Sexuality and Sensuality
In The Matrix, all references to sex occur only in the Matrix—that is, in the mind. Mouse, the young techno-whiz, creates a fantasy woman dressed in red as part of a simulation of the Matrix. The Matrix Reloaded shows an earthier version of sex in the real world, in the human city of Zion. Neo and Trinity, whose passion was previously much colder, make love under an arch, a traditional symbol of heavenly blessing. The film interrupts their lovemaking with scenes of the earthy, sensual Zionites celebrating their community to the beat of tribal drums. They’re loosely garbed in earth-toned clothing and are muscular, tattooed, and sweaty. The vast population jumps up and down, undulating in a sweep of ecstasy that seems to serve as a connection to the earth. Sex and sensuality are concrete in the real world, while in the Matrix, they are illusions like everything else.
The Matrix Revolutions portrays the Merovingian’s underground club, Hell, as an S&M paradise, full of latex, whips, chains, masks, and muscular bodies. The club suggests Dante’s circles of hell, in which sinners receive various tortures and punishments. Here, the Wachowskis present the idea that the simulation of punishment, the sensations of various materials, bindings, and masks, and the assumption of various roles of domination and submission can be a liberating and sensual experience. What the Christian Dante condemns as debauchery, the Merovingian presides over as an entertaining party.
Sunglasses, Eyes, and Mirrors
The renegades and the Agents always wear sunglasses in the Matrix. Sunglasses hide the eyes and reflect those who are being looked at. The removal of sunglasses signals that a character is gaining a new or different perspective, or that he or she is vulnerable or exposed in some way. When Neo removes his glasses to kiss Persephone in The MatrixReloaded, he looks deeply into her eyes, indicating both the precariousness and gravity of the moment. When Morpheus offers Neo his crucial choice between the pills, the blue pill is reflected in one shade of his sunglasses, the red pill in the other, an overt reference to the two different ways of seeing that Neo must choose between. When Neo enters his new world, his sunglasses serve as protection for him, keeping him invulnerable to the dangers and surprises he encounters.
Mirrors reveal how we see the outside world, but also, crucially, how we see ourselves and our own world. When Neo takes the red pill, he enters the real world, and the mirror he touches infects him slowly with metallic goo, suggesting the fraying of all his illusions as he enters a new realm of perception. Other reflective materials are shattered throughout the trilogy. Skyscraper glass rains down, water rains from above and pools below, and anything transparent continually shifts forms and locations, transforming whatever it reflects.
The films in the Matrix trilogy frequently employ biblical references to augment character development and suggest a significance greater than the mere actions taking place. On the plaque of Morpheus’s Nebuchadnezzer, for example, as part of its identifying numbers, is the notation Mark III, No. 11. In the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament, Mark describes large crowds who follow Jesus and are healed of their diseases. Chapter 3, verse 11 (King James Version) reads, “And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him and cried, saying, ‘Thou art the Son of God!’” In some ways, Morpheus parallels a Gospel writer delivering news of a savior. He is, after all, the first person to believe and declare that Neo is the One. When Neo disembarks at Zion for the first time in The Matrix Reloaded, afflicted crowds await him and treat him as a messiah, begging for his healing touch just as the crowds in Mark’s Gospel do. Though Neo isn’t necessarily a messiah, the biblical reference here suggests he embodies the qualities of one and presents a possible interpretation of his role.
Just before Agent Smith’s first appearance in The Matrix Reloaded, we see the license plate on the luxury car he drives: IS 5416. In the Old Testament, Chapter 54, Verse 16, of Isaiah, reads “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire and that bringeth forth an instrument for this work; and I have created the waster, to destroy.” In this chapter, Isaiah refers to the Lord’s assurances that Zion, the promised land for the Israelites, will be victorious in future glory. He reminds his people that he created everything and goes on to reassure them that “no weapon forged against you will prevail.” Though we don’t necessarily need to recognize and understand the biblical reference in order to understand the Matrix trilogy, references like this one add a second layer of meaning to the films. They augment what we do know about the characters and add depth to the conflict, giving the films hidden meanings and reinforcing the idea that what we’re seeing isn’t all that’s there—more lurks beneath the surface, if we just know where to look, much as those who take the red pill discover an alternate universe just beyond what they know.