What's in a Name?
The Nomenclature of The Matrix
Richard Giles in a recent article on AstroScope Me examined and dissected the smash film "The Matrix", in the light of its many subtle references and the astrological indications connected with its release. This post-modern version of Descartes' "Evil Demon" theory has taken the cinematic world by storm. This article is a sort of appendix, analysing the way names of the characters have been used to make subtle (and not-so-subtle) points in the movie.
The characters in The Matrix have a fascinating array of names. Some come from mythology and others from a shorthand method of indicating the role they play in the movie. The Wachowski Brothers certainly took some far-out approaches to naming many in the movie and their names give good clues to what the characters represent. Lets have a look at some...
Neo - he's played by Keanu Reeves and is the legendary hero of the story. Neo is, of course, an anagram for the word 'One'. Neo in Greek also means 'new' or 'recently come'. He is the new hero on the block and the 'One' who is destined to save the human race. He is the representative of the new wave within the Matrix who other fellow characters hope is destined to save the human race from virtual slavery to the machine intelligence and from the agents of the Matrix. Morpheus in particular, the head of rebels against the machines, totally believes in Neo as the 'One'.
Morpheus - played by Laurence Fishburne. The name Morpheus has a number of meanings from mythology. Thanatos who lived in the underworld, was the the god of Death and the brother of Hypnos, who was god of Sleep. Both of them were born of Night, the god of night-time. When Hypnos had children his son who came after him, was Morpheus the god of Dreams. So Morpheus keeps alive the dream of breaking free but he also represents the leader who is able to move between dreams, especially as he teaches Neo how to handle the rules of reality in the Matrix
Trinity - played by Carrie-Anne Moss. Her name is a very interesting one as the word Trinity comes from Latin trinitas or Middle English trinite meaning 'trio', 'group of three' or the 'state of being threefold or triple'. Her role as cool black leather goddess serves to unite the three main characters into one. Trinity's loyalty to Morpheus and her love for Neo liquesce the triple whammy of leading characters into a triumvirate dedicated to bringing down the Matrix. Her name may also be a clue to her completed role in that she, with Neo and Morpheus, make up a trinity that combines Father (Morpheus), Son (Neo) and Holy Ghost (Trinity) - based on that Christian concept. The original energy of the 'Holy Ghost' was a female goddess energy, but the present Church disguised it in a 'male' personification. Note that both Neo and Trinity each have now risen from the dead. That leaves just Morpheus to go.
Tank - played by Marcus Chong. The driver and operator of the Nebuchadnezzer computer system and sympathetic sensitive man. His brother is Dozer. Since Tank reminds me of a solid supportive holding receptacle he's solid and recoverable. In the betrayal scene where Cipher shoots him, he manages to recover and come back to take revenge on Cipher.
Dozer - the other solid brother. He sounds like another dependable and unstoppable guy.
Cipher- the man who ultimately betrays his leader Morpheus with his bid to buy back into the Matrix. He just wants to have fun and forget all about the need to free mankind. The word 'cipher' is from medieval Latin ciphra or Arabic sifr meaning 'empty' or 'zero' - something of no value. This could be the sum total of the Cipher character as he eventually betrays them all and ultimately mankind, his own heritage. Perhaps an indication of what the writers felt his character summed up.
Switch - the white shock haired young woman who we first see training the pistol on Neo when they extract a little agent's tracking device from him. The word means to change or switch from one state to another as in switching on electric lights. She dies too young!
Mouse - the young and enthusiastic computer programer from the group. Small and mousy, but gutsy. He wrote the stunning redhead into the Matrix training programme that got Neo in a twist. Also dies too young in the betrayal scene.
Mr Smith - this man/virtual machine, played by Hugo Weaving, is a key to a lot of that philosophical complexity that runs through the movie. He is one of the agents of the Matrix meant to keep those errant programmes in line and has to chase down and kill those who are trying to bring it down. Mr Smith is one of the most common surnames in the English speaking world. Mr Smith then, is almost synonymous for anonymity, sameness, begin ordinary and suburban. The sameness of the agents is their scariness. Mr Smith is a suitable name for such a pivotal Matrix agent. He introduces new directions and a new question into the second movie, Matrix Reloaded, when he makes it clear to Neo he is no longer confined by the same rules as earlier. Mr Smith may be a key to a solution to mankind's slavery and perhaps Neo's alter-ego in the third movie. We shall see.
Niobe - played by Jada Pinkett Smith. Niobe is daughter of Phoroneus and the nymph Laodice in Greek mythology. Her claim to fame is that she was the first mortal woman that Zeus, the father of all gods and men, fell in love with. She eventually married Amphion, a twin brother to Zethus, sons from Zeus and Antiope. Niobe had twelve children with Amphion and when boasting about them to Leto who only had two, brought the wrath of Apollo down on her and he punished this insult to his mother by shooting with arrows all of Niobe's children. In her grief she was changed by Zeus into a rock. In the movie, as Morpheus's original lover, she begins to fall for him again and goes to his rescue in the Matrix against orders. We'll see in the third movie whether the 'rock' transformation happens to her.
The Key Maker - the man who holds the key to every lock, door and motorcycle in the Matrix, played by Randall Duk Kim. He's the Chironic key to the Matrix's secrets and his knowledge and pluck allows Neo to find his way to the Source wherein is contained the Architect, the original human who claims he made the Matrix, six versions back. The Key Maker represents the key in all of us, the key to our own inner 'Source' that will lead us to the centre of our personal Matrices. We can only find it of course, under certain conditions as in the movie, when all the right moves have been made and the timing is just right.
The Merovingian - played by Lambert Wilson, is a desiccated Frenchman who revels in eroticism and holds the Key Maker captive in his dungeon. He also lets slip, when he meets Neo, that Neo is only one of many in the past by referring to his 'predecessors'. The Merovingians were a royal bloodline that ruled from early on after Christ and carried through their rulership of southern and central Europe, based in what is now France, until 680 AD. Their area was called the Austrasian kingdom and their influence extended into what is modern Turkey. They claim direct kinship with Christ through his bloodline (See the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail). Their connections are meant to go way back to Atlantis and there is a direct connection with the Knights Templar and the holy sites in France, especially Renne-Le-Chateau. The legend of the Merovingian bloodline came through their founder, King Merovee, who is said to have been the spawn of a "Quinotaur," a giant fish or a sea monster, who raped his mother when she went out to swim in the ocean. He is called "Merovee," because in French, mer means sea. In some traditions, Atlantis was called Meru. In the second movie the Merovingian claims to have been with all multiple resurrections of the Matrix. His role, and maybe his bloodline, will be clear in the third movie.
Persephone - played by Monica Bellucci, she is the wife of the Merovingian who asks Neo for his passionate kissing favour, much to Trinity's horror. In tradition, she was goddess of the Underworld. She was wife of Hades (god of the Underworld) whom Hades abducted to bring her down to his realm so as to accompany him in Hell. Hades was little venerated, more feared. He's the god of terror and mystery and represents hell under the earth. Persephone was daughter of Demeter - who was horrified at her abduction. After arguing with the gods to get Persephone back, she accepted their proposal that she spend part of the year on the earth and part with Hades. So Persephone bridges the gap between earth and hell which seems appropriate in the Matrix Reloaded, as she puts up with her dissolute husband, the Merovingian.
The Oracle - played by Gloria Foster who sadly died at age 64 after finishing the new film series. This woman; computer programme; invention of the Architect or independent human programme (we will not know until the third film), is another key to what the Matrix is about and she's also the key to finding a way out of the bondage of the Matrix for Neo and the rest of the human race. She offers hints and 'kiddo' wisdom. She revealed in Matrix Reloaded that she is another programme although I think this not the final word as the Architect stated to Neo that she, The Oracle, offered him ways of making the Matrix work better on the third fourth and fifth times around. The meaning of 'Oracle' is pretty straight forward - she offers insights into the way in which it all works and offers glimpses of the rules beyond the Matrix that will allow movement beyond bondage.
These are all my ideas (with a bit of mythology thrown in) based on what I've interpreted from the first and second movies. You're welcome to add more information to these explanations of the characters' names. Contact me at the email address below...
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