'The Matrix' Was Always an Allegory for the Trans Experience, Confirms Lilly Wachowski

Over the past few years, alternate readings have abounded suggesting that the 1999 science fiction masterpiece The Matrix is an allegory for the transgender experience. Now Lilly Wachowski, one of the film’s writers and directors, has officially confirmed that those ideas were intentional. Watch her speak about how the “corporate world wasn’t ready” to acknowledge such a connection in the video below.

“I’m glad that it has gotten out that that was the original intention,” Wachowski said. “The corporate world wasn’t ready for it.” Lilly and her sister Lana both came out as trans after the release of the original trilogy – Lana in 2010, Lilly in 2016.

Although the trans allegory was intentional, Lilly also pointed out that the film, which was about “the desire for transformation,” was all coming from a “closeted” perspective. “I don’t know how present my transness was in the background of my brain as we were writing it. It all came from the same sort of fire that I’m talking about….we were always living in a world of imagination. That’s why I gravitated toward science fiction and fantasy and played Dungeons & Dragons. It was all about creating worlds. I think it freed us up as filmmakers because we were able to imagine stuff at that time that you didn’t necessarily see onscreen.”

Trans representation on screen has definitely improved in recent years (I’m thinking of films like Tangerine and shows like Orange is the New Black), but the situation was far more bleak when the Wachowskis were making the first of these movies. It’s no surprise that the corporate world wasn’t ready to acknowledge the film’s deeper message; even today, it feels like it would still be a big deal for a studio like Warner Bros. to actively embrace that concept. (We still have a lots of room for improvement as a culture.)

“I love how meaningful those films are to trans people and the way that they come up to me and say, ‘These movies saved my life,’” Lilly said. “Because when you talk about transformation, specifically in the world of science fiction, which is just about imagination and world building and the idea of the seemingly impossible becoming possible, I think that’s why it speaks to them so much.”

The Matrix trilogy is currently streaming on Netflix, and Lana Wachowski is co-writing, producing, and directing a new sequel which will bring back stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss.

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