Lilly Wachowski, who co-directed the Matrix films with her sister, Lana, has confirmed that they should be read as allegories for the transgender narrative. Subsequent to the films’ release, both sisters came out as trans – Lilly in 2012 and Lana in 2016 – and some fans have since identified apparent resonances for the experience in the movies.
“I’m glad that it has gotten out that that was the original intention,” Lilly told Netflix Film Club on 4 August. “The world wasn’t quite ready for it. The corporate world wasn’t ready for it.”
“I love how meaningful those films are to trans people,” she continued, “and the way they come up to me and say, ‘These movies saved my life.’”
Theories about the film have centred around the idea that the unease Keanu Reeves’s character, Neo, feels – described as “a splinter in your mind” – represents a type of gender dysphoria. Therefore, the red pill he takes to see reality as it is could be seen as a hormone tablet.
Wachowski expressed some scepticism about the blatantness of such readings, saying: “I don’t know how present my trans-ness was in my brain as we were writing it.”
But she said that her and her sister’s identities did mean they readily embraced a mix of genres and an eagerness to explore “the seemingly impossible becoming possible”, as well as being as inclusive as possible.
“I think it freed us up as film-makers because we were able imagine things that at that time you didn’t necessarily see on screen.”
She also revealed that they had intended the character of Switch to be gender fluid, presenting as a man in apparent reality, and as a woman in the world of the Matrix.
“The Matrix ... was all about the desire for transformation, but it was all coming from a closeted point of view,” Wachowski said.
A belated third sequel recently recommenced production, after the set was shut down in March. Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Jada Pinkett Smith will return in the film, which is due for release next year.