Although the term “the red pill” has come to be identified with far-right anti-feminist websites such as Return of Kings, that’s not where it originated: the expression made its debut in sisters Lilly and Lana Wachowski’s first of three “Matrix” films. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently used the expression in a tweet that White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump forwarded — and Lilly Wachowski is calling them out for it.
In the first “Matrix” film, taking “the red pill” means accepting a dystopian world as it really is. But when the alt-right adopted the term, they give it a far-right, socially conservative anti-feminist connotation — one in which someone who “takes the red pill” has had an alt-right awakening and rejects liberal or progressive ideology.
On Sunday, May 17, Musk tweeted, “Take the red pill.” And Ivanka Trump, upon seeing Musk’s tweet, responded, “taken!” Lilly Wachowski, in response to their tweets, posted, “Fuck both of you.” In a separate tweet, Musk (who has 34 million followers on Twitter), described “the red pill” as “one of my fav Matrix memes.”
Take the red pill 🌹— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1589737454.0
@IvankaTrump Fuck both of you— Lilly Wachowski (@Lilly Wachowski) 1589744196.0
One area of the far-right anti-feminist movement, incels, have come up with their own twisted expression: “the black pill,” which refers to avoiding women altogether and sets itself apart from the “red pill” ideology that Return of Kings promoted before it went on hiatus in 2018. While Return of Kings founder Roosh Valizadeh promoted “PUA” or “pick-up artist” ideology and encouraged domination of women, incels (which is short for “involuntarily celibate”) embrace a different form of misogyny and see “taking the black pill” as avoiding women altogether.
Lilly Wachowski, who has been outspoken on transgender rights, followed up her anti-Musk, anti-Trump tweet with a request for donations to the Brave Space Alliance (an organization that supports transgender rights).
The “Matrix” co-creator wasn’t the only Twitter user who had a negative reaction to Musk’s tweet. Democratic activist Jon Cooper, @joncoopertweets, posted, “Take the red pill and shove it, Elon.”
Support @BSAllianceChi if you can. https://t.co/rrDPOaaYED— Lilly Wachowski (@Lilly Wachowski) 1589745995.0
@elonmusk Take the red pill and shove it, Elon.— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@Jon Cooper 🇺🇸) 1589757380.0