the difference between an homage and plagiarism?
Well, its a fine line, but take this analogy: when
you write a paper and want to reference something
someone else wrote, you place a footnote. Most
readers gloss over the footnotes without ever
looking at them. But they are still necessary to the
integrity of the paper. Similarly, the Wachowski brothers knew they would be derided as having copied aspects of
certain books. To counter this, they actually put in obscure allusions to those
books as their offering of an homage, a sort of
Reference in the
this is referenced generally throughout the movie,
it is very specifically found in the license
plates of the movie.
Simulacra and Simulations by Jean
Basic notions of the book:
in 1981, Baudrillard argues that our
"postmodern" culture is a world of signs
that have made a fundamental break from referring to
"reality." This creates a world of
hyperreality where the distinctions between real and
unreal are blurred. Robert Tilton becomes a
simulation of religion; Ronald Reagan a simulation
of politics; and Kurt Kobain a simulation of
marginality. The culture industry blurs the lines
between facts and information, between information
and entertainment, between entertainment and
politics. The masses get bombarded by these images
(simulations) and signs (simulacra) which encourage
them to buy, vote, work, play,... but eventually
they become apathetic and cynical.
Reference in the movies:
Matrix, Neo hides a disk in the hollow
book Simulacra and Simulation. Neo opens the
book at the chapter "On Nihilism".
Nihilism, from the Latin "nihil" meaning
"nothing". However Baudrillard himself
noted that the film's "borrowings"' from
his work "stemmed mostly from
I Have No Mouth And I Must
Scream by Harlan Ellison
Basic notions of the book:
published in 1973, the plot is quite similar to The
Matrix. After a global computer system becomes
sentient, it battles with humans for control, and
wins, and then takes out its anger by imprisoning
some humans in an artificial world of the computer's
own making. One of the sentient characters explains
how much it hates humans, just as Agent Smith does.
Referenced in the movies:
the title is referenced when Neo's mouth is made to
seal shut by the Agents. Morpheus also quotes
Baudrillard when he says, “Welcome to the desert
of the real." The original screenplay draft
called for him to say, “You have been living
inside Baudrillard's vision, inside the map, not the
territory”, but the line was changed to make the
reference more subtle.
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Basic notions of the book:
presented the idea of a global information network
called the Matrix, and the term cyberspace, a
virtual reality simulation with a direct neural
feedback. The main character in Neuromancer,
Maelcum is from Zion. Maelcum is a big, "all
natural" man that wouldn't enter the matrix,
much like Tank and Dozer. This book coined the term
“jack in” and associated terms to refer to using
a computer network. Neuromancer's matrix is
'real', for example, if you died in it you died in
real life. One character, "Dixie Flatline,"
died and his persona was recorded into a
"construct" and used by the main character
of the book as a guide. Neuromancer's
electrodes were hooked up to the humans forehead to
'jack in', much like the plug into the brain in the
Matrix. Users of Neuromancer's matrix would
strap themselves into their chair, so that they
wouldn't move around too much while they were jacked
in. In "Neuromancer" the A.I. Wintermute
was controlling the lives of a few of the characters
via interacting with their electonic appliances, and
they didn't really know it. Maelcum flys a
"tug" space-vessel, a weaponless carrier
vessel much like the Neb in the Matrix.
Referenced in the movies:
the music to the freeway chase is called "Mona
Mona Lisa Overdrive is another book written by
William Gibson. Gibson has also written a book Johnny
Mnemonic, that became a movie with Keanu Reeves
Also, the use of black coats, sunglasses,
trenchcoats, a villian with a French accent, EMP
weapons, "Smith", "The Oracle",
"Zion", a factory of babies grown in
tubes, are likely references to this book as well.
Metamorphoses by Ovid
mythological compendium in epic style by the Roman
poet Publius Ovidius Naso. His name means "he
who forms, or molds."
Tibetan Book of the Dead
put into written form by Padma Sambhava in the 8th
century, this book acts as a guide for the dead
during the 49-day state that intervenes death and
the next rebirth. It teaches that awareness, once
freed from the body, creates its own reality like
that of a dream.
page LXIX: On principle, it would seem that in the
case of entry into an unborn body such entry may
made into the matrix in the same way as if it had
occurred after a break of consciousness in death. On
page LXXXI: This last is followed by the
consciousness taking up its abode in a suitable
matrix, whence it is born again as a
Alice in Wonderland
There are several references to
this classic story, more than I list here, but these
are the ones that jump out:
most obvious scene is when Neo is told to
"follow the white rabbit." Afterwards, he
meets a woman who has a white rabbit tattoo on her
shoulder. Rabbits are also seen on the TV in the
Oracle's apartment (from the movie Night of the
Lepus). Alice meets a rabbit after falling down
a rabbit hole and tries to follow him. This
is referred to again when he meets Morpheus: "I
imagine right now you're feeling a bit like Alice,
tumbling down the rabbit hole?" and "You
take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I
show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."
Names in The Matrix are
important meaning, often several meanings.
are important to both the book and the movies. Alice
has a conversation about name meanings with Humpty
"My name is Alice, but----"
"It's a stupid name enough!" Humpty
Dumpty interrupted impatiently. "What does it
"MUST a name mean something?" Alice
"Of course it must," Humpty Dumpty
said with a short laugh.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty
said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just
what I choose it to mean--neither more nor
"The question is," said Alice,
"whether you CAN make words mean so many
Dual personality: Agent Smith tells Neo that he has been living 'two lives.'
Alice ponders the possibility of being two people,
"But it's no use now to pretend to be two
people! Why, there's hardly enough of me left to
make ONE respectable person!"
When Thomas (Neo) has taken the red pill,
he sees a mirror that becomes fluid, and begins to
cover him; he then awakens in his pod. Alice enters
the Looking-Glass world through a mirror that
magically becomes fluid-like so she can climb into
What is real?
A great deal of time is spent in both
stories contemplating the nature of reality, and of
dreams within dreams. Neo has a difficult time
understanding that, in the Matrix, he is controlling
his actions with his mind, not his body. For
example, In the dojo Morpheus asks, "Do you
think that's air you're breathing?"
Alice has a conversation with Tweedledum and
Tweedledee about the Red King while the King is
"He's dreaming now," said
Tweedledee. "And what do you think he's
Alice said, "Nobody can guess
"Why, about YOU!" Tweedledee
exclaimed, clapping his hands truimphantly.
"And if he left off dreaming about you, where
do you suppose you'd be?"
"Where I am now, of course," said
"Not you!" Tweedledee said
contemptuously. "You'd be nowhere. Why, you're
only a sort of thing in his dream!"
"If that there King was to wake, "
added Tweedledum, "you'd go out--bang--just
like a candle!"
"I shouldn't!" Alice exclaimed
"I AM real!" said Alice who began
"You won't make yourself a bit realler
by crying," Tweedledee remarked. "There's
nothing to cry about."
"If I wasn't real," Alice
said--half laughing through her tears, it all seemed
so ridiculous--"I shouldn't be able to cry
"I hope you don't suppose those are REAL
tears?" Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of
… Again, several chapters into the story Alice
contemplate waking the King:
"So I wasn't dreaming, after all,"
she said to herself, "unless--unless we're all
part of the same dream. Only I do hope it's MY
dream, and not the Red King's! I don't like
belonging to another person's dream," she went
on in a rather complaining tone, "I've a great
mind to go wake him, and see what happens!"
Deja Vu: Neo sees a
black cat twice, referring to deja vu. Alice asks
the Cheshire cat for directions while a "deja
Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”
This is referenced as a theme throughout
the movie, but it is specifically referenced during
the “Cave Rave” scene that everyone usually
hates. It is perhaps the people of Zion that
are truly still in the proverbial cave.
The Wizard Of Oz
by Frank Baum
Referenced in the movies:
of the similarities of these two stories are a
little bit of a stretch, but taken all together it
is easy to believe the Wachowski brothers when they
say they love The Wizard of Oz. Cypher refers
directly to this movie when he says to Neo,
"Buckle your seat belt, Dorothy, cause Kansas
is going bye-bye."
The world of the Matrix is tinted in
green (the color of the code). This green world
turns out to be a hoax. Oz, the city Dorothy is
traveling to is also tinted green. The green tint in
the city turns out to be a hoax, too.
The Matrix, water is a very prominent theme,
even the code looks like falling rain. Dorothy uses
water to kill the Wicked Witch Of the West.
Similarly, the final fight between Neo and Smith
takes place in the falling rain.
Neo's time in the Matrix, what he thought
was his life has been a dream.
Dorothy's adventures turn out to be a dream
Neo travels to see the Oracle, sort of the
Wizard of the Matrix, who can share wisdom with him
and help him in his quest to fight the Matrix.
Dorothy travels to see the Wizard of Oz in hopes
that his wisdom will help her find her way home.
Sandman by Neil Gaiman
The Sandman (1988-1996) is a seminal DC Comics series, often cited as one of the most important titles of the modern age in comics. Neil Gaiman wrote the title for 75 monthly issues and a number of specials and one-shot stories. The individual comics have been collected into a number of books. Dave McKean illustrated the covers for each issue, and is responsible for helping developing the unifying look Gaiman wanted for his stories.
The Wachowskis chose Morpheus partly as a reference
to the main character of the same name.
Also to come:
Philip K. Dick
Thanks in large part to: http://homepage.mac.com/kdavies/matrix/litref.html