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The Matrix Was Intended to Be a Trans Story, Says Lilly Wachowski

Switch, played by Belinda McClory, was supposed to be a woman inside the Matrix and a man outside.
Switch, played by Belinda McClory, was supposed to be a woman inside the Matrix and a man outside.
Photo: Warner Bros.

The Matrix is regularly lauded as one of the most inventive and influential sci-fi films of all time. It put Lana and Lilly Wachowski on the map as filmmakers and remains so popular today, a fourth film is currently in the works.

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But it’s actually so much more.

At its core, The Matrix is also the story of a person who realizes they’re trapped in a place where they can’t be themselves, escapes, and is reborn in a new world as their true self. And considering the film was written and directed by two trans women, it’s no surprise that Lilly Wachowski says telling a trans allegory was the intent of the film all along.

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“I’m glad that it’s gotten out that that was the original intention,” she says in a video interview to promote the new documentary Disclosure. “The world wasn’t quite ready, at a corporate level...the corporate world wasn’t ready for it [at the time].”

Here’s the full clip, which also confirms the character of Switch was originally going to be a man in the real world and a woman in the Matrix, calling attention to these intentions. That didn’t end up making the final film.

It’s a great clip, particularly when Wachowski seems to address the way the film has kind of been accepted as this macho, sci-fi action movie, but lends itself to multiple readings.

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“When you make movies it’s this public art form,” she says. “I think any kind of art that you put out in 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 non-linear way. That we can always talk about something in new ways and in new light.”

Funny enough, though this interview clip is new, The Matrix is not currently available on Netflix. You can, however, watch Cloud Atlas and V for Vendetta, both of which the Wachowskis made, and have plenty of their own layers for you to unravel. And, of course, Wachowski discusses The Matrix and more in the new documentary about trans representation in Hollywood, Disclosure. That is on Netflix.

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Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

Wraithfighter

Yeah, this has been a known thing for a while. Hell, just look at the strife over Neo’s name. Agent Smith always calls him one very specific thing, “Mr. Anderson”, to the point where Neo’s first name is almost entirely eschewed, and Neo’s moment of victory in their fight came with him proudly, defiantly saying “My name is Neo”.

But... I’m going to have to side with the cowardly, greedy execs on the subject of Switch, at least a little. The story I’ve heard was that the original version of Switch, in the real world, was going to be that of a male actor, with the character having a female gender identity, the true self of her that we see in the Matrix.

...which would kinda turn the Matrix into a sorta liberator, right? Isn’t the Matrix so wonderful for fully respecting Switch’s actual gender regardless of the meat parts she was born in? Kinda feels like it’d muddy the waters a bit too much. I mean, I’m sure that’s not why the execs said no to it, but I can also see them going “...this doesn’t feel core to the story and solid in execution, more trouble than its worth”.

As Lilly said in the video, they were approaching it from the perspective of, well, two closeted trans people who were still coming to grips with it all, and might not have had their understanding and feelings on the subject entirely worked out. Keeping it more metaphorical and symbolic feels like it helps the intended themes work better in the given context, without letting the logic of the universe interfere with what they were trying to say.