22 April 2007

More on The Matrix

I sometimes wonder whether there really was a "Nineties". We know what the 80's were - big hair, shoulder pads, glorified selfishness, armageddon chic - as the MST3K crew put it, "do a lot of coke and vote for Ronald Reagan". The 70's were afros, disco, free love, punk, the oil crisis, things falling apart in general. And I don't need to explain what the 60's were, surely.

Dunno about the 90s in general, but we have a symbol of the late 90's in particular - The Matrix. I watched it last night for the first time in ages, and while still a lot of fun, it seemed quite dated in a way - not just because everyone has ripped off its most vital visual effects for crappy, third-rate action movies (and its gothic/industrial/vinyl aesthetic). I haven't thought about this in depth yet, but could we say that The Matrix is the ultimate movie of the era of Fukuyama's "end of history"; the era when new age "personal potential" belief systems were at their most popular; the high point of "liberal imperialism", where relaxed, laid-back dudes who appealed to the cultural intelligensia were doing the bombing (Clinton could invade places that Dubya would never dare); and of course the era of the dot-com bubble, when people really seemed to believe that The Internet - or the Y2K problem (remember that, anyone?) would fuck the shit up of our whole social system altogether.

(Is it possible that this disappointment of the cultural intelligensia's technoutopian/technoapocalyptic fantasies are behind the dismissive labels that young people use to describe their primary social outlet? I think the slightly sneering tone of labels like "teh intarwebz", "intertubes" or even "interbutt" are a reaction to the hushed and glorified tones that The Internet was described in back in the Matrix days. We now know that technology will not solve all our problems for us, or even give us a new set of problems. The problems of society are virtually the same that they were in 1973, when the current historical era began.)

Welcome to the Noughties. We are now in the era of 9/11, Islamophobia, the global anti-capitalism and anti-war movements, when we have been forcibly reminded that there is still an "outside" to globalised capitalism and its ideology, when internet technology has been subsumed into the dominant paradigm with only a marginal effect on the relations of productions. In retrospect, The Matrix seems a nostalgia trip - cute, but faintly embarrassing, as I supposed the hippy 60's looked from looking back from the fraught 70's.

1 comment:

  1. 'Dunno about the 90s in general, but we have a symbol of the late 90's in particular - The Matrix. I watched it last night for the first time in ages, and while still a lot of fun, it seemed quite dated in a way - not just because everyone has ripped off its most vital visual effects for crappy, third-rate action movies (and its gothic/industrial/vinyl aesthetic).'

    Don't forget the T.G.I.Friday's commercials.

    'I haven't thought about this in depth yet, but could we say that The Matrix is the ultimate movie of the era of Fukuyama's "end of history"...'

    Hence "retro" - Reality as a nostalgic recording replayed indefinitely throughout the end of history/the millennium (so long as the budget doesn't run out).

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