Since The Matrix debuted in 1999, it has firmly been cemented as one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time—red pill, blue pill, slo-mo, and we need guns, lots of guns, are still go-to references, over 20 years later.
With that kind of status comes the inevitable deep-dives trying to figure out the film’s true meaning. In The Matrix’s case, fans have long speculated that the cyber-dystopian tale is a trans allegory—pointing to the themes of identity and rebirth in the film, specifically the character arc of Mr. Anderson. While The Matrix co-director, Lilly Wachowski (who has come out as a transgender woman since the film’s debut, as well as her sister and co-director, Lana), has already responded to fans who’ve looked at her films through the lens of transness, she talked about the allegory in-depth in a recent interview for Netflix’s Film Club.
“I’m glad that it has gotten out that that was the original intention,” Wachowski said. “The corporate world wasn’t ready for it.”
In the interview, Wachowski discusses how the arc of Switch, who is played by Belinda McClory in the film, was originally supposed to tie into The Matrix’s trans narrative. Wachowski explained that Switch was first written to present as a man in the real world, and a woman in the Matrix. She added that it reflected where Lana and her own headspaces were at the time—the former privately transitioning a year after The Matrix’s debut.
“The Matrix stuff was all like about the desire for transformation, but it as all coming from a closeted point of view. So we had the character of Switch, who was a character would be a man in the real world and a woman in The Matrix. That’s both where our headspaces were.”
Along with her sister, Wachowski is writing and directing a brand-new Matrix sequel. Matrix 4 is set to debut on April 1, 2022, with Keanu Reeves returning, along with newcomers like Neil Patrick Harris and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Thankfully, judging by the Netflix interview, her wheels are still spinning in The Matrix world, even from quarantine.
“I don’t know how present my transness was in the background of my brain as we were writing it,” Wachowski said. “We were always living in a world of imagination. That’s why I gravitated toward sci-fi and fantasy and played Dungeons and Dragons. It was all about creating worlds. It freed us up as filmmakers because we were able to imagine stuff at that time that you didn’t necessarily see onscreen.”