What It Means To Be 'Red Pilled' — And How The Term Was Hijacked By Extremist Groups

Being 'red-pilled' has become much more than a movie scene.

rep pill or blue pill sqback, ZargonDesign, kanawatvector / Getty Images

Most of us are familiar with the famous blue pill or red pill scene from 1999's "The Matrix," where Morpheus offers Neo a choice between the two.

The blue pill leaves things the way they are, without knowing the meaning of the world around you; the red pill is meant to reveal the truth and reject any comfortable falsehood.

While the message of the "Matrix" franchises isn't lost on avid fans, the term "red pill" has since taken a dark and sinister turn into misogyny, extremism, and white supremacy.


What does being red-pilled mean?

According to Dictionary.com, "Red pill refers to (becoming enlightened to) the truth about reality, especially a truth that is difficult to accept or exposes disillusion. Online, the red pill is especially used among anti-feminist and white supremacist groups to refer to 'waking up' to the truth that women and liberal politics are oppressing men and white people."

In short, being red-pilled is the belief that a person can learn the truth about an unknown situation. However, the term is often used in sentences that ridicule people.

For example, "But what do I know? I'm just a guy that refuses to swallow the red pill," or, "We need to red pill these people and make them see what is really going on."


RELATED: 15 Signs He's A 'Red Piller' (And Why It's So Dangerous)

Where does the term 'red-pilled' come from?

Originally presented in the 1999 film "The Matrix," the concept of taking the red pill is intertwined within American politics.

In the film, protagonist Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) is offered a blue or red pill to either continue in blissful ignorance or uncover a difficult and potentially painful awakening.


"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 says. Neo chooses the red pill.

Throughout the years, this scene has suggested the idea that we are unaware of the reality of certain situations.

While "The Matrix" centers around living in a computer simulation, it’s undeniable that there are things we don’t know about the world. Taking the red pill has implied seeing something that others can’t.

So, what would you choose? To continue on with what you’ve always known, or be fearless in learning the truth? Is ignorance really bliss? Or is it more beneficial to be set free from lies?


Regardless of your answers, you’re probably wondering how and why this idea presents itself within politics. Well, it’s actually rooted in misogyny and racism — not good things.

Who uses the term 'red pilled'?

Taking the "red pill" is often used by white supremacists, the alt-right or extremist right-wingers, and the men's rights movement. In 2012, a Reddit community known as The Red Pill was founded.

They act as a far-right group with extreme misogynistic views, believing that men are oppressed by society. This sexist subreddit chose the title "The Red Pill" to imply that taking this "pill" reveals the anti-feminist “truth.” Their theory is to never show weakness because "she is not on your side."

Although this community doesn’t receive as much traffic as it did in the early stages, it still exists today, although Reddit has "quarantined" it, meaning a message pops warning of upsetting content up beforehand. The men who believe that women are the oppressors continue to maintain their anger on the forum.


The term was also used heavily during the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump.

Alt-right groups began to adopt the red pill ideology as a way to discuss political beliefs. Dictionary.com explains that “taking the red pill is seeing the truth that white nationalism is under threat from such things as socialism, feminism, immigration, social justice, and other aspects associated with liberal politics.”

Getting “red-pilled” implies that your eyes are being opened to white oppression. It aims to push extreme conservative views that are not only incorrect but dangerous. When someone moves toward right-wing ideologies, they are considered to have taken the red pill.

In an attempt to sway voters by suggesting that liberal views are a kind of brainwashing, these extremists have further divided the political parties. The red pill has also been used to shed light on supposed “fake news” throughout Trump’s presidency.

RELATED: I Posed Online As A Male Incel — And Yes, It Was Disturbing


CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk, tweeted to his 34 million followers, 'Take the red pill.'

Although he has considered himself to be a moderate, Musk disagreed with orders to shut down the country following the outbreak of covid-19. After the temporary shutdown of his factory in Fremont, California, he called stay-at-home orders “fascist” and resumed operation against local orders.

This is why his tweet on May 17, 2020 sparked enthusiasm in far-right politics. It was taken as a sign that he was moving to the side of conservatives, even after giving support to former presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, in the upcoming election.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of Donald Trump, quickly retweeted the tweet and replied, “Taken!”


While it’s still unclear whether or not Musk was referring to a shift in his ideologies, this tweet caused immense controversy and confusion.


No matter your political stance, racism, sexism and bias based on the red pill ideology is dangerous.

Whether you sway to the right or left, the term “red pill” involves heavy bias. It’s not positive for our political system to have one side believing that the other has no sincerity.

Both Democrats and Republicans are needed to create a compromised democracy. It goes in accordance with the checks and balances the United States prides itself on. Holding onto conspiracy theories and an inability to respect another perspective is not only dangerous to our country but also unproductive.

There’s nothing wrong with differing viewpoints; as a matter of fact, they should be encouraged. But when we refuse to see the other side, there can be no honest discussion. We all play a role in ensuring that both liberals and conservatives respect each other’s opinions and beliefs.

It is up to the younger generation to create change and establish a more understanding society. By doing so, we will cultivate kindness, generosity, and admiration for the neighbors around us.


We must change the belief in getting “red-pilled” and acknowledge that it’s not just black and white — there can be gray. Simply put, we must be accepting of others regardless of their political beliefs.

There is no right or wrong, just a country that is working together to protect the rights of its citizens.

RELATED: What It Really Means To Be ‘Woke’ & Why It’s So Controversial

Isabella Pacinelli is a former contributor to YourTango, features editor for Ashland University's The Collegian, and freelance writer for Medina Weekly News.