Tron and The Roman Empire

RJ Kelsay and Angie Kelsay

6/20/20235 min read

A Look At Tron

The year is 1982, the early days of computer animation, Walt Disney Productions released a groundbreaking film called Tron. Spoilers ahead. The film takes place in the computer world of the Grid and follows a computer programmer named Kevin Flynn, who is played by Jeff Bridges. Flynn worked for a software company called ENCOM. Flynn discovers that before he was fired his former colleague, Ed Dillinger, stole the video game Space Paranoids that he developed, taking credit for it and making the software company a lot of money while furthering his own career at the expense of Flynn’s.

Determined to prove Dillinger’s theft, Flynn sets out hack into ENCOM’s mainframe to find the files that will prove he is the creator of Space Paranoids. The entire computer system is run by a powerful computer program called the Master Control Program or MCP for short. MCP, desperate to maintain it’s control of the mainframe digitizes Flynn and sends him to the world of the Grid.

Flynn finds himself in a virtual reality world (the Grid) where the programs appear to him as people. There he meets Tron, a security program created by his friend Alan Bradley. Flynn and Tron are joined by a resourceful program named Yori and together they set out to put a stop to the oppressive regime that MCP has set up in the Grid.

The World of the Grid

The Grid is vast, often referred to by Flynn as a “digital frontier”, the Grid was designed as an experimental platform to conduct various research at unrivaled speeds. Time is perceived in cycles and runs at a far greater perceived time than in the “real world”. MCP is a master control program created by ENCOM founder Walter Gibbs and improved by Ed Dillinger. The MCP develops the ability to learn and think for itself, becoming ambitious MCP takes over the world of the Grid, ruling and enslaving many programs. MCP creates a totalitarian regime, conscripting other programs and pitting them against its henchmen, led by Commander Sark.

Control and Rebellion: A Comparison of MCP's Rule in Tron with the Conquests of the Roman Empire

Please note that drawing a direct parallel between the fictional world of "Tron" and the historical actions of the Roman Empire requires some degree of interpretation and extrapolation. Although there are elements that can be compared, it is important to acknowledge that any correlations are subjective. With this in mind, we will discuss possible parallels in the MCP's control of programs in "Tron" and the Roman Empire's treatment of conquered peoples.

The science fiction film "Tron" introduces viewers to a fascinating digital realm where a powerful computer program, known as the Master Control Program (MCP), dominates the lives of programs living within the grid. While drawing parallels between this fictional universe and historical events should be approached with caution, it is interesting to examine possible parallels between the MCP's control in it’s digitized realm and the Roman Empire's treatment of people it conquered. This article explores how the MCP's enslavement of programs and the dynamics of rebellion within the grid share some parallels with the Roman Empire's relationship with the peoples it subjugated.

Slavery and Subjugation

In "Tron", the MCP brutally enslaves and controls other programs within the grid, dictating their functions and suppressing individuality. This echoes the Roman Empire's practice of subjugating conquered peoples, where they were often subjected to forced labor, heavy taxation, and the imposition of Roman customs and laws. The loss of autonomy experienced by the programs in "Tron" can be compared to the unification efforts of the Roman Empire.

Rebellion and Resistance: Just as conquered peoples under Roman rule sometimes revolted against their oppressors, "Tron" represents acts of resistance within the grid. Programs like Tron and Yori join forces with the film's protagonist, Kevin Flynn, to challenge the MCP's control and fight for their freedom. Similarly, historical revolts against the Roman Empire, such as Jewish revolts such as the famous Bar Kokhba Revolt or Spartacus, demonstrate a common desire for liberation from oppressive rule.

Oppressed vs. Elite: In "Tron," the MCP establishes a hierarchical system, in which some programs act as oppressors while others are subordinate. This division between an elite ruling class and the oppressed is reminiscent of the social structure of the Roman Empire, where the conquered were often relegated to lower social positions while the Roman elite enjoyed privileged status and power.

Struggle for Independence: In the Grid, programs aspire to break free from the MCP's dominance and gain independence. Similarly, many conquered peoples under Roman rule yearned for self-government and fought for their right to determine their own destiny. The revolts of various regions against the Roman Empire, such as the Gauls under Vercingetorix or the Germanic tribes led by Arminius, reflect a strong desire for autonomy and liberation.

While "Tron" is a work of science fiction, it presents us with a digital world that shares some similarities with the struggles faced by conquered peoples under the Roman Empire. The MCP's control over the programs in the grid and the rebellion depicted in the film can be seen as a reflection of the power dynamics and rebellions that emerged during the conquests of the Roman Empire. While any direct correlation must be viewed with caution, exploring these parallels allows us to reflect on historical patterns of control, resistance, and the pervasive desire for freedom across different narratives.

RJ’s Interpretation of Religious Themes in Tron

In addition to the themes previously mentioned, "Tron" also displays Christian elements, especially in the character arc of Kevin Flynn and his journey through the Grid.

Flynn's entry into the virtual world of the Grid can be seen as a metaphorical representation of divine incarnation as since he is a user and is “worshiped” by the programs. This is similar to the Christian concept of the incarnation of the Son (Jesus) descending to our world. In the Christian tradition, Jesus is believed to be God in human form, descending from heaven to the earthly realm. Similarly, Flynn, a skilled programmer and creator of the Grid, enters the virtual world as a tangible entity to the programs and bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds.

In the movie, Flynn willingly risks his own safety to challenge the oppressive rule of the MCP and liberate the programs. This act of selflessness echoes the sacrificial narrative found in Christianity, where Jesus sacrifices himself on the cross to redeem humanity.

Furthermore, Flynn's ultimate return to his own world can be interpreted as a symbolic ascension or resurrection. After his sacrifice within the Grid, Flynn triumphs over the MCP and is able to transcend the virtual world and return to reality. This mirrors the Christian belief in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, where he overcomes death and ascends to heaven.

While "Tron" is primarily a science fiction film, the incorporation of Christian themes adds a layer of spiritual and allegorical depth to the story. These elements underscore Flynn's transformation from a mere programmer into a messianic figure who brings salvation and liberation to the digital world of The Grid.

By weaving together themes of virtual reality, power struggles, personal identity, and Christian symbolism, "Tron" creates a multi-faceted narrative that resonates with various philosophical and religious concepts. The movie explores the human desire for freedom, the struggle against oppressive forces, and the potential for self-sacrifice and redemption in the face of adversity.

Disclaimer: It is important to note that the comparison between "Tron", the Roman Empire, and Christian themes is a subjective interpretation, and the article should be taken as a formative exploration rather than a definitive historical of philosophical analysis.

Note: The above article is a fictional work and should not be considered a proper scholarly source.