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"No one can be told what the Matrix is" - "complicated" media that isn't


Trying to be a bird
Validated User
I would think the machines would have adjusted the Matrix to make the idea of the Matrix less plausible to its residents - censoring similar stories and theories, limiting virtual reality technology, etc. The Matrix would be far less intelligible to someone inside the Matrix than someone who had grown up outside it. I doubt that was an intended reading though.
That was part of my assumption, too - being told flat-out what the Matrix is, to someone still hooked up, probably sets off some alarms in the system. You have to free the person before you can really make it clear.

Rachel Cartacos

Social Justice Dragon
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But most people that are eventually freed suspect something is up already and deliberately seek out trying to find what's 'wrong', and that's how the humans on the outside find them for freeing. Neo was unusual in that he was apparently older than they like to work with, but his searching for a truth was typical of their recruits.


Registered User
Validated User
the marketing definitely took that line and ran with it to convey the message that the only way to understand the Matrix is to see it. which is a smart commercial play, but not actually true at all
It's true if you want to watch it without being spoiled about it beforehand. My friends told me the premise in order to get me to watch it, and it kinda bummed me out that I never got to experience it unspoiled.


up to no good
Validated User
Inception is a common example.
Inception was pretty easy to understand for sure but it was visually intriguing and keeping track of timing took a little effort.

Momento was similar in that going backwards means stitching the story together a little differently.

In both cases I found it easier to keep track because getting the thing that impacted something else in the story at the same time or prior is easier for me to track than trying to remember a detail that might be important in 30 mins. I reall enjoy non-linear stories more the first time, linear mainly requires a rewatch to catch subtle foreshadowing.

Isator Levie

Registered User
Validated User
If analysing the diegesis of The Matrix, I feel as though Morpheus' line about needing to see the truth for oneself plays into his line shortly thereafter about having a dream that felt so real that it can't be distinguished from reality.

That would then call back to things like how Neo had an experience of his mouth being sealed shut and having an insect implanted in him that he evidently later did not believe to have been real, and how he goes into a state of shock when he touches that mirror and the glass starts spreading over him; despite his questioning, his sense of reality has been conditioned enough that he can't properly process witnessing something that defies it, until he's put in a state of true physical input that undeniably breaks it down.

Hmm, I do want to contribute to the purpose of the thread in putting forward media that had accumulated a narrative of complex structure that the reality doesn't quite live up to... I kind of feel as though the first two Pirates of the Caribbean sequels might qualify, the former perhaps a bit more than the latter. I definitely remember at the time reading film critics who held that the film was too complicated, and that I disagreed with it at the time; my retrospective on that would be that Dead Man's Chest has a few more spinning plates than is typical, but that if you're along for the ride and invested in the characters then everybody's motives in the third act are perfectly understandable.

I might propose that about half of the stories that people make very elaborate relationship charts are for are trying to cultivate a sense of complexity that isn't really as apparent when you're experiencing the narrative in its intended form; the charts seem like they're trying to overwhelm with a density of information, much of which ends up being irrelevant to actually experiencing the work.

Has Metal Gear Solid come up yet? I think the first two games have a reputation for complexity that is ultimately a bit overblown once one takes the events in each carefully and in the proper order. 2 especially; I think that game may have been described as hard to follow, when it might be more accurate to say that it consists of several people being obtuse to the protagonist in-character in ways and for reasons that are ultimately fairly straightforward. Sure, the Colonel starting to spout gibberish feels really uncanny when it's new and you're experiencing it firsthand, but it's not exactly a huge leap once it's made clear that Raiden was being guided around the whole time by an AI that is not malfunctioning.

Eled the Worm Tamer

Spider Jeruselem's Warior
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If we're going with games, What became of Edith Finch was hyped up as some grand metatation on mortality, and while it was very pretty it provoked far less though than I expected and broke relatively little new ground.


Blogger and gamer
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The opposite, something that seems simple and is actually complex, is The Stormlight Archive. Everything flows naturally, and the deeply alien world is built up so slowly you don’t even notice it, but just TRY explaining that plot to someone cold.
Well you see, there's, uh.

There's a dude with a spear. Okay, we can start there at least. Um.



Legal Smeagol
Validated User
I think the podcast Tanis really started to grate on me with this. The main character is pretty much always going on with how mysterious and unknowable Tanis is, but from what I could tell when I stopped listening:

Spoiler: Show
It's a little weird, but not really out there for a science fiction concept. An alternate dimension that may also be something of an entity, that intrudes on our own at various intervals in history and has subtle, odd influences on Earth outside the area of the breach, and has strong effects on the minds of people that go in.

4th of Eleven

Active member
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Not sure if this counts but... maybe the idea that the heavy continuity of Marvel and DC comic lines makes it hard for newbies to get into?

It seems heavily believed enough that Marvel at least tried to launch a whole new continuity to attract new readers.
And Crisis on Infinite Earths was partially intended to simplify DC continuity to make it easier for new readers.

The question of exactly how a reader who was confused by the old continuity was supposed to comprehend Crisis or the concept of the 'Post-Crisis' continuity apparently never came up...


Staff member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
And Crisis on Infinite Earths was partially intended to simplify DC continuity to make it easier for new readers.

The question of exactly how a reader who was confused by the old continuity was supposed to comprehend Crisis or the concept of the 'Post-Crisis' continuity apparently never came up...
That’s the line, but a lot of it’s purpose was honestly to make a continuity- books were less connected for a good chunk of the pre crisis era, as well as marvel-fy it (meaning make it less episodic and do more long form storytelling) and bring in a bunch of popular writers. While people talk about the differences between the two companies now, the stylistic differences were much larger back then, with more episodicness in a lot of DC comics, and while DC books had been moving in the direct of more unified and more longer term story stuff that became the norm of comics to varying extents, they wanted to really sell everyone on the change and show that it applied to DC as a whole, not just Titans.

To understand the real world context, not only was X-men dominating but Dazzler was outselling Batman. The Teen Titans were doing great (and were one of the most marvel-esque ‘has a strong continuity’ books along with Legion), but most of DC was not. Confusion wasn’t the problem at all, being seen as the story lightweight of the two was! Marvel was dominating the field and COIE was a hail-mary play that stuck the landing.

Which is also why future attempts to recreate it failed- Zero Hour and nu52 tried to ‘simplify’ things, which was secondary at best to the original Crisis. CoIE really was a singular event because uniting a scattered fragmentary continuity and bringing a company wide style shift up to modern comic norms is something you can only do once.
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