Three people on the planet haven't yet read a Harry Potter book or watched a Harry Potter movie; I guess I'm one of them. (No hurry; I'll get around to it, some day, I promise. If something is really important, then it can wait!) Nor, until a few days ago, had I seen The Matrix --- the first installment, that is, not the recent sequel. Hence, perhaps, my quasi-oblivious cluelessness with respect to some mass entertainment phenomena that seem to be a dominant part of today's economy. If I don't notice it, should I worry about it?

Frank Rich, a New York Times columnist, argues "Yes". In a Sunday 25 May 2003 essay ("There's No Exit From the Matrix") Rich suggests that the same dominance of the media that a few companies now wield is also behind some major problems in politics and other important social arenas:

... We reward mediocre movies with record grosses. We reward tabloid news epics with high ratings. We reward dissembling politicians with high poll ratings. We expect our journalistic media to fictionalize the truth. As others have noted, the most dispiriting aspect of the Jayson Blair scandal may be that even the subjects of his stories usually didn't bother to complain about the lies The New York Times published about them; they just assumed it was standard practice. One way or the other, we all inhabit the Matrix now.

Frank Rich sees the media giants as orchestrating coverage of recent international events --- mass indoctrination into what he calls "sequential amnesia". Sadly, he's probably right.

And returning to The Matrix the movie, part the first, I enjoyed it more than I expected to ... though as I watched, I covered a napkin with a scribbled list of better books and movies that it seemed derivative of. (VernorVinge's True Names, Samuel R. Delany's Nova, William Gibson's Neuromancer, several Gordon R. Dickson Dorsai stories, Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age, ... plus TRON, Star Wars, Soylent Green, Fight Club, Alien, The Great Escape, Dark Star, Galaxy Quest, Forbidden Planet, Die Hard, The Golden Child, The Last Action Hero, Men in Black, Dr. Strangelove, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Ghost Busters, Snatch, ... and the cheap sf/humor TV series Red Dwarf)

As for the philosophical content of The Matrix? Rather disappointing --- it seemed mostly to consist of sophomorisms and (to quote from the fine movie Mystery Men) "terribly mysterious" pronouncements ... which simply served to separate long fly-by-wire fake kung fu foolishness and poorly-motivated nick-o'-the-nanosecond escapes.

Maybe I just wasn't in the mood ...

(see also MinesOfMetaphor (28 Sep 1999), PowerDistortion (12 Feb 2001), OurOneRing (18 Dec 2001), MakeMoneyWhisper (9 Nov 2002), ...)

TopicSociety - TopicArt - TopicHumor - TopicEntertainment - 2003-05-31

(correlates: FreeTrope, DannyTheDog, Mystery Men, ...)