women, the movie’s original leftist, anti-capitalist undertones have been manipulated into racist, misogynistic and hyper-capitalist propaganda. There are two strains of this transformation: “red-pilling” and “escaping the matrix.”

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

While the philosophical themes of “The Matrix” are vast and complex, in 2012, the subreddit TheRedPill reduced the movie to a lesson about the supposedly true nature of reality distinct from the one we think we live in. I know that Reddit is a cesspool of anonymous trolls, but that shouldn’t be the reason we overlook what happens on there. It’s a breeding ground for many people who would otherwise be ostracized for their radically intolerant views.

The subreddit used this notion of an alternate, “true” reality, to advocate that feminist ideologies, and women more broadly, have been corrupting the world and threatening the “truth” of men’s dominant existence. The red pill became a symbol of enlightenment for incels who wanted a cultural reference to fallaciously uphold their hostility toward women.  

While the illusive nature of reality remains a perennial philosophical debate, it can be co-opted in other dangerous ways like the conspiracies of QAnon and the Proud Boys. As Samantha Kutner wrote in Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, “The redpill dovetails with the fear that white men will lose their standing in a world they cannot dominate and lose their women to Black or Brown men.”

Kutner continues by describing the symbol as “[situating] Black and Brown bodies as an existential threat.” The symbol of the red pill upholds not only a hatred towards women, but also a hatred towards those who are non-white. 

Red-pilling has moved beyond the caverns of misogynistic conspiratorial subreddits. The illusive “‘free your mind’ ethos exploited by red pill theory has also fed into politics — a byword for the modern age of far-right populism that positions itself as anti-establishment,” wrote Alex Taylor of BBC

In line with this ethos of “freeing your mind,” in 2020, Elon Musk tweeted, “Take the red pill,” to which Ivanka Trump replied, “Taken!” 

It’s ironic, but I can’t tell whether I’m annoyed or amused. Those who profit from capitalism, whiteness, patriarchy and power promote the symbol of the red pill as rejecting the illusive dominating forces of, ahem, all of the above. The most advantaged in our current socioeconomic and political order are those who denounce the institutions that establish and enforce their advantaged position.

When the privileged elites like Musk and Trump suggest that the red pill is the solution to the despair of our supposedly disillusioned reality, their positions of power imply that economic freedom is personal salvation.

“Escaping the matrix” evolves into hyper-capitalist propaganda that presupposes everyone has an equal opportunity to escape from the shackles of capitalism by quitting their nine-to-five. It also ignores the fact that capitalism is inherently exploitative, requiring that the majority be subjected to labor while the select few can benefit from the fruits of that labor.

The most ironic part of Musk and Trump’s red pill advocacy is that they are the ones imposing exploitative, demeaning labor onto others. They impose the so-called monotony and drudgery of the blue pill onto others because they would not be in their positions without doing so. 

I’ve seen one too many TikToks about #matrix which are, unsurprisingly, accompanied by hashtags like #wealthuniverse and #motivation. There’s a difference between motivation fueled by passion and motivation fueled by dogmatic obsession with productivity. 

Specifically, the other day, I saw a TikTok that depicted a guy “enjoying life” but immediately studying once he “[remembered] that people [his] age escaped the matrix and retired their parents.” At this point, what is the matrix that we’re escaping from? If the matrix represents the shackles of capitalism, the red pill serves as a disguised method of tightening those shackles.

This discussion probably requires a deeper conversation about capitalism, but that’s better left to an academic journal than my opinion column. I’m simply observing how the original ideas of “The Matrix” have materialized into their exact opposite. Maybe what Lilly Wachowski said captured it best when she replied to Elon and Ivanka: “F—k both of you.”

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  1. “Maybe what Lilly Wachowski said captured it best when she replied to Elon and Ivanka: “F—k both of you.””

    As always, articulate and classy opinions from BU’s Freep.

  2. Kim, maybe someday when you leave your liberal college dorm you won’t have to take any pill to realize that the world isn’t as your professors tell you it is. An awakening from being woke…