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April 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Reality is like some blurry image on the back of a cave?
Whoa. That's like, so Plato.

Editorial License: The Matrix - Greek for Geeks
by Ernest Lilley - Editor/SFRevu and Alex Lightman

Tribute or travesty? New ideas or SF so old it’s got whiskers? When The Matrix came out a lot of folks in the SF community said, hey…what’s the big deal? We’ve been doing this for decades. At least. Doesn’t anybody read the classics?

Well, no, not often enough.

On the other hand, The Wachowski brothers clearly did, and not just the classics of SF, but the classic classics. Every generation needs to have these stories reframed so that they can “discover” them anew. For here, and for now, the Matrix is perfect.

This month Edward Carmien reviews Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix by  by Glenn Yeffeth (ed) and next month we’ll keep on Exploring the Matrix, but here’s an essay by Alex Lightman, author of our Matrix review, who delves into the confiscation of classical concepts that make up the Matrix.

The Matrix: A Recapitulation of the Humanities
by Alex Lightman

EXPLORING THE MATRIX    

See Alex's Review of the Matrix Reloaded this issue: Review

SF Fans should also read Edward Carmien’s review of: Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix by  by Glenn Yeffeth (ed} this issue, and look for Exploring the Matrix: Visions of the Cyber Present" coming in our next issue.

Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix"

 

 

Exploring the Matrix: Visions of the Cyber Present"

 

 

The Wachowski's recapitulation of humanities can even be understood quite literally. They obviously have read their classics... and have borrowed from them liberally. This was already apparent in the first movie. To cite a few: Neo is Ancient Greek for "new"; Morpheus is the name for the "god of dreams (and sleep)" in Greek Mythology; and the whole Matrix storyline is a thinly veiled rearticulation of the myth of Prometheus, the half-god (i.e. Neo) who stole fire (i.e godly powers) from the gods (i.e. the makers and keepers of the Matrix) and who pays dearly for doing so. Zion obviously is (over-)loaded with meaning from Ancient Jewish mythology/religious tradition.

The Matrix Reloaded continues the Promethean theme, while cleverly weaving in many more references and "borrowings" to the Ancient classics. To cite a few: Persephone, who in Greek mythology is the wife of Hades, the god of the Underworld. Hades actually took her against her will, so she has mixed feelings about him. She also intercedes with him on behalf of mortals -e.g. Orpheus and Euridyce- to help them achieve their goals. This parallels Reloaded.

The evil twins seem to be an intriguingly corrupted subversion of classic mythology's Gemini-twins: Castor and Pollux -- Castor and Polydeuces in Greek myth, unless they are a transposition of Cerberus, the three-headed, snake-tailed dog viciously guarding the access to the Underworld. The latter seems more likely as it is far closer to the actual role of the twins in the movie.

Morpheus speech to the people of Zion is evocative of well-know classic orations, in particular Demosthenes' world-famous Philippics, a series of orations rallying the Athenians against the bold ambitions of Philip the Macedonian. Demosthenes is most probably the world's greatest orator ever.

One or two sentences of Morpheus speech were also dripping with referential winking, intertextually pointing to a classic Roman expression and style-figure, best know in the version "Hannibal ad portas (Romanas ipsas est)!" The enemy / barbarians are at the gates (of Rome/Zion).

The Wachowskis know their classics ... which help them to not only incorporate them but also, as stated, to recapitulate "humanities".

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© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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