It isn’t surprising that the BBC, and public broadcasting generally, is full of Progressive-Left Identity-Politics advocates; public broadcasting typically ends up supportive of ideologies that support public broadcasting, and it typically ends up catering to the norms and sensibilities of the kind of people that watch public broadcasting. As such, it is no surprise that the BBC is essentially a state subsidy for Progressive-Left ideology.
Yet this BBC article is nothing more than a demented IdPol whine, and again it is just full of nothing but disdain for an imagined target audience of nerds. As Bowling For Soup so correctly put it, High School Never Ends, and this article is only more evidence supporting the BFS thesis.
In the article linked above, the BBC has decided to go after a film which unquestionably forms a milestone of ‘nerd’ culture. The Matrix needs no introduction, and as an intellectual property it was the Star Wars of the late 90s/early 00s. To a measurable extent, this is one of the films that made nerdy things (like the internet) cool. The aesthetic of 80s Cyberpunk and plenty of 90s Manga was distilled into the Campbellian Blockbuster formula, and the result was beloved by geeky nerds, by mainstream action movie buffs, and to a lesser extent by the pretentious cinephiles who like to make movie references that improve their social positioning as “sophisticated intellectuals.”
Over the past several years, culture wars over video games, comic books, the internet and such have erupted, where Progressive-Left commentators have condemned these fields and hobbies as infested with racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. Progressive-Leftists have aggressively entered these fields with agendas of cultural change, and a desire to reshape these fields in their own image; the “nerd” indigenous inhabitants of these spaces are seen as mere obstacles rather than victims of their cultural colonialism.
The very title of the article provides first complaint, which claims that The Matrix is a “male” power fantasy. At no time during the article does it explain what is gender-specific about the power fantasy of the film, nor does the article confront the fact that The Matrix was written and directed by two transwomen. Yes, the article does say that when Neo goes to rescue Morpheus, Neo is “accompanied by a superhumanly flexible Amazonian woman in skin-tight black plastic” but none of this suggests that were the genders reversed a female audience wouldn’t enjoy it. Additionally, an “Amazonian” woman can hardly be condemned as anti-women, given that the women’s movement has been claiming to want more women like that in films and television.
At the very end of the article, it states that the article originally described The Matrix as specifically a “white” male power fantasy, yet at no time in the article is any evidence given to support the idea that the film promotes a power fantasy that is ethnically specific. Indeed, as the end of the article concedes, the lead actor in the film is of a multi-ethnic ancestry (Polynesian-Asian-American in the case of Keanu Reeves). Clearly The Matrix can’t be described as a “white” male power fantasy, when the lead character is of multi-ethnic heritage, and the cast is full of non-white characters (like Morpheus and Tank, both of whom are of African ancestry).
So if the film can’t be accused of being “too white” or “too male,” what can it be accused of?
The real thing the article hates, is that the film serves as an escapist fantasy for nerds. And that it doesn’t glorify “woke” social justice politics.
The article notes that the main character begins as a computer programmer. As an introvert, “a loner,” mostly committing “unspecified cyber-crimes” and living behind a screen. In other words, as a nerd. One who learns, eventually, that “the Matrix is essentially a computer game” and therefore “can bend the rules, and make his avatar super-strong, super-fast and super-well-dressed.”
What, may I ask, is wrong with this? What is wrong with a power fantasy for nerds? What is wrong with a blockbuster film catering to them, and giving them a fantasy of escapism? The article never says. At most, the article says that the film hasn’t “aged well” but how is (for example) Star Wars more universal or less sensitive to the zeitgeist?
Another problem arises in the criticism of the film’s heroic narrative:
“Neo is one of those uninspiring heroes who do next to nothing to earn their hero status. He becomes an unbeatable martial artist not by training for years, but by being plugged into a teaching program for a few hours. And he becomes omnipotent in the Matrix not because he is particularly brave, noble or clever, but because, as Morpheus says, he is willing “to believe”.”
“A loner whose only qualifications to be The One were his unspecified cyber-crimes and his niggling sense that his existence wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be.”
Again, where is the problem? In a world where Captain Marvel only needed her
symbolic patriarchy power-suppression implant removed, or Rey just needs a flash of semi-repressed memory, Neo looks like someone who has to learn a lot. Not to mention that the “learn how to fight” software doesn’t instantly enable Neo to make the first jump between the buildings, nor does Neo actually manage to grasp the ability to completely rewrite the rules of the Matrix until he dies and then comes back from the dead in a trope that quite literally goes back to ancient Egyptian mythology.
It should also be pointed out that the “training montage” is itself a trope that is exceedingly common. You want to complain about Neo getting one? What action hero hasn’t had an equivalent in the last 20 years? Sure, you can claim the formula is getting a bit tired, but that doesn’t justify a singling out of a 20-year-old film on these particular grounds. We see “training montages” and “preparation montages” and “power-up montages” in film after film after film; how is The Matrix exceptionally guilty? The answer is that it isn’t.
What is the real crime of this film? As the article makes clear, the problem is that the film is about nerdy, 90s office workers rather than 2010-era hipster leftist SJW bloggers.
As the article says, Neo “was hardly the most obvious budding messiah, either. He wasn’t an eco-warrior or a political activist,” “isn’t kept awake at night by war or climate change or the rise of fascism. He isn’t campaigning for equal rights,” as if these preoccupations of the post-Obama political left (and many of those actually aren’t disturbed by war, going by how they excused the Obama-Clinton wars in the Middle East) are somehow the barometer of legitimate political concern.
The Matrix Trilogy was written and directed by two transwomen, had a cast of multiple ethnicities, and had an implied transgender character (Switch). This of course is not enough, because it is never enough for SJWs. The presence of diversity never actually makes them happy, because SJWs don’t actually want diversity.
Instead, the article is essentially a complaint that The Matrix reflected the time in which it was made. As the article says about Neo, “he’s a white-collar worker whose most pressing problem is a slight dissatisfaction with ordinary office life. He is, fundamentally, a less witty brother of Chandler Bing from Friends. And they have plenty of other brothers. One is the unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) of Fight Club. The other is Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), a disgruntled software programmer in Mike Judge’s cult comedy, Office Space. Both of those films came out in 1999, as The Matrix did. And as different as the three of them may appear, they all share a theme whose prevalence in 1990s pop culture culminated with the debut of the BBC2 sitcom The Office, in July 2001. The theme is that being a handsome, middle-class, thirtysomething professional is ultimately not very fulfilling. The Matrix may allude to Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, to Jean Baudrillard and Jesus, but its central thesis is right there on the Office Space poster: “Work Sucks”.
For the post-Matrix generation, being bored by well-paid regular employment has become the dream, not the nightmare
One of the many elements that the Wachowskis’ film has in common with Office Space and Fight Club is a sequence you could call ‘The Office-Worker’s Rampage’. In Office Space, Peter and his friends ritually smash up a defective printer with a baseball bat. In Fight Club, the anti-hero razes a dozen tower blocks in a financial district. In The Matrix, the evil Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) interrogates Morpheus – not in an underground lair or an orbiting spacecraft, but, tellingly, in a corporate skyscraper. By this time, Reeves’ character is no longer Thomas A Anderson, the programmer who was told off by his boss for arriving late for work.”
Again, where is the problem? It was a film made in a time and cultural context which provided some viewers with a wish-fulfillment fantasy. What film or literature doesn’t, in part, draw from a specific historical period or cultural context? Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, Lewis Caroll, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Joseph Conrad, Aldous Huxley, John Steinbeck, Evelyn Waugh, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, H G Wells, George Orwell, and F Scott Fitzgerald all wrote works that simply cannot be understood independently of cultural and historical context in which they were written. Why does the fact that The Matrix reflects the time period in which it was made somehow detract from the film when the works of the authors I have named are still regarded as worthy of respect, prestige, and study?
Not to mention the fact that Fight Club, which is a piece of Romanticist, neo-Marxist, primitivist propaganda, isn’t considered leftist enough by this article. Because hating corporate capitalism isn’t enough, and apparently real leftists are axious about corporate capitalism not providing them with well-paying, prestigious, secure jobs…
So what does this article really work out to? A complaint that The Matrix wasn’t a film about the complainer. Well boo-fucking-hoo. Maybe The Matrix wasn’t even meant to be about the complainer in the first place.
The article claims that there’s some kind of specifically male power fantasy in The Matrix. I rebutted that previously, but in reality I could claim it isn’t a very male power fantasy at all. Indeed, the fantasy of an innate specialness (of being “the One”) not because of effort but because of one’s innate nature, is classically feminine rather than masculine; it is akin to gender traditionalism’s investment of intrinsic value in women simply for having female biology. I guess you could say that there’s something deeply gender-transgressive in this, in that it gives a male an intrinsic value typically reserved for females in our culture. Neo doesn’t have to expend effort or earn his spot as an hero: it’s in his blood. His qualifications for the position are his feelings, nothing else. This is a gender-transgressive fantasy, a fantasy of inherent specialness one has as part of one’s nature. Indeed, this same fantasy was at the core of Jupiter Ascending, also directed by the Wachowskis, and in that particular case directed at women (https://somuchbraver.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/could-jupiter-ascending-set-a-new-trend-in-power-fantasy-movies-aimed-at-women/). It turns out both sexes like to feel special. Women like to be Princesses, and men like to be held in similarly high esteem. Maybe “Mars-Venus” actually is an exaggeration, but at the moment its those proclaiming allegiance to feminism whom are against acknowledging this.
So what is this BBC article? It’s a complaint by a narcissistic subculture that thinks every piece of entertainment should be about them. It’s a failed piece of politically correct whining that accuses a racially-diverse film of being a white male power fantasy. It tries to wear the robes of sophisticated gender studies while claiming that fantasies of innate specialness are somehow masculine, in a society that codes such specialness as feminine. And it’s a screaming whine that “how dare a film doesn’t talk about my preferred political issues even though it was made when I was probably in high school or possibly primary school!”
This is what gets published by the British Broadcasting Corporation these days.
To quote a certain orange douche, “defund, defund, defund.”