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Freedom Under Hospitable Captivity Essay

1406 words - 6 pages

The Matrix (Andy and Lana Wachowski, 1999) appeals to a Western ideology of freedom in its most general sense by depicting a fight against the enslavement of the human race in a post-apocalyptic world controlled by machines. The machines use the humans, whose minds are trapped in a computer program, as an energy source. In this world of machines, the Wachowskis expand upon the totalitarianism seen in other works of fiction, such as 1984 by George Orwell. The totalitarian state of 1984, Airstrip One, becomes the whole planet in The Matrix, and the oppressed citizens become nearly the entire human race. Only a group of rebels escape from the machines by creating a city below the surface of the earth. The main character, Neo (Keanu Reeves), joins these rebels at the call of Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who explains the nature of the Matrix and its authoritarian qualities. Beyond expanding the totalitarian state, the Wachowskis broaden the idea of captivity. The humans in the Matrix have no idea that they are captive; nevertheless, they are still prisoners. Whereas, in 1984, the citizens know that they are being watched and Winston, the main character, finds the terrors of the regime when he is imprisoned and tortured. By expanding upon previous ideas of captivity and authoritarian government, the film makes the choice between freedom and captivity, whether the prisoner is aware or not, more difficult. Through the use of stereotyping Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) and the actions and dialogue of Morpheus, the film suggests that the more noble choice is freedom simply for the sake of being free.
Before it can be argued that The Matrix supports freedom, the plot of the film and the word “freedom” must be examined. The journey taken by Neo has similarities to the Monomyth proposed by Joseph Campbell. In the film, Neo works for a computer software company by day and commits computer crimes as a hacker by night. His life changes when Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) tells him that he is being watched and that the answer to “What is the Matrix?” is looking for him. After an encounter with Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), Morpheus gives Neo the call to action with a phone call that sends Neo to the Adam’s Street Bridge to meet Trinity and later be freed from the Matrix, entering the belly of the whale. Morpheus becomes the supernatural mentor during Neo’s training—the road of trials—aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, the rebel ship. After the agents capture Morpheus in the second call to action, Neo proves that he is the One by saving Morpheus and dealing with the agents, the ultimate boon. In the process, he stops bullets in mid air by opening his mind—using a supernatural force—and makes Agent Smith explode in a guilt-free act of violence. A unique feature of the film is that Neo is not presented with a situation in which to resist temptation. It is unusual that this classic aspect of the Monomyth is left out. Frodo has the ring, Buddha has three women,...

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