Sunday Matinee #2 The Matrix
Fishermen, red pills, and the first-ever Audience Reaction Poll.
Good morning, everyone, and I hope you’re doing well. Time for another R-Rated Movie Club entry and thank you for being a subscriber. Today, we have a new poll for you and remember, it’s only open for one week. Poll results come in two weeks, so we’ll see you then. All right, here we go…
Audience Reaction Poll
Sequels, sequels, sequels. If Hollywood loves anything, it’s repeat business. Maybe that’s why there’s no such thing as a movie anymore, just an “intellectual property” that has potential as a franchise. Still, some sequels can really do the trick. For our first Audience Reaction Poll, take a look at this list of the top five highest-grossing R-rated film series and franchises. Which is your favorite? Which is the best? Even if that one (or two) sequel stinks, the original and/or another sequel (or three) make up for it?
These box office numbers don’t include any movies in the franchise that aren’t rated R (ex: X-Men includes Logan, Deadpool, and Deadpool 2 but not the rest of the movies because they’re all rated PG-13). If you get curious about the rest of the list, you can read about them on Wikipedia. The poll closes in one week, so vote today!
We’ll talk about the poll results right here in two weeks, and thank you.
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Quotes With Notes
Matthew 4:18-20 NRSVUE
Matthew 4:12-23 (Revised Common Lectionary)
For the Third Sunday after Epiphany (January 22, 2023)
Sign up for a free course at EnterTheBible.org to learn more.
Context: This chapter focuses on the early days of Jesus’s ministry after his baptism, including a temptation in the wilderness, healing the crowds, and this scene of calling his first disciples.
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea — for they were fishers. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
The Matrix | 1999 Warner Brothers | IMDb
Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Laurence Fishburne
Written and directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski
Context: Early in this sci-fi spectacular, the mysterious Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) gives the uncertain Neo (Keanu Reeves) a choice - either stay “asleep” in the computer-run Matrix as a human battery for the machines, or “wake up” and overthrow it to set humanity free.
Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
Let’s start this newsletter by getting this out of the way: I don’t like The Matrix.
I know, I know. “Unsubscribe,” right?
I’ve challenged myself to write about this movie for our first installment to remind myself there can be something worth looking for even in art that isn’t for me. And really, that’s one of the reasons I started R-Rated Movie Club. I’m done with some movies being dismissed out of hand for their R-rated content. So here I go, living out my mission!
This story in the Gospel of Matthew is told slightly differently in the synoptic Gospels (Mark 1:16-20 and Luke 5:1-11) and in each case, these fishermen have to make a choice. They can keep the life they have or they can choose a new one. If they do, life will never be the same again. I’ve always wondered what they heard about Jesus before this moment. Had word spread to their city? Had they actually heard him teaching before? Were they indifferent to fishing, or did they resent it or did they love it? Whatever came before this moment, this is when everything changed. They heard Jesus say “Follow me,” and they went.
Neo is given a fulcrum moment choice, too. Morpheus and his crew can send him back into the Matrix and he’ll just be a cog in the machine like everybody else, or he can fight and make a difference. We’ve seen what his life was like before this moment. The doldrums of the daily grind. The forced anonymity of the workplace vs. the embraced username of the Internet. The constant questions about what was really going on, and always wanting more. Thomas Anderson has been yearning to be something more than he is and he’s about to find out he’s Neo, even if someone later tries to get him to consider whether he should’ve taken the blue pill.
When milestone moments happen in our lives, they change everything. Fulcrum moments, conflux moments, “red pill” moments, whatever you call them. Life was one way, and now it’s another way. We don’t always get to choose them. “Sometimes life don’t leave you alone,” as Eddie Vedder sings in the Pearl Jam song “Love Boat Captain.” In the movies, we need protagonists to make choices so they’re actively propelling their story forward instead of being passively acted upon. That makes for a good story. In our own lives, we do our best to make active choices to make our lives and the lives of our neighbors better. In faith, we say “yes” to following Jesus, to living out his teaching to the best of our ability. I don’t know anybody who has done it perfectly yet. I guess we’ll just have to keep trying.
One challenge with both of these stories is that we are ahead of the people in them. The story of Jesus calling the fishermen is one of the most well-known stories of the gospels. By virtue of keeping this story alive for around 2,000 years, we already know they should (and will) follow him. Likewise, we already know Neo should (and will) follow Trinity to Morpheus and then take that red pill. The whole first twenty minutes or so of the movie is basically Neo catching up with the audience who are practically screaming, “Ugh, just get to the lobby gunfight scene already, c’mon!” That’s one of my critiques of the movie overall, but also this is one of my critiques of modern Christianity. It’s easy to gloss over what we “already know” and just keep moving. But if we stop and take in the story, good things can happen. We can weigh similar moments in our own lives, consider the actual cost these real people paid by making this choice, and put the two together to consider how we will choose to live in faith. Both stories demand us to stop and slow down to the pace of its characters, even if we are far ahead of them already.
Oh, and P.S. All of that co-opting, anti-feminist “take the red pill” male machismo claptrap and all of its white supremacist cousin theories can go suck a lemon. I’m not talking about any of that. You can sell that garbage to the tourists along with Tasty Wheat.
A Word of Encouragement
Thanks, everyone, and I hope you have a wonderful day. May you find holy wisdom anywhere you look, whether in the scriptures or even at the movies. And to today’s preachers, may worship bring you closer to the holy as you do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in the name of God. See you at the movies.
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