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The Trans Allegories of The Matrix Franchise Explained (sort of)

As a woman of trans experience and also as a professional screenwriter, I analyze everything I watch. I evaluate what trans representation I find because trans folks see ourselves so rarely (and when we do, it’s often inauthentic or actively harmful). But I also evaluate films and television in terms of the writing, the directing, the acting, the shot construction, the set dec, the art direction… the list goes on. Every movie or television show or short I watch is a chance to learn and grow as a writer. This is how I approached the Matrix movies in terms of what they have to say as pieces of art about trans existence.

Trying to sum up the trans allegories of The Matrix films, quite possibly the magnum opus of Lilly and Lana Wachowski, is a tall order. The trans allegories are so deep, layered, and specific to the trans experience that it took me over sixty thousand words to attempt to explain them. That became a book, which has more detail and evidence for all the things I’m about to tell you. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.

Two Critical Points of the Trans Allegory in The Matrix

I believe the key to understanding the trans allegories of these movies lies in two points:

  • The bedrock of the Matrix franchise is one person’s transition journey, from Thomas Anderson, to Neo, to Trinity. As such, nearly every other character is a personification of an aspect of Trinity’s psyche (I’m going to call her “Trinity” and use she/her pronouns for her, because that’s who she really is).
  • The use of color is unwavering. Red is always truth, blue is always doubt (though doubt takes many forms), and yellow is always fear. The mixture of these colors also always holds true. The green overcast within the matrix in the first three movies shows you that the cisgender binary world is based in doubt and fear (blue plus yellow equals green) about trans people. 

The movies take you on Trinity’s journey to true and final self-actualization, which means that each film has remarkable and different things to say about being transgender.

“The Matrix” is about your egg cracking (realizing that you’re trans). It’s about wondering if you might be trans, trying to run from it because you don’t want to be, eventually accepting that there’s no hiding from a fundamental truth of your own existence, and then choosing to embrace it and transition to live as your true self.

“Reloaded” is about how once you’re out as a trans person, so much of our society paints a target on your back and will do everything in its power to beat you down. Society and its strict binary view of gender exert enormous pressure to get you to change the truth of your reality (or at least get you to go back to denying or hiding it). It’s about wondering if you would have still transitioned if you knew just how hard things were going to become. Even acknowledging all the trans joy you’ll find along the way, it’s about asking why… why would we still choose to transition given that the deck is so very stacked against us? 

“Revolutions” is about how we need to acknowledge our own internalized transphobia, and find a way to root it out if we ever want to fully accept our truth. And it’s about how difficult a society founded on transphobia makes that. How would society have to change to make things better for the trans people coming up after us? How do we move forward?

Resurrections” is about how, with society not making those changes from “Revolutions” and continuing to grind us into dust as in “Reloaded,” Trinity gave up and detransitioned back to Thomas Anderson. It’s the realization that just because pretending to be cis lets you move through society more easily, it’s not really living. It’s a waking death, a return to the prison you were forced into at birth without your consent. It’s about how she needs to break out of it again to truly and completely transition to the true Trinity within. It’s also pointedly about the erasure, silencing, and coopting of trans voices, specifically the Wachowskis’ (though it applies to the entire trans community).

There are plenty of folks out there, mostly cis white men (every cop, Agent, and security guard in every movie is a cis white man, as are the Architect and the Analyst, weird right?) who like to get online and shout “nuh uh!” and “no way!” and “(fart noises).” They think it’s impossible that two trans women could have written a movie that speaks to the trans experience this specifically and also resonated with them on some level. Also, I’m sure it’s tough for them to deal with being directly called out in each movie in multiple ways.

Hey Jude, Don’t Be Afraid

Okay, one of those ways is Jude. They’re Jude (from “Resurrections”). And Jude isn’t a dude you want to be.

Listen, this is just a primer. There’s no room for copious amounts of evidence! The accursed word count comes for us all. I saw “The Matrix” long before I transitioned, but it spoke to me in ways I didn’t understand. That didn’t mean the evidence wasn’t there, it just meant I couldn’t see it yet. And then I watched them as my true self, and everything changed.

For the aforementioned evidence and ruminations (and yelling… there may be some yelling, I get excited, sorry), there are just so many more words on this topic in my upcoming book BEGIN TRANSMISSION: THE TRANS ALLEGORIES OF THE MATRIX.

At their heart, these movies are about rejecting hate and choosing love. Love for ourselves, for our trans siblings, for our community, for people you don’t know, and experiences you haven’t had. For all of us.

I hope you’ll read it with an open mind. 

But if not, please don’t tell me. My schedule’s packed and I’ve got enough to deal with already.

Tilly Bridges is a trans woman and master of comics, screenplays, teleplays and audio dramas. On June 27th, she releases BEGIN TRANSMISSION – THE TRANS ALLEGORIES OF THE MATRIX, which is the ultimate handbook to each and every allegory reference in the Matrix — and really best utilized in conjunction with watching the entire Matrix franchise