Simulacra, Simulation and The Matrix

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Since its blockbuster release in 1999, The Matrix has triggered off an avalanche of studies focusing on different aspects of the movie. What is striking about the proliferation of explanations of The Matrix is the extent to which the early writings of Jean Baudrillard, especially his Simulacra and Simulation (1983), now appear as the chief interpretive grid of the movie. Under close scrutiny, however, it soon becomes obvious that a reading of the movie in terms of Baudrillard's theory is based on a profound misunderstanding of his tenets. Departing from a critical re-examination of those studies that see in The Matrix a meticulous visualization of Baudrillard's theory, it will be elucidated that the film's explicit visual reference to Simulacra and Simulation is but one element within the "smorgasbord" of a double-coded network (Charles Jencks) of intertextual references.By resorting to Fredric Jameson's concept of pastiche and his theory on late capitalism, this essay sets out to illustrate that The Matrix is a comprehensive reflection and representation of postmodern culture at the conclusion of the twentieth century. As such the film functions as an example of the distinct and contrasting modes of discourse that have come to define both culture and aesthetic production in contemporary Western societies.

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... the self-contained simulacrum of simulations bears no relation to reality; just as the reality of the Matrix has no relation the real world of 2199. Lutzka (2006), however, argues that such Baudrillardian readings of The Matrix are often superficial and even misconstrued. 147 While the film narrative assumes a clear cut distinction between real and unreal, and tells of liberation from a false reality, Baudrillard contends that we cannot even know 'real reality', let alone return to it. ...
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Over the past two decades the field of ‘philosophy of film’ has become increasingly concerned with the self-reflective question of what constitutes the relationship between film and philosophy itself. This study proposes and explores a unique ‘deep-structure’ perspective on their relationship. It engages particularly with the question of ‘philosophy in film’ – that is, the ability of film to embody philosophical thought – from within the theoretical framework of Discourse Archaeology (DA), a theoretical system researched and taught at the Department of Philosophy, UFS. Certain assumptions that are at work within DA are explored in order to present an original and illuminating ground-perspective on how film and philosophy meet. Detailed analyses will illustrate how grounding concepts, identified by different sub-theories of DA, represent constitutive deep-structure ‘spaces’ within which film and philosophy interact in a variety of ways. While current approaches to this question tend to lack the meta-philosophical leverage which this question requires, DA’s systematic theories of philosophical discourse (and by implication philosophical ‘moments’ in any other discourse, like film) are illuminating ‘tools’ which allow the film-philosopher to deal with these two kinds of discourse in the same unifying terms. The study is conducted through five extensive case studies of how different DA sub-theories could be applied in probing the deep-structures that allow philosophy to be ‘in’ a film. The main analyses are of The Man who shot Liberty Valance (John Ford 1962), Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee 2005), Modern Times (Charles Chaplin 1936), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry 2004) and The Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski 1999). The DA sub-theories that are employed in analysis are Macro-motive theory, a theory of logosemantics (‘Key theory’), a figurative semiotics (or ‘Metaphor theory’), a theory of ethical ‘postures’ and a theory of ideology. In an attempt to investigate different theoretical avenues and possibilities, each chapter of analysis examines a particular sub-theory and has its own unique exploratory aims and procedures. Yet, to anchor this study in an active and ongoing debate, each of the analyses (apart from that of Brokeback Mountain) also seeks to establish some form of dialogue with Thomas Wartenberg’s analyses in Thinking on screen: Film as philosophy (2007). Apart from offering new perspectives on ‘philosophy in film’, four of the case-studies could therefore also be seen as ‘DA-replies’ to aspects of Wartenberg’s work on exactly the same films. Key terms: Discourse Archaeology, philosophy, film, narrative, macro-motives, ideology, logosemantics, Key theory, figurative semiotics, metaphor, ethical postures
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Eschatological expressions underwent an epistemic shift with the Trinity tests on July 16, 1945 from an imaginative practice of predicting futurity to a cataclysmic vision of complete annihilation. Motifs of literacy while seldom discussed, share a self-reflexive relation with nuclearization and cultural productions of the apocalypse, since the specialized nature of nuclear technology transforms nuclear discourses into signifiers of power: a form of cultural capital that emerges from and simultaneously legitimizes nuclear weapons. This intervention emphasizes how the epistemic violence of strategic nuclear imaginaries—employed through the constant anxiety of an anticipated nuclear catastrophe—can be countered through a critical literacy opposed to both martial ideologies as well as the instrumentalization of weaponized nuclear technology. Considering the current turbulence of an always already global nuclear landscape, this article examines two contemporary cinematic renderings of post-nuclear apocalyptic spaces, The Book of Eli (2010) and The Matrix (1999), to argue that any act of culturally representing/articulating the nuclear disaster is always an act of tangible recovery. In conclusion, I note that by uncovering the terrible realities of nuclear conflict and the dehumanization implicit in sophisticated techno-strategic paradigms, these artifacts from American nuclear culture which are also coextensive with nuclear countercultures everywhere, show the emancipatory possibilities of humane community-oriented critical literacies.
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