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Stereotypes In The Film The Matrix

2389 words - 10 pages

Stereotypes in the Film The Matrix

The purpose of this paper is to expose some of the stereotypes present in the film The Matrix, directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski. In order to accomplish this we shall see that although The Matrix is considered to be a film about rebellion, it contains several stereotypical portrayals, which actually make it a film that supports the status quo. We shall also see that the African American characters in The Matrix (the Oracle, Tank, Dozer, and Morpheus) are all depicted in the stereotypical servant roles. Furthermore, the women (Trinity and Switch) in this film are portrayed stereotypically; that is, they are either reduced to a caring/nurturing role or they simply help make up the background (they do not have a voice). Finally, Morpheus’ initial power and leadership is stripped away leaving him to play the stereotypical supporting and buddy role.

The Matrix is considered by many people to be a cyberpunk triumph. Declan McCullagh from wired.com writes: "When Neo/Reeves wakes up from his VR slumber and unplugs from The Matrix, he joins a ragtag band of rebels led by the charismatic Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne). Their plan: To overthrow the artificial intelligences that have robbed humanity of reality" (McCullagh). Entertainment weekly also sees The Matrix as a movie about rebellion against oppression: "Neo is, of course, The One, the prophesied leader of the oppressed who will lead the people of Zion (an underground city populated by the last free humans) from bondage--but only if he can believe in himself and trust in the power of love" (Bernadin).

Therefore, although the film appears to send a revolutionary message of a rage against ‘the machine’ or the matrix and its oppression, it is necessary to carefully analyze the way in which this message is delivered. Upon such analysis, it becomes evident that there are many stereotypes present in this ‘rebellious’ film. A racial stereotype is defined as a simplistic, rigid and unfair generalization of a racial-ethnic identity. Thus the film achieves the opposite effect.

One such stereotype visible in the film is that of the Oracle. An oracle is one who gives wise or authoritative decisions or opinions, and in The Matrix she is portrayed by an African American. Despite her wisdom, she is still portrayed as a ‘mammy’ figure, or a servant. I say this because when we are introduced to the Oracle, she’s in a kitchen where she is baking cookies. In addition, the house looks very much like a nursery for white children. Also, the only other woman of color present in the whole film is the woman seen in the Oracle’s house, whose sole assignment seems to be to answer the door.

One may get the impression that I am simply ‘reaching’ for stereotypes in this film. However, the way in which the Wachowski brothers depict the Oracle seems to be a bit too familiar a pattern in films where black women are portrayed as servants to whites. Films such as Gone With the...

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