The Pornocracy of "Fate": Moms' Tricks in The Matrix

When you live in a world without choices, how can someone arrive one day in order to give you one? or, If Christ had a lover, would it make an action movie?

The Matrix folded in around him like a trick of origami...

You are here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it all your life—that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it’s there: like a splinter in your mind.

Total domination is totally hard to represent, if for no other reason than that the act of representation seems to hold out some kind of promise for mediation or intervention. We often have a sense that the representor (writer, artist, journalist, cameraman...)—at least in the performative act of representing—could have done something to alter or modify draconian and irreversible outcomes.

Simply put, if someone's body is "on the scene," why can't they do their best to stop bad things from happening, instead of just standing there, passively registering the event? This is why, for example, people are occasionally sued for filming—instead of intervening—in those scenes of real life horror and tragedy they may actually come upon by accident. In Montana, it is even illegal to witness someone with car trouble on the side of the road and not pull over to offer assistance. But Winston's deepest delusion in 1984 was that by writing he was preserving representational distance from the totalitarianism that saturated everything around him. Yet he found that the diary of his mental life and its fantasy freedom was of no use to him during the tortures of Room 101. "What good is a phone call," asks a sentient agent in The Matrix,"if you are unable to speak?" Perhaps this describes our inability today, to put a finger on exactly what is going wrong in corporate cubicle 1999.

Matrix. William Gibson helped set the stage for this metaphor of computer-generated reality with his use of the word as an alternative name for the cyberspace of the future. In fact, Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive are often called Gibson's "Matrix trilogy" in 1980's cyberpunk meta-literature. (However this name did not win out in the "public eye," due to the superior media "stickiness" of "cyberspace," Gibson's other, more universally accepted term for the computer generated infosphere). Call Gibson a godfather of cyberpunk art and literature, then, but he got some of the mythic dimensions of cyberspace from that "bad mutha—(Shut your mouth!)" of all ideas: the word "matrix" itself. In "the desert of the real"-upload in the Wachowski brother's film The Matrix, Morpheus describes the matrix in more negative terms as "...a computer generated dream world, built to keep us under control, in order to change a human being into this: (holds up a Duracell battery)."

Hyperpost Subjectivity

In paranoic postmodern or cyberpunk art, the chicken and the egg problem of origins is often a paradox about how to recognize freedom in a world of simulation and substitutes. In these worlds of ready and heady reversibility, various fake freedoms, liberating enslavements, friends who are fiends, adversaries who hold the mirrored key etc., all present this dilemma: how can you be certain that your efforts to liberate yourself are not really the cause of your own enslavement? For example, to "create a Frankenstein" does not mean to "make a reanimated man" any longer; the metaphor of Frankenstein now refers to a creation that comes back to haunt its creator. And here we have the grandest and most perceptive forecast of the infomatic era: the monstrously vicious circle of information technology spiraling beyond the good intentions of its inventors. Since data is never knowledge and knowledge does not always amount to wisdom, no technical fix, no computer upgrade will ever ease the ethical burdens of deliberation and judgment regarding these developments. Although the Monster just wants a bride from Dr. Frankenstein, the doctor fears a bride would be just right for breeding, and that future cyborg legions of Mary Shelley's "hideous progeny" might feed on the vicious cycling of technological solutions to technological disasters and one day swarm forth to rule the world. In Dr. Frankenstein's words, "I saw about me a multitude of filthy animals inflicting on me incessant torture."

Technology and control? Cyberpunk narratives largely suggest that you're soaking in it already. Thrusting us into immersive environments that blur the real and the imaginary, tales of deep-tech paranoia allow one to feel the eroding balance of proportion between self and other encouraged by today's infomatic excess. And if the shadow fits here, by all means, wear it like a data-glove. But one shouldn't believe that the idea of technology as humanity's "double" or "dark side" offers much more than a pret-a-porter encounter with the other. Liberatory enslavement will always be hard to see, but thinking of the body as "always already" a kind of cyborg shadow gets straight to the point about what happens within deep-tech immersion or what I call hyperpost subjectivity. What comes after the subject? The body as a mere object-that-thinks, a thinking thing without subjectivity—perhaps not unlike a toaster with a smart chip. For Neuromancer's Case, the body and its desires are just a meat thing, but as Max (lead character in David Cronenberg's Videodrome) was led to exclaim, "Long live the New Flesh!"

To understand more of what Case and Max are talking about, ask yourself which came first: the chicken of domination or the egg of liberation? The plot premise of The Matrix takes us to the human edge of Cronenberg's New Flesh via a dizzying Chinese box littered and layered with dreams and pills, virtual reality, personal and consensual hallucinations, prophesies and so forth wherein the authenticity of reality, of personal experience and sensory perception are severely questioned. But unlike the downward spiral of Videodrome's suicidal vertigo, the origin of "truth" in The Matrix remains securely bound and deeply anchored by a certain myth and prophesy regarding its fulfillment. Call it organic telos, or call it a fantastic story of the futuristic wandering uterus1—either way, The Matrix wants to tell a certain truth about female sexual agency and what it may hold for all humanity.

When you live in a world with no choices, how can someone arrive one day in order to give you one? Total domination is totally hard to represent, but since everything seems to be caused by something else, most attempts to tell how things got so oppressive usually involve pulling a chicken or an egg out of one's storytelling hat. It's a tough trick, but it's done all the time—usually by means of a myth, a figurative tale about "way back when." In The Matrix, we are witness to a world of such total domination that in order for anyone to have access to "truth" some strong mythic medicine is certainly required. At a crucial moment, Morpheus tells Neo this myth of origins: "When the matrix was first built, there was a man born inside who had the ability to change whatever he wanted, to remake the matrix as he saw fit. It was he who freed the first of us, taught us the truth...." Morpheus repeatedly tells Neo of his hunch that Neo is the second coming, or return of this man, The One prophesized by the Oracle: "...his coming would hail the destruction of the matrix, end the war, bring freedom to our people."

The Figure of the Femalien

"The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games" said the voice-over, "in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks." On the Sony, a two-dimensional space war faded behind a forest of mathematically generated ferns, demonstrating the spatial possibilities of logarithmic spirals; cold blue military footage burned through, lab animals wired into test systems, helmets feeding into fire control circuits of tanks and war planes. "Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights receding...."

The matrix, in The Matrix, is the total domination computer "network" that, in order to feed on humans grown in futuristic "birthing fields," (who create energy solely for the self-propagation of the matrix) generates mass consensual hallucinations for the human energy-pods. These "coppertop" humans lie inert and thoroughly immersed, dreaming of hectic corporate life in 1999, with no bodily awareness whatsoever. In the backstory, Thomas Andersen (AKA: Neo) and another character, Cipher, have been approached by Morpheus, an underground resistance leader destined (so we learn) to find The One who will save "the last human city," Zion—the only place "on earth" where humans are still created "naturally," i.e., born, by human sexual reproduction.

To remind Neo and Cipher of their essential humanity, Morpheus must restore liberty and choice to these virtual reality automatons. Being the media-saturated dupes that they have been all their lives, this will take a heady dose of reality. Morpheus offers each a choice: take the red pill, and you will know the truth; or take the blue pill and you will forget you even had a choice to choose and can safely return to your computer-generated oblivion, forever unknowing as before. Neo and Cipher both take the right-hand path, the red pill of knowledge—and from there The Matrix charts the consequences of each man's experience of self-knowledge and freedom.

It is important to note that both of these men were solicited by Morpheus in the same manner, for the same mission, but that Cipher (who was enlisted, or dis-incubated, before Neo) never "made the grade." We find out that Cipher neither turned out to be The One in Morpheus' eyes, nor did he succeed in winning Trinity's favors—which, importantly, ends up amounting to the same thing. Trinity is our female lead, destined to love The One. Social and sexual registers are zipped tightly together in The Matrix, where the Wachowski brothers' deft screenwriting insures that we must read Morpheus' political goals of safeguarding Zion as identical to—and simultaneous with—Trinity's emotional and sexual inclinations.

As we discover the exact prophesies of The Oracle (scripted for the film as a sassy post-colonial mammy who scrutinizes candidates in a kind of "soul kitchen") we learn that the test of The One is that he will fight and defeat the sentient agents of the matrix and that Trinity will fall in love with him. It is this triangle of reversible destiny passing between the eldest female in the film (The Oracle), the feminine subject (Trinity), and the motivation of the hero (Neo) that makes The Matrix exactly this: a fable of how self-replicating uteri make decisions in deep-tech or hyperpost-subjective society. It's all in the title:

matrix pl. matrixes, matrices. [ a. L. matrix (stem matric-) in late L. womb, in older Latin, pregnant animal, female animal used for breeding; app. F. mater, mother] noun. 1. uterus or womb. also occasionally used for OVARY, especially with reference to oviparous animals. 2. a place or medium in which something is "bred", produced or developed. (Oxford English Dictionary)

A close weave of both uteral and computer-generated hallucination is on stage in The Matrix. And within it, we can see the figure of the femalien charted as a peculiarly masculine perception of how female sexual specificity creates human decisions and behavior that, strictly speaking, wander beyond the grasp of consciousness.

To sleep all night in your soul kitchen

Science fiction often represents sexual difference as alien presence. In Bladerunner we watch Deckard scrutinize Rachel to decide if she is an android or organic female, only to decide that the difference doesn't really matter to him. In Aliens we watch Ripley don a tech-suit to scorch the eggs and otherwise do battle with a bitch monster from outer space. Whether the tale portrays the sexual difference between men and women or between women as in these well-known Ridley Scott movies, science fiction and horror have long expressed the masculine convention of representing femininity (and since it is a masculine point of view: of sexual difference as such) as Gorgon, Medusa, sylph, succubus, witch or monster.

The great-grandmother of all sci-fi and cyberpunk, Mary Shelley, is said by feminist critics Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar to have crafted her Frankenstein's monster as an expression of her own alienation as a female oft-estranged from "normal" reproductive functioning.2 Barbara Johnson makes an instructive suggestion in her essay, "My Monster, My Self," that sheds light on The Matrix's remarkable success at cross-gender marketing. Johnson argues that Frankenstein's mythic specificity (and narrative power) derives from what she calls "the description of a primal scene of creation" where Frankenstein combines a monstrous answer to two of the most fundamental questions one can ask: where do babies come from? and where do stories (or heroes) come from?"3 From romantic horror novels to cyberpunk date movies, it is, as Morpheus tells Neo, "the question that guides us."

In The Matrix, a romance "subplot" is sutured onto an action thriller such that the tests of love (Trinity's affection) are the fundamental prerequisites for the survival of the civic order (Zion). It's a date movie after all! In fact, as the vaguely evoked "Zion" appears to represent the last great polis of organic humanity, it would appear that finding The One is, for both Morpheus and Trinity, tantamount to finding that singular man (hero) who can save human reproduction (babies) as such.

In a moment, I will tread more carefully through what I mean by "sexual difference"; for this is much more than a marketing problem for Hollywood executives, a genre problem for critics, or an increasingly fragile biological certification of which bathrooms are appropriate for you to use. But for now, let's approach the question of sexual difference with the blunt empirical tools of commercial screenwriting and ask the question this way: If what women want is fundamentally alien to what men want, and sci-fi has traditionally expressed primarily the male point of view of horror at female sexual difference, how do sci-fi, horror, and action writers today try to get around the masculine sense of sexual difference in order to attract women to the genre?

The formula is relatively ancient: you simply "Magdalenize" the femalien presence, making the abstract savior of humankind (as in Jesus) the love object of a particular woman (as in Mary Magdalen). In this way, women are not just precious treasure to be hoarded and saved from alien and monster intrusions, they become vital agents, actors (in the full sense of the word) in the unfolding drama—where their emotional choices and erotic decisions actually contribute to the action and destiny of the other characters in the plot. By having "Magdalen" love the hero, you get the double bonus of using conventions of the feminine romance genre to explain to feminized subjects the mechanisms of feminine influence and female relevance to the social (and more traditionally masculine) world of action—while doing very little to upset the world of action.

This is why when young men and women discuss The Matrix, they are likely to agree that the romance subplot of the film seems a bit arbitrary and simply "tacked on." For young men this can flaw the film and disturb their appreciation of Neo's achievements (perhaps they smell the diapers behind the means of his resurrection); whereas young women—even though the ending seems perhaps a bit canned and wholly derived from another style of storytelling—do appreciate and accept Trinity's realizations that Neo is The One as a definite element in making The Matrix relevant and interpretable to them. One viewing (if you can finish it!) of Johnny Mnemonic proves that the casting of suburban wunderkind Keanu Reeves as Neo is not enough to explain The Matrix's cross-gender appeal.

The Matrix leads feminine subjects to believe that their sexual decisions are fundamentally equal to or as important as male sexual decisions—or even what amounts to the same thing: that female sexual agency serves as the ultimate judgment upon men and their battles for social priority. In The Matrix, this feminine judgment will decide the struggle for survival in evolutionary history of the planet Earth. And importantly, in contemporary action film, it has even become customary for women to enter directly into the fray (like Trinity saving Neo's life or her flying the helicopter to save both Morpheus and Neo) and actively influence the civic events their sexual decisions will serve to simulate and record later on.

In an apparent paradox, femininity both precedes and reproduces the social order. Philosopher Luce Irigaray has analyzed Hegel's division of public and private dimensions to describe how female sexual specificity provides invisible support for civic order. Similarly, political theorist Carole Pateman has analyzed Enlightenment political philosophy to describe how regulation surrounding marriage and its consummation produces a sexual "contract" which precedes the social contract as the condition of its possibility. Here, in what could be described as a "chiasmic" relation between social and sexual agency, lies the Double, the Spectre, the Simulacrum at the heart of "matrix" as both womb and as computer-generated reality. In what follows, I take up the suggestions of sociologists Pierre Bourdieu, Kingsley Davis and Randall Collins that the synchronization of erotic and social rank appears to be a deus ex machina of cultural expression in general. The Matrix appears from this perspective, like Frankenstein, to offer a stunning response to our question: where do babies and heroes come from?

Love and the Difference Engine

After a century and a half of social theory publicly launched by Darwin, Freud and Engels—a project to temper, correct, and to some extent replace objectivist and rationalist philosophy—the sociological formula could be rendered as follows:

Women comprise the social order by acting within it. They distinctively (i.e., sex-specifically) authorize or convey legitimacy to social order by sexually selecting men who rank in the social order. They reproduce the social order as they compete for repro-ductive priority among men with social authority. But is power sexy or is sexiness powerful? As thousands of anthropologists and network sociologists, social feedback theorists and even Jacques Lacan have noted, the dialectic of sex and power is a looped and knotted affair of recursive, bistable determination and control. We do know that feminist scholarship suggests that women have been restricted in their ability to act in the world in general; that women have been used as nurses and cheerleaders to nourish and rejuvenate the social order in a sexually specific fashion; and that the sexual decision-making of women has been constrained to insure that certain men and not others (both male and female) are rewarded with feminine affection and children.

But there are at least two ways to understand this story. To demonstrate why, I will use an inflection from sociological stratification theory as shorthand for understanding sexual difference (derived from a model advanced by philosopher Luce Irigaray in I Love to You). Irigaray argues that gender can be read in sexual difference by the way men and women ask the question of love differently. Where men ask "Am I loved?", women ask "Do you love me?"

Irigaray's dilemma suggests that many men see female sexual agency as a reflection of their own social rank. Masculine subjects want their social rank to be reflected in their sexual rank. They ask "Am I loved?" to ascertain whether their beloved has selected them appropriately for the social rank that they feel they do, in fact, possess. Feminine subjects see this masculine outlook as a desultory reduction of their personality to the generic functions of the ovarian/uteral matrix. When these women wonder "Do you love me?", they usually mean instead "Do you love the personal me, the irreducible and unique historical density of me, my body/myself?" Unlike (and opposed to) the masculine desire for sexual and social integration, feminine subjects do not want their sexual rank to be the basis of their social rank.

Thus, women are more prone to complain about being used as sexual "objects." They more frequently worry that their lovers love sex itself, not sex with them in particular, in all their bodily specificity. Feminine jealousy is thereby more ambi-directional and multi- dimen-sional. Feminine gendering often results in a pronounced fear of being sexually and emotionally replaced by virtually any type of affection-generating simulation, but most specifically by some other woman with generic or relatively identical sex-specific features. For these women, monogamy becomes the supreme priority, motivated by a fear of being replaced by, as one woman put it, "any-old wet hole that comes along." This is perhaps more commonly pronounced by feminine sentiment in the notion that, regarding sex: "men are dogs."

Although masculine subjects say much the same thing when they call women "bitches," these men instead complain about women who don't put out when such men feel they deserve such affection; these men worry about being used ("played out") for money, contacts, infor-mation, emotional support and manual labor. If Mick Jagger is to be believed: men "don't want to be your beast of burden." And, traditionally, masculine jealousy is rank-specific; when these men ask "Am I loved?" they wonder whether, out of all the men a woman might attract, this woman has chosen him for his manifest rank, or rather wants to use him as an emotional waystation, a "stepping stone" to other men of higher social standing. Thus, to leave a man for his friends, his contacts or his superiors is often a far more grave offense against masculine character than casual sex with say, lovers perceived as unknown, "out of the mix" or inferior.

Where traditionally masculine subjects worry about being replaced by a sexual or social superior—a total prick—from their paranoid, psychoanalytic point of view, feminine subjects worry about being replaced by someone equally capable of providing generic services of sexual relief and bearing children—a total cunt—from their own paranoid, psychoanalytic perspective. These fields of paranoic sexual difference result in the popular perception that "to be a man" is a positive evaluation for a masculine subject (as in "take it like a man") but that "to be a woman" is to be "merely" a woman, to be reduced to nothing more than biological phenomena (as in "to throw like a woman"). Sociologically, this is tantamount to saying that for highly gendered men, masculinity is an achieved status whereas for highly gendered women, femininity is more an ascribed status.

To Magdalenize the Femalien: The Matrix

With this template for understanding how gender is anchored in the sexual specificity of the body, let us now ask how The Matrix resolves the parabolic puzzle of gender's impasse. How is it that so many heterosexual men and women ask the question of love like proverbial ships in the night? As mentioned before, the classic formula for avoiding gendered shipwreck is to render female sexual specificity (or sexual alterity per se from the masculine point of view) as a Magdalen-like love on the part of a particular woman (Trinity) for the abstract savior of humanity (Neo). When Neo finally defeats (with Trinity's help) the sentient agents of the matrix, Neo becomes the world historical victor, "the keenest abstraction,"since his actions refer not only to his own achievement, but also "perfect" or save humanity as such.

The Matrix would be pure masculine fantasy if Neo received for this achievement nothing more than a cipher-female or place-holding "cheerleader," that is, if he merely "got the girl." In traditional masculine fantasy, this "exchange" needs to remain as unproblematic and abstract as possible—a guaranteed transaction. However, to make the "savior of humanity" theme a feminine fantasy, you must allow the woman to decide on her own that this savior of humanity desires something particular about her, the specific female who is to fulfill the sexual sublimation of gender and civic harmony. So here we see that femininity wants to be an achievement, even in the face of contradictory evidence that describes it as largely ascribed beforehand, i.e., determined by "things you can't help" like what's "on the outside," how you look, move or otherwise show your capacity to preen the beloved.

This is why in the plot of The Matrix, Neo willfully violates the prophesies of The Oracle (only to find out from his fraternal shadow, Morpheus, that the Oracle told him only the performative truth of "reverse-psychology" in order that he could become The One as destiny rather than merely inherit the prophesy as fate). Trinity, on the other hand, sees only the limits of the elder female's prophesy, but adheres to it to the letter—as demonstrable truth—even in the face of irreversible facts (like Neo's flatlined death) that would indicate falsehood in the Oracle's premonition. Neo breaks, in order to transform, the law o historical determination, whereas Trinity conforms to this "law" in order to insure Neo's successful transgression of historical necessity in the Oracle's predictions.

The Rez-erecting Kiss of the Pieta

Trinity decides that Neo is The One only after he is sacrificed to virtuality, literally dying in the matrix after being shot repeatedly by sentient agents. After his death, she kisses him, and this kiss seems to reward Neo for his sacrifice: it brings him back to life in the real world. It is important to note, however, that this decision-to-kiss is, in part, deliberately instrumental: she and her shipmates, fleeing the matrix's agents, can't turn on the ship's electromagnetic pulse, the pulse that will stop the attack of the sentinels released by the matrix to kill them, until Neo comes back from the matrix-world to the "real." It is a life-or-death situation, kiss or be killed.

By surviving, Neo defeats the sentient agents of the matrix and preserves the organic humanity of Zion, as well as doubly assuming the role of The One, simultaneously fulfilling prophecy for Zion/Morpheus and for Trinity. Trinity need but recognize that Neo is The One for this amazing feat of social and sexual synchronization (and Hollywood screenwriting) to be accomplished. We get more than an impression that Trinity has been thinking about this all along, waiting to see if Neo could make the mark and prove himself the public savior, to endear her heart and prove himself her singular and predestined soulmate. In the beginning, Trinity was sent by Morpheus' rebel forces to seduce Neo out of the matrix and into an encounter with reality in the person of Morpheus, the rebel leader. We certainly know that she was looking for love around this time since we find out that she asked The Oracle the classical question of romantic quest: advice on how to recognize The One.

But we also know that Trinity has perhaps been making do a bit as well—and not finding love—with the physically inferior and ethically suspect turncoat, Cipher. It is Cipher's resentment over Morpheus' delusion that he was The One, combined with the evidence that Trinity never loved him either, that leads Cipher to inform on (and sabotage) Morpheus and Zion to one of the matrix's sentient agents. So Trinity never loved Cipher, and it is not until Neo proves himself capable of saving the civic realm of organic humanity that she realizes and reveals her desire for Neo. As an afterthought?

Did Trinity suddenly remember that what The Oracle had predicted could be analogically extended to explain her sudden desire to kiss the dead "meat" of Neo, immediately upon his exhaustion of (and in) the virtual realm? Is this fate? Was Trinity's sexual agency more constrained and foreclosed here than what is usually meant by "making a decision"? Let us reconstruct this carefully, as the exact special effects imagery surrounding the romantic and action climax of The Matrix gives important clues not only to how Trinity finally realizes The Oracle's prophesy, but to what the nature of that prophesy is.

Amor Fati or Carpe Diem?

Being The One is just like being in love: no one can tell you you're in love, you just know it, through and through, balls to bones.

There's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

Trinity doesn't experience a sudden heartfelt clarity about whom she loves or even to whom she should give her love. Hers are not the shuddering pangs of Cupid's arrow! In the penultimate moment, she and the rest of the rebel posse are thoroughly under attack, they are about to be destroyed by sperm-like search-and-destroy squids that have been released by the matrix in consequence of the resentment and treason of her spurned former lover, Cipher. These sperm-squid have lasered apart almost all of Morpheus' ship when Trinity abandons her feminine modesty (pudeur) and gives the rejuvenatingly wet kiss of life to Neo—in what can only be described as a highly overdetermined gesture of realization/resignation to fate. The magic of this kind of cinematic fantasy is that it works: Trinity's kiss embraces the champion while at the same time effectively it stops the attack that would kill her and her shipmates, and thus reconciles destiny for Zion's humanity.

In Pierre Bourdieu's terse formulation in Distinction, love is always love of one's own destiny as reflected in the fate of the other. In normative love, the lover's fate must be as lovable as the lover in order for them to mirror us back as a future worth pursuing. This appears to be the case for Neo, Zion, and Trinity at the conclusion of The Matrix. But Neo and Trinity's embrace also seems specifically sexual and deeply reproductive. At one level, if Trinity doesn't "choose" Neo, the bad sperm of her stalker and traitor of the civic realm (Cipher) will kill her and end the very possibility of human reproduction altogether. Trinity loves Neo now because he appears to have overturned the rigid law of mothers' destiny (he denies the prophesy of The Oracle—herself a cookie-baking grandma dispensing prophesy in the kitchen—that either Neo or Morpheus would die). But this paradoxically confirms The Oracle's prophesy precisely via her recuperation and reenactment of maternal law, through the "realization" that she loves Neo—given that The Oracle said she would love the one who was The One. And when Neo showed himself to be The One, she loved it! She loves Neo because he won the battle against the sentient agents, she likes the way "he moves like them."

But by winning this battle, Neo also "saves the day" for human breeding, for mothers everywhere—and for Trinity's own incipient conception. And it’s important to note that Trinity had to love this man in order to breed (and not to die) and even to have someplace to raise her brood (Zion). Depending on how you view it, her decision is either fate or coercion—and yet this is her freedom, won for her by a savior.

The Oracle shows a certain wisdom regarding sexual difference. She points out that Neo, with the traditional gendered blindness of masculine subjects, is cute but "not too bright," and so The Oracle uses reverse psychology on Neo but speaks directly to Trinity. Neo becomes The One on his own, and not just because Morpheus says so. But since Neo's decisions save Morpheus' life (violating the letter of The Oracle's prophesy, though not its spirit) he supersedes Morpheus, rendering Morpheus a kind of John the Baptist to Neo's imitatio Christi. Neo, without ever so much as once lusting or showing specifically sexual signs of desire for Trinity, defeats computer-assisted reproduction and saves the world for feminine regulation and human-all-too-human reproduction. Trinity gets her man. Zion is saved. Neo learns to fly. Importantly, however, in the final scene, Neo does not return to the matrix accompanied by Trinity, nor is he shown in communion with the rest of Zion or humanity either. No, Neo, who "moves like them," gets on fabulously now in the matrix—even better than the sentient agents—and is shown in the epilogue hanging out in the matrix once more: a savvier, more self-possessed virtual agent. With his last words we are advised that he'll be back for more matrix-busting-foo in the sequel.

The World's a Mess, it’s in My Kiss

And so The One saves Trinity from the social death of inferior sperm. But does Neo rejuvenate human reproduction for some higher purpose? Does he restore Zion so that people there won't become bio-organic "coppertops," subjectively deadened automatons of infomatic labor, Dilbert "energizers" of late capitalism? What did Trinity want when her kiss turned Neo into The One? Was it the better of two competing sperms, to avoid the dick of death so that she can get it on with that of life? If The Matrix portrays the substitution of her womb for "their" womb, the human uterus versus the alien-machine-incubation/ consensual hallucination nexus of the matrix, where's utopia? What guarantees that organic vagina-derived society isn't as prone to consensus reality as the machine-driven "copper-topping" of the matrix ever was? Isn't this why the sentient agents have selected corporate life in 1999 as precisely the optimal form of consensual hallucination for farming human energy? For charming us with alienation?

This is Cipher's duplicitous viewpoint, and remains the most disturbing in the film. Far more sinister than the sentient agent's revelation that, for computers, humans have disgusting body odor, is the possibility that traditional human femininity produces women who want to be queens who play clone-the-leader rather than support and reproduce the various drones of social hierarchy. In turn, this produces men as mere ciphers of masculinity, amplifying the droning of the drones who are thus led to revolt against female reproduction and to prefer the machinic to the genetic code—despite its rule-bound limitation and inhumanity. Where Neo is clearly the "new man," Cipher is a cipher for masculinity's other side: Cipher stands for those who never acquire the grace of the Trinity, the favor of the organic God and his eve-ning woman.

Perhaps Mary Shelley saw it all at a glance. From this dramaturgical perspective, Neo as the new "new male" is akin to Frankenstein's monster; Cipher is Dr. Frankenstein, Morpheus is Clerval; but Trinity is no Elizabeth Lavenza as empowered 90's grrrl, but presents instead a new variation on being stripped bare by mechanical bachelors: Trinity must be read as a never before consenting Bride of Frankenstein. For in New Zion, Neo and Trinity may have each other, but Cipher remains a cipher for the sexual lack that promotes the technological replacement of humanity. He wants to remain in the birthing fields eating hallucinatory steak. Without more understanding of how masculine failure to achieve gender makes men into "mothers" of invention and bitches of technology, "Switch" (the blond power lesbian in The Matrix) will remain just that: a trivial alternative that is always the first to go when masculinity cannot fulfill its demand for sexual/social synchronization and competitive sexual access to the vestal virgin whore.

Morpheus: Do you know what I am talking about?

Neo: The matrix.

Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?

Neo: Yes.

Morpheus: The matrix is everywhere, it is all around us. Even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

What would pudeur hide, if truth were a woman?


1. Not only did the ancient Greeks believe that hysteria was caused by the uterus "wandering" around inside the female body, but curiously the "art" film most parallel to The Matrix in theme and coinciding with its theatrical release, David Cronenberg's eXistenZ, features a detachable uterus device as the means for "jacking in" to a VR gaming space.

2. Gilbert, Susan M. and Susan Grubar, "Horror's Twin: Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve" in Mary Shelley (Modern Critical Views) ed. harold Bloom, Chelsea House, 1985, pp. 115-136.

3. Johnson, Brabara, "My Monster/My Self," in Mary Shelley (Modern Critical Views) ed. harold Bloom, Chelsea House, 1985, p. 63.

—Matt George © 1999 all rights reserved