When the Matrix came out in 1999, it was a big deal for Cultural Studies. Slavoj Žižek wrote a collection of essays which explored the concept of hyper-reality, inspired by a metaphor in the Matrix known as ‘the desert of the real’. Postmodern culture is a distorted mirror which reflects back on itself, to the point that reality itself becomes lost.
The ultimate truth of the capitalist utilitarian despiritualised universe is the dematerialisation of ‘real life’ itself, its reversal into a spectral show.
Žižek, and Baudrillard, argued that US society in the 90s was a kind of virtual fantasy. A reflection of a reflection. Until an event happened in September 2001 which shattered the dream.
Over the winter holiday I watched the fourth Matrix film, which also plays on the concept of hyper-reality. While Neo is in the Matrix, he takes on the character of a video game designer working on a game called… the Matrix. There’s a surprisingly self-referential scene where the characters all discuss the difficulty of making an original sequel to the Matrix trilogy.
I watched the film with my family, Christine quickly got confused and kept stopping to ask what was real. You see, the Matrix successfully made its point, although it might have blurred the line between ‘clever metaphor’ and ‘strange nonsense’ in the process.
On Wednesday, the Spectator published Žižek’s review of the Matrix Resurrections, which he openly acknowledged as nothing more than a commentary on other reviews. So devoted to the concept of hyper-reality, he wrote a review of the film without having actually watched it. Žižek is doing a clever meta-commentary on the Matrix itself, and obviously, he is making a joke.
Keep following the white rabbit, down another level.
I haven’t (yet) read Žižek’s review; I just saw a screenshot of the article that 7minscifi posted on twitter.
Commentary on an article I haven’t read, by someone reviewing a film they haven’t seen. Now we are all lost in the desert together.