Anton D. Nagy contributed to The Matrix Resurrections trailer post.
Cue in a view of the San Francisco Skyline, Barney Stinson playing a therapist, and John Wick feeling a bit triggered. I know, unless you grew up in my time, it’s hard to relate to the concept of a fourth installment of The Matrix, a crazy 20 years later, and with actors you’ve seen become popular for different characters than I did. Neil Patrick Harris was Doogie Howser, M.D. for me, and Keanu Reeves, Neo. As I watched the trailer of The Matrix Resurrections unfold with the original portrayal of White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane, four key moments in the trailer probably left me more triggered than Thomas Anderson.
Do yourself a favor, walk the journey with me and watch it again. Stop at 0:42, 0:51, 1:05, 1:08.
Don’t worry, this is not another trailer breakdown. Instead, can I ask you a personal question: Does the time you spend on your phone make you happy? As you scroll through your Facebook feed, or your Instagram feed, the latest TikToks, and the algorithmic Tweets. I’m sure some of these make you smile, but does any of it fulfill you?
As I watched this trailer, I realized that the original Matrix in 1999 was ahead of its time, not just in special effects, but also in the message it tried to convey. Like everyone who was 19 like me at the time, I was more interested in the spectacle than in what the story was trying to tell me. In the words of Morpheus: “The Matrix is a prison for your mind.” It dove deep into how the world we lived in was not real and designed with the purpose of using you to power the Machine world. If you haven’t watched the original movie, you should. It’s no 1984, but I don’t think that was the plan either. It does start a bit scary, but just like any process of self-discovery, anyone who’s reinvented themselves will understand that the first step is never easy or fancy.
I think I failed to relate to the message because, in 1999, there was no real prison for your mind. Phones barely made phone calls as SMS messaging didn’t really become a thing until later. The Internet was in such a stage of infancy that very few people had it. As a matter of fact, most countries had Internet Cafes where you would pay a fee to use a computer and its connection for an hour to check your email or chat with complete strangers. The closest we could consider being a Social Network was the mIRC, which by today’s terms is hard to describe. The Internet wasn’t something you could carry in your pocket. It didn’t notify you of a new email, or who liked your photo. The internet was a choice you made and time you set aside, and if you wanted to be famous at the time, your possibilities required some sort of talent and half a dozen gatekeepers that would all take a cut.
So now it’s 2021. We’re still struggling with one of the worst pandemics of our lifetime. Why a sequel to the Matrix now? I’m sure many of you watched the first three movies, and many of you didn’t. I mean, sure it’s a good idea to bank on past success, but I don’t need to remind you of the risks of having “Coming to America 2” just destroy everything that made the first movie great. I have no problem admitting that regardless of how much I loved the first movie, and sort of enjoyed the entire trilogy, a late sequel spelled “Godfather 3” all over again.
It wasn’t until I watched that first half of the trailer that it all made sense. My interpretation has:
- 0:42 showing Neo battling his need to drink blue pills, which makes him feel worse than he was already feeling, almost serving as an analogy for a world that depends on anti-depressants and sleeping pills to cope. Watch the first movie to understand what the blue pill means.
- 0:51 shows Neo feeling out of place in a world full of people detached from the moment as they use their phones to serve as a window to somewhere else. Notice his sense of awkwardness.
- 1:05 shows Neo not recognizing himself in the mirror, which is more a Matrix topic but also serves as an analogy for a world full of filters and avatars to hide who we really are.
- 1:08 shows a very Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions theme, using a phrase that’s common to substance abuse, as some do so to detach from the pains of reality.
My questioning ended. What better time to make a Matrix sequel, than at a time when society has built its own version of it. In 1999 the story needed machines to hook us into farms at birth in order to play a fake simulation on life. At the time, agents needed to survey us in order to ensure that we aligned with the policies of that Matrix, sort of like the Thought Police in 1984. Our world today is definitely not any of that. Technically, today we like to think we have free will, but in all seriousness, do we?
Let me give you an example: I’ve been very vocal about my complete disenchantment for platforms like Facebook ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, so I hope you don’t mind if I use it as just one of many cases. Mark Zuckerberg can stand up on stage all he wants and claim he built a system for us to connect, but at what expense? What happens when the connection turns us into the system’s product?
In any form of business, “the product” has to be available for consumption in order for the platform to be valuable to the consumer. As a result, the platform needs to figure out ways to keep that inventory at quick reach in order for the customer to want to continue investing. So, if we’re the product, and brands that pay for advertising are the consumer, maybe that helps you understand why you can spend hours mindlessly scrolling that system.
Have you ever considered that it’s actually designed to keep you hooked? From the way it works to the choices in color, to those red notifications bumping dopamine into your brain, it’s the perfect machine. I say perfect because as opposed to how the 1999 Matrix required human farms, the 2021 version is no longer forced. You technically can decide to remain hooked, but then like any cigarette addict, why is it so hard for people to quit?
I use tobacco as an analogy because as a former smoker, I know the “relaxation” excuse, and I know the tax I paid in return. In that same way, the problem with social media is what it does to you and me. Is it your responsibility to feed Facebook’s bottom line? You’re there just to connect with friends, right? Well, if I asked you at the beginning if you felt any sort of happiness as you scroll, it’s because one thing I’ve learned from my personal experience, and that of others, is that the effect is actually the opposite.
Whether intentionally or not, usually social media triggers our insecurities more than helping us fight them. For example, it’s rare, if not almost impossible, for anyone to post a bad photo of themselves. We even have filters in order to tweak those things we aren’t comfortable with within our own skin. Rarely will you see a couple who post about their real-life struggles. If you were to trust what you see on Facebook, you’d assume everyone has the perfect marriage, which sadly only serves as a way to make us compare what we see, to what we have or don’t have at home.
Our natural reaction is to present our best behavior to fit the mold, instead of questioning its perfection, or not letting it trigger our personal thought process. It then evolves into a source of gossip for some, an unlimited window to shop for what we don’t need since depression drives retail therapy. It’s the perfect storm of fake news that no one can police, which only leads to horrible disagreements between people who would never fight like that in person with anyone. Behind that phone screen, behind that computer monitor, behind that keyboard, we can be whatever we would never be in person. Hateful comments on any platform wouldn’t exist if people had to do it in person.
The biggest irony of everything I’ve just mentioned is that we do this voluntarily. If The Matrix was real, then it no longer needs agents to keep us in check. All it needs is some cool app that makes us look younger or older, which means it needs access to our camera and photos, for us to freely give our information away. In order for Facebook to give us better ads, it needs our location. Can you control what else is done with that information? Can you even read all the terms of service? Going back to my question, do you really have free will over what is done with what you share? The problem is having the willpower to fight the need to post silly photos with the funny filters on the new app as your way to not be gullible to the system. Can you?
Ever since this Pandemic began, I have dramatically dropped my interaction with social media. At first, it became my way to demonstrate sensitivity to everyone losing loved ones. I know that when I lost my Grandfather to COVID-19, the last thing I wanted to watch was another shallow challenge on Instagram Stories. Surely these services helped us remain in touch during the lockdown, but you and I know that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. That free connection comes at the expense of your information, your finite time, and even your sanity.
Is this why The Matrix gets a sequel in 2021? Could it be that now, all of us can relate to the idea of being voluntarily trapped in a system that’s not really designed for us, and instead made to feed someone else’s bottom line? I’m honestly sometimes disgusted to hear the market capitalization of some of these social media companies and the economical value of their CEOs. Seriously how is it that a company that sells you, without paying you, is worth more money than the economies of most poor countries? Shouldn’t it be that as the product, you deserve a cut of it?
I know this got a little deep, but as I sometimes argue with my partner to put her phone down as we sit at the dining table, I can’t help but feel like Jerry McGuire in the opening scene of the movie, or as Neo at the beginning of the first Matrix. We know there’s something wrong with the system as it is, and we can’t fix it if we just keep playing along.
You’d even say we’re part of it, and maybe that’s why you see Michael Fisher and I debate being called influencers. We’re not. Like Neo in the trailer, we come from a time when our purpose was to create useful content, and not to create a necessity for it. To help you decide what’s better, instead of being the blind voice of what isn’t for the paycheck. It’s the reason why in our 13 years of doing this, Michael and I have never accepted to make a paid review.
This trailer shook me. I’m honestly hoping the movie is as good, even if I’m already debating if the blue-haired girl is just a decoy to keep Neo in the Blue world, as the system has even learned a way to fight our own sense of questioning.
See you all at the premiere on December 22nd. Between today and then, feel free to continue joining me in my journey, as I question what I see. This is not a debate of what’s real and what’s not. It’s a debate over what’s right, and what’s wrong. It’s also my opinion.
As Morpheus told Neo in the first movie: “You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”