“Remember – all I give is the truth, nothing more.”
Image source: Warner Bros.
This series was originally shown in 2019. We are republishing it as Resurrection Matrix Hits theaters and HBO Max.
It is difficult to say exactly what would happen, if Valentinus transferred the leader of the Gnostic Christian sect in the second century into the twenty-first century. He is likely to be confused with contemporary Christianity, and his fear of cars. You must teach him the English language, and explain to him recent inventions such as computers, and masked singer. But I can be sure of one thing about bringing Valentinus into the 21st century: he really loves the matrix.
Not only would he appreciate the masterful production design, the legendary combat choreography, or the way the Wachowskis used Keanu Reeves’ woodwork for work—though he would; How could he not? – as he likes the matrixGnosticism. Gnostics like Valentinus believed that the world we encounter every day is pain and suffering, an evil lie not created by God but from a lesser than God-created deity, a character called the Demiurge. To escape from the falseness of the material world and to save your soul, you must attain knowledge or knowledge.
looks familiar? Valentinus – again, assuming you taught him English, explained weapons, and turned off motion smoothing on his new TV – will undoubtedly recognize in the film his own worldview: the pseudo-Matrix world; the incarnation of the divine deity in Agent Smith; New enlightened savior, who arrives to save humanity. Valentin’s favorite scene (along with the helicopter shooting scene, which is everyone’s favourite) would be the one where Morpheus sits in front of Neo and opens his palms to reveal two beads, perfectly reflected in Morpheus’ mirrored sunglasses: one red and one blue. “You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe,” Morpheus says. “You take the red pill and you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole is.” The red pill: Gnosis, baby.
Nineteen centuries after Valentinus and other early mystics began preaching, Gnosticism is thriving as the Internet’s original belief system in the age of social media. It’s just that we know it as “red pilling” – because, of course, there is no more grounded religious text for the Internet than the matrix. On the Internet, “to red pill” means knowing that you have been deceived, that you have been bought into a false and diabolical lie, and that the only way out is to gain true knowledge of the way the world works. “Remember—all I give is the truth, nothing more,” Morpheus told Neo.
What this “fact” is varies, depending on which red pill pharmacist you choose. Sometimes The Matrix is ”a pre-fabricated world, controlled by a select few forces that seem very powerful, like the Banksters, Rothschilds and George Soros” – this is from James Red Pills America, a popular conspiracy-focused YouTube account that promises “to educate the masses” reality of the world in which we live today. Sometimes the Matrix is just generally political liberalism, as was the case with Red Pill Black, a YouTube channel created by right-wing activist Candace Owens with the intent of alienating black Americans from the Democratic Party. (Morpheus of The Neo to Owens was briefly Kanye West, who tweeted compliments of her in 2018 amid his flirtation with Trumpism; he was also a huge person matrix Fans.) Red-pilling is usually right-wing — the left-handed equivalent is “wake up” — but not always: Sometimes, as in the case of a YouTube channel called Red Pill Vegan, the matrix is just “short-sighted Keto diet advice.”
More often than not, what the Internet’s matrix red pillars — the supposedly all-encompassing lie that causes pain and suffering — are feminism. 2015 documentary film The Red Pill: A Feminist Journey into the Men’s Rights Movement (a 29 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes), tracks journalist Cassie Jaye “as she stumbles down a rabbit hole in the mysterious world of the men’s rights movement” and “is taken on a life-changing journey where she will never see the world the way it is again.” (Exactly Like Neo, if he had launched a Kickstarter fundraiser to find Morpheus.) Since at least the early 2010s, online anti-feminists have referred to their worldview as the “Red Pill,” which the infamous Reddit community r/TheRedPill, was founded in 2012, and defines it as “the recognition and awareness of the way feminists, feminists, and their empowerment elements affect society.” R/TheRedPill now has 300,000 subscribers discussing “sexual strategy in a culture that increasingly lacks a positive male identity.”
Misogyny, anti-feminism, and blunt ‘little artist’ dating advice has been on the internet for a long time, but it’s the religious sensation the matrix Also translated as the “red pill” that brings these threads together in a coherent cosmology: feminism, the red pill theory tells its mostly male proponents, is a cruel fabrication that causes personal unhappiness, social disruption, daily chaos, global conflict, and, worst of all , is the reason not to have sex. Only through the red pill can you see the world for what it is truly He and – at last! – I lie down.
As in every movement, there are ramifications, schisms and warring sects. Beyond the red pill of anti-feminism, there is the “black pill” of the “incel,” or the involuntary celibate: the grotesque and blunt nihilism on even the issues that revive “red pill” societies. (Important issues like “How can I lay?”) On 4chan, a tongue-in-cheek rainbow of “grain” appeared to match the various occult ideologies represented on panels like /pol/ (“politics”) and /x/ (“the paranormal”). A widely circulated MS Paint illustrator plot derisively identifies the characteristics of “Greenpill” (“adversary of the Illuminati” and “Non-Euclidean politician”) and “brownpill” (“Green bean’s struggles against the NWO are seen as futile”) among others . One comic written by an anonymous Tumblr sings about the adventures of “Iron Pill,” a white supremacist with superpowers who fights feminists and anti-Antifa protesters dressed only in shorts and boots and a sleeveless cloak like a jacket Volkish fuckboy superhero.
The flourishing of grain in the wider expanses of the web seems a bit like a betrayal of Morpheus’ two-disc show – instead of “truth or illusion”, you get to have your choice of different facts. It makes you wonder a little if the “red pill” is really enlightenment or is it just another elaborate falsehood. But there were dozens of different Gnostic sects and schools in Valentinus’ time as well. And why aren’t YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook fertile grounds for neo-gnosticism? These days, we are mostly trapped in the clutches of giant, obscure and unaccountable platforms — vast systems that exert tremendous power over us, yet we remain conscious of our business. Is it a coincidence that secret and enlightening knowledge myths about the oppressive structures of reality are so powerful?
the matrixThe red pill has long been a symbol of online misogyny in the men’s rights movement. But over the years, it’s also inspired the entire pharmacy of memes and other electronic ideologies — some hilarious, some hateful, some describing actual beliefs, others mostly used pejoratively. Here, the most remarkable and the most unusual.
Like the red pill but less concerned about feminism than the creepy aliens imposing the New World Order.
Anti-materialists are more interested in personal enlightenment than the Illuminati.
Ignorant of world politics and conspiracies. He hates reading and just wants to sit.
Illuminati supporter (or potential member). People think they need to be in control.
Aware of the Illuminati and he’s definitely not a fan, but he’s not worried.
In bodybuilding, the neo-paleo diet, the alt-right. Claims of supernatural powers.
A more nihilistic red pill, too depressed to even learn the techniques of a capture artist.
* A version of this article appeared in the February 4, 2019 issue of New York magazine. subscribe now!