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The Matrix: Plot holes, sexism and the three ways for women to succeed in our society

By Lily and Becky, Distractors of Men

Guys, we have a confession to make. There’s a secret we have been sitting on for quite some time — the past four days, at time of writing — that has the potential to ruin our reputations both as high-powered journalists and as members of the Carleton community. Some people might be mildly upset — they’re wrong though, and we’re happy to prove it. What is this secret, you might ask? We hate the Matrix.

The Matrix is a bad movie. Besides recently becoming a conservative dog whistle — looking at you, Andrew Tate — or being full of sexist tropes that we will discuss later, which are bad enough in and of themselves, the movie is straight up bad. 

First of all, there is literally no concrete plot to the movie. If you asked either of us to tell you what exactly the point of the movie was, we would both draw a complete blank. The main impression it left on us was that it reminded us of one of those meta fake deep posts you would see on your weird uncle’s Facebook page about how kids these days are chained to their phones, comparing it to being in jail or something. Or how the COVID-19 vaccine is actually turning all of us into zombies. In its desperate attempt to be profound, the Matrix seems to have become utterly meaningless, mostly because even the best and brightest — us, Becky Reinhold and Lily Vargo — couldn’t follow what exactly was going on.

For reference, the main plot of the Matrix revolves around the idea that in around 2000 years all humans will be lab grown by artificial intelligence but deluded into believing that they’re living in the year 1999. The plot of the movie appears to try to raise existential questions, but honestly, it feels like they read a blurb about existentialism and then tried to recreate it in a movie without ever reading about it. Technically, this movie could be considered existentialist. It raises questions about what it means to exist and what it means to be human; It questions consciousness and the relationship between the characters’ thought processes in the matrix and their physical bodies in the “real” world. It does not, however, raise these questions in either an interesting or effective way. The writers of the Matrix aren’t the first to question what existence means — other people have thought about this. In fact, there’s a whole branch of philosophy dedicated to it  and yet the writers seem to have forgotten to read what anyone else has said on this subject. On top of the messiness of the existentialism of the movie, there are also so many plot holes with how exactly the matrix works that it becomes an ineffective vehicle for any of these questions. Essentially, we see what they were going for, but the plot makes the larger questions in the movie seem ingenuine by trying to do too much and be too deep with a plot that doesn’t hold up to questioning.

Despite this, the plot is made even more confusing by the fact that nothing in the movie is even remotely what we imagine 2199 looking like. First of all, the AI just looks like normal robots, which is super lame. CS majors, it might be time to quit while you’re ahead because other questionable aspects of majoring in CS aside, clearly your life’s work is going to amount to nothing. The Matrix said it, not us. Additionally, the characters all use guns as their weapon of choice, which is not only uncreative but stupid. You’re telling us that these people have technology so advanced that AI has been sentient for like a thousand years at their disposal and they choose guns? So unrealistic.

This is all compounded by the fact that they did this despite going all out on special effects. Upon further research, we found that the special effects budget was around 150 MILLION dollars and the best that they could come up with was having a scorpion drill a hole into Keanu Reeves’ belly button and swim around for a bit in his stomach? You could argue that the special effects are well done, and we wouldn’t technically disagree. It turns out you can come up with some fairly realistic special effects when you put that much money into them, but was that really worth 150 million dollars? We didn’t think so: while impressive, some scenes — such as the aforementioned scorpion one — were needlessly graphic to an unnecessary and disgusting extent. That, however, is more of a side note, especially because we recognize that whether movies need to be gross is subjective and, honestly, we’ll admit to being a bit squeamish. Our main issue with The Matrix lies in its blatant sexism. 

The Matrix not only doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, it seems to have completely sidestepped the question by avoiding including any scenes to test it with. The Bechdel test is a test of whether movies portray women as characters in themselves or as a means with which to promote men. To pass it, at least two women characters must have a conversation with each other that doesn’t revolve around a man. The women in The Matrix, however, do not speak to each other. We do eventually learn that two women spoke to each other at one point. That didn’t make us feel a whole lot better though because their conversation was about one of the women falling in love with a man, and it is implied that this is her main destiny. Basically, there are three women characters who each play one of the main roles that all women should have in our society: looking hot while wearing red, looking hot while wearing black and making cookies for men. 

Sexism in the Matrix is a particularly interesting topic because it was created by women. It was chosen for the SUMO x GMICC (Gender Minorities in CAMS Collective) collaboration in an effort to ensure that the movies shown at Carleton aren’t all created by men, which is an effort that we support. The Matrix was created by two trans women, and we found it interesting that even a movie created by women was not able to escape the trappings of the rampant sexism in the film industry. 

We’re not exaggerating either. The only female characters are Trinity, whose main function in the movie is to tell Neo she loves him, therefore giving him the power to know that he is humanity’s savior; the Oracle, who basically helps Neo by telling Trinity that the man she loved would be “the one”; and the extremely aptly named Woman in Red, who is literally just a woman who wears red and Neo thinks is hot. Groundbreaking, we know! 

Of course these characters are fleshed out beyond just their appearance. Each one has a deep and complex personality that sets them apart in their own special way. Since they’re women, though, of course these personality traits are all completely hinged on how they can help Neo, because last we checked that’s a pretty realistic portrayal of how all women are. Trinity supports Neo by encouraging him but of course only through seductively whispering in his ear about how much she loves him while he’s in the Matrix, thus giving him the confidence in himself to go forth and kind of save the world — we’re still unclear on whether or not that was the actual ending of the movie. The Oracle has a vastly different personality: She gets to help Neo by telling him he can’t save the world, and by telling Trinity that she will love the man who will save the world, which initiates the aforementioned seductive whispering. And finally, the most riveting character of them all: The Woman in Red, who distracts him so people can shoot at him, at least we think. Again, she has zero lines so we’re not going off of much here. Really all we know about her is that her appearance is so distracting to Neo that he doesn’t notice he’s being followed by people with guns. There are just so many ways for helping men to be a personality trait for women! Such great options, we could really feel how much women were valued in the movie.

We would write a better conclusion, but seeing as we’re writing about the Matrix, a movie with zero structure holding it together, we’ll leave it at that in the spirit of authenticity. 

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About the Contributor
Becky Reinhold
Becky Reinhold, Editor in Chief
I'm a junior Philosophy major, and I can usually be found in the basement of Anderson or wandering around Northfield. I like thunderstorms and writing articles around 2am. Becky was previously Managing Editor, Viewpoint Editor, and Design Editor.

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  • L

    LizFeb 22, 2023 at 4:13 pm

    I’m sorry you didn’t find a representation of a near universal trans experience to be profound, interesting, or presented in an effective enough way, but I’m so glad two cis women could explain to me (a trans woman) why I’m incorrect to think otherwise!

  • I

    Isaac FriedFeb 3, 2023 at 4:48 pm

    I think it’s worth further investigating the transgender reading of this movie. You briefly mention the identities of the directors, but other than that there is no acknowledgement or critique of the idea that The Matrix is (widely regarded as) a trans allegory. There are plenty of articles online that explain some of the ways in which the film represents and portrays trans experience.

    In regards to the criticism of the dystopian plot and special effects, it is worth remembering that The Matrix was made over twenty years ago, and that CGI and science fiction storytelling have evolved since then. The movie’s portrayal of the internet as something nebulous and evil was actually quite ahead of its time, and was a true prediction of the future.

    Additionally, when considering the female characters in The Matrix, the role of Switch was forgotten. Although she has limited lines in the movie, Switch clearly has important non romantic relationships with several of her crew mates, giving her depth and dimension. Switch was also originally supposed to be a trans woman: male in the real world and female in the Matrix. This reflected the residual self image idea that Switch could choose to present as a woman and have control over their appearance in the virtual reality setting.

    I would add more but frankly as a trans person myself, I don’t feel up to expending too much energy explaining why The Matrix is better than this cis-het written critique would lead you to believe. If you want to read more about some of the ideas I introduce a simple google search will give you plenty of options, there is a great article on Vox that was published a few years ago.