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October 29, 2008

Enter the Matrix

My friend Craig Brownstein at Edelman (who got interested in this site because of the way we deconstruct the kind of spin his former boss and friend Michael Deaver was so skilled at laying in place) had an interesting take on this stack on the front page of Wednesday’s NYT. Craig, a cinephile, took one look (the top shot taken during a rally in the rain) and saw Obama as Neo in the Matrix. …And wasn’t Neo also an anagram for the “one?”


I wonder if the analogy is set up, at least subconsciously, by that caption “The Battle for Pennsylvania, and Beyond.” I get the context, but the fact McCain is largely camped in Pennsylvania; the mirrors and lights in the McCain shot look a bit extraterrestrial; Obama stands above him, almost emanated by the lights; and the country does hang in the balance caught in the matrix of a chokingly intricate but barely discernible Wall Street/Shock Doctrine network…. Well, that’s beyond.

(image 1: Damon Winter/NYT. image 2: Stephen Crowley/NYT)

  • Kris

    In the context of The Matrix, the shot of McCain reminds me of The Architect, a character Neo meets in one or both of the sequels. It’s the white hair and the fuzzy, clean nature of the background. In the movies The Architect has white hair also and lives within a room that is completely white, clean of all other shades and colors. The Architect is the guy who essentially creates and maintains the different programs within the matrix. In fact, if I remember correctly he was the original “architect” of the matrix to begin with (he himself is in some kind of mainframe of the network that keeps the matrix going).
    Anyways, what does that say about John McCain? Well if Obama is Neo and is destroying the matrix that is the waste and corruption of D.C., then John McCain is at least one of the architects of that mess. It could also be a metaphor for the way in which Obama has defeated McCain’s campaign, in which McCain is truly the architect of that particular mess.

  • ahpook

    Sorry Michael, not sure I can help with the Matrix trend… what I find odd is that the shot below is of McCain’s “bad” left side. Up until recently, it seemed like this was off-limits for published photos, let along front-page ones. I wonder if the breaking of the taboo is one of the markers that have been cropping up lately that there are no more free passes for McCain from his former “base” in the press.

  • middleagedhousewife

    The McCain shot says “smoke and mirrors” to me.

  • 14All

    Actually (although he does not physically resemble the character), the shot below reminds me of “Smith”, the ever-multiplying agent who eventually becomes the villain of the entire series. He always wears a suit, often hunches his shoulders, and wears a smug grin most of the time. If one were attempting to present the two politicians as polar opposites, that is how one would represent McCain.
    In the series, Smith seemed to represent a terrifying conformity and loss of self, as he was a rogue program that would devour and subsume other programs(persons)and turn them into copies of himself. Neo represented individualism, diversity, and the human spirit, as an otherwise perfectly normal, average person, who just happened to have this enormous power over the system. Interestingly enough, Neo eventually wins out over Smith and saves the entire planet for both techno- and organic life by allowing Smith to take him over while he is plugged into the system, so that the head honcho computer program can destroy Smith. In other words, Neo negotiates with his enemies and forms an alliance against an even greater enemy, Smith.
    There are all *kinds* of metaphor for this election in the Matrix trilogy, if you start looking.

  • Bugboy

    I keep hearing Palin saying this religious canard about “getting his reward in heaven” talking about someone’s good deeds and have been wondering what that is all about. That sounds like such a morbid thing to be saying on the campaign trail: “hey folk’s, so and so is really special to me, but he’s not gonna see anything good from it until he dies, YAY!” The “Pennsylvania and beyond” line brings that to mind.
    The Matrix, however, was not in my opinion a movie you put too much thought into, you just have to “feel” the ambiance it created, and created very well I might say. And I think it had way less cultural impact and relevance than many think it does, sort of in the way of how Tolkien insisted his stories were not allegories.
    That said, the shot strikes me more of Obama, as a force raining down on McCain from above, standing confidently on his own, while McCain is obviously leaning on the podium, almost clinging to it: A contrast in personal styles.

  • Phil Sheehan

    I see the Matrix references, but my first take was a different movie — different genre, I mean.
    Obama is the homesteader, waiting outside the saloon for a show-down with the big-spread rancher who’s inside cavortin’ with the dancin’ girls.

  • Tom Maxwell

    It’s not the Matrix to me–it’s the cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”
    with less attitude:

  • Trinity

    Dude. Go rent The Matrix. The confluence of this most-awesome movie and Obama-cool-in-the rain will be obvious.

  • cmac

    The thing that strikes me is that in The Matrix, the world and everyone in it are computer constructs. Neo is extraordinary because he breaks through the construct and battles it with the full knowledge that he is human. In the photos above, Obama appears to view the future through clear eyes; McCain seems very much the construct, observing his world with a harshly artificial smile.

  • Bugboy

    Trinity said, twice: “Dude. Go rent The Matrix. The confluence of this most-awesome movie and Obama-cool-in-the rain will be obvious.”
    What he, er, she said. (I thought you were a guy?)
    Better yet, BUY it. And watch it like 40 times, like I did. You won’t regret it.

  • Spencer

    Well, I could totally imagine McCain saying, “Misssster Andersonnnn.”
    Obama does seem to have a Neo-like knack for getting all meta on the political game. He seems to step out of the normal field of play, and say, “do you see how this politics game is played? And here’s how I’m going to play it instead.”
    Perhaps worth noting also that mirrors and reflections are a major visual theme in the Matrix, representing the other world that lies through the looking glass.

  • Notestuff

    Yes, The Matrix should be required material by this point. Once, a person in their late 20s described to me The Matrix trilogy as “our generation’s Star Wars.” OK, maybe they were going a bit far, but the truth is there: The Matrix is extraordinarily heavy with allegory and reflects a contemporary, existential subconscious awareness.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Obama campaign consciously evokes Neo’s image and feel—the choice of leather jacket, the sunglasses, the calm and determined stare. All that in addition, of course, to the linguistic talent consistently demonstrated by both the candidate and the campaign.

  • thebewilderness

    Young people, who are relatively new to politics, will probably not see how extraordinary it is to see that shot of Senator Obama standing in the rain. When does a presidential candidate ever stand in the rain?
    It is so evocative of the Kennedy style, where the candidate gets wet right along with the people.
    I get the connection with the Matrix, but my first thought went to the sixties and the Kennedy style of politics.

  • Molly

    Obama is a servant leader. A person tasked (or called as we in the religious circles say) with blazing a trail to a goal. Unlike immediate past leaders, who would send out subordinates to do the grunt work, Obama does it himself. With Style!
    Seriously, he is a humble leader; someone who suggests that while what will be needed for our future could be hard and unpleasant, it isn’t something he will make us do on our own. He will be right there with us.
    Very Neo, reminiscent of JFK, and to me a shining example of Christian discipleship.

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