Why The Matrix Director Lilly Wachowski Loves That The Franchise's Transgender Undertones Have Been Discovered

Neo in The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix franchise is an iconic piece of film history, especially in regards to cinematography and science fiction. The Wachowskis created a unique cinematic universe, and established a visual language that would be emulated by future blockbusters. The pair of filmmakers were also in the public eye once coming out as transgender, with fans later discovering the trans themes at the heart of The Matrix. And Lilly Wachowski is thrilled that those connections are being made decades after the first movie debuted in theaters.

Throughout The Matrix trilogy, the property deals with some very high concepts. This includes perception of reality, dangers of technology, as well as the idea of transforming yourself. The cast become deadly and stylish superpowered entities while within The Matrix, and Neo's imagination and sense of self result in even more abilities. Lilly Wachowski recently spoke to how moviegoers have realized how The Wachowskis' trans identities were truly at the heart of the franchise's themes, and why she's so happy cinephiles are discovering that detail years later. As she put it,

I’m glad that it has gotten out, that was the original intention. But the world wasn’t quite ready yet at a corporate level. The corporate world wasn’t ready for it. When you make movies and it's this public art form, I think any kind of art that you put into the universe there’s a letting go process. Because it’s entering into public dialogue. I like that there’s an evolution process that we as human beings engage in art in a nonlinear way. We can always talk about something in new ways, and in new light.

Movies are a funny thing. Because as they age, certain themes can become more powerful or timely. It's been over two decades since The Matrix hit theaters in 1999, and the movie's messaging has evolved as times have changed. And that's especially true when it comes to the conversation around transgender awareness, advocacy, and visibility.

Lilly Wachowski's comments to Netflix Film Club peels back the curtain on The Matrix franchise, its road to theaters, and ongoing legacy. As she mentioned, 1999 was a different time and it was next to impossible to include trans themes in a mainstream blockbuster. Instead, The Wachowskis made those connections more subtle, with those seeds eventually blooming years later.

In fact, the character Switch from the original Matrix movie (played by Belinda McClory) was meant to change gender when jacking into The Matrix. In the real world the character would be male, and transform into the female character we know and love once within the titular simulation. That's another concept that was left on the cutting room floor, with The Wachowskis giving the character a more androgynous look as a nod to the abandoned concept.

Lilly Wachowski isn't intimately involved in The Matrix 4, but Lana Wachowski is back in the director's chair for the highly anticipated sequel. The movie's contents are a complete mystery, but there will be a mixture of returning and new cast members to help populate the world. What's more, the set is seemingly gearing up to continue filming abroad after being delayed for a number of months.

CinemaBlend will keep you updated on all things The Matrix as details become public. In the meantime, check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.