"You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." -Morpheus [1]

The term red pill and its opposite, blue pill, are pop culture terms that have become a common symbol for the choice between the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue) and embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red).

The terms were popularized in science fiction culture via the 1999 film The Matrix. In the movie, the main character Neo is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill, with the red pill leading to his "escape" from the Matrix, a fictional computer-generated world, while the blue pill would allow him to remain in the world with no knowledge that anything is wrong.


Thomas A. Anderson, a hacker of the alias "Neo", has heard rumors of "The Matrix" and a mysterious man named "Morpheus", and spends his nights at the computer trying to discover the secret of The Matrix. Eventually he is introduced to Morpheus by another hacker called "Trinity".

Morpheus alludes to the fact that the reality that Neo is accustomed to is a lie and that Morpheus can show him the truth. He is asked to make a choice between two pills, red and blue. The blue pill will cause him to "wake up in his bed and believe whatever [he wants] to believe." He is told that if he takes the red pill, however, he will "stay in Wonderland" and Morpheus will "show [him] how deep the rabbit hole goes".

Neo chooses the red pill and is illuminated as to the true nature of the Matrix; a detailed simulation of Earth circa 1999, which keeps the inhabitants, whose physical bodies are stored in massive power plants, complacent in a mental prison, in order to convert their heat and bioelectrical energy into power for machine consumption.


An essay written by Russell Blackford discusses the red and blue pills, questioning whether if a person were fully informed they would take the red pill, opting for the real world, believing that choosing physical reality over a digital simulation is not clear-cut.

Both Neo and another character, Cypher, take the red pill over the blue pill, with the latter showing regret for having made such a choice, having stated that if Morpheus fully informed them of the situation, Cypher would have told Morpheus to "shove the red pill up his ass."

While Blackford argues that while The Matrix trilogy sets things up so that even if Neo failed, the taking of the red pill was worthwhile due to him living and dying authentically, he and science-fiction writer James Patrick Kelly feel that The Matrix stacks the deck against machines and their simulated world.[2]

In the book The Art of the Start, author Guy Kawasaki uses the red pill as an analogue to leaders of new organizations, in that they face the same choice to either live in reality or fantasy. He adds that if they want to be successful, they have to take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.[3]

"Matrix Warrior: Being the One" author Jake Horsley compared the red pill to LSD, citing a scene where Neo forms his own world outside of the Matrix. When he asks Morpheus if he could return, Morpheus responds by asking him if he would want to.

He also describes the blue pill as an addictive, calling The Matrix series a continuous series of choices between taking the blue pill and not taking it. He adds that the habits and routines of people inside the Matrix are merely the people dosing themselves with the blue pill.

While he describes the blue pill as a common thing, he states that the red pill is one-of-a-kind, and something someone may not even find.[4]

Other uses

  • The reference to the pills is also implemented in a special type of malware that utilizes the virtualization techniques of modern CPUs to execute as a hypervisor; as a virtual platform on which the entire operating system runs, it is capable of examining the entire state of the machine and to cause any behavior with full privilege, while the operating system believes itself to be running directly on physical hardware, creating a parallel to the illusory Matrix. Blue Pill describes the concept of infecting a machine while red pill techniques help the operating system to detect the presence of such a hypervisor.
  • Until they were removed from the Maemo operating system application installer in January 2010, certain advanced features were unlocked by a "Red Pill Mode" easter egg to prevent accidental use by novice users but make them readily available to experienced users. This was activated by starting to add a catalog whose URL was "matrix" and then choosing to cancel. A dialog box would appear asking "Which pill?" with the choices "Red" or "Blue", allowing the user to enter red pill mode.[5][6] In "Red Pill" mode the installer allows the user to view and reconfigure system packages whose existence it normally does not acknowledge. In Blue Pill mode the installer displays only software installed by a user, creating the illusion that system software does not exist on the system.
  • The Leeds, United Kingdom based band 'The Red Pills' named themselves thus due to their appreciation of the concept's source. Their lyrics frequently feature anger directed at controlling influences and those that attempt to conceal the reality of the world from an apathetic, easily hoodwinked populace.
  • Red Pill is an Edinburgh based Progressive Death Metal band.
  • The terms Red Pill and Blue Pill are colloquialisms for certain recreational drugs such as MDMA [citation needed]}. This is an accepted popular culture reference in the rave scene, where it refers to the suggestion that taking a pill "releases" your mind from the "constraints of a fabricated reality"; a direct parallel with the subplot from the Matrix.
  • In the 1990 movie Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger's character is offered a red pill as a means to escape a paranoid delusion.
  • In the MOBA game called League of Legends, where the blue pill refers to teleporting back to your base.

See also


vi:Red pill

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