The Matrix: The Self and Self Perception
Table of Contents
The self is divided into three co-existing parts namely the individual self, the relational self and the collective self. Each of these selves is significant in shaping the individual in question, the way one perceives himself/herself, the way one interacts with others and even the roles one plays within a community setting among other things. They help to define who that particular person is to himself/herself and to those around him/her. In the film world, the three selves have been portrayed in different aspects. In The Matrix, the concept of the three selves has been widely covered from the movie’s setting in a revolutionary environment to the differences and similarities of the warring sides. This paper uses the movie, The Matrix, to illustrate the concept of three selves. To do this effectively, the paper uses key characters, namely Thomas Anderson and Neo to demonstrate how individuals exhibit three different selves.
The film, The Matrix was produced in 1999. It is written and directed by The Wachowskis. The title given to the film is crucial to its content because the movie portrays the lives of humans in the dystopian future. The events of the future are depicted in a simulated reality referred to as the ‘Matrix’. There is a revolution in the film’s setting whereby some characters support the development of the future while others rebel against it. The presence of these two sides in the film helps in clarifying the concept of an individual self (Sedikides, Gaertner & O’Mara, 2011), with each side fighting for what they believe in. Among the people in the rebelling side of the revolution is a character named Neo. Neo attracts people into the side of the rebellion by taking them away from the ‘dream world’. On the other side of the conflict are the Agents, seeking to do away with the rebels in order to actualize the future plans. These Agents are portrayed in the film as more intense in their initiative of ensuring that the future is achieved, and this is especially done through barring the rebels from altering the future plans. Although each in their own way, both Neo and the Agents illustrate the concept of the self since they are all fighting for what they believe in and thus consider as their truths.
The Self Concept in the Film
Management of oneself is an important component in any individual. In the film, Thomas Anderson is able to maintain a double life. The two lives that he portrays in the film are totally contradicting creating more interesting environment in the description of the concept of an individual self and self-perception. On one side, Anderson is a society development supporter while, on the other hand, he fights against positive aspects of the society. In doing this, he seems to see himself as a savior of the society without having to compromise his own safety. This means that he fully understands who he is, and is thus not deterred from what he truly believes in by what he has to be. This is self-awareness, with a clear distinction between what the character is and what he has to be. Based on the revelations that occur later on in the movie when Neo is proclaimed as The One, it can be noted that his rebellious side was the individual self, which is in the end the primary self that is against the technological developments that would shape the future of mankind (Sedikides, Gaertner & O’Mara, 2011).
Anderson’s nature of having two lives shows that an individual has the ability to be a host of two selves. The important part of having the two lives is to have the skills which may help to manage the self. Anderson was able to fully shift from one life to another. Therefore, one of the required skills in management of self is the presentation of the self-characteristics to the other people. For example, in the film, Anderson was a computer programmer during the day and a hacker during the night. The way in which he presented his daytime self is different from the way he portrayed his night self. During the day he was more of the simulated future developer through using his computer programming skills. No one would suspect him of any malicious acts towards the development of the future. However, during the night he shifted his self to a negative oriented person who did not support the development of the future. Basically, Neo is a ‘law abiding’ programmer during the day and a revolutionary rebel at night. This shows how easy it is to transition from one self to another, within the concept of the three selves but only for an individual with adequate self-awareness. As a person, Neo is against the future but his situation requires him to remain underground if he is to be safe from the Agents. This means that he has to frequently alternate seamlessly between his two selves, one for appearances while the other for the sake of humanity, which at the time is his cause.
The Weakness of Self
The film The Matrix is also used to explain the weakness that engulfs the individual self and self-perception. The three selves of an individual are vulnerable whereby they are easily altered. The weakness here is that the self is often subject to various external circumstances that can effect significant change, as happened with Neo. Changing of a person’s self may alter his behavior and reaction to different circumstances. For example, Neo’s decision to join the rebellion was neither planned for nor expected by him. Neo’s self was initially motivated by the will to succeed in the achievement of a better stimulated future. In fact, he had dedicated his broad knowledge of computer programming to the good of quick realization of the targeted future. However, weakness of his self was a main reason for which he decided to have two sides of life. Due to the fact that he believed something was wrong with the world he was always motivated to develop reliable measures for the realization of the future. His self-weakness made it easier for Trinity to direct Neo to Morpheus. Trinity is the rebel who leads Neo deeper into the revolution by introducing him to Morpheus, another rebel who has the ability to show Neo the ‘reality’. Morpheus was actually the leader of the rebellion group that tirelessly fought for the failure of the expected future. Neo was convinced that the Matrix was a negative concept that would not bring something good to the world. Therefore, Neo changed his attitude and began resisting realization of the Matrix. This shows the weaknesses that surround the self-concept. Although flexibility can be termed as an advantage of one self, it proves that it is an advantage that cannot be relied on unless it is controlled at the understandable level. A person ought to have principles and better understanding of the choices that he or she makes to enhance flexibility of one self.
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The Three Perspectives of Self
The film also displays clearly the three perspectives of selves. They include the individual self, relational self and collective self. The individual self is defined by the unique attributes that one portrays (Sedikides, Gaertner & O’Mara, 2011). It is more about the unique factors that set the individual apart from the rest, and especially in the way they present themselves to the world. For example, various characters portray the individual self. Morpheus portrays this self through his rebellious role in the film. His unique attributes, according to the movie, include manipulative and opportunistic ones. He was able to easily manipulate Neo encouraging him to play significant roles through explaining to him the nature of the Matrix. In addition, Morpheus opportunistic quality is seen when he targeted Neo to join the rebels. The reason is that Neo was a valuable person who could have helped in making the rebellion more vibrant through his adverse computer knowledge. Indeed, his hacking skills were a great step in creating tension during realization of the Matrix. Morpheus in this case portrays a situation in which the individual self takes over and the person is willing to go to all ends for his individual beliefs. His motivation is rather unchallenged, and he manages to convince others to join him. It can be noted that it is Morpheus who is able to convince all the other rebels about how bad the Matrix is and why it should be prevented at all costs. This character agrees with the Sedkides article in that the individual self is rather primary when the personal attributes and beliefs of the individual define his interactions with the rest of the world, and offer the strongest motivations for his actions.
Relational self is comprised of the partner-shared attributes. These are qualities that are shared among a group of people with common characteristics (Sedikides, Gaertner & O’Mara, 2011). This is thus all about the role that one is willing to play, relative to their position in the society. In the film The Matrix, relational self has been reflected in the crew led by Morpheus. The members of the crew are driven by their urge to prevent the realization of the matrix. They believe in the rebellion, as a significant part of who they are and what they need to do for their friends, family, and humanity as a whole. It can be appreciated that they may not have come up with the idea of a rebellion but they were willing participants in that revolution and they worked as a unit under their leader, Morpheus. They worked together through sharing ideas concerning the possible ways of hacking into the Matrix. Morpheus crew was also principled in ensuring that the enslaved humans are drawn from their chains of slavery. The common characteristics exposed by the members of the Morpheus crew show the relational self. Relational self is widely used in the groups in which their members follow the common target (Sedikides, Gaertner & O’Mara, 2011). Therefore, this type of self is important for uniting people who are after a common cause.
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The collective self has also been displayed in the film. It comprises of the in-group-shared attributes which influence the success of a given group (Sedikides, Gaertner & O’Mara, 2011). For example, the collective self has been displayed in the film through the characteristics demonstrated by the Agents. The Agents were determined to capture the rebels. This was an inbuilt character because they were always trying to reach the success of the Matrix. This common in-group characteristic makes them more focused on their task while controlling the rebels’ activities. The efforts that the Agents put when barring the meeting of Neo and Morpheus were responsible for the delayed success of the rebels’ activities. However, the collective self is often faced with challenges that make it weak. This explains why the agents were not in full control of the rebels. Therefore, the collective self in the film The Matrix contributes to the rampant failures of different groups mainly the Agents.
The Role of Self
The self concept is always targeted at maintaining the high qualities of a person. This is a quality referred to as the self-primacy. It is widely viewed according to the three selves. These levels of primacy include individual self-primacy, relational self-primacy, and collective self-primacy (Sedikides, Gaertner & O’Mara, 2011). Individual self-primacy always targets at maintaining positive characteristics of a person. It develops the positive comments on the person from the public and rejects the negative ones. This type of primacy is illustrated by Neo in the film. Neo was always acting on the basis of self-protection. He always defended his personality during the night. No one would detect that Neo and Anderson were the same character. This protection applied by Neo was motivated by the urge to maintain or elevate the self-image and to defend the deflation of his image to the people. Therefore, this primacy helps in creating a more interesting picture around Neo in the film.
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Relational self-primacy has also been widely applied in the film. This primacy aims at enhancing the maintenance of the relationship between two people with common attributes. The people in the relational self manifest a desire to form the stable attachment to one another and resist the termination of their existing relationship (Sedikides, Gaertner & O’Mara, 2011). The persons, when socially excluded from one another, feel physically and psychologically hurt. For example, in the film The Matrix, the characters Neo and Morpheus had developed the relational self-primacy. They fight for their union because they were all performing the same actions. Even if initially Neo had not understood the reason behind Morpheus demands to meet him, he felt that they ought to maintain strong relationship between them. Therefore, they both continue searching each other. It a surprising fact that even if the Agents had such a strong intention to prevent their meeting, they did it due to the relational self-primacy. This means that they were more willing to build a stable interpersonal attachment to one another. Therefore, this primacy was crucial in the success of attacking the Matrix. Termination of the existing relationship between Neo and Morpheus was also a difficulty due to that primacy.
The primacy of the collective self is also illustrated in the film. Collective self-primacy involves the influence that one receives from the social groups in terms of conformity and belief polarization (Sedikides, Gaertner & O’Mara, 2011). For example, there existed primacy of the collective self within the rebels whereby they were always influenced by their target of making the Matrix a failure. The rebels always ensured that they retained the same self-image to the public. This created tension among the people and influenced the future development. (Sedikides, Gaertner & O’Mara, 2011) The rebels also manifested favorable perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors towards their in-group members. Therefore, they always showed interest in protecting one another in any situation. For example, the crew of Morpheus always demanded the freedom of the enslaved humans by the Matrix policy. Moreover, they demand in a persistent way and even influence the enslaved humans to join them in the rebelling war. Therefore, this attitude to the protection of one another displays collective self-primacy as reflected by the society, hence the success of Morpheus group.
The self concept in the film The Matrix has been widely covered. The manipulation of this concept in the movie creates a favorable environment for the development of any character through any of these three selves. Although the individual self creates a more basic background for the development of a person, the other two selves, collective and relational ones, form the supporting block for the development of the individual self (Sedikides, Gaertner & O’Mara, 2011). Therefore, these three selves should remain paramount in defining self as it is illustrated in the film.
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Self-Perception in the Film
The concept of self-perception is another important concept that the film The Matrix demonstrates. Self-perception is a concept that shows how the individuals become aware of their own attitudes, emotions, and internal states through literary observation of the overt behavior or the circumstances in which the behavior occurs. It mainly deals with the philosophy of the mind where an individual displays this philosophy through his or her actions (Bem, 1972). The self-perception concept is also widely reflected in the film. For example, self-perception defines that various characters react differently under the different circumstances in the film. The actions of most characters throughout the film are mostly influenced by the circumstances in which they find themselves (Bem, 1972). Anderson is the main character who has been affected by the concept of self-perception. His actions, attitudes, and emotions have been determined by the situations in which he defines himself. Before being proclaimed as The One, Neo did not really have any actions that set him apart as a leader within the revolution. He only saw himself as a good computer programmer who would be valuable against the Matrix. However, after Trinity tells him that he is The One, he starts acting like the leader of the rebels. At the end of the movie, he even promises to show the prisoners ‘a world where anything is possible’. This is a case in which the situation determines the self perception of the individual in question. His leadership within the rebellion may have been pre-ordained but he only becomes a true leader after joining Morpheus in the war against the Matrix, meaning that his actions within the situation he was in greatly shaped his self perception. Initially, he may have thought himself insignificant, as a mere programmer with nothing much of value to add in the war against technology.
Another example from the film is when Trinity claims that she is meant to fall in love with The One, and actually kisses Neo. It can be appreciated that her feelings for him are not mentioned in their earlier interactions until towards the end of the movie. They had by that time spent so much time together and she was constantly in awe of his capabilities and dedication to the cause. This situation is what prompts Trinity to perceive herself as the ideal mate for Neo, thus developing feelings for him. Trinity’s feelings or thoughts about her relationship with The One start to exist only after she meets Neo and gets to spend some time with him.