39

The obvious reason and what I would assume is most likely is the frequency of these names in at least the United States:

Rank    Name     %
1.      Smith    1.006
2.      Johnson  0.810
3.      Williams 0.699
... 
11.     Anderson 0.311

Smith is the most common last name, meaning there would be a lot of them. I had also assumed having similar names would make them more difficult to track in a hacker world. Do any of these assumptions make sense? Many movies shy away from using incredibly common last names, although I have no source for this.

Is there a reason the Wachowskis chose Smith and Anderson for the characters' names in The Matrix?

  • Are you asking why the program called "Smith" named himself Smith, or why the Wachowskis chose the name Smith for the character? – Jason Baker Jan 31 '17 at 17:20
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    "John Smith" is a slightly less common (in America) fake name after "John Doe." Google image "John Smith id card" ( google.com/… ) – Yorik Jan 31 '17 at 21:17
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    William, @Yorik is at least partially correct; "John Doe" is defined in the New Oxford American Dictionary with a specialized North American Law definition as follows: "an anonymous party, typically the plaintiff, in a legal action." Also: "(informal) a hypothetical average man." By contrast, "John Smith" does not appear in the dictionary at all. Now as to which name is used more often to provide a fake name where a real name is required, is a different question; but "John Doe" actually means "a hypothetical average man." – Wildcard Feb 1 '17 at 2:24
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    Do you know that great scene in “Die Hard” when agent Smith and special agent Smith are introduced? – Holger Feb 1 '17 at 8:32
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    I like how the percentile is 1 and 0, after all, the matrix is just 1's and 0's – sch Feb 1 '17 at 8:55
69

You might find this page useful. It details even vague connections, themes and references that each name in The Matrix has, including some for Thomas A. Anderson, those mainly being:

  • Thomas means "Twin", in reference to the fact that he's been "living two lives", one as Thomas and the other as Neo.

  • Thomas is also the name of one of Jesus' disciples, namely "Doubting Thomas", who did not believe Jesus had died and been resurrected until he saw the holes in Jesus' hands, much like Thomas A. Anderson never believed he was the One until he himself died and came back to life after being shot full of holes.

  • Anderson means "Son of Man", in keeping with the whole "Messiah" theme that goes on throughout the trilogy (I mean movie, just one movie, there's only one movie).

As for the Agents, the whole point about them is that they have common, boring anglo-saxon surnames, such as Smith, Jones, Brown, etc.
You might find that one of the reasons they picked Anderson as a surname for Neo was simply because they'd used up a bunch of other common names for Agents and Anderson was simply next on the list. Neo's exact surname may not ultimately be all that important, though I have to say hearing Smith call him "Mr. Anderson" is a nice touch that probably wouldn't have worked with many other surnames.

  • 35
    I have always loved the way Hugo Weaving drawls Anderson, i.e. "Mister Annnnderson". – Binary Worrier Jan 31 '17 at 17:41
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    @BinaryWorrier also how he says "Mordor" in LotR (as Elrond) : Mor-r-r-dor-r-r – Oubliette Jan 31 '17 at 18:35
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    I dunno if they picked the common names on purpose but it's pretty effective at driving home the idea that anyone could "turn into" an Agent at any time, and that they're "all the same," as Morpheus puts it. – Devsman Jan 31 '17 at 20:28
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    Now imagine Elrond giving the "virus" speech to Frodo. "...I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium... but you hobbits do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Hobbits are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure." – Schwern Jan 31 '17 at 22:03
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    @Schwern "Welcome to Rivendell… Mr. Anderson." – duskwuff Feb 1 '17 at 4:39
59

I'm unclear whether it's a case of the tail wagging the dog, but it's notable that Agent Smith's car (in Matrix Reloaded) has the plate IS5416 (Isiah 54:16)

"Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals, and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy..."

This seems a pretty solid description of Agent Smith's role in the world of the Matrix and would explain the choice of name.

enter image description here

That being said, it's certainly possible that having created a character called Smith, that the Wachowskis then went looking for biblical reference that had the word "smith" in and got lucky.

  • 1
    Why would agents even use cars? Although I suppose constantly jumping around and taking over nodes in the matrix might cause instability in the system. Still, it seems redundant. – Oubliette Jan 31 '17 at 21:45
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    @Withywindle - So that they can transport prisoners. – Valorum Jan 31 '17 at 21:54
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    @Withywindle In answering "Why are there only three Agents at a time in the Matrix?" I supposed that Agents are disruptive and used sparingly. The Matrix is an illusion for the benefit of the humans trapped inside it. Agents doing super-human feats and taking people over risks whole point of the Matrix. Instead, they'd prefer to act as part of the Matrix taking on the plausible shadowy government "Men In Black" role which means driving a car. They'd use their powers when they decide it's worth stopping an even greater disruption. – Schwern Jan 31 '17 at 21:56
  • I would agree with this answer but I tend to think now a days that agent Smith is the chosen one youtube.com/watch?v=VkMU1mKdwPI – William Jan 31 '17 at 22:09
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    @schwern - Have you ever woken up and realised it's not Wednesday, it's actually Thursday and can't for the life of you remember what you did yesterday? That's because you spent the day being an Agent. There's quite a lot of people out there (especially those that work from home) that wouldn't even notice they'd lost a day – Valorum Feb 1 '17 at 10:09

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