The Lie of the Red Pill

Perspectives in C
5 min readApr 13, 2022


They’re actually blue all the way down.

You may see this term in online discourse these days: “red pill.” It’s from The Matrix.

Warner Bros, 1999. Used without permission.

We all remember this shot, partially because it’s so iconic. (Fun fact: Laurence Fishburne’s glasses were covered with green screen, and the reflections added digitally.) It embodies the entire idea in one elegant image: Neo (the white guy in the reflection, played by Keanu Reeves) having to choose between a safe, pablum, brainwashed existence in one hand, and unsafe, uncertain awareness in the other. It’s not just an act of courage, it’s an act of rebellion — of throwing off the shackles imposed by society and seeing a hidden truth.

You take the blue pill? The story ends; you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. [But if] You take the red pill … you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Neo, having been awakened to the nature of the oppressive system that imprisons him, then aids in fighting that oppressive system. It should be pointed out that he is awakened to that nature by a black man and a white woman, both of whom have prior experience with oppressive systems. There’s also some fun subtext concerning deadnaming: Neo chooses to think of himself as, well, Neo, but the oppressive system — personified most specifically in Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) — insists on using his birth name, “Thomas Anderson,” as a way of denying him his right to self-determination. (Note that this was written years before Lana and Lilly Wachowski came out as trans women, though there’s evidence they were in the closet at the time: one of Neo’s shipmates, “Switch,” was originally intended to be a woman in the Matrix and a man in the real world.) And then there are two more movies, which weren’t as well received; and plus that fourth one got released during the pandemic. But I digress.

The reason I bring it up is because this striking visual image— specifically, taking the red pill and waking up to some greater truth about the world — has been co-opted by the “manosphere,” the loose organization of misogynists on the internet: Men’s Rights Activists, incels, pickup artists, Men Going Their Own Way, and so on. While each group may have their own ideologies, they all share something in common: a belief that modern society is fundamentally misandrist. The person who has arrived at this belief is said to have “taken the red pill.”

In a way, it’s just posturing, a way to give legitimacy to their misogyny. “I wasn’t born a misogynist, I became a misogynist as part of my journey of self-growth. It’s proof that I’m a free-thinking rebel. The fact that I hate women should be treated as the crowning intellectual achievement of my life to date.” Which, I mean, good for you, I suppose.

It’s also 100% backwards.

The idea that society is misandrist — biased against men; “andros” is the Greek word for “man” just like the “gyne” from “misogyny” is the Greek word for “wife” — is something you could conceivably arrive at if you looked at the past century of social history and ignored about 10,000 years before it. Feminism has been working tirelessly, for millennia, to counter-balance patriarchy and its inherent bias against women, and has made tremendous strides in the last 100 years. Again, if you take only those 100 years in a vacuum, and see all those pro-female laws being passed, then it does absolutely look like society is biased towards women. Again, this only makes sense if you only take those 100 years of affirmative action out of context, and ignore the thousands of years of oppression that precede it. (How much oppression? Well, in Greek, “gyne” means “wife.” It also, as implied by the field of gynecology, means “uterus.” “I’m Roger Sterling. Have you met my new womb? Her name’s Jane.” That much oppression.)

Now. Let’s assume, at least for the moment, that these misogynists are right. Let’s assume that the past century of social progress has been unfair, that laws have gone past the point of “Let’s make women equal” and overshot into the area of “Let’s make women superior.” If you oppose this kind of thing, what does that make you?

It makes you the same kind of man who existed for thousands of years prior to this century. It makes you a misogynist. It makes you… absolutely nothing new.

And that’s why it’s interesting to me that these misogynists claim that their awakening to the “appropriateness” of misogyny describe themselves as “Taking the red pill.” It’s a masterful work of propaganda. Because, to re-iterate, these men have learned nothing. The whole point of patriarchy is — I’m going to oversimplify grossly, but only by leaving out a lot of detail — to encourage men to disrespect women. The whole point of patriarchy is to brainwash men into being misogynists. And that’s why it’s interesting to me that these people use the rhetoric of “awakening to a new reality” when describing how they have regressed themselves to an old one.

A person who “wakes up” and decides to become a misogynist has done no waking up whatsoever. In point of fact, he has merely succumbed to brainwashing; in point of fact, he has accepted his brainwashing and is now actively aiding in its application. He is not a free-thinker, he is not a rebel, he is not courageous: he is, in truth, the exact opposite. He is not just a slave but a willing slave, one who rejoices in his bondage. He has taken the shackles applied by society and tightened them.

He’s… well, he’s taken the blue pill. He just thinks its red because that makes him feel better about himself. He doesn’t want to be a garden-variety misogynist, he wants to be a refined misogynist (you know, from that one region of France), one who can feel good about being a bad person because he’s justified.

Has anyone written this article before? I mean, this is such low-hanging fruit; it’s patently obvious, to anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of history. Someone must have written it already. But I’ve never seen it, and if it hasn’t been spelled out, then it needs to be:

Claiming you’ve taken the red pill is proof you’ve done no such thing. The only person a “red pill” is fooling is themselves.



Perspectives in C

We don’t have the right to live in a world that satisfies our moral sensibilities. We DO, however, get to CREATE one. Here’s how we do it.