‘Matrix' & other tricks

The much-anticipated sequel to The Matrix, titled The Matrix Reloaded, did an astonishing $135.8-million in ticket sales during its four-day opening. That’s a lot of moolah, especially for a movie that goes to such extraordinary lengths to confuse the genuine and the counterfeit, the real and the virtual, people and machines, Keanu Reeves and real actors. Or should we say simulacra and simulation?

One thing the philosophically pretentious creators of The Matrix movies don’t want their audience to be confused about is the business of product tie-ins. Reporting in the New York Times (“There’s No Exit from the Matrix,” May 25), Frank Rich writes that the movie’s creators limited the use of the Matrix imprimatur to “Powerade drinks, Cadillac, Ducati motorcycles, and Heineken.” The licensing of so-called ancillary products was similarly restricted to Enter the Matrix video games, action figures, an animated DVD, and, of course, those sunglasses.

When it comes to merchandizing there is no substitute for this sort of authenticity.

Rich goes on to make a more serious point. In the film, the heroes are trying to escape from a totalitarian world where “reality” is manufactured by all-powerful machines. Mere science fiction? Today, Rich writes, media conglomerates such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (Fox TV), Viacom, and Matrix producers AOL Time Warner, control television, radio, newspapers, and movie companies that provide most of our information about the real world. To further this dangerous concentration of wealth and influence, the Bush administration is urging the Federal Communications Commission to relax its regulations, allowing these monopolies to control nearly the entire media market.

With the FCC’s rule changes, Rich points out, the Matrix’s paranoid vision of the future may not be so far off.

Published in the 2003-06-06 issue: 
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