How The Matrix Inspired A New Generation Of Hackers

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Hacking. Disinformation. Surveillance. CYBER is Motherboard’s podcast and reporting on the dark underbelly of the internet.

The camera pans across a dark nightclub. Rob Zombie’s industrial metal anthem Dragula blasts through the speakers. Uninhibited revelers dance and mingle. In a corner, Neo is leaning awkwardly on a wall clearly under—or perhaps over—dressed for the occasion. He catches someone approaching him from the corner of his eye.

“My name is Trinity,” she says. 

“Trinity?” Neo pauses. “The Trinity? The Trinity that cracked the I.R.S. D-Base?”

This is the first time that The Matrix hints that this is, among many other things, a hacker movie. 

The movie isn’t necessarily about hackers the way Hackers or Sneakers is, but it may well be the movie that most embodies the hacker ethos, and the one that has influenced hacker culture the most in the last two decades. 

Just look at the movie’s aesthetics. If you go to hacker conferences like Def Con or the Chaos Communication Congress, it’s hard to tell if the hackers there are cosplaying The Matrix, or if the Wachowski sisters, the minds behind the masterpiece, stole their look. A Def Con spokesperson, in fact, said that The Matrix was a staple on the conference movie channel, which is available throughout the hotel where the conference is held in Las Vegas. 

“Based on what I’ve been able to confirm, we showed it at least 20 times,” Melanie Ensign, a longtime Def Con spokesperson, told Motherboard. 

But the hacking references, the computers, and the cool looks are just the superficial layer of what makes The Matrix such an iconic hacker movie. After all, there are several ways to read the movie and unravel its meanings. The movie is an allegory for the Christian faith, for the psychoanalytic journey, and—perhaps most importantly—for the trans experience, as Emily VanDerWerff explained in an eye-opening piece from 2019

The sequels veer more into religious territory, but very explicit hacking references are still there. 

Matrix Reloaded is “the first major

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