Jean Baudrillard, the Mind Behind 'The Matrix'
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
Fans of "The Matrix" movies, a moment of silence please - John Baudrillard has died.
BLOCK: Baudrillard was the French philosopher whose radical ideas about the blurring lines between simulation and reality influenced the makers of the hugely successful movie trilogy.
Professor WILLIAM WARNER (Chairman, English Department, University of California): What's interesting about Baudrillard is that a new technology emerged that seemed to confirm his theory.
NORRIS: Professor William Warner chairs the English Department at the University of California in Santa Barbara, and he teaches about Baudrillard and "The Matrix" in a class about digital culture.
Prof. WARNER: At its most basic, virtual reality uses computers to produce powerful simulations of the experience of those who are plugged in to its sensory devices. Baudrillard's theory offered a way to imagine the creation of a simulation so powerful that those who inhabit it would take it for reality. And that's the premise of the film "The Matrix" by the Wachowski brothers.
BLOCK: The brothers paid homage to Baudrillard in the first "Matrix" movie. Neo, the character played by Keanu Reeves, hides his contraband software in a hollowed-out copy of "Simulacra and Simulation."
NORRIS: That was the book where Baudrillard most clearly - if clearly is a word that should ever be used in a sentence about French postmodern philosophy -articulated his theory.
BLOCK: In another scene from the movie, Laurence Fishburne's character quotes Baudrillard directly.
(Soundbite of movie, "The Matrix")
Mr. LAURENCE FISHBURNE (Actor): (As Morpheus) Welcome to the desert of the real.
(Soundbite of explosion)
NORRIS: The philosopher was ambivalent about his influence on "The Matrix." He claimed to have declined an offer to help write the sequels, and apparently he felt that Disneyland was actually the perfect illustration of his theory about the simulated nature of contemporary reality.
Jean Baudrillard died yesterday in Paris. He was 77.
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