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Ideology and Reality in the Movie, The Matrix
The matrix, as presented in the eponymous film, operates as an Althusserian Ideological State Apparatus (ISA). The Matrix1 presents a world in which “the state [as] a ‘machine’ of repression” is made literal where robots rule the land (Althusser 68). It is true that they rule by force (sentinels and agents) and these constitute the Repressive State Apparatus, but their primary force of subjugation is the matrix, their ISA. The film traces the path of one man, Neo, in his painful progress from the ideology of the matrix to the “real world,” or the ideology of the “real.”2
The matrix, unlike the ideology of the “real,” is explicitly defined along Althusserian lines as an ISA. Althusser identifies ISAs as “a certain number of realities which present themselves to the immediate observer” (Althusser 73). Just as the “machine” of the state is taken literally, ideology as “reality” is taken literally. Any discussion of the ISA must include both a brief discussion of the State and Althusser’s use of the term “ideology.” For him,…