Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

The inherent transness of ‘The Matrix’ trilogy


 This isn’t to say it’s an allegory for being transgender or the oppression trans people face in their daily lives. It’s more complex than that. But if one rewatches the films with the new knowledge that both of the Wachowskis have transitioned, its transgender themes are unmistakable, and have been largely overlooked by (mostly cisgender) critics. Interestingly, Lana Wachowski told her family she was trans on the set of the second and third films.

The Wachowskis’ transness is so central to the trilogy’s metaphors and its entire plot that it’s hard to believe anyone other than two trans women could have created it. It’s stacked with symbolism that means quite a lot for transgender people who watch it.

I’m not just talking about all the shapeshifting in the movie, which everyone from Agent Smith to the Oracle does. Nor am I referring to the ideas about “monsters” and “monstrous bodies” that can be found throughout the film.

But if you think about it, of course two transgender people would create a film about perceptions being false and people being controlled by programmed ideas. The Matrix itself is artificial, and humans are trapped in it without realizing it. Waking up from it and resisting its imprisonment puts one at risk of being killed due to rigorous enforcement of its rule that all human beings must now be part of it.

The gender binary is a set of ideas about what it means to be male and female that have been handed down to practically every person born on Earth for centuries. It stipulates that men and women act particular ways, wear specific things according to their assigned sex, have very specific bodies, and have hard-wired ways of acting that are basically “code.” Stepping outside these boundaries, whether it be by transitioning, loving someone perceived to be of the same gender or even by wearing the “wrong” clothes, is called “unnatural,” puts one at risk of harassment, and can still in many cases result in death. The Matrix itself also holds people’s bodies physically captive. The notion of being “trapped” and freedom from this type of “imprisonment” is central to the trans experience. I’m not referring to the tired and harmful cliche about being “trapped in the wrong body.” The Matrix itself is actually a nice rebuttal to that idea, since people’s bodies don’t change inside it.

During the first film’s revelation in which Morpheus tells Neo he’s really been living in a computer simulation, his Matrix self is referred to as his “residual self-image.” His clothes and mannerisms are revealed to be just a projection of is his programmed “self.” This all sounds very similar to how trans people feel when seeing a body other than the one that’s been told “you need to wear these clothes, have this hairstyle and act these ways.” To me, it basically sounds like the experience of gender dysphoria.

Since the gender binary has been hammered into us from an early age, many trans folks will often stare into a mirror and still see the person they were before, even if their bodies have changed. Hips that look “too feminine,” voices that are “too low,” and jawlines that are either too pronounced or too muted meet us every day. We might falter and fall back into that residual self-image, thinking we’re either “too feminine” or “too masculine,” but the thing is, there’s nothing about breasts, say, that’s inherently female. Cisgender guys with gynecomastia know that very well. There are also plenty of cisgender women who have very low voices.

The notion that “things are not always how they appear,” as rigid enforcer Agent Smith himself says in “The Matrix Revolutions,” is something trans people know very well. Pushing beyond this “residual self-image” and breaking through to who we actually are – the notion of becoming – is central to the trans experience. We are not “trapped” in our bodies. We are instead held captive by people’s preconceptions of us and by a set of “rules” that are fundamentally false about what it means to be “male” and “female.”

Don't be the product, buy the product!