Lilly Wachowski says 'original intention' of The Matrix was its trans allegory
In the Netflix documentary Disclosure, which tracks the history of trans representation in media across the generations, filmmaker Lilly Wachowski discusses how "being out and trans forces people to look back on my work and apply a trans narrative to it." That includes The Matrix, which many in the trans community now see as an allegory for their experience. In a separate video interview with Netflix, released this week, Wachowski, who created the sci-fi actioner with sibling Lana, says that allegory was indeed "the original intention" for the movie.
"I'm glad that it has gotten out," she says. "That was the original intention, but the corporate world wasn't ready for it. When you make movies and it's this public art form, I think [with] any kind of art that you put out into the universe there's a letting-go process because it's entering into public dialogue. I like that, that there's an evolution process that we as human beings engage in art in a non-linear way, that we can always talk about something in new ways and in new light."
The Matrix — starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, and Hugo Weaving — premiered in 1999 with the story of a computer hacker who learns the terrifying truth about his reality: it's actually a simulated reality used by sentient machines to control and harvest humans for energy. The film spawned multiple sequels, including an anime anthology of shorts. In the years since the movie debuted, both Lilly and Lana came out as trans.
According to Wachowski, the whole concept of the Matrix "was all about this desire for transformation, but it was all coming from a closeted point of view." Originally, Switch, a character played by Belinda McClory in the first film, was meant to be someone who appeared as a man "in the real world" and then "a woman in the Matrix." "That's where our headspaces were," she adds.
Wachowski has since gone on to write and executive produce Showtime's Work in Progress, while Lana returns to write and direct a fourth Matrix movie with Reeves and Moss. Corporate America wasn't ready to make those underlying themes more overt in the '90s. Is it ready now?