Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

Unraveling Warriors, Nerds, Race, Eroticism & Rape: Revisionist Readings of Masculinities in the Matrix

Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

Unraveling Warriors, Nerds, Race, Eroticism & Rape: Revisionist Readings of Masculinities in the Matrix

Article excerpt

The Matrix (Wachowski & Wachowski, 1999) combines elements of traditional and evolving masculinities that merit scrutiny anew in an era of increased inquiry into men's studies, experiences, and identities, including popular cultural representations. Taking The Matrix as an analytic frame, the present critique queers interpretations of men's power and identities in popular culture and society with evolving concepts of masculinities and male sexualities. Specifically, the film's chief protagonist, Thomas Anderson (or Neo, as he becomes known), is studied with reference to a four-fold analytic scope: the warrior icon and nerdism; racism and sexism; misandry; and homoeroticism and male rape.


I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. -Morpheus

The Matrix ( Wachowski & Wachowski, 1999), a 350 million dollar grossing film with a cult following, dozens of dedicated websites, and record video and DVD sales, continues to capture the imagination of fans. Written and directed by the Wachowski brothers, in this futuristic film, humans are at war with sophisticated computers who have taken over the world. Neo Canadian actor Keanu Reeves) is made attentive to his destiny to save the world by two superhuman, leather-clad fighters, Trinity Carrie- Anne Moss) and Morpheus Laurence Fishburne), who lead a small group of human anti-computer terrorists.

The Matrix may be viewed as a postmodern critique of capitalist society, where realities and simulations are difficult to distinguish Lutzka, 2006), and characterized by a nostalgic longing for a less fake present, like the more "real," personable, and less technology-ridden past. Part of The Matrix's widespread appeal lies in intertextuality, its homage to a range of philosophical ideas, Western literature, television, and film. In the beginning of the film, when Neo is in his apartment and guests arrive to buy a pirated disc, Neo has it hidden within a hollowed-out book by Jean Baudrillard (1981), Simulacra and Simulation. There are further references to The Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson, Gulliver's Travels Swift, 1959), and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Carroll, 1977), which all entail entering an alternate reality or fantasy world, calling into question interpretations of what is "real," as well as societal power relations based on the real. There are references to the television series Get Smart Nelson, Bilson, Adams, Kormack, & Brooks, 1965-1969), for doors and phones are integral to The Matrix. There are striking similarities to one of the original Star Trek episodes, The Menagerie: Part II Butler & Daniels,, 1966), in which "Talosians" place Captain Pike Jeffrey Hunter) in illusory worlds inspired by his memory or imagination. Once scarred and crippled beyond recognition, Captain Pike ultimately chooses to live out his life in this fantasy paradise of youth, strength, and physical beauty. Finally, there are plot and character similarities with various classic sci-fi films, including Invasion of the Body Snatchers Kaufman, 1978; Siegel, 1956), Soylent Green Fleischer, 1973), Logan's Run Anderson, 1976), Blade Runner Scott, 1982), and Total Recall Verhoeven, 1990), films that figure alternate realities faced by a small band of freedom fighters, wedded to the pursuit of "reality," seeking truth and freedom from government oppression.

With subtle overtones of evolution in racial and gender parity, The Matrix combines elements of traditional and evolving masculinities that merit ongoing scrutiny, in the present era of inquiry into men's studies, experiences, and identities Heasley & Stewart-Harris, 2010; Weaver-Hightower, 2003). Celebrating the film's 10th anniversary Blu-ray release, White (2009) claims, "No one not even the Wachowski brothers themselves) has been able to match its pop-culture resonance or its balance between ambitious style and engaging story telling. …

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