Why is Elon Musk telling us to 'take the red pill'?

A cryptic tweet from the Tesla billionaire that referenced the first Matrix movie has garnered approval from Ivanka Trump – but not everyone is happy

Name: The red pill.

Age: 21 years.

Appearance: Red, pill-like.

To be taken … In order to see the truth, however harsh that might turn out to be.

The Matrix, right? Keanu Reeves. Indeed. In the 1999 sci-fi thriller, Reeves’ character, Neo, is offered the choice of a red pill or a blue pill by the rebel leader Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne). The blue pill …

Allows Neo to keep going all night? Wrong blue pill. No, if Neo takes the blue pill, the story ends, according to Morpheus. “You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.” Continue to live in the simulated reality of the Matrix, in other words.

Whereas the red pill … “You stay in Wonderland,” says Morpheus. “And I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Reality, in short, even if reality can be hard.

Wonderland, rabbit hole, I’m sniffing a whiff of Alice, no? Good olfaction. Lewis Carroll’s dreamworld is getting a clear nod. A red pill also pops up in the 1990 sci-fi movie Total Recall, also as a way to reality.

Keanu makes his choice in The Matrix.
Keanu makes his choice in The Matrix. Photograph: Film PR handout

All very interesting. Why are we talking about it? The red pill isn’t going to cure Covid-19, is it? Probably not. But since The Matrix’s release, the term has been co-opted by the “alt-right”, men’s rights groups and conspiracy theorists. And now Elon Musk.

X Æ A-12’s dad? Also space colonist and maker of electric cars. Musk has called California’s coronavirus shutdown “fascist” and threatened to reopen his Tesla factory. “Take the red pill,” he tweeted to his 34 million followers. Along with a red rose emoji.

Why a red rose? Was he showing solidarity with the UK Labour party? Almost certainly not. Maybe because there isn’t a red-pill emoji.

Any responses? Well, most notably from Ivanka Trump. “Taken!” she responded, retweeting Musk’s message.

What about the codirector of The Matrix, Lilly Wachowski? She must be pleased to see her film back in the spotlight? Not so much. Wachowski, who won’t be returning as codirector on the fourth Matrix movie, responded by swearing at the pair and tweeting a link to the Brave Space Alliance, an LGBTQ support centre led by black and transgender people.

Not a fan of the famous new red pill-poppers, then? Seems not. And Musk’s partner’s mum wasn’t pleased with his message either. Grimes’s mother, Sandy Garossino, reportedly accused him of “blaring MRA [men’s rights activist] bullshit”, in a now-deleted tweet.

Do say: “Hello? It was science-FICTION!”

Don’t say: “Musk’s right, it’s all a scandalous cover-up. Hey, it’s … ELON-GATE.” Unless he’s opening up to make electric stretch limos.

The GuardianTramp

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