Here is the text of a talk I gave at Loyola for the “Cinemas of the Future” film series:
The Matrix seems like an obvious choice for a film series called “Cinemas of the Future.” The year is 2199. Machines rule the Earth, running on vast fields of vat grown human batteries.
To keep these batteries complacent and producing energy, the machines have patched their consciousnesses into The Matrix, a computer simulation of the world as it was in 1999. Those humans who are hip to what is going on make up the resistance, fighting for human freedom. Perfect near-future scenario. Yet, The Matrix as a piece of cultural production is so thoroughly historically bound to the year of its release.
Not coincidentally, the film came out in 1999, making The Matrix simulation world an analog for the lived reality of the film’s initial audience. Joshua Clover puts it succinctly, The Matrix is “about life as it was lived around 1999.” So, what is so special about 1999?