Heroine Content Links #18: Matrix Edition

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the first Matrix film, here are some links that I particularly enjoy. Please feel free to share others in the comments!

The Matrix: Coding Counter Racism by Josh Wickett.

The Pornocracy of “Fate”: Moms’ Tricks in The Matrix by Matt George.

Holy Trinity – female characters in The Matrix: Reloaded by Anna Sandfeld on The F-Word.

A future worth fighting for by Andrew O’Hehir on Salon.com.

The Matrix Reloaded Makes Strides in Racial Diversity on BlogCritics, and the comments section on this one is also worth a read.

Matrix Revolutions: Imbalance by Cynthia Fuchs on Pop Matters.

These posts by Steven Barnes:

The Taming of the Shrew: The fall of Trinity in the Matrix Trilogy on Beyond Pandora. (This is actually closest to my interpretation of Trinity of all the writing I’ve seen online -Skye)

The Matrix and the Mater by Stephen Faller.

This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.

5 thoughts on “Heroine Content Links #18: Matrix Edition

  1. d

    Linky goodness indeed! Thanks for the links guys! I just read two of them, and will sleep on ’em before I make comments and/or get to the others.

    Looks like a nice assortment you have there. :)

  2. Anonymous

    The Taming of the Shrew:The fall of Trinity in the Matrix Trilogy on Beyond Pandora. (This is actually closest to my interpretation of Trinity of all the writing I’ve seen online -Skye)

    A lot to think about, certainly. It would be nice to think that unconsciously it was part of why I liked the latter two less than the first (but of course I can’t know that).

  3. Ide Cyan

    Movie recommendation: if you can find them, I’d love to see your blog review the movie “Hard Revenge, Milly” (a mid-length, low-budget feature), and its full-length sequel, “Hard Revenge, Milly: Bloody Battle”, both of which star Miki Mizuno in the title role, doing all of her own fighting. (Think Kill Bill if Zoe Bell had starred instead of Uma Thurman.)

  4. d

    Hi There! :) Guess I’ll talk about Pandora’s comments since they may mirror so many here, and not just you Skye. It also , to me, brings up the biggest issue when looking at films for HC, and I don’t know it can be reconciled anytime soon. And just to be sure that it doesn’t get lost in one of my uber long posts, I’ll break it up into two.

    On Pandora it says that Trinity killed an agent, but she doesn’t: she killed the shell that the agent occupied. Now that is still an impressive feat, and a most cool scene in the film, but the only agent Neo killed was Smith. And he still came back to life! Neo easily handled the agents in the second film, but they didn’t die either. I think this has to be a function in the way agents are programmed. Neo can kill programs, as he did when he offed the Merovingian’s henchmen, but that would be speculation since we don’t know whether they were programs or just people who could do brilliant things in the matrix. The only ones we really know were programs were the twins and the two men guarding the keymaking (one of whom Persephone kills).

    It also says that Trinity was instantly captured by Bane/Smith, but let’s look at that. She is caught off guard by the hiding Bane/Smith, who talks about delighting in killing her almost as much as Neo. Again, we see Trinity elevated from the level of pawn to that of nemesis. At worst this gives her sidekick status, but that is still an upgrade from our usually depicted damsels. But it doesn’t stop there, like most hostage scenes do. She breaks free, she climbs up the stairs and she smashes Bane/Smith’s nose before warning Neo via intercom. It is only then she’s captured. Even the end of the scene seems refreshingly different from what we usually see. Gone is the woman crying helplessly to be saved. There is quiet, but steely determination in Trin when she tells Neo to kill her and Bane/Smith, and real disappointment when he doesn’t. She is also the one who helps him even compete with Bane/Smith, after he gives away his advantage, when she turns off the lights. He wouldn’t just be blind, he would have been dead. And while his blindness enhances his connection to the machine world (a sight beyond sight), he still literally can’t see, and needs Trinity to fly them to Machine City.

    Looking at Trinity as a femme fatale is interesting. The Wachowskis are pulling from a film noir narrative, so it would make sense, especially in the first film, that Trinity fills that role. And I don’t know enough about film noir to say definitively yea or nay about anything, but some good points were brought up. The clothing was the one thing I didn’t bring up. 1- because I like the super-hero genre, and everyone is in tight, skimpy attire, but 2- because it seems somewhat fair across the board. In fact I would have to watch them all again just to look at clothing specifically. But it’s hard to see Trinity as the killer, sexy femme when she actually looks conservative in comparison to the other women at the first club. She actually looks downright plain, which I love, she seems certainly less so than du Jour (the woman with the rabbit on her shoulder). Ironically enough, whereas the femme fatale is a promise of sexuality, I almost see Trinity there as a promise of purity.

    I am going to definitely disagree with Trinity being coy. She is a lot of things, and some of those things do imply a more traditional female role, like quiet, unassuming, and deferring. But coy implies affectation, and Trinity is usually one of the most straightforward people there. Unlike other heroines (or heroes for that matter) she is very matter of fact and pragmatic. The word I would use for her feelings for Neo would be ambivalent. I don’t think she likes liking him, and she certainly didn’t seem as taken about the idea of the one as Morpheus; seems like she was still on the fence about that. SO now she has to come to terms with two uncomfortable things. I think you see this best when she gives him food. On the one hand, that looks so submissive. Yet, instead of mooning over his sleeping body, I really get the sense she is scrutinizing him – as well as her feelings. She’s clearly affected by him, and she wants to know why.

    Also, while Trinity falls more deeply in love with Neo, I don’t think she loses a sense of autonomy, even as she seems to lose heft in the action taking place. On Pandora, it illuminates Trinity telling Neo off when he orders her to stay out of the Matrix in the first one. But why does she do that? It’s because, as she says, she is the ranking officer on that ship; it was presumptuous of him to think he could, even if it was for noble intent (protecting her from a plan he didn’t wholly believe in himself). But it’s for that very reason that she couldn’t be much more than an observer – especially as the series progresses. What other officer actually engaged in politics, or made decisions outside of their own sphere of influence – their ships and crew members? Usually they just added colorful commentary, or asked/answer questions. When Trinity reprimanded Neo, she was captain. But by the third film, they were all on someone else’s ship. Even Morpheus was less authoritative himself, asking Roland to sweep the matrix.

    Trinity being exactly like she was would have been disrespectful on a ship that was not hers, or out of line in a place where the power clearly resided with the captains. I think we usually see that in films because I would say U.S. culture loves those who buck the system, and sticks it to the man. SO we love it when Bruce Willis (from the Die Hard quadrilogy) sticks it to the system, because we are rooting for his cause, which is justified by the film as the right one. And we see that with the rebels inside the matrix. But I don’t think that should be in Zion’s council meetings, or Roland’s ship – even if we don’t necessarily like what he does. But Niobe does, which brings me to my last little bit about this link in particular…

  5. d

    “While this stereotypical sexism-run-rampant with regard to Trinity is not necessarily a reflection of the movies as a whole, her fall from gender challenge to gender stereotype is a strong argument in support of Haslam’s suggestion: that the story of the Matrix trilogy merely masquerades as an emancipation plot, while ultimately serving to reinforce the position of the dominant class [2005, 106].”

    I didn’t quote everything – I figured you could just read the link yourself – but I wanted to highlight a couple things here because after I read it, I was quite surprised, and frankly disappointed.

    “She takes no action in either of the sequels other than to do as he wishes, or to rescue him from his situation. In contrast to the various men in the film, she takes no position in matters of religion, warfare or politics, reinforcing the idea that such issues of high culture are not for women, who are best suited to the domestic sphere.”

    I would argue that Trinity’s help for Neo is more nuanced, split between both helping him, but also helping Zion, because she does believe that by helping him she will assist in ending the war, and saving Zion. But let’s say I did believe that Trinity does everything for Neo, in contrast to other men in the film. Here’s the crux of my problem : Trinity also does this in contrast to the other women in the film!

    The trilogy, at its heart, is an ensemble film, and just like Neo shares the spotlight, so does Trinity. Yes, Trinity did not engage directly into Zion politics and war strategy – Niobe did, and did it rather effectively. We had a female lead in a female representative council (in contrast to what we just saw in Terminator Salvation). We had enlisted female recruits, as well as female soldiers (though I admit, I’d have to look hard to see one operating an APU). I would even say the domestic sphere wasn’t even Trinity’s; that was represented by Nona Gaye (and to a much lesser extent, Gina Torres). Nona is the soft spoken, I’ll-let-the-mens-do-battle, motivated almost purely by love character we see. Trinity is motivated first by war, and falls in love with Neo it seems because he can end it, and Zee is motivated first by love to stop the war so she can get her husband back.

    I could be wrong, but I got the feeling from the reading that the only gender upturning stuff that counts is the stuff than non-women of color do. And I guess if you do look at it from that perspective it does look scary. No non-woman of color survives (save the background characters, ie. The head of the council, and Locke’s female soldier) except perhaps Persephone, who’s a program. Switch, Charra, Maggie, Trinity – basically all the ones we know and come to care for bite the bullet. But all the female humans and programs of color (Niobe, Zee, the Oracle, Sati) live.

    So that leaves me torn actually. I would really hate to think that because a white woman is not the one in the forefront of the cause, that somehow it’s just status quo masquerading as revolution. On the other, can we really call it revolutionary if not one of the main seemingly white (and I say that because technically latinos are considered people of color but they can look like the whole spectrum of human color) female characters make it out alive.

    Maybe not Trinity, I personally think that her death has meaning (as alluded to in another link); I think it carries symbolic resonance greater than, now that she’s gone Neo’s motivated, although I would agree it clearly does motivate him too. I also like the death scenes she has. I see so many women not portrayed as the tough, rugged individuals they can be, that Trinity was a refreshing change. I agree that her death scene did not bode well for the story in Reloaded. I also thought that her shooting an agent, dripping with cuts, steely-eyed, and not even paying attention to her impending death was one of the hardest female death scenes I’ve seen. So I think you lose something in keeping her alive, especially when Neo bites the big one too. But another character perhaps?

    And that to me is the tough question I alluded to a post ago. What makes Grace & Skye’s job so tough is balancing both the gender and the ethnicity. Earlier in the piece it was said that Trinity disappears for quite some time. But during that time we meet Morpheus, we see a little of Tank, we get to know Neo better. Will more Trinity time take away from Morpheus, who also goes away for a spell when he is captured? Who should get more time? Do you focus more on Trinity, at the expense of Niobe, or Zee, or some of the other characters? What if it was reversed? Trinity did almost all, and all the rest of the women were wallpaper, would that be acceptable? I just don’t know.

    And that’s not rhetorical either. If you have some ideas on ways to bolster Trinity’s character, while still keeping the integrity of the others, let me know.

    I have other thoughts, but they relate better to the other links.

    Thanks for the read!

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