Brown People = Sex: The Matrix Reloaded & Hypersexualizing Brownness

I’m pretty sure that I’m not the first person to say this. When I first saw The Matrix, it became the standard of film and story for me. I thought it was awesome, like so many other fans of the film. I could deal with the fact that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) or Captain Naomi (Jada Pinkett Smith) are technically just supporting character instead of The One himself/herself. To this day I still have a problem with the fact that Morpheus, in particular, had the potential to be The One and got pushed to the left for Neo (Keanu Reeves). But overall, I thought it

Once I saw The Matrix Reloaded, the second film in the trilogy, my perspective shifted a little bit. Even today, I cannot watch the movie from beginning to end and do not own it in my movie collection. The reason is because of that big orgy scene in the movie when Neo and Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss) are having sex.

There is this stereotypically tribal-like music drummed out during the scene. Neo and Trinity are off in their own private space and there are cuts between them having sex and the crazy party where everyone else is grinding on each other, jumping into the air, dancing, maybe even having sex, and just plain carrying on in this crowded, sweaty, semi-dark torch lit cave. A lot of the people in the cave seem to be brown skinned.

As an erotic romance writer, I do feel as if it is kind of contradictory for me to be saying this in a way, but even when I write and in real life, I have standards of intimacy that I uphold. So I wonder, is this scene in The Matrix Reloaded a celebration of life, intimacy, and “unity”, or just a reaffirmation of how white dominated society—film, music video, and all “departments” of Hollywood itself in particular—hypersexualize Black people/Brown folks as the epitome of savagery and primordial sexuality?

Is this just another demonstration of how white people, white filmmakers and photographers, pathologize Black people/Brown people or brownness as the earthy, animalistic, unrestrained, wild, and sexual?

Bear with me until the end, the language is about to get a little high and academic, please excuse me.

It reminds me of why many white people tan: to them it’s not just about “getting a little color”. White people tan because they have pathologized brownness to such a level that they don’t even think about it anymore, particularly Blackness—meaning that in their own heads, Black/brown skinnededness equals savage, dark sexuality. But by being people that only have tan/”browned” skin temporarily in most cases, they maintain their position as dominant whites  dressed in browned/tanned skin, “trying on Blackness/brownness” to be fad and hypersexualized for the moment. It’s the closest to being Black that they can get in reality in the absence of the option of temporarily becoming Black and they enjoy and are thrilled that they can momentarily be what they believe simultaneously to be the lowest or most base sexuality and the height of the sexually primordial in popular media—brown.

In Reloaded, Neo and Trinity don’t have to tan or become Black somehow. The “orgy scene” inside of the cave which is revealed in a montage of cuts and flashes while Neo and Trinity are having sex symbolizes a degree of savage “brown” sexuality that their white skin cannot completely embody by itself. It doesn’t matter that the people inside of the cave aren’t actually having sex. The fact they are in a separate area away from the “party” and at the same time Neo and Trinity having sex is still put next to the sexualized action of the brown people in the cave only makes it more clear that—again—savage, sensuous, primordially base sexuality in the movie is embodied in brown-skinned people and not in the white skinned heroes of the movies.

Point in case again (if this makes it any simpler):

The sexuality of the two “white-skinned” people (Keanu Reeves is Hawaiian/Chinese–generally multiracial-part white) engaging in sex is further personified by flashes to a cave full of brown people (though not exclusively brown) grinding and slithering sensuously on each other and acting wild to the beat of drums. Both main characters in the film, Neo and Trinity go on to be the “white-skinned” heroes in action, their repressed/latent sexuality contained in their fitted black clothes while at the same time it still remains that you see the most Black/brown people out of the whole damn film and the whole damn trilogy jammed in that cave engaged in sexualized action.

Personally, I’m offended by it and somewhat disappointed and uncomfortable but not surprised.

I’m done!

Ms. Queenly

5 thoughts on “Brown People = Sex: The Matrix Reloaded & Hypersexualizing Brownness

  1. Yeap. That scene was a flash back to the old Tarzan movies of 1930’s and looked bit odd in the middle of it all. Clumsy as hell, compared to the rest.

    About Morpheus carachter: I always thoughed that he ran the whole show, that even though Neo was the “chosen one”, it was Morpheus who chose him, schooled him etc. This was just my thinking. In a way, if Neo was jesus, then Morpheus was god, Neo was son, Morpheus father etc. This kind of allegory came to my mind.

  2. I saw The Matrix ((can’t find italics!!) in Italian with subtitles on the recommendation of a friend. He insisted I would enjoy it more because the Italian actor who plays Neo really elevated Keanu’s acting style. He was right, and I was pleasantly surprised.

    I will admit that I was not in a good frame of mind when I saw reloaded in English because I buried my father-in-law three days before. Though I had the same impression,–tired jungle orgy shoehorned into a spiritual/religious allegory because the studio insisted they must have some sex, Damn It!–I know that perspective can make a huge difference for me when evaluating books, people, anything.

    For an interesting take on this subject (including perspective), check out Mikhail Lyubansky’s blog on the Psychology Today website entitled “Race is Sex. Sex is Racy. Now ‘Get Lost.'” I did not catch the controversy of the images he evaluates when they were released last year. He posits that “there is so much more here than racism.” Also, I don’t know the photographer’s work well enough to judge if the intention was to provoke discussion while selling merchandise or just fetishization–overt, ignorant, or something in between.

    What do y’all think?

    1. I definitely think its just another white guy trying to say brown people are sex, white people like objectifying brown people–get over it. I don’t want to hear the opinion of another white academic saying that type of mess. I wonder what people of color (namely, Black folks) have to say about it. I also notice that no one is talking a lot (if at all) about the juxtaposition of the Neo/Trinity sex scene in all of this (the Lyubansky sh*t article). I think I will eventually write a piece in response to his nonsense…

      1. Though I have not read a lot of Lyubansky’s writing, I find it interesting that he can write a post like “When it comes to non-white characters in fiction, is it better to be stereotyped, tokenized, or erased?” and the one we are discussing. Nevertheless, he specifically wants to frame the discussion in a less dichotomous manner. That’s why he asks, “What is the racial impact?” instead of “Is this racist?”.

        I do not sense a subversive cultural voice from the photographer. The models, though somewhat wooden, are just a bit too expressive for me to sense a strong provocative theme concerning stereotypes.

        To portray this more subversively I would expect the models to seem more mannequin-like – even, and possibly especially, the white model(s). If he juxtaposed eerily plastic poses/make-up with overt fetishization, I would be more convinced.

        For those who do not think of this as sterotypical, try flipping the racial casting and print identical photographs. Now what is the racial impact? Print that with the original in the same spread. Voilà: focussed commentary from photographer to/for the audience (though really obvious! – the spread is already typical, though) while selling sex and sexy swimsuits. Win-Win?

      2. In Ardeur, I was interested in how he broke down Hamilton’s white racism in the ABVH series. Now that I’m seeing more of his writing, I’m very disappointed. How can a white male ‘measure’ “the racial impact” anyway, I wonder? I can’t believe the harmful stuff he’s propagating.

        I agree that the original photography and a reversals shot would have made me reconsider the photos. I’m sick to death of all these “artists” and academics, white and otherwise, claiming a socio-political stance that they don’t really have at all. Do they really think that they’re helping the situation? What the heck are they doing?

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