‘The Matrix’: What Does Taking the Red Pill and the Blue Pill Mean?

Sure, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss are returning to play Neo and Trinity in The Matrix 4, but the franchise is in the spotlight for an entirely different reason. Some high-profile celebrities, including Elon Musk and Ivanka Trump, are using the first film’s iconic scene as a political reference. For those who may not remember, here’s what taking the red pill and blue pill means. 

Neo stops hundreds of bullets in mid-aiir
The Matrix Reloaded | Warner Bros.

The red pill and the blue pill in ‘The Matrix’

In the 1999 hit movie, The Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reeves) is abruptly pulled from his reality and given a choice. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) tells Neo that he’s living in a fake reality. One that was designed to keep him ignorant and compliant. 

“It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth,” Morpheus says in the movie. “That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage. Born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind.”

Morpheus then gives Neo the option to wake up and learn the truth. He presents him with two pills: one red and one blue. 

“You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe,” says Morpheus. “Take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Of course, Neo goes on to take the red pill. He is pulled out of his fabricated reality and eventually fights his way out to discover the ultimate truth about his existence and the state of the world. 

How the reference is being used in politics

In recent years, The Matrix reference has taken on a life of its own. It is used by various right-wing groups as a term that reflects certain political conservative beliefs.

In fact, in an op-ed for The Hill, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. invoked the term while explaining how certain conservative groups are censored on Facebook. “‘Mainstream media,’ ‘SJW’’ (Social Justice Warrior), and ‘red pill’ — all terms that conservatives often use to express themselves — were listed as red flags,” Trump wrote. 

On various social media platforms and subReddits, the term “red pill” is often associated with Incel and anti-feminist men’s groups. 

‘The Matrix’ creator slams Elon Musk and Ivanka Trump for using the reference

In a May 17 tweet, Space X and Tesla founder, Elon Musk encouraged his followers to take the “red pill.”  Musk didn’t clarify why he wrote it. But in a response to the tech mogul’s tweet, Trump Jr. wrote, “Welcome,” likely assuming that Musk is switching to the Republican party.

But when the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, replied to Musk’s tweet, with the word, “taken,” The Matrix creator Lilly Wachowski jumped in to let them all know she wasn’t happy about them using the reference. 

“F*ck both of you,” Wachowski sternly replied to their tweets. The filmmaker then shared a link to the LGBTQ organization, Brave Space Alliance, and encouraged her followers to donate. 

Wachowski’s sister, Lana Wachowski is directing The Matrix 4. The film is currently in production, but due to the COVID-19 shutdown, no official release date has been set.