So, I’ve gotten to watch the Matrix (original … the series goes downhill from there) a few times over the last week, since BBC America keeps showing it. I swear, they have more American shows on than British shows.
Anyway, as I’m watching, I’m paying attention to the character of Trinity because, well, I think she’s awesome. It isn’t just the tight black outfit. The character is smart, resourceful, and strong-willed. She is a capable soldier and, when she needs to be, a capable leader. She is a female character is a science fiction movie who is also a love interest. She is also not a damsel in distress.
I doubt anyone reading this has NOT seen the Matrix, but … spoilers …
So, yeah, when I see strong female characters, I like to examine them, and they way that they are strong. It is not enough that a female character be a tough fighter or have skills that, at least once upon a time, where considered masculine pursuits (yes, when the Matrix was made, a female hacker like Trinity was a big deal). Princess Leah knows how to handle a blaster and a combat situation. She is also the person in need of rescue. Even though she takes command of the situation when the characters are trapped in the cell block, she would not have been able to get out on her own. She still needs the rescue.
This is the flaw with a lot of “strong” female characters. They are strong until a trope is needed. Here, not so much. The “rescue” moments are brief and often back and forth between Trinity and Neo. The Damsel in Distress is not the Damsel, but the Wise Old Man.
To me, though, if you really want to see how a female character breaks the classic tropes, you do it with the romance. If anything turns a strong female character into a trope, it is love.
Trinity in Love does threaten these moments. She has the strong-woman-afraid-to-show-the-soft-side down pat. Whether or not we can forgive that trope, however, depends on how it pans out. Too often, we see that become the weak-in-the-knees woman, or the woman swept off her feet, sometimes by a man whose flaws really make him not worth her time -he’s just clever and/or cute. Occasionally, he’s rich.
When Trinity finally admits her love, she has Agency. You see, it is through her eyes that we finally have the admission of the film. All is lost. Neo is dead, and yet … Morpheus’ faith has not been misplaced. Trinity declares her love and it is beneath her gaze, and not any of the male characters, that Neo truly comes into his own. He embraces – his destiny or his ability, depending on your view of it – and becomes The One.
So, yeah. She may not be The One. She may be a secondary character and a love interest.
In the first Matrix movie, however, she is also Trinity.