How 'The Matrix' introduced me to feminism
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The title of this article alone should tell you that I was a bit of a nerd, in high school (and sure, yes, I still am). I liked classical music, had black plastic-framed glasses, and frequently asked for extra credit assignments. Around my sophomore year of high school, I discovered the thing that would be the crown jewel in my nerd crown: The Matrix.
I loved The Matrix. There is no way to emphasize just how into it I was. I had huge crushes on Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss, and would get chills every time Morpheus dropped a truth. I was instantly taken in with all the literary, religious, and philosophical references as well as the super cool cinematography (bullet-vision was brand new at the time, okay?!). I saw The Matrix Reloaded multiple times in theaters, and had a Matrix Reloaded t-shirt that I wore to school at least once a week. I cried multiple times during the midnight premiere of The Matrix Revolutions. I always think back on this time and wonder, “how did I have any friends?!”
The answer is that luckily, one of my BFFs was also equally as enamored with the movies. She and I had entire notebooks we’d pass back and forth that were filled with typical high school notes (how bored we were in class/ how hot a certain guy looked that day), but mostly we would write pages and pages of questions and theories about The Matrix. We were obsessed.
One blessed day, my friend found a message board online that was all about Matrix movies, and here we found a whole new level of nerding out. We could talk with a huge group of other people on the forum who routinely blew our teenage minds with their insights. I spent many happy and engaging hours asking questions about memory, reality, and perception, and symbolism in the films (I once watched nearly the whole second film in slow motion so that I could carefully take notes on hidden codes, words, and symbols). There was one person in the forums who clearly stood out as the most bad-ass, and their screen name was (of course): asplinterinyourmind.
On the forums we called them “splinty.” My friend and I thought this person was the coolest. They’d come up with amazing questions and push everyone on their theories. They posted all the time, and were always super nice to everyone. In one of the threads, the subject of poster’s genders came up—as you can imagine, like in many sci-fi circles, the world of Matrix fandom was dominated by men, and as such, we assumed that splinty was also a dude. The biggest mindblowing moment of all was the reveal that splinty revealed that she was a girl! A GIRL!
I remember how happy and proud I felt in this moment. Not only was she the smartest person on the boards, but she was one of us. A lady, a girl, a nerd woman. I could be like her. Amid the glee and validation was also the deeper an sobering realization that I had internalized a lot of sexism. Sexism that tells us girls can’t be the smartest and most confident person in a group, and that girls can’t rule in a sci-fi community. This was truly a transformative moment for me because I had to confront my own assumptions about what was possible for me as a woman, and how I felt about myself. To put it in Matrix terms: this was when I took the red pill of girl power.
Moments like these are what can be so beautiful about sci-fi fangirling. It creates a safe place for women to nerd-out together about something that has been historically considered a man’s realm. It also gives us the opportunity to check ourselves and see what messages from society we’ve absorbed, maybe without noticing. Just like in The Matrix, once I knew the truth, I couldn’t go back. I was a feminist. Women can be and are some of the brightest, cleverest, most confident minds out there, and fandom provides a very fun opportunity learn and celebrate that with our nerd sisters.