The Matrix was one of the surprise successes of the late-‘90s, and while its sequels are held in less high regard, the saga still maintains an important position in pop culture. Many interpretations of its themes have been put forward, and earlier this month, co-writer and co-director Lilly Wachowski spoke about how her gender identity informed the movie’s writing process.
A major aspect of the plot, aside from an eternal war against machines who have enslaved humanity, is hacker Neo realizing who he is and has always been, shedding the identity he’s been assigned by others and bringing his previously hidden true one into the open, obliterating the mirage of the sense of self to which he has been told he must conform but in whose role never felt comfortable. At a conceptual level, this mirrors the experiences of transgender people, and of the viewpoint, Keanu Reeves had some typically straightforward and positive thoughts, saying:
“I never spoke to Lilly about that, she never conveyed that to me. I think The Matrix films are profound, and I think that allegorically, a lot of people in different versions of the film can speak to that. And for Lilly to come out and share that with us, I think is cool.”
Despite the success of The Matrix, the Wachowskis were highly secretive of their personal lives, which in retrospect seems to have been due at least in part to a desire to not reveal themselves as transgender until they felt ready. Lana completed transitioning in 2008 and this was reflected in how the media referred to her soon after. Lilly’s decision was less voluntary, being forced into making a pre-emptive announcement after a reporter from British tabloid The Daily Mail came sniffing for a quote and informed her a story about her gender identity would be run with or without her input.
The Matrix is a lot of things to different people, and while opinions of the series’ overall quality vary, that its allegorical nature has helped people struggling with their own identities makes it worthy of existing if nothing else. If more prominence was given to films that help marginalized communities find solace and feel less alone, the world might be a slightly better place.