Mass Culture In The Matrix

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Mass Culture and Style in The Matrix Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, in “The Culture Industry as Mass Deception,” conclude that mass culture in the United States is identical and unoriginal “under monopoly capitalism” (Adorno, Horkheimer 1242). The Matrix (1999), directed by the Wachowski siblings, is about a group of enlightened outsiders who wage a war against the machines in control of human beings, who are subdued and experiencing a false reality through a simulation called the Matrix. In this paper, I will describe how the film, while seemingly original in its concept of questioning reality and rejecting conformity, ultimately succumbs to the cliches and stylizations of mass culture/media, failing to break from the formula Adorno and…show more content…
The film is heavily dependent on the music, the clothing, and the gothic aesthetic. The music in the movie is a mix of electronic, metal, and alternative rock, adding to the whole futuristic, but dark and dangerous, vibe. The gothic aesthetic is everywhere; it’s in the costumes, the interior decorations, the moody lighting, and the buildings. The main colors being used while they are in the Matrix are black and green, muddled and not as bright as when Neo is removed and brought to the real world. Specifically, the film borrows from the cyberpunk or industrial styles/subcultures of the 1990s - the PVC/leather outfits, the abundance of black clothing and “edgy” accessories, the trench coats, the black glasses. This style (demonstrated best at 0:09:44 during the club scene, where a remix of Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” plays) permeates the entire film, contrasting with the bland, conservative outfits of the agents and the people in the simulations (0:56:33-0:57:45). It is meant to create a distinguishable division between the protagonists and the antagonists - to quote Morpheus’ statement to Neo: “If you are not one of us, you are one of them.” The good guys just so happen to be more rugged and alternative-looking than the bad guys. Adorno and Horkheimer classify style in the culture industry as “the aesthetic equivalent of domination” (1245). Because of the distinctive style of The Matrix, it has become one of the most recognizable and popular films of our time, becoming a part of mainstream culture and having fashion trends, relevant even now, capitalize on its success. Was this a deliberate choice on the part of the film’s directors? Possibly. It would make sense to have a film that stands out stylistically. The sleek, black glasses worn by Morpheus and his band of rebels are no longer normal glasses, they are automatically associated with The Matrix. The same can be said for the trench coats and black leather outfits.
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