Humanistic Theories - the Matrix

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Humanistic theories of personality and ‘The Matrix’; a critical evaluation of characters

This essay aims to apply the humanistic theories in a practical way by examining them in terms of the first film in ‘The matrix’ series. Relevant themes throughout the film, interaction between the main characters and their personality development will be described in regards to Abraham Maslow’s, Carl Rogers’ and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theories of personality. Personalities in the film are analysed from different perspectives, such as hierarchical needs theory, person-centred theory and lastly, the theory of flow. The aim is not just to capture the character’s personality but also to critically evaluate personality theories that have emerged from humanistic perspectives and explain about Neo’s journey of becoming ‘The One’ as reflected in self-actualization. The Matrix uncovers a secret which is that the lives of human beings are not real. Computer-generated programs guide their sensations creating an imaginary world – a matrix – while millions of humans are in fact floating in liquid, each of them having their own tanks connected to machines. It seems that artificial intelligence has taken over and enslaved humans to supply the energy needed for the function of machines. Throughout the film there is an emphasis on the characters having choice, for example, taking the blue or red pill. Similarly, the Oracle talks about Neo having to make a choice between Morpheus’ life and his own. This reflects the humanist approach of people having subjective influence on their lives rather than behaviour being determinist (Glassman, 2002). This can be further shown by Neo saying he doesn’t believe in fate because he doesn’t like not being in control of his life. There is a small group of rebels who are hiding in sewage canals left over by the ruined cities, on a ship called Nebuchadnezzar and who are not dependent on the matrix. In such harsh conditions, where free will is deprived, it can be observed how personality defines behaviour and how characters evolve as they interact in different situations. In the film there is an on-going battle between the crew and ‘the enemy’, represented mostly by ‘the agents’. This exposes the rebels to a lot of psychological pressure and distress. Thomas Anderson (Neo), a computer programmer (but hacker in his free time) has a regular job at a company when he realizes that something is wrong with the world surrounding him. Eager to find out the truth, Neo begins to search after a dangerous terrorist called Morpheus. After Neo has met Trinity in a night club, he is interrogated by the police. The Police ask him to collaborate but he refuses. Neo risks everything without knowing what to expect. According to Maslow and Rogers, people have instinctual tendencies towards healthy growth; human nature is positively based on free will and is able to feel subconsciously what is right (J. Maltby, 2010). So Neo is motivated to oppose authority and not show obedience because he does not trust the police and senses that helping them is the wrong choice. In a study investigating groups of infants’ prior language formation and cultural influence, P. Bloom and K. Wynn (2011) observed that toddlers had a sense of morality. They could clearly distinguish figures of a puppet-show acting ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Indeed, humans are born inheritably good with a sense of morality. After an adventurous journey, Neo meets Morpheus and his crew on the Nebuchadnezzar. Neo finds out what the matrix is and, as he starts to interact with the rest of the crew, different characters make their appearance. Morpheus becomes a real mentor, teaching Neo every single trick on how to combat the enemy. Neo is also told about the prophecy as he is predicted to be the saviour of human beings. It seems that this belief motivates Neo to train harder, surprising the others. He quickly acquires new combat skills, becoming faster and stronger. As Rogers...
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