Based on my final year dissertation at University
Modernism can be seen to be the enlightenment of the new world, and a strive towards universal reason and self-realization of the human race. This way of thinking soon gave possibility knowing that man-kind could create a new and better society, which was a sense of freedom as it paved the way for a reality which could be created by the mind and people’s fantasies, ideas and dreams could become real.
Modernism has created this representative, future like quality which people responded to and to go back to the traditional way of life was also a danger of being obsolete. It was an environment created to resemble ‘real life’; it seemed to be starting to form a simulated version of reality.
French Philosopher Jean Baudrillard constructed broad ideas of human society with the understanding that people are constantly searching for a meaning and understanding of the world. He stressed that “Postmodernism is a self constrained social condition”. He developed his theories and based them on the idea that the world, our reality is nothing more than a representation of the real. He suggested that we have become so blind as to see what reality truly is and in order to identify it we must escape from this prison and simulation if we want to ever uncover the truth and the real world.
The Matrix, which Baudrillard sees as the current reality society endures, is merely a system of simulations of the real and authentic. It is something society chooses to believe and understand because it has been successful in providing a perception of reality through control, manipulation, our emotions and the information we get as children.
Andy and Lana Wachowski’s film The Matrix (1999), was taken from Jean Baudrillard’s theory of Simulacra and Simulation. The idea is portrayed through a man (Neo) waking up from the Matrix and coming to terms with the real world and seeing the world around him become so embodied by this materialistic life.
It can be indicated that a scene in the film which really identifies with a postmodernist society shows a woman wearing a red dress. This in essence represents temptation and a need which people give into in everyday life. She walks past the main character Neo on a crowded street, he looks at her but does not give into her. If Neo had given into this temptation he would have been killed by the agents. When looking at it from an everyday standpoint, the idea would be him giving into a consumerist society which imprisons the mind by looking at the world from a naive perception.
It reflects what Baudrillard said in his book Simulacra and Simulation about the idea of the Matrix and falsity of signs and images, “it is dangerous to unmask images, since they dissimulate the fact that there is nothing behind them” It is a symbolic interpretation of a society being dependent on materialism and technology, by giving up their freedom which contradicts what modernism was supposed to enforce. Modernism has created a society which is less preoccupied with the importance of social issues, history and our civilisation.
However, what The Matrix film proposes with ‘the desert of the real’ can be argued to be a misrepresentation of what Baudrillard suggests, as in the film it is proposed that the real world exists outside of the Matrix. For Baudrillard this is inaccurate as the real no longer exists and what is presented is only the simulation. The Matrix film is merely a fabrication of what the Matrix defines.
In reference to Zygmunt Bauman, Intimations of Postmodernity he writes “representation and what is represented, simulations and truth, image and reality. All these things are hopelessly mixed up.” Thus a postmodernist world can therefore articulate that of a ‘consensus reality’, which supports the question of ‘what is real’, and is either what actually exists or what can be agreed to exist. It challenges the notion of ‘true reality’ and is reflected in everyday media. Like the Matrix in the film, it is seen to be fabricated, an illusion fed to a population which is captivated by it. Whence the birth of Hyperreality where “truth has not been destroyed, it has been made irrelevant.”
The next time you watch The Matrix think to yourself, are there any similarities you can see between our reality and the reality portrayed in the film?